Isaac Watts wrote, “I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.”
And yet. Do I really know God’s promises to his people well enough to stand on them? Truthfully, I do not find that my heart rests on specific promises that God has made to us; but what other purpose does a promise serve? If I told my son, “William, I promise that next week I’ll take you fishing,” if he didn’t think about that, look forward to it, and hold me to it, then my confident and sure words would be nothing more than spitting into an ocean. Promises are meant to be leaned on. God’s promises are something we can put our full weight on, and ought to put our full weight on.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” The promises of God to his people find their positive fulfillment in the person of Christ. So, with that sure word I intend to embark on a personal study of the promises of God, as I come across them in my devotional time, and to share that with you here. Because my heart is tossed about by every passing thought and every slight trial, and I need something firm to put my foot down on. Don’t you?
The Promise of Transforming Beauty
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 Corinthians 3:18
Few promises in Scripture are so full of delight, power, and comfort as this one. That as we gaze at the beauty of Christ, we will be transformed, becoming more and more like him whom we behold.
The human gaze is a powerful thing in our hearts. Gaze seems impotent in and of itself in external reality, but our internal reality is affected deeply by what we look at. Jesus himself said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22, 23a) What we take in with our eyes matters, and Scripture teaches that this is true with our physical eyes, and with the eye of our hearts, or the mind’s eye.
What we look at with our physical eyes has the ability to pollute or ennoble our minds. The eye is like the reins on the carriage of the heart, steering it this way and that on the narrow road of the Christian life. In like manner, what we look at with our mind’s eye has the ability to become worship. What our mind’s eye is drawn to and lingers on is that which we delight in and cherish. The object of our mind’s eye is often that which we worship.
If the heart’s gaze is so closely related to worship, then we would do well to heed the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 115. He describes lifeless idols of silver and gold–inanimate, man-made things–and says, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:8). On the flip-side of the coin, for example, the author of Hebrews says that if we want to suffer and taste victory like Jesus, we need to look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). Because we become like what we worship, and we are transformed into what we behold.
The transformative beauty of Jesus is what Paul has in mind here in 2 Corinthians 3:18. The Apostle John also had this fact of reality in mind when he wrote, “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, emphasis mine). The beauty and glory of Christ himself will one day be revealed to us truly and deeply — for as long as we walk by faith we “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12) — and that mere glimpse of true beauty and glory will make us like him. As we draw ever nearer to Christ by faith in this life, we are being changed from one degree of glory into another.
Note the surety of those words! Paul does not say, “We might be transformed into the same image,” nor does he say, “It is possible now to be transformed.” God forbid we try to grab hold of such vapid assurances as this! Paul writes with boldness and certainty: “And we all.” That is, all those who have turned to the Lord (2 Cor 3:16). We absolutely are being transformed into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another. Lord, may we put our feet down on this promise, and stand tall! The Apostle says that this makes us “very bold,” and helps us “not lose heart.” When my sanctification seems slowed, when I feel like I am in a spiritual coma, or that I am in a snowstorm of life and cannot see the road in front of me nor the Spirit’s work in me, I need such boldness and lifting of the heart.