God’s Image Is The Christian’s Ideal
We can now consider the results of beholding God’s glory. Paul says that we are “Transformed into the same image.” It is a matter of common observation that a man becomes like his ideal. One has said with much truth, “Show me the shrine to which a man bows and I will tell you his character.” It is a well-known fact that idolaters become like their god. If they invest their god with cruel and ferocious qualities; then the worshippers are cruel and ferocious; if their god loves human blood, and if his wrath is appeased by human sacrifice, then the worshippers hold human life very cheap, and with all good conscience kill each other to please their god.
Mothers throw their babes into the Ganges to be swallowed by the alligators, as a sacrifice to their god, thus the very motherly instinct is effaced by bowing down to a false idea of God. We find this tendency in mankind everywhere. Men unconsciously imitate what they admire, and are transformed into the image they worship. Our characters are molded by our associations, and what we look at admiringly, we become like, in spite of ourselves.
If a man’s chief object in life is to do business, then his character rises no higher than the business he performs. If a man loves money, and lives to make it, he becomes hard and selfish; the milk of human-kindness gets soured, and he becomes a man with but little mercy or sympathy. The hardening process goes on from stage to stage, in proportion as his god of gold increases. He will take advantage of other people’s necessity, he will swim by sinking his fellows. The widow and the orphan arouse no tender sympathy in his heart, but by his hard dealings he will drive the one into the grave, and turn the other into the street.
Even if education is looked upon as an end, a man is unlike God. There are many educated men whose spiritual natures are all dried up, because they have been practically worshipping education. They are mathematical and exact, they are bookish and pedantic; the sap of religious devotion seems to have been drawn from them. They live in a hard and dry realm. Their emotional and spiritual natures have been dwarfed because they have been worshipping the works and laws of God, and have neglected God Himself.
One reason why the spiritual life of many Christians is so fickle, and their morals so far below the New Testament standard, is because of the imperfect ideals they set before their minds. “Evil communications corrupt good manners,” the Scriptures declare, and this is particularly true, when applied to the influence of the books we read, upon our minds and characters. There seems to be in this and other countries, almost a mania for novel reading. I am informed that the vast majority of books taken from the Public Libraries are those in the class of fiction, and the least meritorious works of fiction at that.
It is remarkable the fascination which novel reading has upon the mind. The least evil is the time wasted; and this is by no means a matter of small moment. Household work, study, the pursuit of ennobling avocations, are neglected for the purpose of greedily devouring these books. Many there are who burn the midnight oil in this pernicious occupation.
Many other deplorable results come to those who are addicted to this habit; but by far the greatest evil inflicted, and especially upon the young, is the fact that their characters are molded by the heroes and heroines of the stories. It is a fact that the great majority of modern novels abound in silly love stories; and although nothing positively impure may be formulated in so many words, yet they often more than hint at subjects which no pure-minded young man or young woman ought to read. Exciting matters are brought into the stories which cultivate morbid desires, and minister to prurient appetites.
A person reading a book of this kind with admiration, being absorbed in the thrilling narrative, gets his mind molded by the characters he thus worships. He is transformed into the fictitious images to which he bows down.
Thus the children of the imagination of the novelist are made to do the devil’s work in corrupting the minds of many young men and women. It is said, that the eye contains a perfect picture in miniature of the object it last looks upon; and it is certainly true that the mind is impressed by what it beholds, and in the case of the person given to reading pernicious literature, the impression made for evil cannot be over-estimated.
No matter what amount of education or Christian training such a reader has received, he cannot read these books without their leaving an impress upon his character. Just as the food we eat, by digestion becomes a part of our bodies, so the mental food which we consume is assimilated by our moral natures.
It is not then a small thing for us to consider, and no person can afford to spend even his spare time in reading such literature. It is well known that the novels which are most eagerly devoured are those which are the most sensational and contain the veriest trash. The novels of the higher order can generally be found in their places at the Public Libraries, but the literary swill with which Christian lands is being flooded is generally kept well in circulation. If this thing goes on, and grows as it has been growing, then the next generation will be far inferior, in moral character and Christian manhood, to the present generation.
I thus sound the alarm for parents and guardians of children, and for the people generally; for if we would have our youths models of Christian character, and develop into true manhood and womanhood, we must set before them in real life, and in their reading, proper models from which to copy. We learn from the Scripture quoted at the beginning of the previous chapter, that God’s ideal for us is His image. Man was created in the image of God so the record states, but by sin it became defaced. The work and mission of Jesus Christ is to reproduce this image in the human soul, and the Holy Spirit is to be the artist to transform us into this image of God. God the Son became incarnate and dwelt among us, so that we could behold His glory and see the perfect image of God; and God the Holy Spirit engraves this image upon our hearts and consciences while we are in the very act of looking upon the Lord. God proposes through these instrumentalities to make us miniatures of Himself. I have stated that among the chief attributes of God in which His glory consists are His power, His wisdom, His happiness, His love, and His holiness. Now we are to be possessed of each of these Godly qualities.
Jesus said to His disciples in the very last words He uttered before His ascension, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” This was a promise of Jesus which in substance had often been repeated before. It appears to me that God proposes to give us as perfect power in our sphere, as He possesses in His sphere. He proposes to give us all the power we need, so that we can bear every burden placed upon us, perform every duty which is required of us, and do all the perfect will of God. A Christian filled with the Holy Spirit is equal to all the emergencies of human life. He is not crushed down with a burden that he cannot carry, but he walks with head erect; he is not pulling at a load which he cannot move, for Divine power more than supplies his need. He leaves undone no duty, which he ought to do, for the lack of either spiritual, intellectual, or physical power; for God gives him the exact degree and kind of power that he stands in need of, so that he can perfectly perform every task which God sets him. Hence, it is for the faithful Christian to look at God’s power, and through the Holy Spirit be transformed into His image.
What I have said of power is equally true of wisdom. It is God’s design that the Holy Spirit shall be our wisdom as well as our sanctification and redemption. We are to be “As wise as serpents” as well as being “As harmless as doves”; God’s ideal is to say of us, “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” John declares of the Christian, “Ye need not that any man teach you,” and Jesus said, referring to the Holy Spirit, “When He is come He shall teach you all things.”
We are living under the dispensation, when the words of Jeremiah may be fulfilled in the personal experience of each individual: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is our privilege to be able to act wisely and well our part in life, and to solve all the problems which confront us, that need solution, in order to our doing the perfect will of God.
Then God’s plan is to give us perfect happiness, in the sense of blessedness at least. It is our privilege, to have “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” in our hearts continually. Constant satisfaction and inward delight is God’s ideal concerning us. We are to eat of the bread, of which if a man eat he shall never hunger, and drink of the water of which if a man drink he shall never thirst. We are to have in us, “A well of water springing up into everlasting life.” As God is perfectly happy so are we to be perfectly happy, complacent in the assurance that God is Almighty, and He is our Father, and therefore all is well. We are also to have “The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us,” and this too, in the sense, of being made, “Perfect in love.” As we look at the wonderful love of God in the face of Jesus Christ, our natures are flooded with its Divine rays. Even more than this, we are to have the very source of love within us, and are to let its rays beam out upon our fellows.
What has been said concerning our receiving the – power, wisdom, happiness and the love of God, is also true of His holiness. The command to us is, “Be ye also Holy, for I am Holy.” God intends to drive away the last ray of darkness from our natures, and fill us constantly with the light of holiness. God’s ideal for the Christian is His holiness. We are to love the right and nothing but the right; we are to do justly and walk uprightly; our natures must constantly gravitate towards things which are true and right. We are to hate sin with a perfect hatred, and cleave to God with full purpose of heart. All our proneness to sin of any kind is to be taken away, and we are to become prone to holiness. Our sinful natures by looking to Jesus, are to be entirely reversed, so that it will be true to say of us, “For where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
But I now desire to point out (hat, this transforming process is “From glory to glory” In an important sense it is utterly impossible to over-estimate what God does for us when we are converted; but it is a very disastrous blunder, which a great many people make, to suppose that when a man is converted, he has received all the special, or sudden blessings, which he may receive from the Spirit of God. Certain it is that, conversion is the least blessing, which the faithful child of God will receive at the hands of his Father. It may not be amiss to say, that the Holy Spirit develops a man into the image of God, from glory to glory, much as a painter produces a portrait. With a few strokes of his brush or pencil, he can produce an outline picture of his subject. This picture in its ruder form, is easily recognized, and can be said to be like the original. But we know that the artist will need to spend weeks, and perhaps months, to develop that picture to the utmost possible resemblance of its subject.
This, in a good degree, is the way God reproduces His likeness, upon the human heart and conscience; it is “From glory to glory.”
The very first touch a sinner gets from God, produces God’s image in him, but this likeness is by no means complete; the developing process goes on until a perfect picture is produced. When the Holy Spirit begets in a man repentance, or hatred for sin, to that extent he is like God. When he is pardoned, or becomes innocent, another of the beautiful features in God’s image is produced in him; and so the divine process goes on, from grace to grace, and from glory to glory.
There is said to be a peculiar looking glass in a heathen temple. When the worshipper goes in, he looks into this glass and first sees his own image; as he continues to look, he sees one of the inferior gods, then a god higher in rank, and so on, until he sees the image of his chief god. There is in this, an illustration of God’s process and plan of salvation.
“For the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” It is undoubtedly true that God’s moral image can be seen in a Christian, early in the process of God’s work of grace, but the Holy Spirit develops, or transforms him into the perfect image of God, as fast as his spiritual vision can take in God. The Holy Spirit, was not given on the day of Pentecost, to make those who received Him moral, for they were that already. He was not given to forgive their sins, as they were now the followers of Jesus. Some of them, had received the parting benediction of the Lord, as they saw Him arise from earth, and caught up into heaven. The Holy Spirit, was not given, to reconcile the historic one hundred and twenty men and women to God, as they continued in prayer waiting for the promise of the Father. But the Pentecostal baptism was given, to make them intensely spiritual; to give them a power they never before possessed, to give them “All the mind which was in Christ Jesus”; to give them Himself as their Guide into all truth, and to illuminate their minds to see the resplendent glory of the Lord that they might be changed into the same image “From glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Even when one has the lowest possible Christian experience, it is a glorious thing to be a Christian. To have one’s sins forgiven, to be adopted into the family of the King, to be an heir of Heaven, to love God and the good, are experiences very full of glory. But blessed be “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” these great gifts of His hand, are the smallest blessings He has to bestow upon His children. The lowest circle in the Christian life is glorious, but each succeeding circle, excels in glory, so that the raptured participant lives a life of glorious surprises. “For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”
The expression, “From glory to glory,” seems to indicate definite experiences. Undoubtedly, the faithful Christian grows in grace, without being conscious all the time of so doing, just as a boy grows in stature, without feeling it. But the meaning of the quotation is more than mere growth. God makes new and distinct pictures upon the soul, by the Holy Spirit’s instantaneous process, as we behold His glory. A Christian filled with the Holy Spirit resembles a photographer’s apparatus, with the camera adjusted to receive any number of pictures. The mind is constantly focused toward God, and beholds His glory and is transformed into the same image.
To live this glory life one must believe God implicitly and appropriate to his own use all the promises of God as fast as he discovers them. Nor does death stop the soul’s progress towards God, but simply marks a distinct epoch in its career. Then in a fairer clime and upon more congenial soil, the development of the Christian goes on from glory to glory. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”