Sermon January 1, 2012: Reflecting the glory of God

Posted in Sermons
[Gregory Bishop]
  • Presenter: Gregory Bishop
  • Date: January 1, 2012
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

I invite you to open up your bibles to Second Corinthians chapter 3. How many people like to make New Year resolutions? How many people keep their New Year resolutions? I am a big fan of New Year resolutions. I think it’s a good discipline to take time to look at our lives and to evaluate how am I doing, how can I grow and change. It’s good thing now, I believe it’s good not to just do it once a year, but regularly.

I have a friend who takes the first Monday morning of every month to evaluate his life and himself and to see how he’s doing. So, I’m a big fan of healthy introspection and self evaluation. But there is a slight problem if we rely on our own resolutions.

Anyone who works in a gymnasium know that January is a busy month. The place is packed with people and they’re busy for a month, but by Valentine’s Day, everything is back to normal. Because all those resolutions don’t always follow through into a change of lifestyle.

The biblical concept is not so much a resolution as much as it is a revolution. Not so much by our own willpower, but by God’s Holy Spirit power. So, read with me in Second Corinthians chapter 3 and it says, starting in verse 1:

“…Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need like some people letters of recommendation to you, from you? you yourselves are our letter written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you’re a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence as this is ours, through Christ before God, not that we’re accompanied in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the spirit for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. Now, if the ministry that brought death which was engraved in letters on stone came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns man is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness. For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts…”

You notice the word being repeated a lot, by the way? The word glory. Verse 12.

“…Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it, while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remain with then old covenant is read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone 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 freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces behold the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit…”

So, all of that was out there in Spanish. I’m just going to read that last verse in Spanish. Father, I thank you for the reality of this promise of freedom, of transformation in the power of the Holy Spirit. I thank you God for your amazing project of shining your glory through the lights of us. Father, what an awesome thought. And I pray that it will be more than a thought for us today, but that you would inspire faith, that you are able to work a revolution in our hearts, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

There is a particular word used in verse 18, and it’s really and amazing verse if you think about it. It says that we hare beholding the glory of God with unveiled faces. The comparison is to Moses who saw the shekina, the dwelling glory of God when he was on top of Mount Sinai, and the glory stuck to him. It was contagious and it was so majestic that the people of Israel were afraid to look at him, so he veiled his face.

And God says, that was the old covenant, the new covenant is a thousand times better and the glory is even greater than the old. And when we turn our lives to the Lord there is a veil that is taken away.

Have you experienced that? That when you turn your heart to Jesus and you believe in him and you confess your sins and you receive Jesus in your heart, it’s as if a veil is removed from your eyes. Like the hymn says, amazing grace how sweet the sound, and at the end it says, I was blind but now I see.

I remember when I was 16 and I accepted Jesus in my heart, going outside and wondering who turned the colors up to be more intense outside. Why was the world in Hd all of a sudden. Why was the Bible in 3 D all of a sudden? Why was it when I was at church and I’d hear songs that before I just thought it was kind of weird, that after turning to the Lord those same songs brought tears to my eyes?

It’s because a veil is taken away. And the Bible says that then we behold the glory of the Lord, and if you look at verse 18, it says, as in a mirror, in the Spanish it doesn’t say that in the NIV, it should, but in the Spanish and all the other translations, it says, we behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror.

Now, for us looking in a mirror means we look at something that reflects our image back to us, right? And it’s usually pretty clear. But in this time a mirror was a fuzzy piece of metal that gave a fuzzy image. That’s why it says in First Corinthians 13, we see through a glass darkly, we see in a mirror in a hazy way, but when we’re in heaven we’ll see face to face.

The point is, when the veil is removed we see the glory of God but it’s fuzzy, it’s not perfectly clear. But what we see transforms us. What we see sticks to us. That’s why people even look different after a good worship time. There is just something about the glory of God that as people open up their hearts and the spirit of the Lord comes on them, there is freedom and there is something that the Bible calls metamorphosis.

It says, we are being transformed metamorphumae or something like that, it’s the Greek metamorphumae. Just because metamorphosis is such a cool word, isn’t it? it’s the Bible word. You see, metamorphosis isn’t just making a slight change to something, it’s a radical transformation, it’s a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. That’s transformation that God is talking about.

All too often we think of our Christian growth as making resolutions to improve ourselves by our own efforts, where as God wants to revolutionize our lives by his power. The Bible says, if any one is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. A revolution; where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

So, I want to talk about revolutionary transformation in this year. And the first thing I would say is that a revolution brings a transformation, a full holistic change to a society. It’s not about changing a law or two, it’s about taking that statue of Sadam Hussein or Lenin, or the previous dictator, whoever it was, and knocking it down. It’s about taking the old constitution and burning it, it’s about a complete change of government, a new ruler, new laws, a new constitution.

Now, all too often, human revolutions do not end nicely. But God’s revolution works in our lives. It’s not a mild adjustment, but it’s a whole radical metamorphosis of who we are as people. It’s about freedom.

I have a friend who I got to know when I was in Puerto Rico and he was raised in a neighboring island, led by a very strong ruler with a big beard. Let’s just say, my buddy did not appreciate the rule of dictator. This friend of mine was more gringo than I was in all kinds of ways. I’ll never forget the day he got his credit card, it was as if he had a baby, [inaudible] capitalism is…and I said to my friend, “Gosh, you’ve got to be careful, a credit card can kind of get you into a lot of problems if you’re not careful.” And he told me something profound, he said, “You know, Greg, I could use this card to ruin my life, but it needs to be a decision that I make.”

And I realized that there was something much bigger than a credit card in this. It’s the concept of being free. Human beings aren’t meant to be in slaved, they are not meant to be put in a box, and when people are trapped or in slaved, there’s something in them that longs to be free. And that’s where revolutions come from.

The Bible says that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. We’re trapped in our sins, we think we’re doing what we want to do, but we’re really doing what sin tells us to do. The devil is in charge, not us.

But the Bible says whenever anyone is in the presence of the spirit of God there is freedom, because being free doesn’t mean not having a ruler, it means having the right ruler. It means having a king who sets you free. It means having the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, it means having the God who made you be in charge of your life.

The Bible says, if the Son sets you free you will free indeed. There is nothing like that freedom. And you have to taste it, you have to feel like I used to feel trapped and now I can breathe. I see people at the altar on their knees, raising their hands, people who before were trapped in a mess of inferiority complexes, who now dance in the presence of God, because they are free and it feels good.

It’s not that I’m in charge of my life, God is in charge of my life and I can breathe the air that he’s given me. Praise God. It means, a full change of my belief system, of my personal constitution, it means not just tweaking my previous belief system, it means burning it.

You know, as a new believer, 16 years old, I tried something, I wrote down one day all the sins I could think of that I committed. It took a long time. One thing led to another, then to another, oh my God, then I locked the door of the bathroom and I took some matches and I had a little bond fire right there in the bathroom, I set it on fire. My parents were outside the door saying, “Hey, what are you doing in there?” I said, “I’m just burning my sins, dad.” “We’re calling the child psychologist.”

I have another friend who has shared his testimony publicly, that he had a very elaborate belief system of atheism. He knew there was no God and he had his whole philosophy to prove it. And he had a physical experience with the presence of God. I mean a visible experience, he saw a cloud pass through him and he felt the sensation of that cloud move through him, and in the middle of the cloud, this thought came to him: everything I have believed up to now is complete hogwash, only that wasn’t the word, it was a different word. It won’t be spoken from this pulpit.

That’s the kind of revolution God wants to do. You see, there are some religions that want to just add Jesus to their pantheons, to their list of Gods. They want to tag God on to their life like a mascot God or a good luck charm. And God says, I am not your good luck charm, I’m not your mascot, I’m not your pet. I am your King and you can’t be free until you know me as your King. It means taking your old system of belief centered on yourself, and using it for firewood. Amen.

Christian changes men to be radical in nature. God is not in the business of improving people, but of transforming people. And again, I put in a good plug for good resolutions and good self help and that’s all good and fine, but God doesn’t want to better you, God wants a new you, be a new person in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone the new has come.

God changes names and he’s been doing throughout the Bible. What did he say to Abram? He said, up to now you’ve been called Abram but from now on you’ll called Abraham, Father of many nations. To his wife, no longer will you be called Sarai, you will be Sarah. You’re not going to be Jacob anymore, you’re going to be Israel, the one who struggles with God. Not Joseb, but Joshua, God saves. You’re no longer going to be called Simon Peter, Simon, you will be called Peter. And on this rock I will build my church. You’re no longer Saul but Paul.

You have a new name. in Jesus you’re a new person, you have a new identity, a new reason for living and God can do that change in our lives.

I’ll ask you to turn with me to Romans, chapter 6 and it’s a text about baptism. How many people have been baptized? If you haven’t this is your year. What we do here is we open up the wood, and there is a tub down here and people step down and they get dumped in a tub and they get really wet. And they have to kind of let go and let somebody hold them as they get dumped under the water, it’s kind of scary. They come up soaking wet and go into the other room where there people waiting with a towel. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

Why do we dump people? What’s the symbolism of baptism? Often we talk about it as a cleansing, right? I had one mother that asked me to keep her daughter down a good long time. She said, hecha cloro, hecha. She needs a good bath.

There is a rich history of purification in the Old Testament, of ceremonial cleansing, and what not, so that’s a part of the symbolism of baptism. But look at what the meaning is according to Romans, chapter 6, it says:

“…What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so the grace may abound? By no means we who died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him, through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, ─there’s that word again, ─ we too may lead a new life.

The symbolism, more than anything else is your burial, your physical burial if you are a believer, would be the second time you died and were buried. No, when the real thing comes and it’s time for the burial and you’re in the ground, that’s the second time. The first time is when you’re baptized.

I have one other story, I have no idea if it’s true or not, but I love the story, of a guy who after he was baptized came upon the shore of a lake and took a big rock and did a shot put and threw that rock into the water, and when it landed it water, they said, why did you just do that? And he said, that’s the tomb stone. Because I’m dead, and I’m a new person.

Baptism is being buried with Jesus, being joined to his death so that we can be joined to his resurrection. It’s something revolutionary in nature. The old you is gone, the old you is dead, there is a new you, there is a new person.

But how many of us know that that dead old man, the old Greg, the old Omar, even though theologically, spiritually that one has been crucified and is buried, that that old man doesn’t give up easy. Within me there is the spirit of God but there is also, what the Bible calls, the flesh or the sinful human nature. And that’s where we enter into a process of change as Christians.

This revolution doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process. But God calls us to have revolutionary passion for personal change. Revolutionaries are impatient by nature, there’s an urgency about the change that they want. They are bunch of people who get together, who write a document called the declaration of independence and they mail it to the king.

You know, when they initially did that in Philadelphia, the declaration of independence, I don’t remember who it was, it was either Thomas Jefferson or probably John Adams, who said, well, congratulations, brothers, we just signed our death warrant. See you in the gallop, brothers, where they get hanged.

That was the mentality they had, there was a violent urgency, there was, I’m not going to settle for partial change, we want a complete overhaul of the current system. It requires a certain type of intensity and even anger at the way things are. It means you’re sick of it, you will not take it any more. Like Rose Park who was sitting down in a bus at the end of a long work day, an African American woman and a white young man gets on the bus and the bus driver says, Madam, you need, ─ I’m sure he didn’t say, madam, but he says, ─ Lady, you need to get up because we have a white man here who needs to sit in your seat. And that was the law, she had to get up and stand and give her seat to this white man. And she just quietly said, no, thank you, she said, no, I’m tired I’m going to stay sitting right now. And then like, Lady, you’re going to get up and you’re going to get arrested. And she said, well, then you will have to arrest me because I’m tired of a long day of work and I’m tired of this unfair law. That revolutionary urgency for change was the spark that started the whole movement.

Jesus uses revolutionary language when he talks about the attitude we should have towards sin. I believe that means sin in society as a whole but also sin in our own lives. Jesus said, if your right eye causes you to sin, rip it out and throw it away. Better go to heaven with one eye than to go to hell with both.

If a preacher came here to preach that from this pulpit, what would we do? Wouldn’t we think, how gosh, that was a little out of line. Guess what Jesus said next, just in case you weren’t offended already, he says, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you. Better to go to heaven with one hand than to go to hell with both.

Now, before anyone does anything crazy out there, we believe that Jesus was using a exaggerating language, hyperbolic, but if he wasn’t trying to shock he wouldn’t have talked that way.

Do we hate sin that much? Are we desperate for change? Saying, God I am tired, I want a new life, I want to be different, I want to be more like Jesus. Like Peter, who after Jesus did the miraculous catch of fish, he came up and fell on his face before Jesus and said, go away from me, I am a sinful man. It’s about being done with peaceful coexistence with your sin.

No treaties, no agreements, in the name of Jesus we declare independence. I am a new creation in Christ. I have a new heart, I have a new spirit and I can live a new life. We declare independence.

The Bible says, that God says, I will take out your heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh. Have you had that experience? Well, before you were hard and now you find yourself soft to God. God doesn’t want to just adjust your heart, God wants to give you a brand new one.

What is the state of your heart? Has it been beaten up a little bit? Maybe marked and scarred up a little bit? Or maybe your heart has developed calluses over it, sort of like the hands of a worker, or the fingertips of a guitarist, so it doesn’t feel any more.

I know people who say that they haven’t cried in years, that they don’t even remember how to cry. People whose mo is I need to look out for myself because no one else will. God says, I’m ready to give you a new heart, a heart of a child, if you will let me, where the spirit of the Lord there is freedom.

But it’s not about our own resolutions and human efforts. Have you tried to break a really tuff habit? Have you tried to quit smoking or lose weight, stop gossiping, have you ever tried that one? Isn’t it a little hard?

Look what happens to the Apostle Paul when he tries to change by his own efforts. In Romans chapter 7, if you have your Bible, the Apostle Paul for a while tried to change himself and he says in verse 14;

“… We know that the law is spiritual but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. And if I do what I do not want to do I agree that the law is good, as it is, it is no longer I myself who do it but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me that is my flesh, my sinful nature for I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Now, if I do what I do not want to do, there’s no longer I who do it but it is sin living in me who does it…”

I read it like that because the point is the text is meant to be kind of spinning in a circle. Praise God there hasn’t been snow yet this year, but when there is snow and ice, and you’ve got your car stuck on some ice, hasn’t that happened? so, what do you do? You hit the gas, right? And what happens to the wheels? Does the car move? So, what do you do? You hit the gas harder, maybe if I hit it harder it’ll work, right? and it spins, and it spins, and what happens to you? You’re stuck.

That’s what happens when we try to change ourselves. In the time of the New Testament, there was a tremendous self help movement called the Jewdizers. So they would come to new believers who were all happy and what was it like when you were a new believer? They would find new believers and new churches. What is it like when you’re brand new? You’re having your honeymoon with Jesus.

People in school thought I was drunk. Greg, what are you on? I’m like God. My parents wanted to send me to the child psychologist. There’s something wrong with my son. So, these jewdizers would find new believers with all their freshness and joy and happiness. They would come and say, okay, party is over, kids. It’s time to get to work. time to become Jewish. Got to get circumcised, got to obey the kosher law, and so they had a list of laws for everybody to follow.

The Apostle Paul said to the Galatians, it was one church that came under the influence of these Jewdizers. And he says, what’s happened to all your joy? You know you’re trying to be a Christian without Christ when you lose your job, when you’re trying so hard to obey a bunch of rules and suddenly your Christianity becomes work and not a relationship with God.

The Bible promises another way. In Romans chapter 8, in verse 1 it says:

“…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

The thing is we try to change to become better so that God loves us more. God says, I can’t love you any more than I already do. When you change and grow and are different and much more mature, I will love you exactly the same as I loved when you were at your worst. Jesus did it all for you.

I’ll never forget, as a 16 year old, who had been a Christian for a while, all happy, and they I stopped being so happy, after about a year, and I started feeling depressed because I felt, I got to change, I got to become better. I was a pretty intense kid.

But one I remember, I was working in a summer job, and the boss actually sent me home, he said, what’s wrong with you? Just go home and… And I’m fasting and praying and it’s almost as if I had a vision of Jesus on the cross and I felt the Lord say, I love you. And all I could say is, I don’t deserve it.

That’s the point. We don’t deserve the love of God. We don’t change ourselves. There is a medicine that changes the human heart. It’s called the blood of Jesus. It’s Jesus who took the penalty of sin for us and from that moment that you believe in Jesus you are forgiven. Your sins are thrown as far as the East is from the West. But the old you is still there.

So God gives you something to transform you. is it a list of rules? Is it a book about how to improve yourself? No, he gives you a revolutionary power called the Holy Spirit. Just recently, my life has been revolutionized because my father gave me a Gps. No more trying to figure out how to get somewhere with maps, I just plug in a destination and it tells me where to turn, every step of the way.

With the Holy Spirit in our hearts is a divine Gps. It is something inside you that just shows you the way to go. It’s why Jesus called the paraclete, the counselor, the one who goes with you to show you what to do. Did you have this happen as a new believer? You went to old places where you used to go to do things you used to do, and something in you said, no. no one had to tell you, no one had to give you a list of rules, something in you was sad and not because you felt guilty, a little guilt can be helpful, because you were disappointing a person you love. There’s something in you that changes.

Somebody provokes you, they say something to you that normally would have caused you to tell them two or three things. What’s wrong with me? I’m not chopping their head off. I’m changing, there’s a new spirit in me.

The Bible says, those who live according to a sinful nature have their mind set on what this sinful nature desires, but those who live according with the spirit have their minds on what the spirit desires. There is an internal Gps that will change you.

I want to use a little illustration that I’ve used in English ministry a couple of times and you’ll have to forgive me, it’s one of my favorite stories. The story of a wife who had a mean oppressive husband and he would be mean to her and rude and even abusive. And he had a list of rules of things she had to do, she had to clean in certain ways, and cook in certain ways, and a whole list of rules for her. She was more like a slave, she worked and worked and worked, trying to make him happy, but it was never good enough. Finally he died, and she said, no, more marriage, no more men, I’m just fine, better alone than mal acompañado.

But then, some nice guy came along and he won love, and finally, finally, she said, okay, I’ll take another chance, I’ll marry the guy. And he was so good to her, so loving and so kind and she loved nothing more than to make him. And one day for his birthday she decided, I’m going to clean the house and make everything perfect, and I’m cook a perfect dinner and I’m going to put up candles and everything is going to be perfect for him, and she’s cleaning behind the couch and she finds one of those old lists that she used to have to follow to make her previous husband happy. And she wept to realize that she was doing everything on that list and even more, because she loved him, and she was happy, and she was joyful.

That is Holy Spirit born righteousness in our lives. We have a new husband, his name is Jesus. He loved us even when we were sinners. He cleansed us by his blood, he gave us his Holy Spirit and we are revolutionized by that spirit.

God has a project in your life. He wants to make you just like Jesus. As you behold the glory of the Lord in worship, in the word, in the fellowship of Christians, he wants us to be transformed so we reflect the glory we’re seeing in Jesus.

And I want to close with a verse in Romans 8:28 that says:

“…And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose, and for those he knew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…”

God is able to take everything, the good times and the bad times, even our own failures and use them to form us to be people who look more like Jesus. May we be people who reflect the glory of the Lord, because the spirit of God is flowing in us.

The Bible never precisely defines the spirit, but provides images for us to understand who he is. The spirit is like living water that flow through us. The spirit is like fire that burns and purges us like gold and leaves us like refined metal. The spirit is like a dove that rests on us and gives us peace when we used to be anxious.

The Holy Spirit transforms us. I challenge you in this year, 2012, to see to it that you will tap into that living water, that you be touched by that fire, that Lion of Judah will be a place that when people are here they smell the presence of Jesus, that when people meet you they see there’s something different about that person, there’s something that feels like Jesus around him, there’s a look in their eyes, there’s a tone in their voice, and it’s Jesus shining through them. That’s our goal for 2012.

Let’s punch that into the Gps, let’s just put more like Jesus into our Gps, let’s put I want to love with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, and I want to love my neighbor as myself. And then you just let it go. Plug into that power of the spirit, and you watch what happens. Because where the presence of the Lord is, there is freedom. Amen.

Presentation delivered by Gregory Bishop January 1, 2012 at Congregación León de Judá Oir | Ver (100K) | Ver (400K) |

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