Saturday, November 4, 2017, 4:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “The Lord’s Anointed.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 3 (NASB).
On Human Hearts (vv. 1-3)
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Whenever any of us serves as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are bound to be met with some amount of opposition and criticism. Some of it may be deserved, and some not. We may have opponents who will even go so far as to try to discredit us, and thus we may have reputations which precede us which may or may not have any element of truth to them. Or, what is shared about us may be twisted truth presented through the lens of those who don’t like the message. And, so, we may have a “black mark” (an unfavorable impression) against us even before we get started.
So, what should our response be to such criticism or opposition? We certainly can refute our opponents, dispute any lies, and proclaim what is true. Paul did this on numerous occasions, as did Jesus. And/or we can just trust our lives and our reputations into God’s hands, trusting him to work out all things for good for us who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose. We can also show love and do good to those who persecute us, and who wrongfully oppose us, in addition to forgiving them. And, we can keep pressing on in doing what God has called us to do, despite all opposition, knowing that the true test of God’s working through our lives is witnessed through lives which have been impacted for Christ because we were faithful to the task in sharing with them the truths of God’s word.
Yet, we must always be willing to have what we teach tested against the Word of God, for not one of us has arrived, nor do we know everything. I learn much from others when I am challenged in my faith, and/or when others share with me their understanding of a particular passage of scripture. I am continually learning and growing in my understanding of what God’s word teaches, and I am frequently encouraged when I listen to or read how others are growing in their faith, and when they share with me what God is teaching them. So, we should not ever fear being tested.
Of the Spirit (vv. 4-11)
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
Amen! Our confidence, though, should not be in ourselves or in our own accomplishments, but in Christ Jesus, our Lord, and in what he is able to do and has done through us – all for the glory of God. Our Lord is the one who has called us to his service, so he is the one to equip and train us for the ministry, as well as to empower and strengthen us in whatever he has us doing. Filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit, we are able to do far above and beyond anything we could ever accomplish in our own flesh, for only the Spirit of God can move human hearts to turn away from sin and to God, to follow Christ and his ways.
Now, have you ever read the books of the Old Testament and thanked God that you were born in the time of the New Covenant, and not during the time of the Old Covenant? I have. Why? Because, under the Old Covenant they had so many rules, regulations, rituals and ceremonies they had to follow, and to the letter of the law, too. Judgment was often immediate, too, with no grace – no second chances. So much was just black and white, and often seemed to be so harsh and cruel, at times. Today we call this legalism when a group of Christians add to God’s grace what God did not intend, and they put harsh and strict man-made regulations as burdens on the people.
But, that is not the way of the Spirit. The Spirit gives freedom, not bondage, but not freedom to continue in sin, for the one who keeps on sinning is still in bondage (slavery) and is not truly free. This is important that we get this, because many people today are falsely calling some aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ “legalism,” because they want to keep on sinning. Yet, Jesus did not free us from his moral laws, but he did define them as the law of love. If we truly love one another, we won’t do what is harmful to each other. So, we won’t lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, fornication, gossip, and the like. The same is true of our relationship with God. If we truly love God, we will do what he says. If we don’t, we don’t know or love him, scripture says.
There is Liberty (vv. 12-18)
Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 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.
There are people today, even within the gatherings of the church, who feel that they can earn their own salvation through good works of their flesh or that they, in addition to God’s grace, must follow a set of man-made rules and rituals in order to be accepted by God. Sometimes this is because they want to still have control over their own lives, and thus this puts them in the driver’s seat, thinking they will be approved by God because of their sacrifices or rituals or good deeds, despite continued moral failures and an unwillingness to yield control of their lives over to the Lord. God/Jesus Christ said about this kind of attitude and behavior: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9 ESV).
So, to combat this type of belief, there are also those within the gatherings of the church who have gone to the opposite extreme, but truly both ends of the spectrum are still man-made religion and lack true love and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of adding to God’s grace, as the legalists do, they take away from God’s grace what they don’t like, and say they are removing “legalism” when, in fact, what they are removing is the essence of the gospel of our salvation, the reason for which Jesus gave his life up for us, and what God’s grace is really all about. So, their eyes are just as blinded (veiled) to the truth as those they accuse of being the legalists, because neither end submits to Jesus Christ as their Lord, and neither walks in the freedom of God’s grace, for they are still following after the flesh, believing that God approves of them as they are or solely for what they do.
The truth, nonetheless, lies somewhere in between these two extremes and opposing ends. The truth is that Jesus Christ died on that cross, not just to free us from the punishment of sin and to promise us heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. His grace is not liberty to continue in the practice of sin, nor is it liberty to add on human regulations to God’s grace. His grace, though, does instruct us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. And, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk (conduct our lives), not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh (sinful practices or flesh works), we will die in our sins, not live with Christ for eternity. For, the gospel message frees the captives. It doesn’t pacify them in their prisons.
The Lord’s Anointed / An Original Work / December 16, 2011
Based off Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Sov’reign Lord on me;
Anointed to preach the Good News;
Sent me to bind up the brokenhearted;
Proclaim freedom for the captives.
He sent me to preach release for pris’ners
Who are walking in sin’s darkness;
Proclaim God’s grace to all men who’ll listen;
And tell them about God’s judgments;
Comfort all who mourn;
Give crowns of beauty;
Oil of gladness and thanksgiving.
They will be called oaks of God’s righteousness,
A planting of our Savior, God,
For the display of our Lord’s splendor, and
They will rebuild God’s holy church.
God will renew them, and will restore them,
And you’ll be called priests of the Lord.
You will be ministers of our God, and
You will rejoice in salvation.
The Lord loves justice;
He is faithful to
Reward those who are seeking Him.
I delight greatly in the Lord;
My soul rejoices in my Savior, God.
He has clothed me with His salvation,
And in a robe of His righteousness.
He has given me priestly garments to wear,
As the bride of Jesus Christ.
As the garden of our Lord and Savior,
He causes us to grow in Him.
He makes righteousness,
Praise, and thanksgiving
Spring up before all the nations.