Autumn is a season of change. It arrives suddenly when the hot summer breeze turns into the crisp, fresh air of the fall. School starts before we know it, the football season gets under way, and it’s time to pick apples. Autumn has cropped up with its blowing wind, changing colors, and falling leaves.
As I’ve been considering the changing weather outside, I’ve been reflecting on transformation in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. What does it look like? Because if I’m honest, I’ve found myself resonating with the old Caedmon’s Call lyric that says the “Same old struggles that plagued me then are plaguing me still.” My impression is that I’ve changed little since becoming a Christian. I’ve asked the simple question, “Is there any hope for change?”
A believer has hope. First, final transformation is a done deal, or we could say the Spirit guarantees our transformation (Eph. 1:14). The work of Jesus on the cross decisively won the war against sin and death. Sin received a fatal blow. A mortal wound. We also hold to the promise that we will be transformed when Jesus returns. The apostles spoke of God starting the great work in us and bringing it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). When the apostle John speaks of this day he says, we will see Christ—and in seeing him, become like him (1 John 3:2)—restored to our intended image, conformed to the image of Christ. We cling to this promise that God will one day wholly change us.
Here and Now
Yet, what about change here and now? Amazingly, we find it works the same way that John described above only different by degree. In the future, we will behold Christ clearly—face to face—and be completely changed. Now, we behold him “dimly” like looking at a reflection in a mirror (1 Cor. 13:12). This is what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, when he says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Thus, we change when we behold the glory of God in Jesus. It’s gradual or progressive—“one degree of glory to another.” And it comes from the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit believers find hope in the forgiving and transforming grace of Jesus Christ. For not only does looking at Jesus cancel our record of debt, but it also provides the grace we need to be like him. God provides, as a gift, the divine strength to change (Phil. 2:13). This change is not of ourselves, but the grace of God (1 Cor. 15:10).
Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I've associated autumn with harvest. Even today, I love driving alongside cornfields with their tall corn stalks. (I also love a good corn maze!) Harvest provides a good reminder for us regarding gospel change: It’s not instant. In his book, Traveling Light, Eugene Peterson says that, like the growing season, our spiritual growth comes with “long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping.” Growth seems slow. We remember that there will be a harvest. One day the seeds of grace in the Scriptures, in worship, in discipline, and in suffering will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11).
As we dive into this autumn season and the blessing of change surrounds us, may we daily behold Jesus in the Scriptures, trusting in his forgiving and transforming grace and growing to be more like him every day.