- Sermon Notes
True Spiritual Change
2 Corinthians 3:11-18
After Paul wrote 1 Corinthians he waited many months to hear how they received it. Finally he received word that some took to heart his words of correction. They were teachable, they had open hearts; they had ears that could hear. That’s the way we should be, if we have open hearts and are willing to hold fast the word of truth, we grow in spiritual maturity.
Unfortunately others did not receive Paul’s letter so well. They took offense at Paul’s strong letter of correction and even began to question his authority as an apostle of Christ.
So Paul writes another letter, this one we are now studying. In this letter, Paul masterfully, humbly, and with great love for them, opens his heart. This is one of the most personal letters we have from Paul. Here he explains the gospel with power and great clarity; with much love he establishes his authority as an apostle of Christ, but he also writes with great power to bring spiritual revival.
That’s what they needed more than anything else, they needed spiritual revival. They needed to fall in love with their Savior afresh and anew, that’s what true spiritual maturity looks like. So this isn’t a letter just filled with theological truths. He doesn’t write simply to attack his opponents; he draws them again to the Savior. It’s beautiful, it’s masterful, it’s anointed by the Spirit and we ourselves will find spiritual revival when we take these words to heart.
The verses we are studying today are about authentic spiritual transformation. That’s what the church in Corinth needed more than anything else and that’s what we need as well. But the question is – where does transformation come from? Does it come from the do’s and don’ts of the works of the law? In other words, do we just need more self-help books?
No, we need the Holy Spirit. True spiritual transformation comes from true spiritual power. It’s a question of what fills the heart. Our hearts were made to be filled. There is a longing, a searching, a desiring inside of every man and if that is not filled with God’s glory through the Spirit, then men will try to fill it with things that are empty and even poisonous.
In Africa there were several streams of filthy water running through the city. People throw their garbage into it and relieve themselves there so it’s ugly and putrid. “Would you drink this water?” I said in one of my sermons. Of course everyone would say no. “Even if it was sweetened with sugar?” No, even if it’s sweet, it’s still dirty and poisonous.
This week in the news there were several examples of people melting down their lives. The stories of Lamar Odom and Steve Sarkisian are stark reminders that there is a deep longing in the soul, but what fills the soul will make every difference in the results of our lives. God made us to be filled with His glory, with His Spirit, with His love and joy and peace and that there would be meaning and purpose to our lives that is of far greater value than anything this world has to offer.
I. Remove the Veil over Your Heart
- Verse 14 - their minds were hardened,
- Paul wrote, to this very day at the reading of the old covenant the veil remains unlifted.
- That’s still true today. They can’t see the glory of Jesus in the old covenant, their hearts are hard.
- In the parable of the sower Jesus said that those with hard hearts cannot receive the word of God.
- But Paul writes about more than one kind of veil. There’s a veil over the hearts of those that are hard, but Paul writes that Moses wore a veil over his face so the sons of Israel would not see that the glory was fading.
- The reason Paul highlights both - the veil over their hearts and the veil over Moses’ face - is because it goes both ways. A veil lies over the heart of the one who refuses to see and a veil lies over the face of the one who does not want to be seen.
A. Jesus opens eyes that are blind
- Verses 14, 16 – the veil is removed in Christ…whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
- A veil is a barrier, something to hide behind. It’s for those who refuse to see and those who do not want to be seen.
Illus - Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well about living water and she said, “Sir, give me this water…” Jesus responded, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” She wasn’t exactly forthright when she answered, “I have no husband.” And when Jesus revealed that she had had five husbands, she changed the subject.
- We can understand, wouldn’t we do the same? Shame is a powerful thing. But when we hide from the Lord, like Adam hiding in the garden after he sinned, are we not cutting ourselves off from God’s grace?
- If we can only open our eyes and see that God is gracious and forgiving and that He is a friend of sinners.
- Look at the grace of Jesus to this woman who had had five husbands and even then was with a man who was not her husband. Look at the grace of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery.
- In Luke 7 there is a similar story…
Luke 7:39, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him; that she is a sinner.”
- Opening the eyes of your heart removes the veil so you can see the glory and the grace of God.
John 9:39, Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
John 9:24-34 Those who see becoming blind…
B. Freedom is ours in the Spirit
- Verse 17 - the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
- What does it mean to be free in the Spirit? Some have misunderstood these words. It’s not freedom to be worldly.
- Jesus came to set sinners free so we can love Him freely, without shame, without hiding in the shadows, with hearts opened wide. By faith, trust in His grace and forgiveness.
Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Illus –Someone was telling me about a wild bird in their house. They had to chase it till it became so tired it had to land. It had to be taken captive before it could be set free.
- In other words, God sets you free from… So that you can be free to…
- You’re free from condemnation, you’re free from the obligation of the law…
Illus - You’re free from being an employee and now you’re free to be a son or a daughter that loves your Father.
Illus – Valentine’s Day; do you get to bring flowers or do you have to bring flowers? Is it an obligation or an opportunity?
- God didn’t set us free so we could go right back to the mess we were in before; He set us free from that mess so we can rebuild our lives on the foundation of our relationship to Him.
Galatians 5:1, 13, It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
II. Beholding the Glory is the Key
- Verse 18 - this verse is the capstone to the whole chapter. He begins with the phrase “with unveiled face…”
- No more hiding, no more shame, with open hearts, behold His glory. By faith, trust in His grace and forgiveness.
- The Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery would both rejoice and greet Jesus openly and freely when they saw Him again.
A. We become what we behold
- This is an important principle and a great question for each of us personally. We become like that which we behold.
- It’s a spiritual analogy. The eyes receive light. “The eyes are the lamp to the soul,” Jesus said. When you open the eyes of your heart to that which is worldly, your soul becomes darkened.
Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, 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 that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness;”
- When Moses was on Mount Sinai in the presence of the Lord, God’s glory affected him physically so that there was a radiance of that glory
- Paul makes a comparison and says that in a similar way, we have the Spirit of the living God within us so that we also have glory; though we have glory that does not fade.
- The glory of God upon Moses was external, but the glory of the Spirit is spiritual, in the soul, and the result is a transformed life and heart.
- It’s not just a question of what you see, physically or spiritually, it’s also a question of what you want to see…
Ephesians 1:18, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened, so that you know the hope of His calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.
Exodus 33:18, Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
John 14:6, 8, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” …Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
B. Be transformed from glory to glory
- How are we changed? Do we recognize we need to change? Most people do. When you consider the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, aren’t those the qualities you truly desire?
- But how can we be transformed into those things?
- Should we get some self-help books? Should we keep a journal of all the times we lacked character? Should we keep to do lists of right things to say and do? No; that glory has faded. We have a better covenant enacted on better promises.
Illus – There’s a scene from a movie, a guy rubs his temples and says, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful.”
- Perhaps a little self-affirmation would help. No, I don’t need self-affirmation, what I need is to behold the glory of God. To dwell in His presence.
- From glory to glory means that we are transformed simply by being in His presence, dwelling in that glory transforms us into that same image, that same glory.
- Stop striving and rest in His presence.
- The church at Corinth needed real answers. They lived in the most immoral city in the Roman Empire. Paul brought the most powerful answer known to man.
- Have an unveiled face and behold Jesus who is the glory and image of God.
John 1:14, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
2 Corinthians 3:11-18 NASB
11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. 12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 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.