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Reading such a title, we might be tempted to think, “Oh, that is too much for me, look at myself, I am not worthy at all. I am such a failure!!” Contemplating the other side of same the coin, another one might wonder whether they should be changed at all, asking themselves, “Am I that bad? Shouldn’t rather all those others around me be changed?”  🙄 Well, you might have already guessed that the coin I was speaking of is called The Self. Whether we view our old nature as good or as bad does not matter in the eyes of God. What He longs to see in us when He looks at us is a purified spirit being that has become as transparent as Jesus Christ Himself. By such divine transparency we should reflect the glory of God like a perfectly cleaned mirror that reflects the sunlight, even unfractured. But still, we might wonder how such a miraculous transformation could ever happen in us?  🙄

It appears to me that there are two things to consider which allow for progressive growth in Christ. Firstly, we read in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians,

“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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.” (2 Cor 3:16-18 ESV)

Haven’t we seen that becoming close friends with other persons (by ‘beholding them’) has had an influence of how we take in everything around us and what is happening to us? If we were lonely islands in this world, we would be a poor lot, indeed. Beginning with childhood, our parents and relatives shape our awareness of the world and our surroundings. They shape our opinions, our judgment, and even our prejudice. There were some friends or relatives that were good to be with and there might have been others who curtailed our rights and liberty. I am rather sure you know this saying ascribed to Vladimir Lenin that states,

“Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.”

The way we have been shaped through those people around us and our resulting evaluation of reality, still, belongs to the realm of the soul that has not been enlightened by the Holy Spirit yet. Whether we deem our judgments right or wrong does not matter here, either. It is only what is right and true according to the Spirit of God that decides if a ‘thing’ can stay or if it is to be expelled. The Scripture I quoted above tells us to turn away from what we beheld before if we want to be conformed “Into the same image” of our glorious Lord we should look at continually (which without His help is ABSOLUTELY impossible as I know myself!).

Secondly, there is something else that seems to result from beholding our Lord, from asking Him to teach us how to walk in the Spirit, to tell us what to do, how to act or how to react, when to speak up and when to remain silent. Once again, it was T. Austin-Sparks who made me aware of how we are being changed into the image of the Son of God. TAS said,

“Let us get the Lord Jesus, as God’s great object and goal, before our eyes, and see that God’s eternal thought is conformity to His image, and that He has now in Christ put into us that life eternal, and that we have not to struggle toward the image of Christ, to battle and wrestle for Christ-likeness; we have to be obedient to His life within us. Obedience carries conformity to His image.” (Emphasis in caps added) (1)

That is so important, I believe, in particular for those of us who still labor to become better human beings while relying on their own strength, which is easily exhaustible, while the powers God through His Holy Spirit has put in us are inexhaustible. Our own effort to change ourselves is basically for nothing because we can’t change our inmost (wo)man we cannot even see. It is God alone who knows the human heart with all its sphinx-like recesses (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). T. Austin-Sparks put it so well that I decided to repeat those parts where he said,

We have not to struggle toward the image of Christ, to battle and wrestle for Christ-likeness; we have to be obedient to His life within us. Obedience carries conformity to His image.

Obedience to the light given comes to mind (I just referred to an article of mine from July this year). What obedience is for you might not mean obedience for me and the other way round as well. The closer we get to God, the more obedience He expects from us. We read in the gospel of Luke,

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required …” (Lk 12:48 ESV)

Having had an anxious personality all my life, I often fear to miss God’s leading, knowing that I will lose His peace when I choose my own way plus I will be attacked by the enemy so that I return to the Lord as soon as possible. But alas, this attitude of mine has become another inner prison of sorts. Only a few minutes ago I told the Lord of how anxious I was to not hear His voice clearly and to go in another direction than the one He intended. The enemy who had listened attentively whispered into my ear, “Isn’t it so hard to always obey God? There is no liberty to live your own life any longer.” At first sight, that seemed to be true. However, looking closer at what had just been said by the devil, I remembered that following God’s guidance in the past always set me free to be “the real me”, the “me” God even created before the foundations of the world. I do know that peace follows obedience, always. Therefore I hate losing God’s peace which is also a proof of His permanent presence and pleasure. It was shortly afterwards when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart with a comforting voice,

“It is for your own good when you follow my leading.”

And this is so true! This is exactly what Paul pointed to in the Scripture quoted above where he said,

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

There is no real freedom when we do not follow the Lord. Even though we decide what we deem the right thing to do, our thought life which continually revolves around our decisions made by our self, brings us into bondage. There is no real freedom in our old hamster wheels of thoughts, or is there?  🙄 To me, it looks like slavery.

Oh, oh, Gods leading…  It appears once again that our Lord does not want me to share theories here.  😉 In fact, having described my anxious personality that fears losing His presence, that old ‘me’ has just made another mistake by not asking for His leading. To come to the point, since yesterday our heating was shut down and we had no warm water, either. After everything was fixed today I talked with other people about this and that (I do not want to disclose people’s identity, therefore I choose such cautious wording at times). During this talk, I thought I had to rectify an error which led to a blank refusal of the other party concerned. Although I knew I was right, I realized that they defended themselves against another party because they did not want to be the guilty party. I was just reminded of Adam when he said to God, “No, it was not my fault, it was the woman You gave me.” And the woman, Eve, complained that the serpent was the real culprit.

To cut a long story short (which is certainly not one of my strong points),  🙂 after having uttered my thoughts, I felt immediately that something went wrong. All of a sudden there was an unpleasant atmosphere, having come in by an evil spirit. Evidently, evil spirits can accomplish two things: Either they divide two parties who are not on the same side of the truth or they unite those who find pleasure in unrighteousness (cf. 1 Cor 13:6, for instance). I felt a certain kind of uneasiness after that talk because I knew I had ignored the Lord’s leading, namely His timing. Although I apologized to Him, I still felt bad about what I had said. Mulling over that issue for a few minutes more did not make it better in any way. Then I got attacked by another evil spirit through a chat message so that I felt somehow pressured from two sides. I did not ‘react’ in the latter case (which means I did not reply in kind), yet I felt anger welling up inside me.

Suddenly Jesus approached me and reminded me to share EVERYTHING that bothers me IMMEDIATELY with Him who alone can set me free. I knew that theoretically, but oh, how long I usually listen to the devil who reminds me of this wrongdoing… and that wrongdoing… and this.. and that… As soon as I had fully turned to the Lord, the pressure was gone and all unrighteousness disappeared in His light. Yes, dear reader, only by beholding Him we are being changed into purified vessels through which the Spirit of Christ is reflected. Every try to do it on our own ends in frustration as I have just seen myself. It is only a purified heart that can see God as the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 8 confirms. In closing I offer you another Scripture that invites us to withdraw from anything that might cloud the gospel and the simplicity which is ours in Christ. By simplicity I referred to childlike faith that trusts and follows Him wherever He leads, even out of the ditches we might have fallen in.

“Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God [which He has laid] stands [sure and unshaken despite attacks], bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord stand apart from wickedness and withdraw from wrongdoing.”

Now in a large house there are not only vessels and objects of gold and silver, but also vessels and objects of wood and of earthenware, and some are for honorable (noble, good) use and some for dishonorable (ignoble, common). Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [which are dishonorable–disobedient, sinful], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified [set apart for a special purpose and], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim 2:19-21 AMP)

(1) https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001139.html

All images © Paul and Susanne Schuberth 2017 (German National Museum, Nürnberg and Egyptian Exhibition “Pharaoh”, Rosenheim together with Lake “Chiemsee”)