Working to Behold

Sitting at the beach, on the countless grains of sand and looking out over the endless expanse of water God spoke into existence, I am reminded of my own minuteness. No matter how many commitments I make, things I do right, fruits I see growing on the vine, I am still so infinitely small compared to the God of the universe.

Why do I need to remove myself from the suburbs and the hum of city life to be reminded that the world continues to spin on its axis when my phone is locked in the glove-compartment of my car? I behold myself and my own obligations way more frequently than I behold God, seated on his throne.

All to quickly I become sidetracked by working and creating paths for my own sanctification. God is ready and able to do the work on my behalf if I would take my eyes off myself and fix them on him.

According to Paul, sanctification doesn’t begin with our to-do lists and doesn’t end with our follow-through.

“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.” –

We are not transformed, as we strive and work our way toward perfection. We are not transformed as we focus on our own sinfulness. We are transformed uniquely as we look on Christ: his beauty and his righteousness. Because of his holiness, we long to be holy. ()

The transforming work we long for has to begin with the Spirit of the Lord. We can’t force it, we can only plead for it. Do-it-yourself sanctification is a prescription for spiritual death. I must partner with God in his sanctifying work. My constant struggle is not usually found in the working part of the equation; it is in the beholding.

So today, I behold.


Behold Our God by Sovereign Grace Music 

Who has held the oceans in His hands? 
Who has numbered every grain of sand? 
Kings and nations tremble at His voice 
All creation rises to rejoice 

Behold our God seated on His throne 
Come, let us adore Him 
Behold our King—nothing can compare 
Come, let us adore Him 
Who has given counsel to the Lord? 
Who can question any of His words? 
Who can teach the One who knows all things? 
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds? 

Who has felt the nails upon His hands? 
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man 
God eternal, humbled to the grave 
Jesus, Savior, risen now to reign 
You will reign forever 
Let Your glory fill the earth 

Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird, Ryan Baird, and Stephen Altrogge
© 2011 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)



17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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. (ESV)

63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands. (ESV)


  1. eagles.metal says

    I agree somewhat, but I have to say, you picked a gem of a song there at the end. That happens to be my favorite SGM song. They are terrific. I would only disagree with you in that we do become different as we work to diligently and ruthlessly kill our sin (). And perhaps that’s not as much a disagreement with you, but rather a filling out of the complete picture. Reading your article here, I’m left with the impression, whether you intended or not, that we can’t work cooperatively with the Spirit for our transformation. I don’t believe that’s true. There’s too many meat-and-potatoes commands in the New Testament for us to be about killing sin, emptying ourselves of anger, rage, bitterness, and other sin, and loving others.

    • says

      Eagles –

      Thanks for your insightful comment. I appreciate your engagement on behalf of an easily misunderstood subject!

      I absolutely agree that we become different as we work against sin’s grip and that resorting to resting solely in the Spirit would offer an incomplete picture. You are correct, in that this was not my intention in writing this article.

      My concern is that we hear most frequently about the “how-to” action steps for creating holiness in our own strength, and not much about meditating on God for heart transformation. I believe the work of the Spirit is mysterious and unique and very hard to comprehend (at least for me!) and requires both our work and our dependence on his work.

      In , we find a long list of “meat and potatoes” verses, as you cleverly named them. And yet, at the end of all of these commands, we find the text says God himself will sanctify, He is faithful, and He will do it.

      Again we see this same duality in when Paul says: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

      So, to clarify, to your comment I would say, “Yes, and.” Behold and work. Even in the Romans verse you cited, we see living according to the flesh you will die, but if “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Rom.8:13-14.)”

      Putting the acts of the flesh to death does require our diligent attention and action, but all desire and heart change originate from the Spirit and are carried out through the spirit, in tandem.

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