Saturday, April 26, 2014

From Glory to Glory

Apostle Paul:  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord from his sins, then the veil is taken away. The Lord is the Spirit who gives them life, and where He is there is freedom [from trying to be saved by keeping the laws of God]. But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (TLB)

When anyone wholeheartedly turns to God, God graciously removes a veil from their hearts and that person comes face to face with God (2 Corinthians 3:16). Then, that same person will suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence (a living Spirit) and not a piece of chiseled stone (2 Corinthians 3:17). For the Lord is Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is life, freedom, and liberty (2 Corinthians 3:6, 17; see also Isaiah 61:1-2; John 8:32-36; Galatians 5:1). The life the Spirit gives is eternal and without defect.

Come to Me (God) with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display My power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious. Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. Isaiah 55:3-7 (NLT)

As we wholeheartedly turn to God, God makes us glorious (2 Corinthians 3:18). This glorious transformation takes place by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit transforms believing Christians from the inside out into the same image of God from glory to glory. In other words, we are being constantly transfigured into Jesus Christ’s very own image in ever increasing splendor and from glory to glory - progressive sanctification or glorification. The Holy Spirit gradually changes our lives and makes us brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus Christ is the glory of God in the fullness of God’s radiance (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2-3). His glory is the eternal and unfading glory, which He had with God the Father “before the world began” (John 17:5). The Holy Spirit changes us from sinful habits and transforms us into Christ-like affections, deeds, and qualities (see Romans 8:13; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:11, 19-20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24).

The Holy Scriptures clearly state we are accepted by God through faith in Jesus Christ and nothing more (Ephesians 2:8-9; see also Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:2-4; Romans 1:16-17). The fullness of God and God’s glory has been revealed in Jesus Christ (John 1:14; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-3). God generously gives His glory to anyone who believes and accepts His Son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Only by trusting Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:16) can the condemnation and the sentence of death can be cancelled and replaced by the free life-giving Spirit (Romans 8:1-4). Whenever we turn to God in repentance and believe the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God strips or removes a veil from our hearts and minds and God’s Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives by God’s grace. This process of transformation simply comes by trusting Jesus Christ and allowing God’s Holy Spirit to work from the inside out – an internal transformation of the heart. The Holy Spirit is God’s internal power that changes our hearts and gives us the power from within to obey God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In other words, the Holy Spirit is God. “Now the Lord is that Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:3, 17). Only the Spirit of God can bring about our spiritual transformation – from glory to glory – into a life of liberty. In essence, this process brings our life, freedom, and liberty from the bondage of sin and shame!

Apostle Paul:  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. . . . Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates (sin), you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. Romans 8:1-2, 12-17 (NLT)

There is more Good News! The new covenant initiated by Jesus Christ is not a list of rules and regulations – “do this!” or “don't do that!” (2 Corinthians 3:7-18; see also Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:7–23; Hebrews 8:8). Before Jesus Christ’s new covenant, many Jews were trying to be saved by keeping the Old Testament law and were soon tied up in rules, rituals, and ceremonies. This does not imply that the Old Testament law was evil. On the contrary, the Apostle Paul describes this law was holy, righteous, spiritual, and good (Romans 7:12, 14). Yet, this law craved on stone tablets could not purge away evil from people hearts. But now, through the life-giving Holy Spirit, God had provided freedom from these rules, ritual and ceremonies. When we trust Jesus Christ to save us, God removes our heavy burden of trying to please Him through faith in His Son’s finish work (life, death, and resurrection). By trusting in Jesus Christ’s finished work, we are loved, accepted, forgiven, and freed to live for God and become like mirrors reflecting God's glory (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).

When we accept by faith the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit uses the Word of God and writes the Word on our human hearts (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; see also Hebrews 8 – 10). The Ten Commandments were originally written on two stone tablets (see Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18). However, the Holy Spirit who “gives life” writes the same law inwardly “on tablets of human hearts” as foretold by the prophets (2 Corinthians 3:3; see also Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26). Thus, the Holy Spirit provides believing Christians with love for God’s law, which previously they had hated, and with the power to keep it, which previously they had not possessed. When we study God's Word, the Holy Spirit transforms us! The Holy Spirit enlightens us to see and understand the truth about Jesus Christ. This enlightenment transforms or changes us morally as we read, understand, and applies God’s truths to our lives. In essence, we become more like Jesus Christ as we grow “from glory to glory.” This complete process depends on our confidence (trust) in God and not our own adequacy (flesh).

The means for new covenant ministry is the Holy Spirit using the Word of God (the Holy Scriptures). Since the Holy Spirit wrote the Holy Scriptures, He can teach us the truths of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16; see also John 14:17, 26). Even more, because the Holy Spirit lives in us, He empowers us to obey the Word from within our hearts. This is not legal obedience, born of fear, but devoted obedience born of love. God wants His people to obey and love Him, not because of an external code, ritual, or rules, but because of their internal character (the heart) (John 14:15, 23). The Spirit of God writes the Word of God on our hearts, and we obey our God because of the new life He has given us within. We do not become believing Christians by following some manual or using some technique. Our conversion is a result of God's embedding His Holy Spirit in our hearts, giving us new power to live for Him. “The Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Apostle Paul:  So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the Law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:16-25 (NLT)

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Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
The Message Bible. Colorado Springs, CO:  NavPress, 2002.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament. Victor Books, 1989.

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