Good morning. Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. This morning we’re beginning our new series entitled “Stories”. And we’re going to look at the importance of living authentically with each other, not just sharing our lives, but sharing our stories. And you know honestly, we all have stories, but many times we find that the truth is sometimes just so much easier to hide.
You know, if you’re involved in social media, you’re likely familiar with ‘selfies’. Others of you, maybe you don’t know, but ‘selfies’ is a new term for taking a picture of yourself. It’s a term which came about with cell phones with cameras. Maybe, if you’re part of my generation, you know, we don’t like to turn the camera on ourselves. That’s not something that we do. As a matter of fact, some of you may remember the worst day of the year was picture day at school. You know, you’re combing your hair, your parting it, you’re fluffing it, you’ve got the center part and your wings on the side. All for that one moment of anxiety, that one shot, one take. When they say, “1,2,3”, it didn’t matter if you are ready or not. But you know that one picture will define your entire sixth grade year, and maybe throughout history, because that picture is what you’ll be known for.
But today, we’ve got selfies, it’s a new thing, and things have changed in a big way. We’ve actually become a selfie obsessed culture. You might take a picture of yourself and then change the color, maybe soften it, or brighten it. Take away the redeye or clean up a zit. You can just edit it, filter your life, and show people what you want them to see. But you know, the more we do this with our lives, the more filtered we become, the more we show others the side we want them to see, the more difficult it is to be truly authentic with one another. Today culturally, we’ve become so accustomed to filtering the picture, editing the picture, and then you’ve got to have the perfect caption, right? You know it’s got to be clever, it’s gotta be right, and so we filter it. We do it all the time, we do it perfectly, and then we post it, we send it out there, so we can be affirmed by the rest of the world.
The problem is, that there are some negative consequences to this technology and as a result we’ve become unauthentic, because we’re starting to avoid and even fear unfiltered communication. We’ve become so accustomed to being able to edit what we say, to filter what we show, that if were not able to do that, many of us become very nervous in social settings. Today, we have a whole younger generation of which many have become uncomfortable carrying on a conversation that they can’t control.
You know, back in the day, when the phone rang guess what you did? You ran for the phone! You didn’t know who was on the other end, because we didn’t have caller ID, and so to find out who was calling you had to actually pick up the phone and talk. You didn’t know who it was going to be, you didn’t know what was going to be said, or what they might ask. We were forced to learn how to communicate. However today, you’ve got texts and voicemail, and so you don’t even have to talk, you can listen, you can edit, and you can stay in control. Many people in our culture today are so used to being in control of the conversation that to be out of control actually causes great anxiety. And the more filtered our lives are, the more difficult it is to be authentic, but you know honestly this isn’t just a modern-day problem, it’s been going on since the beginning of time.
As a matter of fact, you can go all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden, when they sinned, and the first thing they did was they covered up. They put fig leaves on, because they didn’t want God to see the real “me”. Today, we’re going to look at a story from the Old Testament in Exodus chapter 34 where Moses goes up onto the top of Mount Sinai to meet with God face-to-face. God descended on the mountain in a cloud and taught Moses about his purpose for his people. And for 40 days, Moses remained there in the presence of God, receiving instructions and commands for God’s people, before returning back to the Israelite camp. The interesting thing was, that when he returned, he wasn’t aware that there was a radiance or a glow on his face from being in the presence of God. The glory of God was all over his face and the Bible says that after Moses shared the Word of God with the people that he put a veil over his face.
Verse 34 tells us, “Whenever he entered the Lord's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord” (Exodus 34:34-35).
In the book of second Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes reference to this event as he talks about our relationship with God. He says that there are some who have a veil covering their hearts, that they can’t see the radiance of God in their lives, or understand the presence of God about them. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3…
“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 men 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!
“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 remains when the 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” (2 Corinthians 3:7-15).
Today I would like to talk to you about living “The Unveiled Life.” You see, if we’re going to discover God’s plan for our lives we need to understand that he wants us to see the radiance of his glory, but he also wants us to radiate his glory to the world around us. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We read in verse 12, “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses who put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.” Just as the old covenant was passing away, the glory was fading from Moses face, and so he put the veil on to keep them from seeing that the glory was fading. But you and I, we’re not like Moses, and so today I want to share with you three characteristics of “The Unveiled Life.”
Number one, we can have a boldness, a courage about us, because we’re not stumbling through life as if we’re attempting to follow a dimly lit path. You and I are making this journey in the ministry of the Holy Spirit and in the brilliance of God’s glory. We can see clearly now, because in Christ the veil has been lifted. Therefore, we can be bold, because our hope is not in this world, our hope is in the everlasting love of God.
Because of this and the ministry of the Spirit we can worship with boldness, seeking God’s will with courage, but the problem is that many of us are still wearing the veil and we’ve become very skilled at filtering our lives, showing other people the “me” that we want them to see. You see, by nature we tend to do this when we feel insecure, when we don’t feel good about ourselves, or when we sin, and so we tend to hide, put a veil on, and filter our lives. But here is the good news, as we embrace what Christ has done and receive his work on the cross for ourselves personally, only then, and only in him can the veil be taken away. We don’t have to be insecure and remain in bondage to the approval of people, because by the power and the grace of God we can be bold, but social media is not the place where you always remove the veil. You know, some things just shouldn’t be proclaimed all over the social media.
But in the confidence of our brothers and sisters in Christ we need to be bold, in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ we need to be bold, without being afraid of being affirmed or of how many likes we receive. God calls us to be real and if we’re not being real with anybody and vulnerable in the way that God wants us to be a veil of sorts continues to stay on.
When God spoke to Jeremiah he said, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you” (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
And in the same way we can be bold in the presence of God, bold as witnesses, because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We can trust in him as the book of Hebrews encourages us,
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
We can boldly approach God’s throne with confidence, because we have the freedom to do so by the ministry of the Spirit.
Verse 16 tells us, “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” (2 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Now there are some of you who’ve been turning to everyone and everything else for affirmation and you still don’t have it. But when you turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away, you don’t even have to reach out, because he does it for you, and suddenly you’re not getting your approval from their likes, but you’re getting your approval from God. The veil has been lifted and you recognize that you’re acceptable to God through Christ, and in Christ you’ve become the righteousness of God and his grace is sufficient for you.
You see, and this is so important, the moment we realize that Christ is all that we have, suddenly we realize that he is all we need. We don’t need approval from someone else, because we’ve got approval from him and living within us is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave. Our identity is not found in how many followers we have, but our identity is in who we’re following, and we’re following the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have no need of the veil. The veil can be taken away and there’s freedom.
In Galatians, Paul said it this way, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Now many non-Christians and many Christians too, think of the Christian life as a life of slavery and not freedom. They see being a Christian as following a list of do’s and don’ts and think that their lifestyle is free, because they make their own rules and do whatever they want, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. As a matter of fact, most non-Christians don’t do whatever they want, because they still have a conscience, they still have some sense of morality, but when they attempt to live a righteous life they quickly discovered that they can’t, because they don’t have that kind of power within them. They find themselves in the predicament that Paul describes in Romans…
“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).
When a non-Christian attempts to live a righteous life according to the Law they fail because they find that they’re enslaved to sin and can’t escape. On the other hand, when a Christian tries to live a righteous life according to the Law they fail too, but they have something the non-Christian doesn’t have: God’s grace is at work in their lives, God’s grace wipes the slate clean, God’s grace gives total and absolute forgiveness, God’s grace gives freedom.
You see, none of us, have the power within ourselves to live according to the law of God. We are all slaves to sin. We’re not free, we can’t escape its power, and as long as we fight it on our own, it will rule us, it will dominate us, and it will master us. But God in his mercy sent his son Jesus into the world to die on the cross for our sins and in him the law has been completely fulfilled. Through him we’ve been set free from the requirements of the law as Paul explained it in second Corinthians chapter 5,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When Jesus was on that cross, every sin that would ever be committed was dumped on him and he paid the price for every single one. Now through Jesus there’s a whole new set of standards for our relationship with God. We’re not judged by how well we keep the law, but by whether or not we live in Christ. We’ve been set free from the law of sin and death, in fact, those were the exact words Paul used in the letter to the Romans…
“…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
Now this doesn’t mean that we can sin without facing the consequences. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he made that point saying,
"Everything is permissible for me"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"-but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Christ has set us free. It’s no longer about trying to earn God’s favor by fulfilling the demands of the law, but it’s about receiving God’s favor through faith in his son Jesus Christ. We’re not free to sin but free to enjoy God in our lives, free to bask in his presence, free to worship him, free to live in the light of his love, free to approach his throne and bring our needs before him, free to discover his purpose and to fulfill his calling in our lives. We’ve been set free to experience freedom in his presence.
The very moment we recognize the freedom to approach God on the basis of his grace and not on our goodness the veil is lifted and we begin to experience… number three...
That’s what verse 18 tells us, “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We who with unveiled faces. I love that. “We” because life is always better together! This is who I really am, but it’s not about me, it’s not about our selfie culture, but together we reflect the Lord’s glory and are being transformed. Not into the person that we think they want us to be, but we’re being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
Moses climbed Mount Sinai and spent time in the presence of God. As he came down from the mountain he was radiating with the glory of God. Today the principal has not changed, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). When you spend time in God’s presence, you radiate his glory, you’re transformed into his likeness, and the more time you spend in his presence, the more his character is developed in you. The unveiled life is one that gets in God’s presence as soon as possible and stays there for as long as possible.
When we turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away, and we’re being transformed into the image of Christ, not for the approval of people, but for the glory of God, because we’re not called to promote ourselves, but to die to self and to follow Jesus giving him glory in all that we do. You see, we were created to glorify God and therefore the primary purpose of worship is the give him the honor and praise that is due his name. The secondary purpose of worship is to allow him to transform us into his likeness by the awesome power of his glory. As we close in prayer, I want you to realize we’re entering into the glory of his presence and he’s transforming us. Don’t focus on feeling good, but focus on his presence, contemplate his presence as long as you can and as often as you can.
The veil has been lifted. We can see clearly now. We can enter into his presence with boldness because of the blood of Jesus Christ and there find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. We can live in his presence with a sense of freedom, because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. And in his presence we can experience total transformation because of his ever-increasing glory. Let’s turn to the Lord in prayer as we close.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
February 12, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.