Summary: Where does God work to transform us into the likeness of Christ?
The Apostle Paul wrote the second letter to the Corinthians for the purpose of defending his apostleship. It seems that there was a group of false teachers in Corinth who were seeking a following among the people. In the effort to get others to follow them, they used the tactic of denouncing and belittling the apostolic authority of Paul. One of the accusations they leveled at the apostle was that he "lived by the standards of the world" (v. 2). In response, Paul countered that the entire focus of his ministry was not directed toward those things that are outward, but on those that are inward. As Paul declared to the Ephesians, he recognized that his "struggle was not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12), but that it was a spiritual warfare he was engaged in. He reminds the Corinthians in verses 3 through 5 that his was a ministry focused on changing the hearts, and thus, the lives, of men and women by the power of Christ. However, with "tongue in cheek," Paul does say that once the Corinthians came to their senses and were ready to once again embrace him as a true servant of God, he would gladly come to Corinth to "punish every act of disobedience" (v. 6) - a reference to his dealing with the false teachers who were seeking to draw them astray.
All this having been said, I want us to focus in on what Paul says in verses 3-5, because there, he describes what process that needs to take place in the life of the believer to see them grow spiritually and become more like Jesus. Paul describes here what the Lord wants to do in the heart of His children.
Concerning the heart, the Bible tells us, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." ~ Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
The process of discipleship-the process of spiritual growth, whereby I become more like Jesus-is a matter of the heart. If the way I live is going to be changed, then that change must happen in my heart.
1. A disciple is one who has allowed Christ to touch their heart -
This is where living a changed life must start, with allowing Christ to touch my heart, for life was designed by God to be lived from the inside out, not the outside in. This was the point Jesus made with the religious leaders of His day:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."
~ Matthew 23:25-26 (NASB)
"He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."’"
~ Mark 7:6 (NIV)
When God works to change the life of a person, He begins by touching their heart. It might be helpful at this point to understand the way man was originally made by God. The Bible tells us that man was created with three aspects to his being:
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground (body), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit); and man became a living soul (soul)." ~ Genesis 2:7 (KJV)