Unveiled faces

The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven. —Hebrews 1:3, NLT

We are not like Moses, who veiled his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing its fading glory. … But all of us who are Christians have no veils on our faces, but reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured in ever-increasing splendour into his own image, and the transformation comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:13,18, JB Phillips

It is a central doctrine of the Christian faith that Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He was born of the virgin Mary, thus fully human; he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, thus fully God. Therefore, as I read the accounts of Jesus, hear his words, see in my mind’s eye his interactions with people, ponder his demeanor, his motives, his attitudes, his concerns, I am attempting to understand God. To know God. To see God.

It would be arrogance to claim that I understood God. But it would be foolish not to make the attempt, and in fact, that is the very point of Christ’s incarnation. Or one of the points, anyway. God wants to be known. God wants to be examined. God wants to be understood. God wants to be loved.

So the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us two important things about God: 1) God himself is perfectly represented in the person of Jesus Christ; 2) God honored Christ’s life and death by seating him at the highest place of honor in heaven and giving him authority over the universe.

I fully accept those things. They are foundational. They are uniquely Christian ideas, and Christianity is not Christianity without accepting these facts about Jesus.

I find the second verse harder to believe. I’m talking about the idea that we are like Christ in the sense that we ourselves reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord.

I feel unglorious, you see.

I don’t walk through the world glowing, as Moses apparently did after his face-to-face encounters with Yahweh. I accept that I am being transformed by the Holy Spirit, but I don’t see myself as attaining anything like the ever-increasing splendour that Paul talks about.

I’m not being modest, believe me.

And yet, since I began by talking about foundational things, and despite my frustrations with my daily failure to live in obedience to my God and walk in purity and humility before him, yet I believe that all of us who embrace this Jesus in faith, who truly seek to make ourselves slaves of Christ (to borrow the phrase that so often turns up in the New Testament), we in fact are undergoing a remarkable, miraculous transformation of our minds, our hearts and our spirits by the work of his Spirit.

Yes, we do, in some mysterious way, reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord. And as we stumble through life, we have an exemplar in our brother Jesus—a hero. Even better than that, because of the redemptive work of Jesus, we have a helper and advisor who lives in us and strengthens us daily—the Holy Spirit.

…he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin… Our faces are no longer veiled, and they shine with the glory of the eternal God.

This is heady stuff. If it’s true, it is all grace, all mercy, all a consequence of God’s immeasurable love.

Praise God, who chooses to pour out his love and mercy on a fool like me.

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