What’s that one thing about yourself you’d love to change? Or maybe, like me, you have a list of fifty “issues” you want to work on. For years I have told my best friend that what I really need most is a personality transplant. If I could at least get a temperament remodel, I am sure I could fix all sorts of flaws in myself.
That’s why I have always loved a new year. Unused and unscuffed, pristine and possible, my bright and shiny hope is that I won’t mess it up. There’s nothing so optimistic as a New Year’s resolution. Whether I resolve to eat healthy, spend less, get organized or be kinder, by making resolutions I am assuming I actually can and will follow through to achieve change.
Unfortunately, no matter how many resolutions I make, permanent change slips beyond my reach every time. Apparently I am not the only one who struggles. According to a Forbes magazine article, while 45% of Americans make New Year’s pledges, just 8% of people actually keep them. That’s why my transplant idea is so brilliant. I just need to scrap the old baggage and have the new, improved me surgically implanted, so I can’t fail.
Unfortunately, medical science has not caught up to my brilliant idea. And as hard as it is for me to change my habits, it is even more difficult for me to change my heart. I am left wondering if it is even possible for me to change at all.
As usual, God has a better plan. He has gone one better than a resolution, and He doesn’t rely on wimpy human resolve. He has made us promises He actually has the will and the power to keep. Because God is who He is, we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you (and in me) will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Consider 2 Corinthians 3:18:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit. (AMP)
Note the verbs here. Our job is to actively “behold,” which means not just to see, but to stop, observe, and gaze upon something which inspires awe. Beholding takes time and contemplation. In the original language, it means to “thoroughly hold” someone or something. The other verb is passive. We are “are being progressively transformed.” In other words, the Spirit is acting on us as we behold. What we are beholding- glory- is exactly what we are being changed into- glory. And it is God who does the changing, as we keep our eyes on Him.
This is fantastic news for a hopelessly flawed, sinful human like me. God is continuously busy transforming me into the image of His Son- not by the methods I would choose, not on the timetable I would choose, not into the image I would presume to attain- but He is working and He will not fail. Usually the process escapes me, and I cannot see or feel the effects of His work in my life. John Piper puts it this way: “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
The disciple Peter would have loved New Year’s resolutions. He had great confidence in his own willpower. Peter was passionately certain of his loyalty and commitment to Jesus: “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:33) His determination didn’t end up amounting to much (see Matthew 26: 69-75). Peter could not remain faithful in his own strength, but tracing Peter’s life from the Gospels through Acts into his own letters reveals God’s faithfulness. Hotheaded, impulsive Peter became a rock as Jesus promised he would be, a model of consistent devotion to the kingdom. The apostle Peter was still passionate, still zealous, still strong, but he was also focused, wise and effective because God had transformed his greatest weaknesses into his greatest strengths. The last thing we hear from Peter in the Bible is a word of testimony, as he exhorts other believers to be encouraged by his own experience: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
KeeGod changed Peter, dramatically and profoundly, but Peter did not suddenly become perfect. God didn’t “zap” Peter into an uber-Christian who got everything else right. In spite of the fact that he knew Jesus personally and by the Spirit, Peter remained a flawed human being for the rest of his life on earth. He incorrectly taught that Gentiles had to conform to Jewish law to be Christians, and he was publically corrected by Paul, who incidentally wasn’t perfect either. (Galatians 2:11- 21)
Beholding His glory allows God to transform us “from one degree of glory to another” (see 2 Corinthians 3:18 above). That means change is a process. It takes time. The work is God’s. We would do well to be patient and persevere, both with God and with ourselves. “Let us hold resolutely to the hope we confess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 Berean Study Bible)
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