The Artist at Work in Us

We were not disappointed. At the recommendation of many, Peggy and I visited Bryce Canyon, a natural gallery showcasing spires of vivid reds, oranges, and yellows among more muted earthtones. Like statuary, these magnificent rock formations were relentlessly carved from stone with erosive tools of water and frost, each strata ultimately relenting according to its own hardness or softness, and each displaying the hues of its own iron oxides. No words nor any number of them could capture such beauty or express our awe; we could only marvel at the sculptor: “Where there is art, there must be an Artist.”

This is He who is at work in us, as well, changing us and molding us into something unknowably great. “We all . . . are being transformed into [Jesus’] image with ever-increasing glory,”1 wrote Paul to Corinthian believers, and to the church in Rome, he repeated, “For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”2 Pause and absorb this, for if Christ lives in your heart through faith, His Spirit is at work in you even now. Then notice our passive role in the molding and shaping process: we are being conformed; we are being transformed. As Paul reminded the Philippians, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”3 Our transformation into the image of Christ is both the vision of God—“when Christ appears, we shall be like him”4—and the work of God. As He has saved us, so also is He shaping us over time. Like the rock formations of the canyon, our emerging beauty is the work of the Artist.

Does this mean we have no role in our transformation? No, not at all. We will talk about our role in a future post, but it is vitally important that we first understand and accept the marvelous truth that God is at work in us. We need not fear, for He is able. We need not fret, for He is faithful. We can rest in that God always does what He says He will do, and what He does it is always more glorious than we can imagine. This is grace. This is God’s ongoing work in you, an expression of His love for you. Trust Him, rest in Him, and rejoice.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 1:6

Father, we confess Your love knows no bounds. Today, we choose to trust You and Your heart to transform us into the image of Your Son. May He be glorified in us, Your people. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 2 Corinthians 3:18
2 Romans 8:29
3 Philippians 2:13
4 1 John 3:2


Grace Reaches into Darkness

I’ve never been the “starstruck” type, but touring the Warner Bros studio was fun. Actors occasionally traversed the lot on bicycles, waving to us along their way, and we nosed around the “Friends” set for a while. In the museum was a kiosk whereupon we could answer some basic questions to discover which WB cartoon character most reflected our individual personality types. Someone in our group asked me which toon had matched me best. “Road Runner,” I said, “What about you?” “Yosemite Sam,” he replied dispiritedly. Shifting his gaze to nothing in particular, his voice trailed off, “I’m such a jerk.” Though animated, the image was too vivid a reflection for him, revealing flaws he knew quite well but could not change.

The man’s frustration mirrors that of the apostle Paul. “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”1 This is the plight of our sin nature, unable to live what we know to be right. Frustrated, the apostle cried out in anguish, “Wretched man that I am! [Paraphrased: I’m such a jerk!] Who will deliver me from this body of death?”2

“God loves us enough to meet us where we are, and He loves us too much to leave us there,” so goes the familiar maxim. If it is cliché, then it is powerfully so, for it speaks of our much-needed transformation from what we were to who we are becoming. It is God’s desire that we be “conformed to the image of his Son,”3 and I can think of no better Biblical summation of such radical change than this: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.”4 For a few weeks, we will consider grace unto transformation, starting where God loved us enough to meet us—in our darkness. For “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”5

Who we are and who we are still becoming are most clearly seen when contrasted against what we were. So think back to the beginning of your journey in Christ, and consider how far He has brought you since then. Ponder the changes only the Spirit could have brought about in you. Use this not as a time to punish yourself for your past nor to despair over the struggles that remain, but realize the transformation God in His grace has already accomplished in you, and know He is working in you still.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. —Isaiah 9:2.

Father, thank You for meeting us in our darkness and for leading us in Your great light. Make us more like Christ, so others, too, will see Him and step into His light. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Romans 7:18-19 ESV
2 Romans 7:24 ESV
3 Romans 8:29
4 Ephesians 5:8 NASB
5 Romans 5:8 ESV


Our Surprising Superpower

“What is your superpower?” This is the “surprise” interview question everyone has come to expect. For hiring managers, it is an engaging means of testing candidates’ creativity, agility, adaptability, and composure. Job applicants, on the other hand, can seize upon the question as a fun way to feature their primo professional skills and character traits. If one possessed unshakable focus on mission and dogged pursuit of its aligned objectives, for example, he might light-heartedly claim Superman’s laser-like “heat vision” as his natural superpower and proceed to explain why. But what about “superpower” in a spiritual sense? Well, that’s different. Let’s see how.

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians was, in part, a defense of his personal integrity and authority, for the church had been infiltrated by false teachers speaking against him and leading the believers away from truth. In response, Paul confessed his counterintuitive superpower before all: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.”1 What might inspire this bold apostle to glory in his deficiencies? Jesus had counseled him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”2 By grace, God freely flows His power through us for His purposes—anything “more” is actually less. Concluded Paul in humble submission, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”3

Over the past two months, we have been exploring “God’s grace in its various forms”4—His favor that overflows in abundance to us and through us to others. Strength is one such expression of grace, equipping us for a variety of purposes. From God’s “glorious riches,” for instance, He strengthens us “with power through his Spirit . . . so that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith.”5 In inexhaustible measure, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”6 He gives us endurance in mission, “for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.”7 And even when we suffer, “the God of all grace” himself restores us and makes us strong, firm and steadfast.”8 Then let us, like Paul, “strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us.”9 For our superpower is no longer a natural “what” but a divine “Who.” He is Christ in us.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” —Zechariah 4:6

Father, out of Your glorious riches, strengthen us with power through Your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.10 Work powerfully through us, Your church, and be glorified. In Christ we pray, Amen.

1 2 Corinthians 12:9b
2 2 Corinthians 12:9a
3 2 Corinthians 12:10
4 1 Peter 4:10
5 Ephesians 3:16-17
6 2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV
7 2 Timothy 2:10 ESV
8 1 Peter 5:10
9 Colossians 1:29
10 Ephesians 3:16-17