If you yield yourself up to His divine working, the Lord will alter your nature; He will subdue the old nature, and breathe new life into you. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and He will give you a heart of flesh. Where everything was hard, everything shall be tender; where everything was vicious, everything shall be virtuous: where everything tended downward, everything shall rise upward with impetuous force. The lion of anger shall give place to the lamb of meekness; the raven of uncleanness shall fly before the dove of purity; the vile serpent of deceit shall be trodden under the heel of truth.
Long looking with admiration produces change. From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanors and convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.
Part of what we pick up in looking at Jesus in the gospel is a way of viewing the whole world. That worldview informs all our values and deeply shapes our thinking and decision-making. Another part of what we absorb is greater confidence in Jesus' counsel and his promises. This has its own powerful effect on what we fear and desire and choose. Another part of what we take up from beholding the glory of Christ is greater delight in his fellowship and deeper longing to see him in heaven. This has its own liberating effect from the temptations of this world. All these have their own peculiar way of changing us into the likeness of Christ. Therefore, we should not think that pursuing likeness to Christ has no other components than just looking at Jesus. Looking at Jesus produces holiness along many different paths.
Holiness must have a philosophical and theological foundation, namely, Divine truth; otherwise it is sentimentality and emotionalism. Many would say later on, 'We want religion, but no creeds.' This is like saying we want healing, but no science of medicine; music, but no rules of music; history, but no documents. Religion is indeed a life, but it grows out of truth, not away from it. It has been said it makes no difference what you believe, it all depends on how you act. This is psychological nonsense, for a man acts out of his beliefs. Our Lord placed truth or belief in Him first; then came sanctification and good deeds. But here truth was not a vague ideal, but a Person. Truth was now lovable, because only a Person is lovable. Sanctity becomes the response the heart makes to Divine truth and its unlimited mercy to humanity.
As it is with spiritual discoveries and affections given at first conversion, so it is in all subsequent illuminations and affections of that kind; they are all transforming. There is a like divine power and energy in them as in the first discoveries; they still reach the bottom of the heart, and affect and alter the very nature of the soul, in proportion to the degree in which they are given. And a transformation of nature is continued and carried on by them to the end of life, until it is brought to perfection in glory.
This book is not the memoir of a contented man. It's not the poignant reflections of a white-haired guru who has finally figured out the secret to contentment. It's more like sweaty, bloody, hastily scribbled notes from a battlefield. I'm still struggling to escape the sinister fingers on this conspiracy. I'm still waging war against the discontentment that rages in my life. I can see contentment in the distance, like a hazy oasis, but I have to pick my way through a minefield to get there. I'm not the contented man God wants me to be, but I'm fighting to get there. I'm writing this book the hope that you'll join me in the fight.