OPEN LETTERS

2 Cor.3:1,2 – Are we beginning to sound like those who speak highly of themselves? Do you really need letters of recommendation to validate our ministry, like others do? Do we really need your letter of endorsement? Of course not! For your very lives are our “letters of recommendation,” permanently engraved on our hearts, recognized and read by everybody.

How can you judge the legitimacy of a ministry? Is it the buildings they have built? Or could it be the size of the following that they claim or actually have? Or maybe it is the financial power or political influence they wield. No, that’s not what Jesus said. He said you judge a tree by its fruit. The fruit He was talking about were known by the aforementioned indicators. He was talking about human lives that have been impacted by that ministry. That was what Paul was getting at. He said he needed no recommendation letter, even from the church in Jerusalem. Paul’s letters were human lives. He said the proof of his ministry was the Corinthians themselves, they were his letters of recommendation. Here is how William Barclay describes this passage.

“There is a great truth here, which is at once an inspiration and an awful warning–every man is an open letter for Jesus Christ. Every Christian, whether he likes it or not, is an advertisement for Christianity. The honor of Christ is in the hands of his followers. We judge a shopkeeper by the kind of goods he sells; we judge a craftsman by the kind of articles he produces; we judge a Church by the kind of men it creates; and therefore men judge Christ by his followers. Dick Sheppard, after years of talking in the open air to people who were outside the Church, declared that he had discovered that “the greatest handicap the Church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians.” When we go out into the world, we have the awe-inspiring responsibility of being open letters, advertisements, for Christ and his Church.”

I thank the Lord for the men that discipled me in my early years as a Christian. My life and ministry today is a reflection of their lives. So if you really want to know about the validity of a ministry take a good look at the inner circle. There you may find a good read. They will tell the story of what is really going on at that church.

GREATER GLORY

2 Cor.3:7,8 – Even the ministry that was characterized by chiseled letters on stone tablets came with a dazzling measure of glory, though it produced death. The Israelites couldn’t bear to gaze on the glowing face of Moses because of the radiant splendor shining from his countenance—a glory destined to fade away. Yet how much more radiant is this new and glorious ministry of the Spirit that shines from us!

The scene of Moses returning from Mount Sinai with the two tables of stone is the stuff of movies. Moses was an amazing character that stood as a giant over all of the prophets that would follow him. His face was shining with God’s glory that was too bright to look upon and had to be veiled. He was carrying in his arms the Ten Commandments that became the foundation that civilization would be built upon. The Jews always considered themselves disciples of Moses. Paul was preaching something different. Paul said that the glory that was on Moses and even on the Ten Commandments paled in comparison to the glory in the gospel. Paul even called the law the ministration of death. He declared that the face of nominal Christians shone with more glory than Moses. Here is how Adam Clarke describes it.

“Yet this ministration of death…was glorious-was full of splendor; for the apostle refers to the thunderings, and lightnings, and luminous appearances, which took place in the giving of the law; so that the very body of Moses partook of the effulgence in such a manner that the children of Israel could not look upon his face; and he, to hide it, was obliged to use a veil. All this was intended to show the excellency of that law, as an institution coming immediately from God: and the apostle gives it all its heightenings, that he may compare it to the Gospel, and thereby prove that, glorious as it was, it had no glory that could be compared with that of the Gospel; and that even the glory it had was a glory that was to be done away—to be absorbed, as the light of the stars, planets, and moon, is absorbed in the splendor of the sun.”

The glory on us is reflected glory, reflecting the majesty of Christ. This reflected glory shines brightly in the land. It attracts whoever is hungry and draws them from the darkness of this life.

When the veil is removed!

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

”But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away!”

2 Cor. 3:16

Years ago while attending a church growth conference in Maui, Frank and I had an unexpected encounter with the Holy Spirit. We were battle-torn from raising kids, growing churches and dealing with unhappy church folk. We had gone from being at the top of the wave of church growth to crashing and couldn’t find our footing. Faking it was unbearable and on that trip Frank spoke of resigning the church. On the last day of the conference we attended a large AG church that we knew and the head pastor introduced us to Rick and Donna Shelton who were pastors in St Louis, Missouri. I wasn’t really paying much attention to them and to be honest didn’t care to meet another pastor the rest of my life. But the conversation got strange really quick when Ps.Rick said; “Jesus had changed his life”. Donna his wife, had such an angelic look upon her face that got my attention. It was if the Holy Spirit was looking at me through her eyes saying; “I was naked and in need of him”. The Apostle Paul speaks of the veil on our hearts being taken away. Somewhere along the lines of life I lost my first love and couldn’t seem to find my way back. That precious day on that Sunday morning the veil was removed and the process back to him began. It was if I were like those in a dream.

MCClaren says, “They who behold Christ have Christ formed in them and that will be the inevitable result of all true possession of the glory of Christ. Why, if you look closely enough into a man’s eye, you will see in it little pictures of what he beholds at the moment; and if our hearts are beholding Christ, Christ will be mirrored and manifested on our hearts. Our characters will show what we are looking at, and ought, in the case of Christian people, to bear His image so plainly, that men cannot but take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. Are our characters like those transparent clocks, where you can see not only the figures and hands, but the wheels and works? The convictions which we hold, the emotions that are dominant in our hearts, will mould and shape our lives. If we have any deep, living perception of Christ, bystanders looking into our faces will be able to tell what it is up yonder that is making them like the faces of the angels-even vision of the opened heavens and of the exalted Lord.”

That was 24 years ago. And believe it or not, I am still in search of the one who touched me. Oh it’s not a futile search of ever reaching and never quenching but one of ever receiving and forever drinking. He too can remove the veil of hurt pain or offense that has caused you to lose sight of your first love. Allow him to remove the veil that has been placed upon your heart, he will restore the years of the canker worm that has eaten away at your joy and life. Turn to him!

GALLERY OF ART

2 Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Of all the works of the Lord this has to be the very pinnacle. This is why Jesus came. This goes way beyond forgiveness and everlasting life. This is about the beautiful transformation of His sons and daughters. He takes us out of our misery, washes away all of our sin, and then begins the work of restoration and renewal. It is the work of the Spirit in our lives. How does it happen? It comes from gazing on the glory of the Lord. How can you see the unseeable? It’s really quite simple, we see the unveiling of Jesus Christ in the written word through the working of the Spirit on our souls. We are caught up in the glory of His love, we drink deeply of His Spirit, and we feast on His word. As we do this His beautiful work of artistry goes into effect. We are transformed from glory to glory. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this.

“We have a lively image of this Trinity in the sun. The Father is as the substance of the sun; the Son is as the brightness and glory of the disk of the sun, or that bright and glorious form under which it appears to our eyes; the Holy Ghost is as the heat and powerful influence which acts upon the sun itself and, being diffusive, enlightens, warms, enlivens and comforts the world. The Spirit, as it is God’s infinite love and happiness, is as the internal heat of the sun; but as it is that by which God communicates himself, is as the emitted beams of God’s glory. Moses was changed by God’s glory shining upon him, even as we are changed by God’s Spirit shed as bright beams on us. The Spirit of God is called the Spirit of glory upon two accounts: because ’tis the glory of God and is as it were his emitted beams, and as it is the believer’s glory and causes him also to shine.”
We gaze upon Christ, bask in His radiation, and then we begin to change and at the same time reflect the glory of the Lord. So this is what He is after, to put each of us on display in His gallery of art.

PHOTOGRAPHS OF JESUS

2 Cor. 3:18 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.

All of us like to look at our old pictures. Recently my wife Parris posted some of our old wedding pictures on Facebook. Those pictures are 43 years old, we all looked a lot different 43 years ago. I noticed some of the comments people made about those pictures, many were commenting about family resemblances. They were saying we looked very much like our children. Of course, our children share our very essence, they came from us. That is what today’s scripture is about. As we gaze upon Christ we begin to reflect His glory. Ultimately Christians begin to look like Him, there just has to be a family resemblance. This is how people in this world see Jesus, they see His reflected glory in our lives. Here are some thoughts from A.B. Simpson on this truth.

“It was His to be the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. It is ours to be the image of His glory and the express image of Him. As He represented God, so we are to represent Christ, and men will know Him by what they see of Him in us. This is the blessed work of the Holy Ghost. He is the Artist that stands behind the canvas and brings out the glorious, heavenly picture. Not only so, but He makes a living picture. We are not stereotyped and put away in a cabinet, but the picture is renewed from day to day, and each day should be brighter than the past. It is “from glory to glory,” even brighter and brighter until it shall be lost in the light of heaven. It is not even “from grace to glory.” We are to reach the stage of glory, and then go on “from glory to glory” in increasing luster forever.”
I love that, glory to glory. The Lord is painting His picture on and in me every day. The picture that He is painting is a self portrait; He is reproducing the very likeness of His Son. So just like we all enjoy looking at the family pictures of friends, take a look around today. Hopefully you and the people you associate with are looking more and more like Jesus.

LOOKING ON GLORY

2Cor. 3:18 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 by the Spirit of the Lord.

David spoke often about the pleasure and blessing he found by gazing on the Lord. He said in
Psa. 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple”.
One of the great ways we have of gazing on the beauty of the Lord is in engrossing ourselves in the written word of God. In the scriptures we see the beauty of Jesus Christ. After all He is the manifestation of the Father’s word. This is the place we can easily see the glory of the Lord. Soaking in the scriptures can become one of the great pleasures in our lives. Here is how Albert Barnes describes beholding the glory of the Lord.

“The mirrors of the ancients were made of burnished metal, and they reflected images with great brilliancy and distinctness. And the meaning is, that the gospel reflected the glory of the Lord; it was, so to speak, the mirror—the polished, burnished substance in which the glory of the Lord shone, and where that glory was irradiated and reflected so that it might be seen by Christians. There was no vail over it; no obscurity; nothing to break its dazzling splendor, or to prevent its meeting the eye. Christians, by looking on the gospel, could see the glorious perfections and plans of God, as bright, and clear, and brilliant as they could see a light reflected from the burnished surface of the mirror. So to speak, the glorious perfections of God shone from heaven, beamed upon the gospel, and were thence reflected to the eye and the heart of the Christian, and had the effect of transforming them into the same image.”

The effect of gazing on the beauty of the Lord is what this is all about. We are changed into the very thing we gaze upon, in this case we are being radically transformed, our very nature is being conformed to the image of Jesus. What a deal, we are transformed powerfully by the most desirable thing in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord in Christ.

REMOVING THE VEIL

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2 Cor. 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

2Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
I think we Christians take a lot of things for granted, especially those who have been a Christian for an extended period of time. It’s easy to forget what it was like to be spiritually blind. Secondly, we can slip into an apathetic mindset, living off of our belief system and not pressing in for a glimpse of His glory. Our Christian experience begins when the beams of the Son of Righteousness break through the darkness of our soul, we continue in Christ as we learn to walk in this light. Christianity is more than a creed, it is supernatural in nature. It is birthed by the glory of the Lord and it continues by the glory of the Lord. Without revelation we are no different than the lost. Here is how John Piper describes seeing the glory of the Lord.

“A Christian is a person who has turned to the Lord Jesus and has thus seen the glory of the Lord unveiled. “When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. . . . And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord . . .”. In other words, all believers have “turned to the Lord”—like Moses when he entered the tent. This experience of every Christian is supernatural. It does not come from merely human powers. In turning to Jesus, believers experience the work of the Holy Spirit. That is implied in Paul’s words, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. That is, the Spirit sets us free from the bondage of blindness and hardening….And this one great miracle of liberation from spiritual blindness is a gift. “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”.
Spiritual awakenings bring large portions of the population under this spiritual light. Today, our world lies in darkness depending on human reason and what they call “science” to bring guidance into their lives. Christians are not dependent on man or his wisdom, our understanding of everything that exists comes directly from the creator of science. When we turn to the Lord the veil is taken away and we begin to see the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ.

SEEING THE GLORY

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2Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Salvation is an amazing thing. It is not based on our efforts but is entirely dependent on supernatural revelation. That is especially hard in our secular world, everything is so predictable and dependent on human talent and human effort. Something supernatural makes humans really uncomfortable because it places us in a place of total weakness and total dependency on something way out of our control. That “something” is the Lord and that thing that He does is a total work of grace. Unexplainable light begins to shine into our hearts from hearing or reading the Word of God. We become aware of our sinfulness, His mercy, and His power to change our lives. Like today’s verse says, we are transformed, totally and absolutely recreated into different kinds of people. The work of God is thorough, our very nature is different. Here is how John Piper describes it.

“This new birth, “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23), gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). This supernaturally given, spiritual sight of the glory of God in Christ is the ground of saving faith. God is seen with the eyes of the heart as truly as the eyes of our head see the sun in the sky. And this sight of the glory of God in Christ compels us. It is no more resistible than the enjoyment of your favorite food is resistible when it is in your mouth. And so it is when God becomes your favorite, by the opening of your eyes to see his convincing and enthralling beauty. To see him as supreme in beauty is to desire him above all.”

There is a suddenness as well as a long slow effect of this life change. For many, there is a dramatic life change almost instantaneously. For those who continue in His word, the supernatural change happens the rest of their lives. We are being changed from one degree of glory to another.

TRANSFORMING LIGHT

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II Cor. 3:18, “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Something is dreadfully wrong with our world. Mankind wanders around in darkness but actually thinks he has perfect vision. The darkness has corrupted our hearts so that our view of everything is skewered. Our perception of everything from money to property, from marriage to family, and from gender confusion to sexual promiscuity has been altered so that society itself is spiraling toward mayhem.

There is good news that can reverse this dilemma in a moment of time. God is light and in His light we are transformed. In that light, begin to see sin and righteousness differently, we see church and the Word of God differently, we even begin to view God and our reason for existence from a totally different perspective. Jesus is the Light of the world, when He comes into our lives we are transformed and translated. We are no longer part of the kingdom of darkness, we have stepped into the light. This light transforms our lives, everything it touches begins to be drawn in to this whole new way of life. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the transforming nature of God.

“This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates the nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Savior: it causes the whole soul to accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect, cleaving to it with full inclination and affection. And it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.”
According to today’s scripture verse when we step into the light, metamorphosis sets in. We become like this light that we behold. It not only changes our perception of things, it changes us, it changes the very nature of who we are. Eph. 5:8 ‘for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light’.

I AM BECOMING WHAT I AM BEHOLDING

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MERRY THURSDAY BY PARRIS

-“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” 2 Cor. 3:18 Berean

Our good friend Kelanie Goeckler wrote a song called “The New has Come” and in her lyrics she sings “I am becoming like the One I’m beholding. The old is gone, and the new has come”.

The more we behold the scripture, behold Christ in His intimacy and behold the love of God all around us the more divine information we will receive. Jesus was always speaking through parables so that “those that heard would hear, and those that saw would see”. Most of us just aren’t beholding Him in all things but rather behold images/voices/noise that is of this world.

To allow ourselves to be in the constant state of change is painful and to obey his voice sometimes impossible. I love this quote found in Calvin’s Commentary, “Tis not a change only into the image of God with slight colors, an image drawn as with charcoal; but a glorious image even in the rough draught, which grows up into greater beauty by the addition of brighter colors: Changed (saith the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 3:18) into the same image from glory to glory: glory in the first lineaments as well as glory in the last lines.” —( Charnock’s Works)

I pray he has done more than the charcoal drawing on me! But I am becoming what I am beholding. Yes, today I decide what voice will I listen to in my life and being fixated on our faults can lead us away from what we should be beholding. Another devotional said, “The continual grubbing on the inside to see whether we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, morbid type of Christianity, not the robust, simple life of the child of God.” Kevin Ott

My friend the old is gone and the new has come. Learn to behold Christ in all things. Behold Christ in His glorified state, behold Christ working in you a far bigger transformation than you can ever imagine. There is nothing greater than redemption.