Have you ever wondered what really makes the difference between success or failure in the Christian life? I know I have. I’m Scott Chambers, one of the Bethel elders and today we’ll see what the Lord has to say about this important question through the Apostle Paul in the II Corinthians, chapter 3.
In this chapter, Paul makes a very important distinction between the spiritual resources given to the nation of Israel through Moses and those available to New Testament believers. Now, to be sure, Paul and Moses did have many things in common. One of them is they both had a direct encounter with the living God – Moses on Mt. Sinai as he was given God’s law for the nation of Israel and Paul on the road to Damascus as the Lord Jesus got his attention in a very dramatic way and completely turned his life around. Paul went from being a persecutor and murderer of Christians to becoming arguably the greatest leader of the first-century church and certainly the most prolific New Testament author.
Both men beheld the glory of God in a big way. But there’s a key difference between their two experiences. The glory of God that Moses experienced caused his face to literarily shine, but it was temporary. The glory of God that Paul experienced did not result in this kind of change in outward appearance, but rather in an eternally changed heart. Moses put a veil over his face when he came down off the mountain so Israel wouldn’t see that the radiance was fading. The reason it was fading is that the commandments of God he was carrying could not give people the power to obey them. Rather, God’s commandments have the intended effect of showing us that we could never in a million years measure up to God’s standards of righteousness. As a result, Paul refers to Moses’ ministry as the ministry of condemnation. In contrast, the Spirit of God, and therefore the glory of God, permanently entered Paul’s life when he yielded to Jesus’ Lordship, resulting in his being given the ministry of righteousness.
As a result of this, Paul tells us in verse 12 that he, and all who turn to the Lord, are, or should be, very bold, because Christ followers have the opportunity to introduce men and women to the One who can make them righteous and change them from the inside out. We don’t become this way the instant we turn our lives over to Jesus. Rather, it’s a life-long process, the process of sanctification, by which we’re gradually transformed into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another, as Paul puts it in vs. 18. And this transformation comes through the work of God’s spirit, not from our trying to obey God’s laws in our own strength. Our sufficiency is from God as he tells us in vs. 5, and this sufficiency makes us ministers of a new covenant of the Spirit, who alone can give men and women new life.
So, what constitutes success as a Christian? I think Paul is telling us in this chapter that success means cooperating with the Spirit of God as He works in our lives, letting Him conform us into the image of Christ by allowing His Word to renew our minds, committing every day to walk in the power of the Spirit, being quick to confess our sins as they occur, and then embracing the ministry of reconciliation we’ve been given for a lost and dying world.
Please join me in a personalized prayer.
Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much that you paid the price for my sins that your own standards of justice require. Your grace is truly amazing and it saved a wretch like me. Your Word tells me that it takes a lifetime to transform a wretch into a fully mature person of God, but you’re committed to doing so! Thank you!! Please give me a heart to cooperate with you as you work to bring about this transformation in me. And show me every day how and where you want me to be a minister of your new covenant, that I might be useful to you as you seek to save others. In Jesus name, amen.