Of Photography & Sanctification
Of Photography & Sanctification

Of Photography & Sanctification

Photo of my daughter, Abigail Annette, who loves photography.

Of Photography & Sanctification

Sanctification is a big Bible word (that scares some Christians) that simply means to make or set apart something as holy. It is part of the spiritual transformation of grace which God purposes to accomplish within every believer:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NKJV)

…just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Ephesians 5:25-27 (NKJV)

In the original New Testament language, the Greek word for “transformation” is “metamorphoo” which is where we get our English word, “metamorphosis” which is observed in the transformation from tadpoles to frogs, and from caterpillars to butterflies. Tadpoles and caterpillars do not need to struggle or learn that process. Metamorphosis just naturally occurs – it is in their DNA. Likewise, this metamorphosis process is wired into our spiritual “DNA”! How awesome is that!

This metamorphosis is not automatically received “by faith” like forgiveness, justification, and the gift of eternal life. It is, nonetheless, most definitely an operation of faith:

To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’

Acts 26:18 (NKJV)

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB)

In fact, everything God accomplishes in our life must be “by grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). This transformation work of sanctification is a life-long process in which the believer must fully engage his whole heart, soul, mind, and faith. This process occurs as we abide in Christ (as branches abide in the vine – John 15:1-6) by actively trusting Him, and keeping our hearts and minds focused upon Jesus and His Word. It is an inner work of the Holy Spirit who changes us from “glory to glory” into the “same image” [Jesus].

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured [Greek “metamorphoo”] into His very own image in ever-increasing splendor and from one degree of recognition to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (Amplified Bible)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed [Greek “metamorphoo”] by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
black dslr camera mounted on black tripod

Years ago, I heard an older missionary share a delightful message from Colossians 3:1-4 in which he compared sanctification to the photographic film process. Previously, I had mistaken sanctification for some kind of steep mountain of religious works that needed to be treacherously climbed. However, upon hearing that missionary’s comparison, my mind was wonderfully renewed with a far more accurate perspective of this unique work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

Another vivid illustration that missionary gave about sanctification and holiness was from the scene where Moses encounters God at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. God tells Moses, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exo 3:5). So the reality question is this: What religious works did that ground perform in order to be holy like that? The answer? Absolutely nothing! God’s presence is what sanctified that dirt where Moses was standing. Likewise, we can do all kinds of religious works, wear or not wear this or that clothing, fast and pray, etc. – but without God’s presence we are merely dirty ground and nothing more. When we allow God to dwell in us by His Holy Spirit, everything within begins changing us from “glory to glory” to reflect Jesus Christ.

The entire work of transformation is God’s work; the believing, trusting, abiding, yielding, surrendering, and obeying is our part: “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).

Here is the verse which that missionary used to compare sanctification to the process of photography:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, APPEARS, then you also will APPEAR with Him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV)

Interestingly, upon further study, it turns out that this verse is somewhat related to the idea of photography. The Greek word for “appear” is “phaneroo,” which has its root definition in “phos,” meaning “light.” “Phos” is where we get the English prefix “photo–.” “Phaneroo” can be translated as: bring to light, manifest, show, display, appear, reveal, set forth in clear light.

With that in mind, let’s examine this comparison between sanctification and photography:

analogue aperture blur business

(1) The Film.

Photography:

The light-sensitive film must be protected from all forms of light until it is “hidden” in the camera for the purpose of taking photos.

Sanctification:

Once we are born again, we now have an inner “new man, ” the “hidden person of the heart,” also referred to as our “spirit” (1 Peter 3:4; 1 Thess 5:23; 1 Cor 6:19-20). Our “new man,” like photography film, is hidden within us waiting for the imaging process to occur. What happens in our inner “new man” is something that can only be seen by God:

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:23-24 (NKJV)

(2) The Image.

–Photography:

Photos are taken by a quick opening and closing of the camera’s shutter and allowing light reflected from an image to make its impression upon the light-sensitive film.

–Sanctification:

As 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains, the transformation from “glory to glory” occurs as we, with “unveiled faces,” behold and receive glimpses of Jesus by the Word of God and the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. This “picture taking” is the exposure of our inner “film” to the richness and fulness of Jesus’ glory and holiness – an exposure that transforms our inner man into the “same image” of Christ:

And have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

Colossians 3:10 (NKJV)

(3) The Lens. 

–Photography.

pexels-photo-1250282.jpeg

Our camera lens must be clean, clear, and unobstructed. Even with our fabulous smartphone cameras, all it takes is a little bit of hand oil or a speck of dirt to distort the entire image.

–Sanctification.

We must continually maintain a clear conscience washed in the Blood (Heb 9:14; Heb 10:19-22). Faith – our entire relationship with Jesus – can only function with a clear conscience (1 Tim 3:9; 1 Tim 1:19).

(4) The Aim. 

–Photography.

The camera must be carefully aimed upon the subject. The right angle and distance make all the difference. Furthermore, a single two-dimensional “photo” can never capture all the angles of a three-dimensional object. To do that, multiple photos must be taken. Who ever goes to the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls and just takes one snapshot?

–Sanctification.

Jesus is our subject! We must be “fixing our eyes on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2). Paul prayed for the Ephesians that their spiritual eyes would be opened to see three things that are all about Jesus: HIS calling, HIS inheritance, HIS power (Eph 1:16-19).

Can you imagine how many “photos” must be taken of Jesus by our inner man “film” to grasp the multidimensional “fullness of Him [Jesus] who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23)? A single photo will never do! That is why the transforming work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit is a lengthy, lifetime process! Would you be satisfied with just a couple photos of Jesus? Not me! Oh Heavenly Father, increase the number of photos my inner “camera” can take of Jesus! Amen! And yes sir, that will surely be one very long roll of film to develop!

To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19 (NKJV)

Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:13 (NKJV)

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.

Colossians 1:19 (NKJV)

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV)
person holding photo
Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

(5) The Focus.

–Photography.

A sharp, crystal clear focus on the actual subject and then tightening the depth of field to blur out the background and other surrounding objects are what produces the most beautiful portraits. Our smartphone cameras now have the ability to locate and fix the camera’s focus directly on a person’s face, blurring out all other distracting images.

–Sanctification.

Paul warned the churches about the severe dangers of being exposed to “another gospel” and “another Jesus” and being led astray from the “simplicity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:1-4; Gal 1:6-9). For Paul, it was so dangerous that he pronounced a curse (“anathema”) upon those presenting false teachings! It may not be popular in Christianity today, but having a Biblically sound doctrinal foundation (Heb 6:1-3) is absolutely critical if we want to “go on to perfection” and have our “film” be directly exposed to all the glories of Jesus! During our short journey down here, we certainly cannot afford any blurriness or areas of distortion. “We shall be like Him,” but only IF “we see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-3).

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8 (NASB)

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalms 119:18 (KJV)

(6) The Exposure.

–Photography.

Even with today’s automatic digital cameras, the proper lighting is still vitally important if we want the perfect photo. Although specific lighting corrections can be made after the picture has been taken, nothing will ever be as beautiful as an original,  untouched photo. Overexposure washes out the original colors and contrasts. Underexposure darkens everything and all the colors are dulled to shades of gray. With the proper lighting, the natural contrasts will be visible, and the colors will be popping with vividness and life.

–Sanctification.

Jesus said that the light of our body is the “eye,” referring to our spiritual vision:

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23 (ESV)

In several Psalms, we read about having our eyes enlightened:

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;

Psalms 13:3 (NKJV)

Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death.

Psalms 13:3 (NKJV)

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalms 19:8 (NKJV)

For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.

Psalms 36:9 (NKJV)

So apparently, there can be problems within us that can cause the wrong exposure of our subject, Jesus. According to Jesus, the Spirit of Truth, Who came on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5-6; Acts 2:1-4), is sent with this urgent mission of revealing more and more of Jesus to us:

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth)…
He will honor and glorify Me, because He will take of (receive, draw upon) what is Mine and will reveal (declare, disclose, transmit) it to you.

John 16:13-14 (Amplified)

Mere Scriptural facts about Jesus turn out to be nothing more than gray shades of darkened intellectual knowledge. However, with the “enlightening” of our spiritual eyes by the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph 1:17), the imaging work in our inner man will naturally produce the full spectrum of all the “colors” of the riches of Christ. So we are urgently in need of the Holy Spirit.

No wonder Paul so desperately longed to know the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Just take note of how he cries out in Philippians chapter three: “that I might win Christ,” “that I might know Him,” “if by any means,” “this one thing I do,” “I am reaching forth,” and “I am pressing on.” Clearly, this work within us is NOT something all packaged nice and neat that we just “receive by faith.” No way! Taking just the right photos involves some preparation and diligence!

person holding film strip

(7) The Final Developing. 

–Photography.

The exposed film is only removed from the camera and developed in what is called a “darkroom” – a room only lit with a “safe light” which emits a low red light so that the film is not exposed any further. The film is developed by passing it through several chemical solutions. The developed film is called the “negative” because it is the exact color opposites of the photo image. The “negative” is then used to create a “print” onto special light-sensitive paper which perfectly reverses the colors, and voila, we have the final photograph!

–Sanctification.

Our inner man “film” exposure is a lifetime process from “glory to glory” as we keep our eyes focused on the excellencies of Christ. However, the “developing” and “printing” process takes place in the “twinkling of an eye.” It may be Jesus’ Second Coming or at death when Christ calls home – but “we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52). This is the instantaneous part of the process which Paul wrote about:

When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 (NASB)

Wow! What a Day of “film developing” that will be! He transforms us from “glory to glory” down here until we appear with Him in glory up there! Hallelujah!

In 1897, Thomas Chrisholm (who also wrote “Great is Thy Faithfulness”) wrote the hymn, “O To Be Like Thee.” In the chorus, the phrase – “Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart” – nicely captures this idea of the longing we should have for this lifelong sanctification process:

O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer;
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your only Son, Jesus, proving Your great manner of love!

Jesus, thank You for demonstrating Your love for us by all You did on the Cross and by Your resurrection victory and triumph over sin, death, and the devil! Oh, how You have won my heart forever!

Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within me to see to this sweet work of sanctification, as You enlighten my eyes to see more and more of Jesus’ glorious beauty. Please, by any and all means, stamp Jesus’ image deep on my heart as You transform me from the inside out that I might be ready on that Day when Jesus appears in glory! Together with You, Oh Holy Spirit, I say: “Come back quickly, Jesus!”

 In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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