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HOW TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST.






From: HOW TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST

"But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of
the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even
as by the Spirit of the Lord."--2 COR. iii. 18 (Revised Version).

I suppose there is almost no one who would deny, if it were put to
him, that the greatest possible attainment a man can make in this
world is likeness to The Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly no one would
deny that there is nothing but character that we can carry out of
life with us, and that our prospect of good in any future life will
certainly vary with the resemblance of our character to that of Jesus
Christ, which is to rule the whole future. We all admit that; but
almost every one of us offers to himself some apology for not being
like Christ, and has scarcely any clear reality of aim of becoming
like Him. Why, we say to ourselves, or we say in our practice, it is
really impossible in a world such as ours is to become perfectly
holy. One or two men in a century may become great saints; given a
certain natural disposition and given exceptionally favouring
circumstances, men may become saintly; but surely the ordinary run of
men, men such as we know ourselves to be, with secular disposition
and with many strong, vigorous passions--surely we can really not be
expected to become like Christ, or, if it is expected of us, we know
that it is impossible. On the contrary, Paul says, "We all," "we
all." Every Christian has that for a destiny: to be changed into the
image of his Lord. And he not only says so, but in this one verse he
reveals to us the mode of becoming like Christ, and a mode, as we
shall find, so simple and so infallible in its working that a man
cannot understand it without renewing his hope that even he may one
day become like Christ.

In order to understand this simplest mode of sanctification we must
look back at the incident that we read in the Book of Exodus (xxxiv.
29-35.). Paul had been reading how when Moses came down from the
mount where he had been speaking with God his face shone, so as to
dazzle and alarm those who were near him.

They at once recognised that that was the glory of God reflected from
him; and just as it is almost as difficult for us to look at the sun
reflected from a mirror as to look directly at the sun, so these men
felt it almost as difficult to look straight at the face of Moses as
to look straight at the face of God. But Moses was a wise man, and he
showed his wisdom in this instance as well as elsewhere. He knew that
that glory was only on the skin of his face, and that of course it
would pass away. It was a superficial shining. And accordingly he put
a veil over his face, that the children of Israel might not see it
dying out from minute to minute and from hour to hour, because he
knew these Israelites thoroughly, and he knew that when they saw the
glory dying out they would say, "God has forsaken Moses. We need not
attend to him any more. His authority is gone, and the glory of God's
presence has passed from him." So Moses wore the veil that they might
not see the glory dying out. But whenever he was called back to the
presence of God he took off the veil and received a new access of
glory on his face, and thus went "from glory to glory."

"That," says Paul, "is precisely the process through which we
Christian men become like Christ." We go back to the presence of
Christ with unveiled face; and as often as we stand in His presence,
as often as we deal in our spirit with the living Christ, so often do
we take on a little of His glory. The glory of Christ is His
character; and as often as we stand before Christ, and think of Him,
and realise what He was, our heart goes out and reflects some of His
character. And that reflection, that glory, is not any longer merely
on the skin of the face; as Paul wishes us to recognise, it is a
spiritual glory, it is wrought by the spirit of Christ upon our
spirit, and it is we ourselves that are changed from glory to glory
into the very image of the Lord.

Now obviously this mode of sanctification has extraordinary
recommendations. In the first place, it is absolutely simple. If you
go to some priest or spiritual director, or minister of the Gospel,
or friend, and ask what you are to do if you wish to become a holy
man, why, even the best of them will almost certainly tell you to
read certain books, to spend so much time in prayer and reading your
Bible, to go regularly to church, to engage in this and that good
work. If you had applied to a spiritual director of the middle ages
of this world's history and of the history of Christianity, he would
have told you that you must retire from the world altogether in order
to become holy. Paul says, "Away with all that nonsense!" We are
living in a real world; Christ lived in a real world: Christ did not
retire from men. And He says all that you have to do in order to be
like Christ is to carry His image with you in your heart. That is
all. To be with Him, to let Him stand before you and command your
love, that will infallibly change you into His image. I do not know
that we sufficiently recognise the simplicity of Christian methods.
We do not understand what Paul meant by proclaiming it as the
religion of the spirit, as a religion superior to everything
mechanical and external. Think of the deliverance it was for him who
had grown up under a religion which commanded him to go a journey
three times a year, to take the best of his goods and offer them in
the Temple, to comply with a multitude of oppressive observances and
ordinances. Think of the emancipation when he found a spiritual
religion. Why, in those times a man must have despaired of becoming a
holy man; But now Paul says you will infallibly become holy if you
learn this easy lesson of carrying the Lord Jesus with you in your
heart.

Another recommendation of this method is that it is so obviously
grounded on our own nature. No sooner are we told by Paul that we
must act as mirrors of Christ than we recognise that nature has made
us to be mirrors, that we cannot but reflect what is passing before
us. You are walking along the street, and, a little child runs before
a carriage; you shrink back as if you were in danger. You see a man
fall from a scaffolding, crushed; your face takes on an expression of
pain, reflecting what is passing in him. You go and spend an evening
with a man much stronger, much purer, much saner, than yourself, and
you come away knowing yourself a stronger and a better man. Why?
Because you are a mirror, because in your inmost nature you have
responded to and reflected the good that was in him.

Look into any family, and what do you see? You see the boy, not
imitating consciously, but taking on, his father's looks and
attitudes and ways; and as the boy grows up these become his own
looks and attitudes and ways. He has reflected his father from one
degree of proficiency unto another, from one intimacy, from one day's
observation of his father to another, until he is the image of the
old man over again.

"Similarly," says Paul, "live with Christ; learn to carry His image
with you, learn to adore Him, learn to love Him, and infallibly,
whether you will or not, by this simple method you will become,
Christ over again; you will become conformed, as God means you to
become conformed, to the image of His Son."

This has been tested by the experience of thousands; and it has been
found to be a true method. Every one who spends but two minutes in
the morning in the observation of Christ, every one who will be at
the pains to let the image of Christ rise before him and to remember
the purity, the unworldliness, the heavenliness, the godliness of
Jesus Christ, that man is the better for this exercise. And how
utterly useless is it to offer any other method of sanctification to
thousands of our fellow-citizens. How can many of our fellow-citizens
secrete themselves for prayer? If you ask them to go and pray as you
pray in your comfortable home, if you ask them to read the Bible
before they go out at five or six o'clock in the morning, do you
expect that your word will be followed? Why, the thing is impossible.
But ask a man to carry Christ with him in his mind, that is a thing
he can do; and if he does it once, if only once the man sees Christ
before him, realises that this living Person is with him, and
remembers the character of Christ as it is written for us in the
Gospels, that man knows that he has made a step in advance, knows
that he is the better for it, knows that he does reflect, for a
little, even though it be but for a little, the very image of the
Lord Jesus Christ; and other people know it also.

Now, if that is so, there are obviously three things that we must do.
We must in the first place, learn to associate with Christ. I say
that even one reflection does something, but we need to reflect
Christ constantly, continually, if we are to become like Him. When
you pass away from before a mirror the reflection also .goes. In the
case of Moses the reflection stayed for a little, and that is perhaps
a truer figure of what happens to the Christian who sets Christ
before him and reflects him. But very often as soon as Christ is not
consciously remembered you fall back to other remembrances and
reflect other things. You go out in the morning with your associates,
and they carry you away; you have not as yet sufficiently impressed
upon yourself the image of Christ. Therefore we must learn to carry
Christ with us always, as a constant Companion. Some one may say that
is impossible. No one will say it is impossible who is living in
absence from anyone he loves. What happens when we are living
separated from some one we love? This happens: that his image is
continually in our minds. At the most unexpected times that image
rises, and especially, if we are proposing to ourselves to do what
that person would not approve. At once his image rises to rebuke us
and to hold us back. So that it is not only possible to carry with us
the image of Christ: it is absolutely certain that we shall carry
that image with us if only we give Him that love and reverence which
is due from every human being. Who has done for us what Christ has
done? Who commands our reverence as He does? If once He gets hold of
our affection, it is impossible that He should not live constantly in
our hearts. And if we say that persons deeply immersed in business
cannot carry Christ with them thus, remember what He Himself says:
"If any man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love
him, and we will come unto him." So that He is most present with the
busiest and with those who strive as best they can to keep His
commandments.

But we must not only associate with Christ and make Him our constant
company: we must, in the second place, set ourselves square with
Christ. You know that if you look into a mirror obliquely, if a
mirror is not set square with you, you do not see yourself, but what
is at the opposite angle, something that is pleasant or something
that is disagreeable to you; it matters not--you cannot see yourself.
And unless we as mirrors set ourselves perfectly square with Christ,
we do not reflect Him, but perhaps things that are in His sight
monstrous. And, in point of fact, that is what happens with most of
us, because it is here that we are chiefly tried. All persons brought
up within the Christian Church pay some attention to Christ. We too
well understand His excellence and we too well understand the
advantages of being Christian men not to pay some attention to
Christ. But that will not make us conform to His image. In order to
be conformed to the image of Christ we must be wholly His. Suppose
you enter a studio where a sculptor is working, will he hand you his
hammer and chisel to finish the most difficult piece of his work or
to do any part of it? Assuredly not. It is his own idea that he is
working out, and none but his own hand can work it out. So with us
who are to be moulded by Christ. Christ cannot mould us into His
image unless we are wholly His. Every stroke that is made upon us by
the chisel and mallet of the world is lost to His ideal. As often as
we reflect what is not purely Christian, so often do we mar the I
image of Christ.

Now how is it with us? Need we ask? When we go along the street, what
is it that we reflect? Do we not reflect a thousand things that
Christ disapproves? What is it that our heart responds to when we are
engaged in business? Is it to appeals that this world makes to us? Is
it the appeal that a prospect of gain makes to us that we respond to
eagerly? That is what is making us; that is what is moulding and
making us the men that we are destined to be. We are moulded into the
character that we are destined to live with for ever and ever, by our
likings and dislikings, by the actual response that we are now giving
day by day to the things that we have to do with in this world. We
may loathe the character of the sensualist; no language is too strong
for us when we speak of him: but if we, in point of fact, respond to
appeals made to the flesh rather than appeals made to the spirit, we
are becoming sensual. We may loathe and despise the character of the
avaricious worldly man; we may see its littleness, and pettiness, and
greed, and selfishness: but do our own hearts go out in response to
any offer of gain more eagerly than they go out to Christian work or
to the interests of Christ's kingdom? Then we are becoming worldly
and avaricious; we are becoming the very kind of men that we despise.

Of course we know this. We Know that we are being made by what we
respond to, and the older we grow we know it the more clearly; we see
it written on our own character that we have become the kind of men
that we little thought one day we should become, and we know that we
have become such men by responding to certain things which are not
the things of the Spirit. Never was a truer word said than that he
that Soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, and he
only that soweth to the Spirit shall reap life. That is what in other
terms Paul here says. He says, "If you set yourselves square with
Christ, you will become like Him; that is to say, if you find your
all in Him, if you can be absolutely frank and honest with Him, if
you can say, 'Mould and fashion me according to Thy will; lead me
according to Thy will; make me in this world what Thou wilt; do with
me what Thou wilt: I put myself wholly at Thy disposal; I do not wish
to crane to see past Christ's figure to some better thing beyond; I
give myself wholly and freely to him'--the man that says this, the
man that does this, he will certainly become like to Him. But the man
who even when he prays knows that he has desires in his heart that
Christ cannot gratify, the man that never goes out from his own home
or never goes into his own home without knowing that he has responded
to things that Christ disapproves--how can that man hope to be like
Him?"

We must then associate with Christ, and we must set ourselves
squarely; we must. be absolutely true in our entire and absolute
devotion. Surely no man thinks that this is a hardship; that his
nature and life will be restricted by giving himself wholly to
Christ? It is only, as every Christian will tell you--it is only when
you give yourself entirely to Christ that you know what freedom
means; that you know what it is to live in this world afraid of
nothing. Superior to things that before you were afraid of and
anxious about, you at length learn what it is to be a child of God.
Let no man think that he lames his nature and makes his life poorer
by becoming entirely the possession of Christ.

But, thirdly, we must set Christ before us and live before Him with
unveiled face. "We all _with unveiled face_ reflecting as a mirror."
Throw a napkin over a mirror, and it reflects nothing. Perfect beauty
may stand before it, but the mirror gives no sign. And this is why in
a dispensation like ours, the Christian dispensation, with everything
contrived to reflect Christ, to exhibit Christ, the whole thing set
a-going for this purpose of exhibiting Christ, we so little see Him.
How is it that two men can sit at a Communion table together, and the
one be lifted to the seventh heaven and see the King in His beauty,
while the other only envies his neighbour his vision? Why is it that
in the same household two persons will pass through identically the
same domestic circumstances, the same events, from year to year, and
the one see Christ everywhere, while the other grows sullen, sour,
indifferent? Why is it? Because the one wears a veil that prevents
him from seeing Christ; the other lives with unveiled face. How was
it that the Psalmist, in the changes of the seasons even, in the
mountain, in the sea, in everything that he had to do, found God? How
was it that he knew that even though he made his bed in hell he would
find God? Because he had an unveiled face; he was prepared to find
God. How is it that many of us can come into church and be much more
taken up with the presence of some friend than with the presence of
Christ? The same reason still: we wear a veil; we do not come with
unveiled face prepared to see Him.

And When we ask ourselves, "What, in point of fact, is the veil that
I wear? What is it that has kept me from responding to the perfect
beauty of Christ's character? I know that that character is perfect;
I know that I ought to respond to it; I know that I ought to go out
eagerly towards Christ and strive to become like Him; why do I not do
it?" we find that the veil that keeps us from responding thus to
Christ and reflecting Him is not like the mere dimness on a mirror
which the bright and warm presence of Christ Himself would dry off;
it is like an incrustation that has been growing out from our hearts
all our life long, and that now is impervious, so far as we can see,
to the image of Christ. How can hearts steeped in worldliness reflect
this absolutely unworldly, this heavenly Person? When we look into
our hearts, what do we find in point of fact? We find a thousand
,things that we know have no right there; that we know to be wrong.
How can such hearts reflect this perfect purity of Christ? Well, we
must see to it that these hearts be cleansed; we must hold ourselves
before Christ until from very shame these passions of ours are
subdued, until His purity works its way into our hearts through all
obstructions; and we must keep our hearts, we must keep the mirror
free from dust, free from incrustations, once we have cleansed it.

In some circumstances you might be tempted to say that really it is
not so much that there is a veil on the mirror as that there is no
quicksilver at all behind. You meet in life characters so thin, so
shallow, that every good thought seems to go through and out of them
at the other side; they hear with one ear, and it goes out at the
other. You can make no impression upon them. There is nothing to
impress, no character there to work upon. They are utterly
indifferent to spiritual things, and never give a thought to their
own character. What is to be done with such persons? God is the great
Teacher of us all; God, in His providence, has made many a man who
has begun life as shallow and superficial as man can be, deep enough
before He has done with him.

Two particulars in which the perfectness of this method appears may
be pointed out. First of all, it is perfect in this: that anyone who
begins it is bound to go on to the end. The very nature of the case
leads him to go on and on from glory to glory, back and back to
Christ, until the process is, actually completed, and he is like
Christ. The reason is this: that the Christian conscience is never
much taken up with attainment made, but always with attainment that
is yet to be made. It is the difference not the likeness that touches
the conscience. A friend has been away in Australia for ten years,
and he sends you his likeness, and you take it out eagerly, and you
say, "Yes, the eyes are the very eyes; the brow, the hair are exactly
like," but there is something about the mouth that you do not like,
and you thrust it away in a drawer and never look at it again. Why?
Because the one point of unlikeness destroys the whole to you. Just
so when any Christian presents himself before Christ it is not the
points of likeness, supposing there are any, which strike his
conscience--it is the remaining points of difference that inevitably
strike him, and so he is urged on and on from one degree of
proficiency to another until the process is completed, because there
is no point at which a man has made a sufficient attainment in the
likeness of Christ. There is no point at which Christ draws a line
and says, "You will do well if you reach this height, and you need
not strive further." Why, we should be dissatisfied, we should throw
up our allegiance to Christ if He treated us so. He is our ideal, and
it is resemblance to Him that draws us and makes us strive forward;
and so a man is bound, to go on, and on, and on, still drawn on to
his ideal, still rebuked by his shortcomings until he perfectly
resembles Christ.

And this character of Christ that is our ideal is not assumed by Him
for the nonce. He did not change His nature when He came to this
earth; He did not put on this character to set us an example. The
things that He did, He did because it was His nature to do them. He
came to this world because His love would not let Him stay away from
us. It was His nature that brought Him here, and it is His nature to
be what He is, and so his character is to become our nature; it is to
be so wrought in us that we cannot give it up. It is our eternal
character, and therefore any amount of pains is worth spending on the
achievement of it.

The second point of perfectness lies here. You know that in painting
a likeness or cutting out a bust one feature often may be almost
finished while the rest are scarcely touched, but in standing before
a mirror the whole comes out at once. Now we often in the Christian
life deal with ourselves as if we were painters and sculptors, not as
if we were mirrors: we hammer and chisel away at ourselves to bring
out some resemblance to Christ in some particulars, thinking that we
can do it piecemeal; we might as well try to feed up our body
piecemeal; we might as well try to make our eye bright without giving
our cheek colour and our hands strength. The body is a whole, and we
must feed the whole and nourish the whole if any one part of it is to
be vigorous.

So it is with character. The character is a whole, and you can only
deal with your character as a whole. What has resulted when we have
tried the other process? Sometimes we set ourselves to subdue a sin
or cultivate a grace. Well, candidly say what has come of this.
Judging from my own experience, I would say that this comes of it:
that in three or four days you forget what sin it was that you were
trying to subdue. The temptation is away, and the sin is not there,
and you forget all about it. That is the very snare of sin. Or you
become a little better in a point that you were trying to cultivate.
In that grace you are a shade improved. But that only brings out more
astoundingly your frightful shortcoming in other particulars. Now,
adopting Paul's method, this happens: Christ acts on our character
just as a person acts upon a mirror. The whole image is reflected at
once. How is it that society moulds a man? How can you tell in what
class in society a man has been brought up? Not by one thing, not by
his accent, not by his bearing, not by his conduct, but the whole
man. And why? Because a man does not consciously imitate this or that
feature of the society in which he is brought up, does not do it
consciously at all; he is merely reflecting it as a mirror, and
society acts on him as a whole, and makes him the man he is. "Just
so," says Paul. "Live with Christ, and He will make you the man that
you are destined to be."

One word in conclusion. I suppose there is no one who at one time or
other has not earnestly desired to be of some use in the world.
Perhaps there are few who have not even definitely desired to be of
some use in the kingdom of Christ. As soon as we recognise the
uniqueness of Christ's purpose and the uniqueness of His power in the
world, as soon as we recognise that all good influence and all
superlatively dominant influence proceeds from Him, and that really
the hope of our race lies in Jesus Christ--as soon as we realise
that, as soon as we see that with our reason, and not as a thing that
we have been taught to believe, as soon as we lay hold on it for
ourselves, we cannot but wish to do something to forward His purposes
in the world. But as soon as we form the wish we say, "What can we
do? We have not been born with great gifts; we have not been born in
superior positions; we have not wealth; we are shut off from the
common ways of doing good; we cannot teach in the Sabbath school; we
cannot go and preach; we cannot go and speak to the sick; we cannot
speak even to our fellow at the desk. What can we do?" We can do the
best thing of all, as of course all the best things are open to every
man. Love, faith, joy, hope, all these things, all the best things,
are open to all men; and so here it is open to all of us to forward
the cause of Christ in the most influential way possible, if not in
the most prominent way. What happens when a person is looking into a
shop window where there is a mirror, and some one comes up
behind--some one he knows? He does not look any longer at the image;
he turns to look at the person whose image is reflected. Or if he
sees reflected on the mirror something very striking: he does not
content himself with looking at the image; he turns and looks at the
thing itself. So it is always with the persons that you have to do
with. If you become a mirror to Christ your friends will detect it in
a very few days; they will see appearing in you, the mirror, an image
which they know has not been originated in you, and they will turn to
look straight at the Person that you are reflecting. It is in that
way that Christianity passes from man to man.





Next: THE TRANSFIGURATION.




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