Behold To Become

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 3:18 (ESV)

It was William Blake, the renown 18th-19th century English poet, that said, “We become what we behold.” He was not the first person to have made this insightful observation. More than two millennia before, a psalmist, under the inspiration of God, penned these words: “Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:8; Psalm 135:18). The reference is to idols, which people make to worship.

Idolatry & Narcissism

However, it is not just idols of the gods and spirit beings that people worship. That which we behold, we also worship. And so, idols must necessarily include people or things that capture our gaze and obsession. The human tendency is that we emulate our idols. Gradually, we become like what we behold, in one way or other – in our thinking, lifestyle and aspirations.

In this age of social media, another phenomenon has come to the fore. We are witnessing narcissism on a rampant scale. Scan through your Facebook and Instagram and observe what people mostly posted in their pages. There is such an unhealthy preoccupation with self. Many people constantly put their best poses, daily routine, grouses and even messages best reserved for private consumption on open display. This is reality TV on steroids.

I wonder if Narcissus, the Greek mythological figure from which the word narcissism is derived, would be amused if he is still alive. He was not the only one who fell in love with his own reflection in the water. His behaviour, once frowned upon, is now celebrated. How ironic is that?

Narcissism is self-idolatry.

Both idolatry and self-idolatry distract and detract us from the worship of God, who alone deserves our magnificent obsession. Only God is to be worshipped. Only He alone is to be adored. The bible is unequivocally clear about this.

The Art of Beholding God

Ruth Koh Simons, an artist and author, so eloquently said, “A relatively short time ago, we didn’t have an “online life.” Tweeting was for birds, posts were for fences, and text required ink. The advent of mobile devices brought a fundamental shift in the way we engage with the world. From the coffee shop to the subway, it isn’t hard to find someone head-down with a cell phone. We have been given so much to look at, but we are missing the art of beholding (God).”

Let me repeat. We are missing the art of beholding God. It is imperative that we rediscover the art of beholding God because we can only be transformed into Christ’s likeness by beholding Him. Keep in mind that ultimately the aim of Christian discipleship is to become like Christ.

Just that you know, there is nothing mystical about the art of beholding God. Most Christians are taught to behold God immediately after their conversion.

Know About God

First, we have been taught to pay close attention to the Scripture. Spend time to read the bible and listen to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. By devoting yourself to His Word, you learn about God and you increase in your knowledge of God.

It is important to know about the God whom you have believed. Beholding God is knowing about Him – what He is like, what He likes and dislikes, His demands and expectations, the appropriate way of worship, and other important details about Him. Otherwise, how can we learn and grow to be like Him?

By knowing about God, you also avoid having wrong ideas and mistaken notions about Him. This is a common problem for Christians in our postmodern age where truth is relative and loosely held. You cannot become like Christ if you are practising a different Christianity.

On another note, when you immerse yourself into the Scripture, you are encountering God literally. Why do I say that? The apostle, John, described Jesus as the Word incarnate. In the words of John, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). So, the bible that you hold in your hands contains the living words of God. It is the Living Word.

Knowing God

Second, upon conversion, Christians are also taught that one of the primary features of Christianity is our personal relationship with God. Therefore, knowing God is important. Knowing God is different from knowing about God. Knowing about God has to do with acquiring knowledge about God whereas knowing God is about our relationship with Him.

Like in any human relationship, the way to develop a close relationship with God is to devote ourselves to spend time with Him. This is non-negotiable if we desire to grow and mature in Christ becoming like Him in character. During this quiet time, as it is usually called, we read the bible devotionally, meditate, pray and listen to what He has to say to us. This is how we behold Him. Like I said earlier, there is nothing mystical about it.

We must reclaim the practice of meditation. It is an excellent way of beholding the Lord. Unfortunately, it has become a lost art. In our fast pace society, we have become too busy and fidgety to meditate. We need to learn to be still before the Lord.

In Christian meditation, we don’t empty our minds. Instead, we fill our minds with the Word of God (Psalm 119:15, 97). We remember His goodness in our lives (Psalm 119:99). We consider His works (Psalm 143:5). We contemplate His glory and majesty (Psalm 145:5). We fix our gaze on Him (Hebrews 12:2). And we stand in wonder.

The more we behold the Lord, the closer we will be drawn to Him. We will love Him more, and the things of this world would seem strangely dim as the lyrics of an old hymn goes. In the process, we become transformed and grow to become more and more like our Lord Jesus.

Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua