(A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)
Westgate Chapel 05-6-07 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Proposition: The unlimited access to a Holy God provided for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, gives us freedom from self and sin to be transformed from glory to glory.
- ALMOST two years ago, at the beginning of a sermon, I handed out a piece of paper and asked you to complete this statement….
* The reason I am saved is….
- AND some of you wrote…
* …to have my sins forgiven.
* …to go to heaven.
* …to share my faith with others.
- WHILE all of those answers are a part of the work of God in our lives, the real answer is from Ephesians 1, where in verses 6, 12, and 14 we are told that we were chosen by God, predestined and redeemed to be “to the praise of His glory.”
- EPHESIANS 3:11 goes on to say that it is God’s express plan for us that “rulers and authorities in heavenly places” look down on our lives in amazement and see the “manifold wisdom of God.”
- NOW you and I both know ourselves well enough to know that in those first days of surrendering our lives to Christ….that there was not much in our attitudes, lifestyle or conduct that would have brought praise to God.
- AND the two verses from 2 Corinthians 3 that we will be examining this morning demand the question….how much has changed in our lives since we gave our lives to Jesus Christ?
ii. the grace of god that saves
- THE only hope that you and have of living a transformed life is the daily flow of God’s grace into our lives.
- WHAT is grace? Theologians tell us that it is the unmerited favor of God.
* Grace is the loving, revealing, calling, saving, transforming, keeping, healing, providing power of God.
* It is divine power extended to each one of us without any prejudice….in other words it is unmerited. You can’t earn it.
- IT is the only way to be saved.
- WE are saved by grace…God’s grace.
* It is by His grace that you even become aware of Him.
* It is by grace that you become aware of your sinfulness and the judgment of God.
* It is by God’s grace that you become sorrowful for your sin, and came to God in repentance and faith to receive His gift of salvation.
- SO, it is purely by God’s grace that you are saved….not as a result of your works.
- BUT the tragedy of America’s evangelical theology today is that few pastors or churches clearly establish the expectation that salvation is not just about getting your sin and guilt removed. Salvation is also about the transformation of the life of the believer through this same grace.
- IT is one of those tensions in Scripture that appear to be contradictory, but in reality are rather two truths that are both true at the same time…
- WE indeed are saved by God’s grace through no works of our own
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- AND the proof that we are saved is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God….” (Romans 8:16)
- BUT watch the tension here. We are also told in no uncertain terms that another proof that God’s work of saving grace has taken hold is that we start immediately to live transformed lives.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith [is a Christian] but does not have works?[transformed life] Can that faith save him?”(James 2:14)
- AND James answers that question in verse 17,
“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17)
- ONE salvation from God through Jesus Christ that is the result of God’s grace alone, received by faith.
- TWO proofs of salvation!
* The inner witness of the Holy Spirit that you and I are children of God by faith.
* The external witness of on-going transformation of your life and mine, which is also by God’s grace.
- BROTHERS and sisters this is huge!
- I PERSONALLY am convinced that this subject addresses the deplorable condition of the lives of the majority of so-called Christians in America today….now proven by George Barna’s research.
- WE have preached a cheap grace Gospel of….
* Make a decision. Invite Jesus into your life if you like.
* Poof, the Holy Spirit will witness to your spirit that now you are a child of God.
* Now you are eternally secure. Growing in God is optional and just for those who are disposed to being “super-spiritual.”
- AND the condition of the Church in America is the fruit of that teaching and preaching.
- DALLAS Willard, in his book, The Divine Conspiracy” calls it bar code Christianity (hold up bar code) where as long as you get the bar code by “inviting Jesus into your heart” it doesn’t matter how you live the holy God is somehow obligated to take you into heaven when you die as long as you have the bar code.
- THAT is pure nonsense.
iii. the work of the grace that transforms
- I AM not talking about a Christian life that is perpetually insecure.
- I AM talking about a Christian life that is lived with a measure of Holy Spirit guided reflection and self-evaluation….because of the potentially serious consequences of just assuming that you are indeed saved because you got the bar code ten years ago.
- AND at issue, in our two verses from 2 Corinthians 3 today, is….are you living a life of transformation?
- GRACE is how you are saved.
- GRACE is how you will grow.
- BUT here is precisely where American Christians miss the purposes of God.
- BECAUSE the ongoing transformation of our lives is by grace…we have erroneously concluded that there is therefore nothing they can do about it.
- SO that is what they do! Nothing….except maybe;
* attend church once a month.
* throw a buck into the offering plate.
* teach a SS class if they have to.
- AND for the rest of the week, months and years we live to please ourselves, expecting the grace of God to chase us down and overwhelm us.
- TRANSFORMING grace is not poured out automatically on all Christians anywhere!
- TRANSFORMING grace takes work!
- WHAT, pastor? I thought grace was the gift of God.
- IT is a gift….but like the covenant of the Old Testament, it comes with conditions to be met.
- PAUL says,
“So then, my beloved…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
- WHAT is this work?
- WELL, this is where our two verses from 2 Corinthians 3 come in.
- REMEMBER two Sundays back we talked about the glory of God….that it was “the full force of God’s self-revelation”….everything He is in one time and space.
- LAST Sunday we talked about the veil…the separation from God…that is now removed so that we have unlimited access.
- TODAY the message is….do you care about, do you even want to or have you taken advantage of that unlimited access to God?
- YOU have the freedom not to!
- GOD is not going to force anyone into relationship with Him.
- BUT if you choose not to….there are consequences for your Christian life.
- SO, in verse 17, Paul writes,
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
- YOU are free to have unrestricted access to God.
* Free to love God more than yourself.
* Free to live solely for God and His Kingdom more than yourself.
* You are free to walk in deliverance from sin and bondage.
* You are also free to not take advantage of the access to God that Jesus died to provide, which is why Paul goes on to write verse 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.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- LET’S break this verse down.
* We all…..Jews and Gentiles, bond or free, male or female.
* with unveiled face….we are not cut off but have unlimited access to the full force of the self-revelation of God.
* beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord….
- beholding, is our part in the work of dying to ourselves and pursuing relationship and the revelation of God.
- as in a mirror, is the work of the Holy Spirit who reveals God to us and us to us, through the Word of God.
* One professor at COGTS says that she is not as concerned with how we read the Bible as how the Bible reads us.
- the glory of the Lord, is the full force of God’s self-revelation to us.
* are being transformed into the same image…present, indicative, passive tense.
- present tense means it is happening continuously.
- passive tense suggests that we are unable to transform ourselves, it is something we allow to be done to us by the Lord.
* the same image is the full force of God’s self revelation.
* from glory to glory….always becoming more like Jesus in an ever increasing measure.
* just as from the Lord, the Spirit…the Holy Spirit is the member of the godhead who mediates our “beholding” and God’s “transforming.”
- LET me summarize this for you!
- SALVATION is by the grace of God…but you are responsible for responding in repentance and faith or you will not be saved.
- PROOF that you are saved is BOTH the inner witness of the Spirit AND the external evidence of a life being transformed. Without BOTH your salvation is in question.
- TRANSFORMATION is part and parcel of your salvation, and is also by the grace of God…but you are responsible for beholding the glory of God, where God’s transforming, grace is poured into your life.
- HOW do you “behold the glory of the Lord”?
- I WOULD suggest ….
* Drawing near to God by seeking Him in His Word and asking Him to reveal His greatness to you.
* Fasting, or anything that provides an opportunity for you to say no to yourself.
* Prayer, not as an exercise to get what you want, but to present yourself to God for Him to get what He wants in you.
* Giving in tithes and offerings, as a way to honor the Source of your supply.
* Worship that presents your whole life to God and not just through music.
* Serving God by serving others.
- THE transformation may not be overnight….it might take time….but you will be changed.
- THE grace of God will change you….when God is the goal and change is secondary to loving Him.
- YOUR motivation is not self-improvement….or to make life easier for you, or happier.
- THE motivation is to please God and bring Him glory!
- TRANSFORMATION is not the goal. God is the goal.
- USE the True North Journal to chronicle what happens and what God speaks to you on the path.
- GET connected to the community of faith here, for fellowship and the work of the ministry….because there is strength in walking this journey with others.
- AND being connected to others in the journey will keep you from easily being discouraged and it will also keep you from getting weird.
- BUT, most important of all….get yourself in front of God’s mirror so that the reflection of His glory will begin to change you and bring Him glory. There is no other Christian life.