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.





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