Once an acquaintance of mine described how he viewed going to church throughout the week and the role it played in his Christian life. Throughout the discussion, he talked about how various worship services, camps, small groups, and prayer meetings provided “jolts,” “pick-me-ups,” and “shots in the arm” for him. His basic view of the Christian life, and one that many Christians share, is that of traveling from mountain top to mountain top, constantly in search of the next exhilarating spiritual experience to keep him going.
For those of us reared in evangelical youth groups and college ministries, we are familiar with this exhausting rollercoaster of soaring heights and crushing lows. Thankfully, today’s readings point us to a better and more realistic way of growing and living in Christ.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all follow Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah with the transfiguration. In this famous episode, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him up to the top of a mountain. Then, He shone brilliant white before them. Moses and Elijah, the two great Old Testament prophets, appeared, and the disciples heard the Father say, “This is my Son, the Chosen One, listen to him!” (Luke 9:35). If there was any doubt left for these men about Jesus’s identity, this surely cleared up the confusion.
Jesus’s face shone brightly, and Peter, James, and John saw its brilliance without any covering, filter, or shade. They beheld Him as He truly was. Contrast this with the experience of the Israelites. Moses’s face would shine so brightly whenever He met with the Lord that he found it necessary to wear a veil for the sake of the people. The brightness was just too much for them (Exodus 34:33–34).
In 2 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul wrote, “We all with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (v.18). We, like Jesus, and like Moses before Him, have met with the Lord. As a result, we shine brightly with unveiled faces. Our hearts are new, and now we behold Christ in all His glory. We see Him in both His majestic power and His unparalleled compassion. And as we behold who Christ is, marveling at His greatness, God works in us to transform us, little by little, into the image of glory that belongs to Christ.
This process does not often take place in giant leaps and bounds, but incrementally. Little by little, as we repent of sin, hear God’s words, and obey them, the Spirit trims off the rough edges of our old lives and shapes us into molds of Christ’s character. We don’t need another mountaintop, because we get to experience the glory of Christ every day through the presence of His Spirit within us, making us more like Him. Thanks be to God.
Written by Scott Slayton