In this abiding series, each post will be framed as an email correspondence to a friend who is seeking to get ‘more’ out of his or her faith. My hope is that by exploring this topic as a conversation, you will resonate with the message as deeply as if it were a letter addressed to you.
To: Friend Seeking More from Faith
From: Doug Nuenke
Subject: Mirror Not Muscle
Hello my friend,
You and I have talked a lot about how abiding in Christ is the key to a transformed life, but sometimes the process of transformation is slow-moving.
In your last email, you said: “Even after knowing the Lord for years, I’m still quick to be critical of others. I’m easily annoyed and impatient. Why do I still struggle with these things!? Am I not trying hard enough?”
Change is difficult in any form— a new diet, a new town, a new job. Especially on the path to self-improvement, it’s common to get discouraged by a lack of motivation, follow through, or willpower to change.
I think a lot of Christians, myself included, get frustrated at the pace of transformation in their lives, particularly when measured against God’s perfect standards. Why is it so hard to stop being selfish or short-tempered or any number of behaviors that are opposite of the character of Christ? Even the apostle Paul expressed frustration at his tangle with sin, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18b NIV).
You are certainly not alone in bearing the tension between who you presently are and who you want to become! The truth is, we do not have the strength, courage, or motivation to carry out God’s intentions for our lives. The job is much too big for our humanness to accomplish!
But I have encouraging news for you! In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians who, like us, were tempted to try harder under a set of rules, Paul says that the enabling force of transformation is not willpower, but the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom … so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more” (2 Cor 3:17-18 NLT).
We are utterly without hope in our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, we will increasingly become more and more like Jesus! It’s a gradual process (“more and more”) and it is okay to be in process! The Holy Spirit works over the course of a lifetime to propel us toward Christ so that Christ may cultivate his character in us.
God has always intended for us to be reflectors of His goodness and character. From the beginning, God created men and women in His own image (Genesis 1:26-28). Sin may have fractured our perfect likeness to Christ, but Jesus came to restore what was lost! In Christ, God is redeeming and returning us to his image, making us “mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18 TLB).”
You see, God’s game plan is not for believers to muscle their way into a God-glorifying life, but to become mirrors who reflect His magnificent image through the power of the Spirit. We simply need to abide in him, rely on his Spirit, and yield ourselves to His desires for living. The key is staying connected to His ever-present power versus flexing in our own strength.
This is how we live as image bearers of Christ: as we abide in Him we reflect a better hope to a watching world.