Surpassing Glory is Yours
Surpassing Glory Is Yours
Text: 2 Corinthians 3:7-18
’Tis the season for glory. Today is the big game that will let one team of players live in infamy for generations to come. Will young stud Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers achieve newfound glory, or will legendary Peyton Manning ride off into the sunset leading the Broncos to glory once again. Today is also the day when Americans flash some cash to have their share of this glory. Someone this year paid over a million dollars for a luxury suite at the Super Bowl. A million dollars for a couple of hours of fun! Of course businesses across the country will also race to chase down the glorious title of best and funniest Super Bowl commercial.
There’s more though at this time of year. Next weekend is the NBA All-Star weekend when the greatest players, both young and old, will put their skills on display in a hooper’s hoopla extravaganza.
Then at the end of the month the spotlight shifts to Hollywood when the 88th annual Academy Awards will air. Cinema’s best have their hopes set on raising that Oscar into the air as the best of their category and craft.
Those moments of glory are far beyond our little old lives. Those are lives and lifestyles that we will never know. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like glory. Over 1.5 billion people—almost 25% of the world’s population—clamor and claw for social glory with their Facebook accounts. “Look what I did! Look what my kids did! Look at me!” The other 5.5 billion people look down their noses and say, “Look at me! I don’t use that garbage!”
We may not be on TV or on the front page of People magazine and we might not overtly go for glory, but we still think highly of ourselves. Don’t you watch the news, shake your head, and mutter under your breath about all the weirdos, creeps, and criminals of the world? Don’t you sit in your car at the stoplight trying not to make eye contact with the homeless person while praying for the green light so you don’t have to be in the uncomfortable position of refusing to help? Don’t you look at the way people look and dress and think to yourself, “I wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that”? Don’t you take pride in the fact that you are a Christian and you stand out because you live a pretty good life—you’re a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good worker—unlike some in this country?
Maybe the Israelites had some of the same thoughts. They certainly knew they were no celebrities. For 400 years they were actually slaves in the land of Egypt. But those Israelites had just come through quite the series of events. The 10 plagues ravaged Egypt, but God spared them from six of the ten. The last one was the worst when the firstborn in every house died but God passed over the homes of his people. Then the Lord led them out of Egypt as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He led them through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground and then crushed the Egyptians with massive walls of water.
As the people moved on toward their Promised Land, perhaps they felt pretty good about themselves. They were God’s people. They were good people, unlike those Egyptians. Things were going to be great and glorious for them in life.
But then they got to Mt. Sinai and everything changed. The people were not going to be able to rest on the laurels of their own personal piety, as if simply being God’s people or good people would make them a shoe-in for heaven. God was going to show them exactly what it takes to get glory. He did so by showing them his own.
There the mountain was quaking and shaking. Thunder and thick clouds enveloped it. The people were told they could not even touch it or they would die. There God gave Moses all of his commandments engraved in stone which precisely detailed what a holy life should look like. When Moses came down the mountain, God’s glory was so great that Moses’ face was glowing. They couldn’t even look at him!
If they wanted glory, they got glory! There it was in full force. If they wanted the glory of God, they needed to be perfect and holy like God. They needed to keep all of his commands in full obedience. They couldn’t fall short, not even once, because the eternal God is eternally holy.
But they did fall short. Their sin was fast and furious. You probably know that Moses wasn’t even finished on Mt. Sinai and the people had already built a golden calf to worship! This is why Moses had to veil and cover his face. The glory would fade away off his face. It’s not that God’s glory wasn’t ending or over. But the people were falling short of the glory of God by their sin. God’s commands are perfect and glorious, but they weren’t. And thus, they lost God’s glory by their sin. God’s laws exposed this.
It is surely easy, especially for God’s people, to feel self-righteous often. I’m a pretty good person. I’m church-goin’ folk. I read my Bible. I don’t act like other sinners of the world. I have my act together.
But don’t you see? That’s law based thinking. That’s trying to justify myself because of who I am and what I do. But if we try to justify ourselves because we obey God, then we have to go the whole way. If you’re going to get glory by obeying God’s commands, then you have to obey all of God’s commands all the time. No fails, no foils, no foibles. Not any. Not ever.
But we can’t do that. We haven’t done that. We all have fallen short of the glory God. He and his commands certainly are glorious, but we are not. Thus, every time we try to justify ourselves that veil of Moses is put back in place and God’s glory begins to fade because we have lost it.
That eternal conundrum is what makes this day, the Transfiguration of our Lord, so important. Jesus’ transfiguration is what connects all the dots for us. What happened on that mountaintop was by no means an accident. It was a powerful and poignant message from our God.
There was Jesus, shining as bright as the sun, and who appeared next to him? Moses and Elijah, perhaps the two most influential prophets of the Old Testament. It was no coincidence that Jesus was shining with the glory of God on a mountaintop and Moses was there. Our minds immediately go back to Mt. Sinai. But when our minds go to Mt. Sinai, they immediately go to God’s law and demands. And when our minds go to God’s law and demands, they immediately go also to our sin.
That’s why the disciples were terrified. Like the people of Israel, they couldn’t stand in the glory of God. That’s why the glory had to go away. Jesus needed to go down the mountain. He needed to restore God’s glory to his people. He needed to ascend a different mount—Mt. Calvary—to pay for the sins of a whole world of people who have fallen short of God’s glory. He needed to bring forgiveness. He needed to usher in a brand new era and a brand new covenant. It would not be a covenant of law and works. It would be a covenant of God’s grace where glory is freely given through the work of Jesus Christ.
You see, the mount of Transfiguration is the mountain that connects all the dots. Mt. Sinai was too much for sinners. But Mt. Calvary is where sinners are forgiven. This momentary flash of glory by Jesus at his transfiguration shows us how Jesus gave up that glory so that by his grace we could be given glory.
That is what the second lesson this morning is all about. Let’s explore how the apostle Paul explains the difference between the old ministry and covenant and the new one. First he begins with Moses in the Old Testament and the commandments that caused sin and death. Verse 7: “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?”
So if the commandments God gave were holy and glorious, but they resulted in fading glory and death because of sin, wouldn’t the work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel which brings life be even more glorious?
Another if statement in verse 9: “If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry brings righteousness!” If the law given through Moses brought condemnation because of sin, how much more glorious is the new covenant through Jesus Christ which gives us his righteousness and perfection by grace! So he concludes in verse 10, “For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.” The glory of Mt Sinai has no comparison to the glory of Mt. Calvary where Jesus won us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven.
One more if statement to finish off the argument in verse 11: “And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” Imagine the fear and disappointment of seeing Moses cover his face because God’s glory was fading. How much greater then is the glory of Christ’s righteousness and eternal life in heaven which last forever!
Do you see the connection with Jesus’ transfiguration in the middle of it all? The glory you see on this mountaintop today would not be possible for you if you had to follow laws and obey. It would fade away because of your sin. But because Christ came down the mountain to die for your sin, that glory you see today is now yours for free and forever!
Here’s how that changes our life then. Paul continues in the next paragraph: “Therefore, since we have such hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.” Because of God’s grace and the glory he freely gives through Jesus, we are much different than the people of old who were afraid and only saw glory fading.
But those who try to live by the law rather than the gospel still have that problem. Verse 14: “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.” All who try to justify themselves because they are such a good person or such a good Christian or because they are better than most people in this world are going to find themselves in the same place as those Israelites. A veil will cover their hearts and God’s glory is lost because sin makes you fall short of it.
But—verse 16—“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Through the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus, we can now see God’s glory in full. He continues, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Through Jesus and the work of the Spirit we have freedom—freedom from the law, freedom from sin, freedom from death. Thus, verse 18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The incredible transformation that takes place is that instead of seeing God’s glory fade on Moses’ veiled face, today we actually shine like Jesus as we reflect his light and glory into the world.
Those are two intense paragraphs of Scripture that are very deep and profound. Yet the apostle Paul makes his point so clear. God’s law in the Old Testament was glorious, yet because we are sinners it brings only punishment, death, and fading glory. So if you want real glory, if you want to live for God and one day live with God forever, then the answer is in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave up the glory that is his, the glory he flashed at his transfiguration, to come down the mountain and die for our sin. He gave up his glory so that through him we could gain glory. By his death and resurrection we have true glory that lasts forever.
Think of the difference that Christ brings to you. In Old Testament times the people were cowering in fear of the God’s glorious presence at Mt. Sinai. But in New Testament times, because of Jesus here you are in God’s presence in his house today. He invites you into his presence and offers you his gracious presence. He even invites you to his table and gives you his very flesh and blood for your forgiveness and strength. There’s no fear or terror here. Only forgiveness and peace.
So go. Go out into the world with joy knowing that Surpassing Glory Is Yours through Jesus Christ. Shine with and share that glory with others. Then be filled with joy that one day Surpassing Glory Is Yours forever and ever in heaven. Thanks be to God, that Christ has taken us from Mt. Sinai and death to the heavenly Mt. Zion and life.
Posted on February 10, 2016, in Church, Sermons and tagged 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 3, Church, Elijah, Glory, Heaven, Jesus, Moses, Sermons, Transfiguration. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.