2 Corinthians 3:18 says “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
When you look in the mirror what do you see? It is an interesting phenomenon that we often see ourselves quite differently from how others see us, or how we actually are for that matter. We tend to distort our image based on what we believe about ourselves. So a rail thin woman can look into the mirror and actually see a pudgy overweight reflection. A middle aged, rounding, former athlete can look into the mirror and still see a buff and chiseled physique. While these may be the extremes we all tend to view ourselves more in terms of what we believe about ourselves than what the mirror actually portrays.
This is no different in the spiritual realm! So often, followers of Christ have a distorted image of who they really are. They look into the mirror and they see flawed, marred, broken, and junk that is full of fear, guilt and shame. They tell themselves: “well, that’s just the way it is, or that’s just the way I am, and there is nothing I can do about it.” So they look into the mirror and they do not see Christ in them, the hope of glory; but they see the old man, the fleshly and fallen man they once were. They don’t think of themselves as more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus, but ‘doing the best they can, just getting by.’ They do not wield weapons of spiritual power, but rather are quietly ravaged by internal desires that overwhelm them and they can’t seem to do anything about. The battle rages within them and they feel helpless and defeated, retreating to a mindset of ‘that’s just the way it is.’ The problem is that we have believed a lie about ourselves and about what God has for us. The subtlety of this lie is embraced and perpetuated by some of the Godliest people I know. Good people who earnestly love the Lord but because of their background, their upbringing and their reality they embrace a half truth. This half truth is the lie that the enemy uses to distort the picture of who we are and so when we look in the mirror we no longer see “the Lord’s glory,” but frail and fallen halflings “just doing the best they can.”
The lie is that there are two powers at work within me, the good dog bad dog theory; and whichever one I feed will be the one that gets stronger and wins out. My job is to suppress the bad dog and feed the good dog. This is the idea that we have two natures struggling for dominion.
Romans 8:3 says “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man.”
The New International Version translates the Greek word ‘sarx’ or flesh as ‘nature’. When I read this I believe scripture is suggesting that I have two natures: a sinful nature and a spiritual nature born in me by the Spirit. If, however, the reality is that I have one brand new nature then the battle is against my flesh. What’s the difference? Scripture says that I’ve been set free from sin (Romans 6:22) and that the old self has been crucified (Romans 6:6). The difference is that the struggle I have within me is against the ingrained habits of my flesh and not the work of some power over me that I am helpless to overcome. I am now a new creation according to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and I must now continue to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).
Think of it this way, when a president is sworn into office he or she becomes the leader of the country at that moment, but the laws and policies of the previous country are still running the country even though the country has a new leader. The old leader is powerless to currently affect the direction of the country but his ingrained influence is still affecting and leading the country. The new policies of the new leader must now be put into place in order for his leadership to take effect. We have a new leader and his name is Jesus and the old leader of sin and death has been defeated; but those old policies have been in place a long time and there are new policies that must be put into place by the renewing of our minds.
When we look in the mirror do we see the Glory of God? Do we see sons and daughters of the Most High God? Do we see princes and princesses of the kingdom emanating the spiritual power and beauty of the Lord? If not we are suffering from spiritual schizophrenia because we do not perceive ourselves as we are but based upon a lie that is stealing away our true identity.
If I wake up today and see myself as a sinner saved by grace rather than a saintly new creation in Christ, I am more apt to settle. If I believe there is a force of evil inside of me and that I am powerless to overcome certain ingrained behaviors, then I make a place for those behaviors in my life. If I believe that those ingrained behaviors can and must be overthrown in favor of a new way of thinking and a new way of living, then I trust that if I will “be transformed by the renewing of my mind” then I can overcome by the power of Christ Jesus all the sins that so easily beset me. It doesn’t mean it will go away forever or overnight but it does mean that I trust the biblical picture of new life in Christ rather than my emotions or circumstance.