September 3, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 3)

Submitted by Eunice K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 3:10-12 

What is the surpassing, permanent glory in which Apostle Paul put his hope?  

The surpassing, permanent glory of the ministry of the Spirit is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that we are made righteous not by our ability to keep God’s law, but by faith in Jesus.

In v. 6 of this chapter, the difference in the old and new covenants is described as “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  I think about how the new covenant and the ministry of the Spirit has been made manifest in my own life.  Truly, there is no way I could have earned my salvation through keeping God’s commands.  God’s commands, though so simple and basic, only illuminate the reality of my core sinfulness.  If all the law is summed up by the 2 commands to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as myself – then clearly, there is no question that I fail to live up to this.  And not only that, the ultimate issue is that I find in me this impossibility to change by my own efforts.  There are many times in my life where I hit up hard against this truth, and I know the frustration and desperation of my own inability to change my heart.  That is why my heart lifts, and I am filled with gratitude as I think about the surpassing, permanent glory of the ministry of the Spirit, where I am not only saved and forgiven through the cross of Jesus, but I am able to live a new life because the Holy Spirit is at work in me, and is living with me each day.  It’s not just me trying to live up to God’s standards, it’s the Spirit of God at work in me as I try to obey God.  This is such wonderful and glorious news that I can put my hope in.

How does having “such a hope” relate to being “very bold?” 

If I have this sure hope in the ministry of the Spirit, I can be very bold – not because of any kind of confidence in myself, but because of confidence that God is surely powerful and active in me and all around me.  As I look at Apostle Paul’s life, he was such a bold and undaunted man, even through much suffering and discouraging circumstances.  And his source of confidence wasn’t that he was some kind of superman who could defeat all the difficulties he faced, but that Christ has won the ultimate victory, and that God was the one who was leading him as he carried out this ministry of the new covenant.  Though on the surface it seems like I don’t share any characteristics of the great Apostle Paul, but the deeper reality is, I share this very same source of hope, courage, and confidence.

To what extent has the hope given by the new covenant through Christ helped me to be bold in my life?

I used to be quite paralyzed by fears of failure and by the thought of unknown outcomes.  The thought of having responsibility as a spiritual leader, or in carrying out certain tasks for which I felt ill-equipped, often left me filled with anxiety and fears.  Though I still struggle with this, I have experienced God’s transforming work in my life to help me overcome fears and be bold in different ways.  I think it comes down to learning that Christian life is not about me struggling to be righteous on my own, but that it’s all about living daily with God, and that God is always at work.  This means that even if I fail at things or things don’t turn out as I wanted, I can still hope and see proof that God is at work nonetheless.  I’ve seen this to be true in many testimonies and in many examples in my own life.  And, I can have confidence that God is at work in many unseen ways that I will only see later as I trust and obey Him.  I can trust this to be true after seeing this unfold so many times.  This helps me to be bold in pushing ahead and just to keep going and to see how God is leading us, even when I feel weak and helpless, which I often do feel out here in Riverside.  It’s almost like I’ve gotten more used to this pattern in Christian life, that although I feel anxious and unsure of what lies ahead, I know that God will be at work somehow, in some way – and so I can move forward with Him.  Though this may not be such a dramatic kind of boldness, I know that this is clearly the work of God in my life!

2 Corinthians 3:14-18

In what way is a “veil” an apt metaphor in describing man’s relation to God apart from Christ? 

A veil is an apt metaphor, because apart from Christ there is this mystery and gap in understanding and relationship with God.  I can know about God, but I can’t have that close and right relationship with him where his Spirit is alive in me and transforming me. Only through Christ and his sacrifice on the cross can we be forgiven and reconciled with God, and build that personal relationship with him that is not based on my works but on receiving his grace and being led by his Spirit.

How have I experienced this truth—that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed?”

For a long time, even though I heard so many times that God fully receives me and is faithful to me, and that he wants to involve me in his work despite the truth of who I am, there was this barrier to me really believing this to be true.  I tried really hard to do what is right and to avoid failure, because I instinctively thought that this is what was most important to God.  But as my failures to be a loving and “righteous” person on my own started to pile up, there were these key points when I started to finally realize that I could not “fix” myself as I wanted to.  It was at these moments when I truly experienced hopelessness about myself that perhaps I could most genuinely “turn to the Lord,”5 and just bring myself before God with earnest desire to receive help from him and his people.  And as I struggled to genuinely relate with God and just keep going in the direction of obedience, I started to experience “the veil being removed” in my own life.  I started to understand and trust that God is not the kind of taskmaster that I made him out to be, I saw that God’s promises and words are for me, as I stumble in different ways.  I started to see how God is not surprised by my sins and failures like I was, but that he knew me all along and was waiting for me to surrender myself to him.  I saw how God didn’t want me to “perform” for him, but to walk with him each day in genuine relationship and tackle things together with him instead of out of my sheer effort and willpower.  In these ways, I started to experience how the basis of my Christian life is God’s grace and the real personal relationship I have with him day by day.

Submitted by Abe Yang from Gracepoint Riverside

2 Corinthians 3:7–18

REFLECTION QUESTIONS 

2 Corinthians 3:10–12

What is the surpassing, permanent glory in which Apostle Paul put his hope?

The surpassing glory in which A. Paul has placed his hope in is his salvation through Jesus Christ.

How does having “such a hope” relate to being “very bold?”

When we have hope –- a hope that is grounded on something solid –- it enables us to be very bold. As Christ-followers, we know that our future is secure in him, that no matters what happens to us on this side of heaven –- or even in the manner in which we die –- we will ultimately be with our Father in heaven. With this in mind, we can be bold in proclaiming the gospel to others. They may mock us, they may deem us as foolish, (and in other countries, they may even persecute us), but in the end, our salvation is still secure – nothing can change that.

To what extent has the hope given by the new covenant through Christ helped me to be bold in my life?

With that said, I would be lying if I were to say that everything comes easily and naturally for me, now that I’m a Christian. I think Paul is reminding us of the logic –- that because of this permanent glory we can be very bold –- but just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that this is always the case in my life. So often, when I’m thinking of proclaiming the Good News to someone I sometimes get cold feet. I hold back; I shrink back. I’ve come to realize that whenever this does happen –- whenever I give into my fears –- it’s because I’m not holding on to this promise. I’m not thinking of the eternal glory that I’ve already received. Rather, I’m just thinking about what the other person must be thinking of me, that I must come off to them as a weirdo.

Recently, I grabbed lunch with an old friend.  Each time I’ve met up with him, I’ve wanted to share with him the gospel, but it’s always been so hard. It’s odd –- it’s so much easier (for me, anyways) to share the gospel message to a complete stranger than it is to someone I’ve known for such a long time. For me, I know my friend would be accepting of me to share this gospel –- the thing I fear is not backlash or persecution, but rather, it’s just awkwardness. It’s that potential long silence after I share the gospel that I dread the most.

This time around, I prayed that I would have the courage and boldness to share the gospel with him. When we met, he first shared that someone close to him just passed away. As he shared about what he was going through, my heart went out to him. It was at that point that the gospel message became so clear to my own mind: life is short, death is inevitable –- who else can rescue us from our sins? Who else can overcome death and overcome the grave? What my friend was sharing –- that’s the bad news. That’s reality. One day, death comes for us all. But the good news, the hope that we have, is that this doesn’t have to be end of the story. This thought was so clear in my mind as my friend was sharing, that after he was done, I was able to pray for him, and then share the gospel with him.

I’m so thankful that God was able to honor my prayer request, to be able to bring about a topic that was not only weighted, but it brought into focus the great realities of life. My prayer for myself is that this continues to remain in the forefront of my mind: death comes for us all, and only Jesus can redeem us from it. When this is in sharp focus, my natural fears melt away, which then enables me to become much bolder.

2 Corinthians 3:14–18

In what way is a “veil” an apt metaphor in describing man’s relation to God apart from Christ?

A veil is something that is translucent. You cannot see the thing fully behind the veil, but you do see it. It may be fuzzy, it may be blurry –- it’s enough to recognize that something is there, but not opaque enough to see it clearly. I think Paul’s use of this veil as a metaphor is very fitting in describing man’s relationship to God apart from Christ. For the majority of the Jews, the veil obscures their view in how to bridge that gap between themselves and God. They think that either by works (by obeying God’s laws and keep up with the atonement system) or by their lineage will allow them to be set right before God, not realizing that the atonement system –- and even their lineage –- is not meant to be the end all, but a means to point to something greater. For many others, there is a veil in how they perceive God to be. I think most people, if they are honest with themselves, will come to the conclusion that a higher being –- a higher “something” –- must exist. But how they interpret this higher being will greatly differ. They know that there is something out there, but it’s so abstract –- so blurry –- that they can only take stabs at guesses. That’s their veil. God can only be fully understood through the personhood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but if an individual chooses to reject that, then they can only take their best guess as to what God is like, which is usually biased, opinionated, and not at all based on reality.

How have I experienced this truth—that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed?”

This is definitely true of me. I grew up in the church, and I thought I knew all there is to know about God and Christianity. The veil that covered my eyes from Reality were (1) my biased notions of who God is (i.e., He’s a killjoy who loves to stamp out any ounce of fun) and (2) my lack of awareness of my own sinfulness. When I was able to finally come before God and take a hard look at my life, only then was I able to truly experience what the Bible has affirmed all along: how great is my sin, and how needy I am for a Savior. When I saw my sins for what they truly are, and when I saw God’s hand of reconciliation in the form of Jesus Christ being nailed on the cross, the veil was lifted. It was then that I understood God’s heart for me, and why I cannot reach to Him on my own.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Reflect on v. 17. To what extent am I experiencing genuine freedom? What diminishes my freedom?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I don’t experience true freedom whenever I try to manage my image, when I hide my sins, when I try to make myself better than what I really am. When I am like this, it becomes very miserable in the long run. Whenever messages or DTs would address this issue –- the very issue that I’m trying to hide from or ignore –- I wouldn’t be able to take it in. I would have to focus on a minor point, or allow it to apply to some other area in my life –- an area that doesn’t quite fit. But the sin remains unaddressed, and so, it continues to lurk in the dark. It becomes even more miserable when we have to share about what we got out of the message or DT, because then I have to carefully and deliberately craft what I have to say, in order that my image becomes preserved. But I cannot speak what’s on my heart, because that’s too deep, too personal. And I become shackled to this manicured version of myself; I become shackled to this deception.

Freedom comes when I share precisely what’s on my heart, whether it’s some sin, some character flaw, some ingrained insecurity of mine, etc. Freedom comes when I don’t have to think so hard about what I ought to say, but rather, just say how God has convicted me –- plainly. Through the years, the pain of expressing the truth about myself never lessen –- I continue to feel the sting, the sting that says I’m still an awful sinner, the sting from having my pride being shattered. Though the pain may stay the same, I’ve experienced through the years that the more I share honestly, the more freedom and joy I receive. The more I allow God’s truth to enter into me, the more I see myself as a grave sinner –- but then, the more I get to experience God’s grace and mercy on my life. And the more I experience this, I also experience a deeper appreciation for what God has done, and in doing so, my joy abounds even greater. The pain of sharing these details of my life pale in comparison to this kind of joy –- this joy that can only truly come when I am freed from my desire to protect myself.

Submitted by Dora T. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 3:10-12
•       What is the surpassing, permanent glory in which Apostle Paul put his hope?

The surpassing, permanent glory that Apostle Paul puts his hope in
this new ministry—the ministry of righteousness that has been created
by Jesus Christ. “What once had glory” was the ministry of death. It
was the old way of relating to God based purely on laws and how well
one could get themselves to meet those laws. The new glory is one that
is established by the Spirit. It is one that is not dependent on human
works or effort, but purely by mercy.

•       How does having “such a hope” relate to being “very bold?”
I think one way to think about it is to consider what it is like when
we don’t have such a hope—when it is going back to this idea of having
to prove ourselves or earn are forgiveness by trying live according to
the old covenant and its laws. If salvation has to be earned, how
could a person ever be bold? Every action must be thoroughly
considered, lest others call you on it. My hope would have to rely
purely on myself and my ability to live up to the laws and commands
made of me. Living like this would produce a lot of fear and
insecurity toward those around you and toward God. I wouldn’t be able
to relate to God as a God of love, but rather a God who is like a
policeman, someone who is out to get me.

Having the hope that Apostle Paul describes here would be very
different. This is not a hope that one has on themselves. This is a
hope in Christ—a hope that He has defeated sin once and for all and
that our salvation cannot be bought or earned, but it just needs to be
received. This hope, because it has really nothing to do with an
individual’s work or effort, can make someone very bold because his
salvation is secure. His place before God is set. It was not earned;
it cannot be lost when I fail. Because of this hope, I don’t have to
live in fear and insecurity of what people think or worry if God will
accept me based on my performance. It can free me from these things so
that I can experience the full joy or salvation. And this joy can lead
me to be bold about sharing this joy with others. This joy can lead me
to be bold about the truth about myself because I no longer need to
prove to others that I’m not as broken as I really am. This joy can
help me be bold in relating with God because He isn’t someone out to
get me but someone longing to save me.

•       To what extent has the hope given by the new covenant through Christ
helped me to be bold in my life?

When I think about the boldness and freedom Apostle Paul describes
here, I realize again that I have a ways to go in terms of clinging
onto this hope. As I get older I think that somehow I’ll be over this,
but I still see much fear and insecurity in my heart. Every time I
fail, or break a commitment, or see the truth of my broken, loveless,
selfish heart, I can quickly despair, because often despair is easier
to deal with than struggling to stop putting hope in myself and
putting my hope in Christ. I despair because when I see the truth, I
am still trying to hold onto the idea that I need do something about
myself by my own strength—that I can fix my behavior, or correct my
character—and I’m facing the reality that I am quite helpless and this
can lead me to be fearful of doing things that would only open up the
potential to more failure and more character flaws being exposed.
However, when I come back to the truth that God’s love and forgiveness
of me has really nothing to do with what I can do about myself, it
empowers me to be bold about the truth of who I really am—that I
really am this broken, that my heart is really this messed up, that I
have really hurt God with what I have done with this life he has given
me, but it is for the exact reason that I am powerless to fix myself
that God sent his Son for me. When I am able to accept myself because
of the hope I have that God loves and accepts me, I feel I can be more
bold in being honest about who I really am. I feel more bold in
sharing the gospel with others too because I see an increasingly
richer picture of how much I have been forgiven and how much I am
loved. I am able to be bolder in approaching people and trying to
build my relationships with them because I am able to be less fearful
of what they think about me. While my daily life often oscillates
between these two realities, when I am able to cling onto hope in
Christ and forsake my hope in myself, I have experienced His hope
empowering me to get outside of myself, to stop being so self-focused,
and experience the joy of properly relating with God and the joy of
loving others without fear of rejection.

2 Corinthians 3:14-18
•       In what way is a “veil” an apt metaphor in describing man’s relation
to God apart from Christ?

I think one this is an apt metaphor is that without Christ, relating
with God will be an ongoing guessing game. Without Christ, there is
really no way to know how God wants to relate to me. When I think
about some of the struggles I had when I first started coming out, I
had all sorts of wrong ideas about God—that if he did exist, then
based on all the different things that I had heard from different
people, He must be very angry at humanity, that he just wanted to
punish people, that he demanded perfections. And if that were the
case, then there really is no way that I could ever come before Him.
But the incarnation of Jesus tells me that (1) God is real and (2) to
this extent, God is this committed to a complete restoration of my
relationship with Him. Apart from Christ, we are pretty much left on
our own to try to find out how to relate with God and understand and
figure out what our purpose in world is.

•       How have I experienced this truth—that “when one turns to the Lord,
the veil is removed?”
I think for me this has definitely been the case in that I was living
such an aimless life before encountering Jesus. I really had no idea
what God was really like. I saw no purpose to life. But when I started
to learn about who Jesus was and as I continue learn about Him, I see
more and more what God’s heart is really like and all of my
misconceptions about the true heart of God are being corrected. For
example, how can I continue to think that God desires for me to make
myself perfect before He is willing to relate with me, when He knew
full well how hopelessly broken and still sent Jesus into the world
for me? How can I think He will reject me when Jesus went to the worst
of sinners, tax collectors, demon possessed people? How can I think
that He will give up on me for all the ways I’ve hurt him, when Jesus
was praying for the very people who were nailing him to the cross?
When I look to Jesus I see the reality of how God really views me and
how desperately I need to disband and surrender my broken beliefs up
to Him.

2 Corinthians 3:17
•       Reflect on v. 17.  To what extent am I experiencing genuine freedom?
What diminishes my freedom?
I have experienced this freedom in the sense that because of Christ,
no situation is really hopeless. Though in the midst of pain and
struggle and battling sins, things seem very dark, I know that Christ
has been victorious over sin and I can turn to him with all of my sins
and brokenness…I don’t have to deal with on my own any more. I know
all the ways that I have tried to compensate for my brokenness on my
own—working, striving, deceiving…doing all sorts of things to try to
fix myself and prove myself to be worthy of others’ time and
affection. I have experience this freedom in that because of Christ I
can actually come to God—the One that I feel the most guilt towards,
the One whom I have hurt the most—and actually be able to ask for
forgiveness and have my relationship with Him restored. The thing that
most diminishes this freedom is my pride. It is my pride that makes me
want to prove myself, to earn my forgiveness, to show that somehow I
am not really this helpless on my own. When I go back to this way of
thinking, I quickly become fearful and insecure.

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