“Deepening our Identity as Followers of Jesus”
Many years ago I had an experience that surprised me. I was speaking with a small group of women, one that I had never met before. I was envying her thin body, allowing myself to focus on the “challenge areas” of my body. I can still remember the feeling that came over me. . . certainly not one that brought me to the awareness of my true identity as God’s beloved child!
Interestingly, while I was focusing on my short-comings, she was seeing something totally different in me. She told our mutual friend that when she looked at me, she saw almost a shining light filled with gold. It struck her and she ended up asking our friend more about what that could have been.
I now know that it is the glory of the Lord that shines through us when we follow Jesus. 2nd Corinthians 3:18 tells us “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
I can still remember the first time I read this verse.
My heart skipped a beat, thinking, “Could that really be possible that I reflect God’s glory?
Could Jesus really see himself when he sees me?”
Imagine holding up a mirror and when you look into it, you see Jesus instead of your face. Do you have a hard time doing that? I do, except for when I remember this Scripture, and my commitment that the Bible is true and so I choose to believe what it says. It says that “I am a mirror that brightly reflects the glory of the Lord.”
In other words, when people look at us, they see Jesus. When God looks at us, he sees himself. Wow! Once again, this one Scripture can change our whole life if we choose to align our minds with God’s mind.
1st Corinthians 6:19 states, “Don’t you realize that your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”
Our identity is formed by the reality that when we make the decision to pattern our lives after Jesus’ life, we actually have a physical change in our bodies. The Holy Spirit moves in to live with us!
What are the implications of this? Several things come to my mind. One is that we have the Healer living within us, so it is simple to pray for healing and to expect it to happen. Jesus healed because he was pointing to the Kingdom of God present on earth, bringing forth the ending of suffering.
We can also enter into conversation with God at any point of our day. We don’t have to be in a church building, or on our knees, or even alone. We can have an on-going dialogue all day, recognizing that we are known and valued by the One who lives within us.
We can also anticipate worship in the inner throne room. In the Old Testament, only one priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, one time per year. Now, the Holy of Holies is within us, the place of God’s greatest dwellings.
This reminds me that we don’t have to wait until we die until we start experiencing Heaven. Jesus told the Pharisees, (the ones anticipating the Messiah, but missing the reality that he was standing right in front of him), "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."
The Kingdom of God is present to bring heaven to earth, to bring today what God originally created in this world: a world without sickness, suffering, violence, poverty, alienation, and death. How does this happen? It happens as we live into our identity as “those that reflect the glory of the Lord.”
We have an assignment from Jesus to partner with him to “bring heaven to earth.” This is the big mission statement that Jesus gave us when we told us to go into the world, letting them know that God loves them and is present to save them.
The word “save” isn’t reflected well in English for the original intent of the Greek. In Greek, sozo means protection, healing, forgiveness, deliverance and eternal salvation. When Jesus came, he sozoed us, and gave us freedom so we could be his partners in loving the world.
It all starts with experiencing the loving heart of our Father in Heaven, as experienced through Jesus as he invites us into relationship. It starts to expand as we step into the big shoes that he gives us through our identity as “those that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord,” doing the same things that Jesus himself did on earth.
Jesus tells his disciples, that’s us, “The ones who believe in me will do the works I do, and even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” He is able to do the greater works because of his love relationship with his father, and his identity as his Son. We are able to do the greater works because of our love relationship with our Heavenly Father, and our identity as his children who carries a family resemblance!
Jesus’ words carry both an invitation and a challenge. The invitation is to get to know his Father better, to experience his love through a daily, living relationship that involves instant access to God because we are home to the Holy Spirit.
The challenge is to take seriously the reality that we do “have a family resemblance.” The mirror is a reflection on God in us, his glory shining through us. I have a Hindu friend that has very intentionally pursued friendship with me. She tells me that she likes to be around me because she likes my “aura.” That aura is God’s glory and people are drawn to it. Look for the Lord to affirm his glory in you too!