The Way We Look – A Letter From Jim

The Way We Look – A Letter From Jim

Dear CCW family,

It is an exercise in self-abnegation for me to show my driver’s license or passport, and I have to do it quite often. I am still hoping for somebody to say, “Wait, this doesn’t look like you!”  When comedic author Erma Bombeck handed her passport over for renewal, the man glanced at the photo and said: “Any person who looks like this is too sick to travel.”

Paul had this to say about the way we look: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). Think about every phrase of that sentence . . .

The Outer
Though wrinkle cream options have never been more abundant (and, not surprisingly, even men have their own brands), nothing can reverse the process of the decay of the human body. All of us are going downhill — fast!

Add to the folds those unsightly knots, age spots, and permanent furrows. Add to that the graying of the hair. Add to the graying the disappearance of it. I once knew a man who had lost almost all his hair, except for what he could fertilize on the sides. He let that rim grow out several inches and then, with the help of some industrial-strength hairspray, draped the collected strands across the great expanse. Wind and rain were his two great nemeses.

And who can control the bulge and the sag? When one older female musician I knew directed her choir, the hanging skin on her arms kept such a different beat than her hands that the singers were left in constant confusion.

There is no hope for us. Face lifts, tummy tucks, and liposuction may tighten things up temporarily, but more is coming that will frighten you. Decay is insidious and unforgiving.

The Inner
There is hope, however, for Paul says of the true believer, “our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

The older the believer’s body, the more vibrant and young his spirit may become. In fact, though some may never be alluring in the body and facial structure, with this new beauty secret any believer may grow more radiant through the years. Sarah had this attractiveness even as an old woman (1 Peter 3:1-5). More importantly, this beauty draws people not only to you, but to Christ.

Note that Paul speaks of this as a process. You are “being renewed day by day.” In another place he shows that the believer meditating on the Lord’s glory, that is, becoming fixed on His nature, his power and his amazing works like one gazes in a mirror, is changed to reflect that same glory. Seeing is important because seeing with the inner eyes is transformative.

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

I heard the fictitious story of a woman who was told in a dream that she would meet Christ at a specific time that afternoon. Sure enough, in her dream the doorbell rang at the precise time anticipated. But on the other side of the threshold stood a man of such frightening ugliness that she could hardly look at him.

“You’re not Jesus,” she exclaimed.

“No,” he said, “but I’m the Jesus other people see in you.”

I’ll admit that “a little paint on an old barn cannot hurt.” Do something for the outward appearance out of love for your family and mankind in general, but don’t overdo it so as to deflect away from the beauty of Christ. You can’t reverse the relentless process of decay.

You can, however, accelerate the beautification of the inner person. And real beauty may actually be more attractive as it shines through a decaying body. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). If done right, people who see you will see more of Jesus. Until we become fully like Him in another world, we’ll find in this the best possible beauty tip for believers.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like Him, [note the reason here] because we shall see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2

CCW Ahead

Just ahead, the Elliff family in the States is traveling to New Jersey for the memorial of a great Christian in our family. Kalla (Knight) Byrd, Pam’s sister, passed away this morning after wrestling with cancer throughout her body. She was a servant to so many, and a devoted follower of Christ. She labored overseas for the gospel for several years and used her home, her money, and her love for others. We will miss her. Her three sons carry her legacy on in a noble way. God, give us more like her.

We are engaged in renewing one or possibly two older publications that we think will be useful to you. Steve has written another small book that we hope to publish soon with a working title of Words that Live! A Primer on the Public Reading of Scripture. I’m focusing on another as well. My speaking for the next few weeks is local, but special. One yearly joy is to return to Buffalo Ridge in Kansas for two days of intensive study on a passage of the Bible with a group of pastors. These men are leaders in various churches and are such a delight to work with.

Yours with Joy,

Jim Elliff with Steve Burchett