May 3, 2020 Transformation

Transformation

 

Scripture reading: 2 Cor. 3:12-18

 

In this passage the apostle continues his contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant and will reveal experiences that those in the new covenant possess that were either unavailable under the old or were very limited. If we can see these experiences more fully then we will be encouraged and motivated to live the life that we have been called to live. Further, we will enjoy the Lord more fully. And, enjoyment makes life exciting and good!

 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold[1]

 

The hope to which Paul and Timothy refer is that they have been made sufficient by God Himself to be ministers of the new covenant (vs. 5) and that this new covenant is one of glory (vs. 8). Of course, as we have seen, they are not merely announcing that they have this sufficiency. They desire that the Corinthians understand that they, too, are ministers of the new covenant and that they, too, must know that God makes them sufficient.

 

This means that all those who follow Christ are ministers of the new covenant and have this sufficiency. You have this ministry. You have the sufficiency! The sufficiency does not come from you. It comes from God.

 

Because you have this ministry with a sufficiency that comes from God, you can be bold. Not just bold, but very bold! It is not a natural boldness. If it were a natural boldness then very few of us would be bold because there are more quiet ones than bold ones among us. It is a supernatural boldness that we possess, if we possess the Spirit.

 

Paul and Timothy were “not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.” [2] The reason Moses put a veil over his face was so that the Israelites would not see the glory fade. Moses was concerned about others seeing the glory upon his face fade. Paul and Timothy have no such concern. They are bold because they are ministers of a covenant, a promise, that has lasting glory! We can be bold for this same reason. The ministry that we are in has lasting glory!

 

Paul goes on to say that those Israelites in Moses’ day had minds which were hardened. This was evident by how often they refused to take God’s words, through his prophets, to heart. They refused to take them at face value.

 

By the time we come to the New Testament era, Stephen summarizes the hardened minds of the Jews as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had done before him:

 

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” [3]

 

Paul agrees with Stephen, the very man who he helped to murder, when he writes:

 

For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.[4]

 

There is still a veil over the hearts of, not just the Jews, but anyone who reads Moses (or any part of the Old Testament) without a turned heart. One must have a turned heart – a heart turned towards the Lord – in order to be able to see.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.[5]

In verse 16, who is the Lord? It is Christ. It is clear from verse 14: “Only through Christ is it (the veil) taken away.” Not only is it clear from the immediate context, but the title of “Lord” is Christ’s most frequent and necessary designation throughout the New Testament.

  • Paul begins this letter acknowledging and honoring “the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Paul begins every letter of his acknowledging and honoring “the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • The New Testament begins with Jesus’ public ministry being introduced by John the Baptist as one who is “preparing the way for the Lord” (Mat. 3:3).
  • The very last verse of the NT (and the Bible) is “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”[6] Jesus is Lord! From beginning to end he is Lord!

It is when one turns to the Lord Jesus Christ that the veil is taken away.

Why do so many not understand the Scriptures? It is because they refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of all. Some will acknowledge him, but they will refuse to submit to him as Lord. I tell you, if you refuse to submit to Jesus as Lord then you have not turned to him. Take the veil from your eyes! Turn to Jesus as Lord! Then you will see.

Then Paul says something rather amazing:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. [7]

When you read this verse in context you will see that Paul is talking about Christ. In verse 16 the Lord is Christ. Thus, verse 17 is talking about the same person – Christ!

The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God manifested in three Persons. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are distinct but not separate. This doctrine is true. But we must also recognize that the way we understand the word, “person,” is limited by our experience of that word in everyday life; that is, by seeing it expressed through human beings. When designating the Persons of the Godhead, our understanding of “person” is not so clear. There is a mystery about the Trinity that we cannot explain. Part of this mystery is that the Persons of the Godhead are sometimes identified with one another. Although we cannot understand it fully, we simply receive it.

Christ, the Lord, is the Spirit!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. This means freedom from the bondage of the law. The bondage of the law occurs when one feels compelled to live under the ceremonies, that is, those peculiar ordinances that were fulfilled by Christ (Gal. 2:3-4; 4:9-10; 5:1-3; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1, 18).[8]

We have a glorious freedom to live out what we love to do and not what we only feel obliged to do. (And, because we now love God’s laws, we live them happily.)

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.[9]

Praise the Lord! We have an unveiled face! If you have turned to the Lord Jesus, then you have an unveiled face! This is another glory of the new covenant that surpasses the glory of the old. Those in the new covenant all have an unveiled face.

 

Paul uses the image of a mirror as a figure of speech, a simile, to illustrate how we are transformed. He wants us to imagine that we are looking in a mirror and what we see is not ourselves, but we see the Lord Jesus in his glory. That fact that it is a mirror means that we will look like that one day and even now, to a small extent, we do.

Paul says that we are being transformed. It is a process. It is a process that is taking place in the present.

If you belong to Christ, you have a little glory now that you did not have before you turned to Christ. But, you are going to go from the little glory you have now to more glory! This is so amazing and encouraging! It is happening now!

There are two ways that it might not happen. If you are a Christian in name only then it won’t happen. If you simply believed some gospel facts and never surrendered to the Lord Jesus then you will not be transformed and you will not see the Lord when you die. Without holiness no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The other way is by turning aside and going your own way (Jeremiah 5:23). When God’s own people have a rebellious heart then they can have a temporary veil over their eyes. They will not see the image of the Lord. The process of transformation is arrested.

So, how can we cooperate with the Lord? How are we transformed? Paul here reveals the power of the transformation: it is “from the Lord, the Spirit.” But how does it happen? Paul answers that question in one of his other epistles.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [10]

First, we present our bodies as a living sacrifice. That is, on the negative side, we do not use our members to sin, but we flee sin (Romans 6:13). On the positive side, we use the members of our body to do good deeds and to worship the Lord (Romans 6:19; Eph 3:14). We may simplify this my just saying that we must have a yielded body.

Second, we recognize that this present age is a system that is set against God and his Son; and, we commit to not be conformed to the philosophies and values of this age. We live a separated life, a life that is separate from the world.

Third, and this is where we must cooperate with the Lord, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

I asked the question, “How are we transformed?” It is by the renewing of our minds! But, of course, your next question should be: “How do I renew my mind?”

Our minds need to be renewed. Our minds need to think the way God thinks. But, God reveals his thoughts primarily through his word, the Holy Scriptures. God’s thoughts are true. God’s thoughts are reality. Our own thoughts are not always true, although we think they are. Our own thoughts are not always in line with reality.

Transformation is nothing less than the process of sanctification. As sanctification progresses we are transformed from sinners to those that reflect the life and glory of the Lord Jesus. If someone were not to see a person for a time. Then, after that person became a Christian, they saw them, they would hardly recognize them. The Spirit brings about a change, a transformation, in them that even their outward appearance changes.

I have been reading Genevieve a series of books by Horatio Alger, an author from the 19th century. In the first book, entitled Ragged Dick, the story is told of a homeless boy of 14 named Dick Hunter. His parents both died and so he was left alone to live in the streets of New York City in the 1800’s. There he became a “boot black,” meaning a shoe shine boy. His clothes are tattered, worn, and not matching. Thus, his nickname. He overhears a well-dressed boy his age and his uncle talking and learns that the boy has never been to New York City before and his uncle wishes that someone would show him the city. Dick offers his services to give the boy, Frank, a tour. Although the uncle is dubious, he thinks Dick has an honest face and so permits him to show Frank around the rest of the day. The conversation goes like this:

“I wish he wasn’t so ragged and dirty,” said Frank, who felt a little shy about being seen with such a companion.

“I’m afraid you haven’t washed your face this morning,” said Mr. Whitney, for that was the gentleman’s name.

“They didn’t have no wash-bowls at the hotel where I stopped,” said Dick.

“What hotel did you stop at?”

“The Box Hotel.”

“The Box Hotel?”

“Yes, sir, I slept in a box on Spruce Street.” Frank surveyed Dick curiously.

“How did you like it?” he asked.

“I slept bully.”

“Suppose it had rained?”

“Then I’d have wet my best clothes,” said Dick.

“Are these all the clothes you have?”

“Yes, sir.”

So, the uncle gives him a nice set of Frank’s clothes since they are the same size. Dick washes up at their hotel room and takes Frank on a tour the rest of the day. By the end of the day, Dick and Frank have become good friends and return to the hotel. This meeting with Frank and his uncle change Dick’s whole life. Not only does he pay him handsomely for the day spent with his nephew, but he has a talk with him and gives him wise advice. Dick takes his advice to heart and begins to pattern his life after the advice of Mr. Whitney. From that moment on his life begins to change. So much so, that when others see him in his new clothes and new demeanor many do not recognize him.

It is this way when we follow the advice of someone far more wise than Mr. Whitney – God Himself. We are changed.

Jesus revealed that our sanctification takes place through knowing the truth. Of course, knowing the truth is a function of our mind.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.[11]

The words of God are the means by which we are transformed.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[12]

Would you be free from your old, ragged ways? Then you must know the truth. And, truth is nothing less than the words of Jesus. More, the apostle’s words are the words of Jesus too. Because the apostles were given the mind of Christ by Christ Himself (I Cor. 2:16; John 14:25-28). Thus, the entire New Testament and the entire Bible are the words of Christ, not just the red letters.

Our minds need to be renewed. Since they are renewed through the word of God we must receive the word of God. We do this in two ways. We must set aside the time to take in his word in daily. (If one cannot read or has great difficulty in reading, then the Bible is available in audio formats and one can listen to God’s word daily.) The best time is first thing in the morning. If your work schedule does not permit that then let that be the first matter to attend to upon coming home. Or, perhaps right after supper. Many have found that waiting until bedtime is not the best time since, often, drowsiness curtails the best intentions.

The second way is by attending all the meetings of the church. The Lord has given the gifts of teaching to certain ones in the church (Eph 4). You will receive insights into God’s word when you put on listening ears at church. You will see things that you would not otherwise have seen. And, if you apply what you learn, you will be transformed.

The Spirit is working through and with the words found in Scripture to transform you! Will you cooperate? Then commit (or recommit) this very day to daily read and study God’s word. Commit this very day to not miss any meetings of the local church. See the working of the Spirit in your own life and see a different image when you look in the mirror.

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 3:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 3:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 7:51–53). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 3:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 3:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 22:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (2 Co 3:17). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

[8] One could also describe the sense that one must live out the commandments of God in order to be accepted by Him as a “bondage.” The idea that we must earn our acceptance is a bondage. We are free from this bondage, also, when we turn to the Lord in faith, knowing that we are righteous in Christ because of what he has done for us at the cross, not because of what we do.

[9] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 3:18). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 12:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 17:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 8:31–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.