by Greg Gifford, PhD
Louis Berkhof makes an interesting comment. He says, “None of the attributes of God are incommunicable in the sense that there is no trace of them found in man.” In light of Berhof’s thought, listen to the words of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “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.” We are transformed as we behold His glory, His attributes.
Understanding God as Foundational to Change
What if a foundational part of change is not understanding myself better, the world better, or psychology better, but understanding God better? My point is that true change is not hinged on a right understanding of us—it is hinged on a right understanding of God.
Forgive Like Him (Eph. 4:32)
Paul works his way into the practical theology of Ephesians 4 and urges the Ephesians to forgive each other. In verse 32 he says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Did you catch that? What is the basis of your forgiveness? It is the example that God has provided in His forgiveness offered through Christ; He is a forgiving God. Behold the glory of God’s forgiveness.
Be Holy Like Him (1 Pet. 1:16)
Peter makes similar statements to that of Paul. In his first epistle, Peter calls the believers to behold God’s holiness. In verses 14-16 he says: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” He urges a personal change through beholding God—be holy like Him.
Show Mercy Like Him (Luke 6:36)
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Implicitly the question is how are we to be merciful? Jesus answers this question by proposing that we are to show mercy by imitating God’s mercy; behold God’s mercy and imitate it.
Gaze on God and Imitate What You See
Fundamentally, we cannot biblically change without a proper understanding of God (proper, not complete). Therefore, all biblical change starts with a right understanding of God. I do not mean this to imply that all change necessitates a complete or total understanding of God. However, even the most elementary understanding of God works as the impetus towards change. For instance, if I recognize that God doesn’t like lying (Eph. 4:25) and I attempt to not lie so as to please God, I have just exemplified how understanding God better (i.e., He doesn’t like lying) fuels biblical change in my life. I don’t have to fully comprehend the depths of God’s holiness before I can imitate that holiness. Yet, I should seek to understand God better in order to change personally. What do your counselees need? They need to behold the glory of God so that they can be changed to be like him. The question is, how will your counseling help them behold the glory of God?