The Spirit Gives Us a New Heart
July 28, 2019 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: With Us: Enjoying God's Presence through the Spirit
Passage: 2 Corinthians 3:1–4:6
The Spirit gives us a new heart to behold the beauty, worth, and majesty of God in Jesus.
We are asked to make changes every day. If you go to work, people ask you to make changes both big and small. If you are married, your spouse asks you to make changes. Sometimes it’s something small like loading the dishwasher a different way or something big like changing how you deal with stress from work. If you have kids or parents or siblings, they all ask you to make changes. If you watch TV or listen to the radio, you hear ads trying to sell you products to change how you work out or brush your teeth or cook your food.
If you are a follower of Jesus, change is a big part of life. Our mission as a church calls us to a life of change and transformation: surrendering all of life to Jesus and inviting others to do the same. One part is seeking change in our lives and the other is seeking change in the lives of others.
If you are like me, you can be discouraged in either aspect. When it comes to inviting other believers to surrender more of their life to Jesus, it can be discouraging. When I’m trying to help others grow, I can become discouraged at the slowness of growth or that I give guidance and it isn’t followed. I can feel insecure about whether I really have what it takes to help them. Maybe I don’t know enough or have the right skills. As I try to invite people who don’t yet believe to trust in Jesus, it can be discouraging if people aren’t interested and don’t respond in faith. In either case, I’m not seeing the change I would like to see.
But I can also become discouraged about my own transformation and growth. I can be stuck in a rut or a pattern of sin that I just keep falling into. I don’t seem to change quickly or at all. I keep doing the same thing over and over that I know is wrong and hurtful to others.
We have all tried to help others change and we have all tried to change ourselves. If you are a follower of Jesus, I’m sure that you have tried to help grow in their relationship with God. You’ve talked to someone who is struggling with something and you have tried to help them. You’ve done a Bible study with someone. You’ve met with someone for coffee or lunch to help them. You’ve been a leader of something. If you have a relationship with God, you want others to have it too so you have told other people about Jesus and invited them to trust in him. In all of it, you wanted to help people change and we can become discouraged when change doesn’t happen or when our efforts are rejected.
Or perhaps when you look at yourself you are frustrated and discouraged by the lack of change and transformation in your own life. You feel stuck. Whether we are discouraged with our own growth and change or other people’s, we can start to wonder: “Is this whole Jesus thing really worth it? Maybe it’s not even true at all.”
As we continue this series on the Holy Spirit, my hope is that we would grow to enjoy God’s presence with us through the Holy Spirit by becoming more aware of and available and attentive to the Spirit’s work in our lives.
God invites us to a process of change that will last a lifetime. When you read the Bible, you hear God calling you to change. If you go to a church service, you hear a sermon that calls you to change. Believers in Jesus are called to live a new life following him.
The apostle Paul gave his life to seeing transformation in others. He gave his life to seeing people come closer to God. In this passage he says that he does that by proclaiming Jesus as Lord and in another passage he says he proclaims Jesus Christ so he can present everyone mature. He wants people to enter a relationship with God and he wants people to grow in their relationship with God and he does that by telling people the good news about Jesus.
But everywhere Paul goes and tells people about Jesus, he experiences opposition and resistance and sometimes outright hatred and violence against him. He’s been rejected by his own Jewish people, he’s been stoned, and he’s been thrown out of cities. This is how people have reacted when he has invited people who don’t believe to surrender their life to Jesus.
The people who have entered a relationship with God that he is trying to help grow also give him trouble. Sometimes they badmouth him, sometimes they stop liking him, and sometimes they start following other people.
Paul has every reason to feel discouraged about what he is doing to help people change. But in this passage, Paul says that despite these things he is confident, bold, and hasn’t lost heart. Why is that? As he tries to help people enter a relationship with God and grow in their relationship with God, why doesn’t he lose heart? In this passage, he gives three different reasons. Today, as we learn more about the Holy Spirit, we are going to focus on the third one. In that answer, Paul tells us what makes someone believe for the first time and what causes someone to continue to grow once they’ve entered relationship with God. The key is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s begin in 2 Corinthians chapter 3 by covering the first two reasons Paul gives for why he doesn’t lose heart even though he’s experienced a lot of hardship and rejection. First, what keeps Paul confident even when others reject him and question him? In verses 1-6 he tells us that he’s confident because he has seen the Spirit at work through him and in him. When people reject him or question his credibility, he doesn’t feel insecure with a need to prove himself because he has seen the Spirit transform lives already. His own life was transformed by the Spirit of God who made him sufficient for the work he is doing and he has seen God transform the lives of others.
That’s the first reason he isn’t discouraged in his ministry: he has seen and experienced God’s transforming power. The second reason is in verses 7 through 12. If you have people reacting negatively to you a lot and rejecting your message, you might get to a place where you are afraid to talk about it. One too many harsh reactions to talking about Jesus and you may start to wonder, “Maybe this whole Jesus thing isn’t as good as I thought.” So you might become insecure and afraid. Paul says that isn’t the case for him. He remains bold. Why? Because the good news is so good.
In verse 6, Paul mentions the “new covenant” and in verses 7 through 11 he shows how the new covenant is better than the old covenant. A “covenant” defines how people relate to one another. It isn’t a word we use much, but the most likely place to hear it is at a wedding when two people make a “covenant of marriage.” And marriage is a good way to understand God’s covenant with his people.
When I marry two people, I am the mediator of a covenant they are forming between one another. I ask them, “Do you take this woman to be your wife? Do you take this man to be your husband” Then they repeat their vows after me, which are promises to one another that define the relationship.
The old covenant between God and his people was formed at Mount Sinai when God rescued the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. If you think about this event like a wedding, then a man named Moses was the officiant. In this covenant, God declared his commitment to them and asked for them to commit to him so he could be their God and they could be his people.
The most famous part of this covenant is the ten commandments, which were written on a table of stone. The old covenant is often called “the law” in the New Testament. The law told the people how to be in a relationship with God. They weren’t to earn God’s love or his salvation. He had already saved them from slavery in Egypt and had chosen to love you and set my affection with you. And grace and forgiveness were built into the covenant. God knew the people would fail and sin and be unfaithful, so he told them how to be forgiven when that happened. The law showed them what it means to be in a relationship with God.
But as good and holy and righteous and glorious as this covenant was, the problem was that it was written on tablets of stone that were outside of them. It’s not that the law was bad or that it didn’t do what it was supposed to do or that it didn’t come from God. The problem was that it could do nothing to change the people. It was outside of them. It couldn’t transform them into the type of people who love God with their whole hearts and who worship him and follow him. It could tell them what to do, but it could do nothing to change them. Because of this, it could only show them how they fell short and condemn them. And when obeying the law was put above trusting in God’s grace, it would lead to death.
Paul says that the old covenant was glorious, but an even more glorious covenant has come. As the mediator of the old covenant - the officiant of the wedding - Moses gave us the law. But as the mediator of the new covenant, Jesus has given us the Spirit. The old covenant pointed forward to Jesus and now he has come. And now we have a relationship with God that transforms us from the inside out. All the glory and goodness and holiness and righteousness of the old covenant written on those tablets of stones is now put inside us by the Spirit. And this covenant is permanent, unlike the old covenant.
Paul knows that he has awesome news to share. He has news of a relationship with God that will change your life. It will transform you. So even though some people reject his message, he is still bold because he knows the news about Jesus and the Spirit is so good. Paul knows he is inviting people into an amazing relationship with God.
But here’s the problem: If the good news is so good why don’t people believe it? If you have this amazing news that has changed your life and you are so excited about, isn’t it discouraging for people to reject it and respond so negatively and hateful to it? We might want to ask, “What keeps you going, Paul, when you aren’t see people respond with trust in Jesus? What keeps you from losing heart and just quitting?”
This brings us to our big idea for today. Paul knows this truth: The Spirit gives us a new heart to behold the beauty, worth, and majesty of God in Jesus.
Paul knows it isn’t up to him. Paul knows that it doesn’t matter how good the good news is, the only one who can make someone see it as good is the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, there is a veil that lies over our minds and our hearts that keeps us from seeing the glory of what God is inviting us into. This is what he explains in verses 12 through 18. Look with me at verse 12:
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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. (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
Paul here brings up an event right after the old covenant was made. The people said they would commit to God, but before the ink was even dry on the marriage certificate, they broke their commitment so Moses broke the tablets of stone. Then he went back up Mount Sinai to ask God to forgive the people and new stone tablets were made. When Moses came down from talking with God, his face was shining from being in God’s presence. The glory of God was radiating from his face so he covered his face with a veil. And Paul says he covered his face so the people wouldn’t watch the glory fade.
This he uses as a metaphor. Still do this day, he says, when people read the old covenant - the law - a veil reminds over it. Their minds are hardened. A veil lies over their hearts. They don’t see what it points to. They don’t see it points to Jesus. They don’t come to the one who can give them life and righteousness and true transformation. They can’t see the glory of Jesus as the one who brings us into a better relationship with God than Moses.
But, he says, when someone turns to the Lord, when someone turns to Jesus, the veil is removed and now they can see Jesus as the mediator of a more glorious covenant - as the one who brings us into a better relationship with God. Jesus is present through the Spirit who brings freedom by removing the veil.
In verse 18, he tells us what causes change, growth, and transformation in our lives:
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. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The Spirit removes the veil so that we can behold the glory of the Lord - the glory of Jesus. And as we do that, we are transformed into the same image as Jesus.
“Glory” is a hard thing to define but you know it when you see it. When you see something beautiful, you might feel that it is glorious. When you meet someone valuable and important, you might feel that they have glory. When you see a majestic mountain, you might say it is glorious. The glory of Jesus is the shining forth of his beauty, worthy, and majesty. The Spirit gives us a new heart to behold the beauty, worth, and majesty of God in Jesus.
You are held captive by what you find captivating. We live for what we find captivating. And we find ourselves in ruts of sin and selfishness because we find it more captivating than God. That way God frees us from the habits, patterns, and ruts of sin we are stuck in is by showing us something more captivating. He gives us a new heart to behold the beauty, worth, and majesty of God in Jesus so that we embrace him as Lord - so that we surrender more of our lives to him.
The key to growth is not to try harder, although effort is required. The key is to be held captive by something new. The root of all change and transformation is to behold the beauty, worth, and majesty of God. The more we see who God really is, the more sin will decrease and the more Christlikeness will increase.
But this is the work of the Spirit who gives us a new heart to behold God’s glory. And Paul knows this. That’s why he doesn’t lose heart when people don’t believe when he shares the gospel. Look with me at chapter 4 verse 1.
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For 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 Corinthians 4:1-6)
People who don’t believe the gospel are held captive. The gospel of the glory of Christ is veiled to them. The god of this world, Satan, has blinded their minds. They are held captive in unbelief. They are held captive to a false view of God, believing God isn’t as good as he says he is. We are held captive by what captivates us. And those who don’t believe aren’t captivated by God because the truth about him is veiled.
So Paul proclaims Jesus as Lord, spreading the good news of the glory of Christ, but he does not lose heart when people don’t believe because he knows that only the Spirit can make someone behold the glory of Jesus.
But what about those who do believe? He says in verse 6 that God has shined a light into their hearts - the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I could describe Jesus to you all day with words. I could even put a project up with a picture of the cross on it and describe it to you in detail. But to have that same image shined into your heart is different. You feel it. It’s inside you. It’s with you all the time.
Paul knows better than anyone that God needs to do something radical to get us to believe. Paul hated Christians and was trying to kill them but then God knocked him on his butt and blinded him with his glory so he’d believe. Paul knows how hard it is to get someone to believe because he was once as harden and blind as anyone.
Have you ever thought about the fact that we follow a religion whose key leader died a horrible, shameful death, that we are fixated on that death and talk about it all the time, and the most recognizable symbol of our religion is the instrument of torture he died on? That is offensive and foolish. So why do we focus on it?
You can see glory in God’s creation. If you get outside the city limits where there is less light pollution you can stand in awe and wonder at the stars in the night sky. Seeing a huge mountain can leave you speechless. These are a reflection of the glory of God.
But that that is nothing compared to seeing Jesus on the cross - nothing compared to seeing Jesus’ face. The glory of God is seen more spectacularly and clearly in the face of Jesus because in Jesus’s death we see the love of God at its greatest intensity and depth.
Sin and selfishness will hold us captive as long as don’t see God for who he really is.
Think back to what we talked about at the beginning about feeling stuck and unable to grow. What is an area of your life where you feel discouraged about the level of change taking place? You feel stuck. You feel frustrated. You feel like giving up.
Imagine you had God’s phone number and you could text him about that thing you are struggling to change or overcome. Imagine you text him and say, “Hey God, I’ve failed again. I feel stuck. I can’t seem to get free of this.”
What’s the emoji he sends back to show what he thinks about you and how he feels about you in that moment?
Why is that the emoji he sent back? What’s it based on?
What do we see when we look in the face of Jesus? In the face of Jesus, we see what makes God so loveable, worthy of our trust, and deserving of our worship: he loves us beyond our wildest dreams not because of anything we have done but because that is who he is. Seeing that God’s beaming face of love toward us remains constant is what transforms us to be more like Jesus.
Take a moment to pray now, asking the Spirit to show you the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
The Spirit desires to change your relationship with God by showing you what he’s really like. One author says that the Spirit wins our hearts back to God. Asking the Spirit to show us the glory of God and to show us what he’s really like and what his attitude is toward us are the kinds of prayers God wants us to be praying. They are prayers according to God’s will. This is the reason we have been given the Spirit - to see God for who he truly is.
We are people with good news. There is immense privilege and confidence we can feel in doing the work of telling people God’s love for them and praying that the Spirit would shine light into the darkness they are sitting in that Satan had led them into.
We’ve learned that “wind” is a good metaphor for the Spirit and that we need to open up the windows of our life to let the Spirit blow in. The Spirit is also often associated with light and you need to open the shades of a window to let light in. When you are believing that God’s mood toward you is dark, ask the Spirit to open up the windows to let the light shine in.