“They said of Abba Macarius the Great, that he became, as it were, a god upon this earth; because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults he saw, as though he did not see them, and those he heard, as though he did not hear them.”
Transformation begins, is sustained, and ends with catching a sight of the beauty of God.
Ah, life. That grand purveyor of untidiness and chaos. If it weren’t for life, most of us would be perfectly happy. But then life happens. The thing about life is that if flows from the human heart, with all its wildness therein. The human heart is a desolate place, full of chaos, disintegration, and mystery. It keeps us desperately searching and longing for something just out of our reach, beyond a thin veil that masks something far more beautiful. But life then comes and intervenes in the chaotic form of emotions, the disintegrating consequences of choices, and the disillusioning ramifications of division, disappointment, and disaster. Just as the human heart is difficult, if not impossible to tame, so is life.
None of us are the masters of our own domains as we feebly attempt to portray ourselves to an outside world disinterested in what lies within. And therein lies a significant portion of the problem. We constantly desire to live our lives externally, weighing our level of satisfaction, emotional integrity, and joy upon the lives and decisions of others, rather than doing the more significant work of the interior kind. My heart begins to disintegrate as soon as I believe I am responsible for sustaining my own integration.
Why do people have mid-life crises? Because life does not turn out the way you plan. Life will throw you a series of circumstances and task you with responding before you feel you are prepared. But in the process of walking it out, you have the potential to learn something deep and profound about yourself. We spend too much time being disillusioned by what did not happen, or did happen for that matter, rather than seeing the situation and responding by embracing the challenge of personal growth.
The problem with transformation is you don’t know what it will look like, nor how you will look on the other side. It requires great faith and trust. We must be willing to let go of control. The desire to control is born from the desire to be safe. The desire to be safe is the desire to be free from harm. A carefully controlled environment does not keep you safe from harm. It keeps you isolated from true transformation. The place of perfect protection is the heart of God.
Transformation is often mistaken for transition. In transition we have a good idea of what to expect. We transition from one house to another, from one city to another, or one car to another. In the midst of transition, we remain the same person.
James 4:13-15 ‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” ‘
Transformation means that you will be very different on the other side. You will look different, sound different, feel different, and hear others differently. God does not transition you from one season to another, He is in the business of transforming your likeness into his. This means that you will have find something worthwhile to become.
When Isaiah sees the beauty of God he claims that he is undone. The word “undone” literally means “destroyed.”
Isaiah 6:1,5 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”
In the face of overwhelming beauty, Isaiah is taken apart at the seams. He inauguration into deep transformation is by seeing the beauty of God. The first realization of Isaiah is that there is no good thing within him, his language is, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Though Isaiah credits this profound realization with him catching a sight of the King, the Lord of hosts, looking back at what he says reveals something profound about this vision:
Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
What exactly did Isaiah see when he saw the Lord? He never actually describes the King on His throne. Something similar seems to happen to Paul when he has a significant heavenly encounter:
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
What Paul sees (ostensibly he is the man in question) is indescribable and inexpressible. The beauty of God is not something you describe by saying he is this or he is that. It is something beyond words. The beauty of God is something tangible you encounter, not so much something you intellectually understand. In encountering His beauty, you begin to see exactly what is within you that is not His beauty (I am a man of unclean lips). And this begins the process of becoming like Him. It is in this process that the beauty of God is on full display.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we are to be transformed by beholding the glory of God. How do you behold something unfathomable? Something mysterious? Something so literally other than you that you couldn’t hope to comprehend it? It would help to put some legs to the glory of God that Paul is so obviously referencing. Hebrew 1:3a brings some clarity:
…who (Jesus) being the brightness of His (the Father) glory and the express image of His person…
Jesus is the image and radiance of God’s glory. How did Jesus demonstrate this radiance? Let us check another verse for clarity:
Philippians 2:5-9 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
What are we becoming? How do we express the glory of God? In our willingness to die for each other. In our willingness to forgive; to let hurts, pain, and wounds come to their final resting place at the cross and not in our hearts.
Paul said that the ministry we have been given is a ministry of reconciliation. And that ministry has a key component that ought to define our entire lives.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
The key component of the ministry of reconciliation is “not imputing their trespasses to them”. And this is the ministry that we have been given, to not count the trespasses of others against them. When we get our eyes off of this transformative visions of the beauty of God seen in Jesus’ willingness to spend his life on those who rejected him, our life begins to malform. We lose sight of our destiny, and our fall is only shortly behind:
Lamentations 1:9b She did not consider her destiny; therefore she has fallen astonishingly… (a bit of NKJV and NASB combined)
To be transformed means to become more loving, more humble, more compassionate, and more tender. When we lose sight of the goal of the tenderness of Christ, we lose sight of the Father. Without a vision of His heart we have no clear aim in the spiritual life. And without clear aim rather than becoming human beings we become human nothings.
Written by: Joshua Hoffert