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.
Sometimes we feel like we make no progress. We take one step forward one day and then take two steps back the next. We feel deflated in our pursuit of godliness, of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23).
So how do we make the jump from plateauing in our Christian walk to growing in our walk? The answer is that we pursue the one thing that promises dramatic growth in our Christian life, namely, God.
Here’s what we need to know: Eternal life means knowing God. The way to know God (or to access eternal life) is by looking into the face of Christ to see the Father by the Spirit. And if you do this, you will move from one level of glory to another. Consider the following paragraphs where I discuss these matters.
The reason Jesus came into the world was to save sinners, and he came into the world because of his love of humanity, his philanthropy. As Jesus himself says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God loves the world and gave his Son for it, so that we could have eternal life.
How do we gain eternal life? We must believe as John 3:16 says, and we believe in Christ who died and rose again. More could be said, but the simplest answer is the one Jesus gives in John 17. Before his Passion, Jesus prayed to the Father for the church. He says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is knowing God and Jesus Christ.
God sent his Son into world (to live, die, rise, ascend, and rule), so that the world might gain eternal life. And that life is knowing God and Jesus Christ. Put another way, through his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign, Jesus reconciles us to God. And in that reconciliation, our relationship with God, our knowledge of him constitutes eternal life.
To live the Christian life is to have eternal life, and to have eternal life is to know God. So, your measure of growing in your Christian walk ought to be a measure of your growing knowledge of God. And by the way, to know God (in the full sense) is to be like God; so, it’s not merely an intellectual endeavour, it includes being like God—to be godly.
Knowing and Growing
How do you practically pursue knowing God? One answer is to read a big, blue theology book. And while that can help, it’s not the primary way to know God. Added to this is the question of how we should practice knowing God. We need to ask: How can I measure my growth in godliness? The answer to both of the questions coincide.
Consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18). . . .
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4–6)
Paul says: we have unveiled faces and can behold the Lord’s glory. And the result is that we “transformed into the same image” (the image of Christ/the Lord). And this transformation is progressive: we move from one level of glory to another. More than this, he points to the “face of Jesus Christ” as the “glory of God,” which we can see because the Holy Spirit has recreated our hearts (“Let light shine out of darkness”).
So let’s make this simple: The Spirit recreates your nature, so that you behold the face of Christ and come to know God the Father. We grow by the Spirit, in Christ, to know the Father (for more on the Trinity, click here).
So What Now?
According to the Bible, we grow by the Spirit as we look at Christ and thereby come to know the Father. This is knowing God; this is eternal life. And it is the way that we grow in the Christian life. If you have chosen another path of growth that does not involve the Father, Son, and Spirit, then you have found the reason why you are not growing in the Christian life.
The Father enacts a miracle in us by the Spirit as we behold Christ. He moves us from one level of glory to another. It is a guaranteed pathway to growing in the Christian life.
Study Christ. Look at his ways. See what he teaches and how he acts. Gaze upon him in Scripture. The Spirit will empower you to be transformed into the image of Christ. And to be transformed into the image of Christ is to be like the Father. It’s part of what it means to know God.
If you do this, you will progress in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23).
 Paul identifies the Spirit with the Lord (“the Lord is the Spirit”), and he possibly distinguishes the Lord from the Spirit (“the Spirit of the Lord”). In any case, the distinction is clear when Paul speaks of “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This is the paradox of the Trinitarian theology. Somehow the Lord is the Spirit, but the Lord is distinct from the Spirit. Later theology will call the oneness “substance” and the distinction “relations” or “personhood” (for more, see here).