Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who are we? What are we becoming? - Part 1

While many people have little concern for who God is, most take a personal interest in who they are themselves. They are concerned also with their future, what they are becoming, their destiny.

If we are interested in who we are and what we are becoming, we should know this: we are becoming like our idea of God.

Beholding and Becoming

A. W. Tozer said:
We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. (The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Row, 1961, p. 9)
John says it like this:
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
John talks about "what we will be," what we are becoming, our destiny. He says it has not yet appeared. He says that we may nevertheless know our future, know our destiny, know what we will become. We will be like Jesus.

What will make us like Jesus? How can we know that we will be like Jesus? "Because we shall see him as he is." He will appear, and we will see him not as we thought he was, but "as he is." The true sight of Jesus brings us to be like him. Beholding and becoming. This is the transforming power.

A Dim Mirror

The trouble for now is that we do not see Jesus as he is. We see him dimly.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
The dimness of the mirror in which we see Christ is one cause of us not being fully like him yet. This is one of the tensions of the Christian life: already, but not yet. We are already justified in Christ, but not yet like him. God wills this state of affairs for a number of reasons, one being that we would learn the obedience of faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. We live under the cross. Our life is hidden with Christ in God.
While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:6b-7)

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:3-4)
A Mirror, Nevertheless

Even within this, may I say, notyetness, things could be better than they are. John says, for now, we see dimly. He does not say we don't see at all. John says we know now in part. He does not say we don't know at all. Not all of our trouble is the dimness of the mirror. Some of our trouble is disuse of what we can see.

The cross speaks. The cross says God is triune. Christ offered his blood through the Spirit to God. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all acted in our atonement.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:14)
We can see the Trinity. We need to remove the Trinity from the shelf of academics and technicality. We need to make the Trinity our walk, our breath, our prayer, and our conversation. The Trinity is not just for the seminary professor or the pastor. The Trinity is for the babe in Christ and the growing christian.

But in the church today, although the creed is recited, surveys show that over half of many congregations really are unitarians.

Our Actual Mental Image of God

We have a mental image of God. It's what comes to our minds when we think about God. These are our actual thoughts and may vary from what we say outwardly. Though we might continue to recite creeds with a sound form of words, speaking the truth about God, those creeds might not express our actual thoughts of God. We can see this in a number of ways. One of the ways is through the Ten Commandments.

The First Commandment says:
You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
Then, depending on which catechism we follow, either the First Commandment continues, or the Second Commandment says:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. (Exodus 20:4-5a)
We might think these two statements are the same. Both prohibit idolatry. There is overlap between them. But the second statement goes beyond the first. Thomas Watson gave a nicely brief statement of the difference (using the Westminster Catechism's numbering).
In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this [the second], worshipping the true God in a false manner. (The Ten Commandments, Banner of Truth Trust edition, p. 59)
The second has something to say. Not only will it hurt us to worship the wrong god. It will hurt us to worship the right God with wrong ideas about Him. Dr. Luther speak on this statement, including among "The First Commandment Transgressors ... He who engages in a false worship of God." (John Nicholas Lenker, Luther's Two Catechisms Explained by Himself in Six Classic Writings (Minneapolis: The Luther Press, 1908), p. 195. Both Watson and Luther are speaking of worshiping the true God, but worshiping him falsely.

The problem with carved images is that they are bound to draw our thoughts away to a lesser image of God than is true. Our sight of Him will be dimmed. This light of the body, our eye, the way we see God, becomes darkened. Then our understanding becomes darkened not only concerning God Himself, but concerning everything. Our life, as an imitation, even if an unconcious imitation, of what we think God is begins to move toward darkness.

What will seeing God as unitarian rather than as the Trinity do to us? What will we become if our soul is drawn toward that mental image of God? Follow on. The next posting will be Part 2 of Who Are We? What Are We Becoming?


  1. It is very difficult for me to worship God because God is Spirit and I am more understanding of the physical. John tells us that one of the reasons that He came was to show His “oneness with the Father”. John 14: 7-11. If the truth were known I have difficulties in worshiping in “Spirit and in truth” because I do not understand the Spirit realm. I need something physical to cling to and relate to. I can understand the human aspect of the Messiah a lot easier than the divine aspect. Hence, to my chagrin, my worship is in what is physical more than what is in spirit.

    Point of interest when you say we live under the cross. I don’t believe that we “live under the cross” as much as we “live under the blood”. As far back as the sacrifice of the animals to provide clothes for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness it has always been the blood which was required. The blood over the door posts prior to the exodus into the wilderness and the presentation of His own blood before His father in heavenly places. I believe that the cross was the occasion of His death not the cause. Crucifixion afforded Him the time needed to fulfill the prophecies that were made about Him in the Old Testament before He willingly “gave up” His own life.

  2. I appreciate what you say about "live under the cross." When I first came across it, the phrase was inaccessible to me. I would like to develop it on this blog later. Alas, it may be some time, because my plan is to continue developing the Trinity for now. I had thought of leaving out "live under the cross" in this posting, but it does fit, so I left it in for two reasons. One, to place it in the context of who we are and what we are becoming for readers who might already have been introduced to "life under the cross." Two, to foreshadow it as a topic for later.

    For now I can give a few suggestions of where it would go or where you could look into it. It has to do with the hiddenness of our life that parallels the hiddenness of God in Christ. It has to do with discipleship in suffering, humility, trial, and prayer.

    von Loewenich's book cited in the Readings is where I first came across it, that I remember, but I think my childhood pastor very likely tried to teach it to us, but we weren't listening. That book is heavy lifting. I've had to re-read it. But it's worth it. Christ did not show his glory on the cross. Only faith realizes the glory hidden under the cross. We cannot show our glory either. Only faith holds on to the promise Christ made that He is conforming us to his image until that moment when we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. A shipwreck of faith can be made by trying to find a grace infused into us and use that for our assurance, rather than looking to Christ's blood on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies made without hands as our justification.

    Your comments on the physical and the spiritual are true for nearly everyone, if not everyone. It's part of the already, but not yet. God does something about this. He gives us the water of baptism, and the bread and wine of communion. The church often presents these as something to be done with and move on. But that moving on leaves us worse off than we need to be. Christ contacts us with the bread and wine.

    Marc, keep your chin up concerning your worship. God wants you to see him in a helpless babe in a barn, cow manure and all. There's your physical, and that's right where He wants you to find him.