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3 Things I Need To Believe More Than I Do

April 14, 2013 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Standalone Sermon

Topic: Faith Passage: 2 Corinthians 3:8– 5:21

All right, let’s jump right in by turning to 2 Cor. 3 (we’re going to be looking at chapters 3-5 this morning). Next week Matt will be kicking off a new series on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. I’d like to ask for prayer as well as I will be preaching next Sunday at God’s Family Fellowship in Wellsboro, PA , the church that the Polczynskis and Darrenkamp’s are now attending. I mentioned that they are hoping to build a friendship between the two churches and Pastor Joe was gracious to invite me to come and preach and my prayer is that I can serve them through the ministry of God’s word. This morning I want to share with you some things that the Lord has been challenging in my heart with for a while and were particularly stirred up at the conference.

Title: 3 Things I Need To Believe More Than I Do

The Christian walk is a walk of faith – it flows from what we believe, and it’s good from time to time to examine our faith and ask, am I really believing what I believe? It’s so easy for us to get comfortable and put our Christian walk on auto –pilot, instead of experiencing the power of Christ in our daily walk we can grow dull and complacent. What we believe may not change, but how we believe it may drift until we find that we are giving lip service to truths that are meant to be life-changing. The answer isn’t to get all condemned or legalistic, but to go to God and ask that He tighten our grip on the great truths we believe so that by the grace of God we tighten our grip on our faith and experience the life-changing power of Christ again.

1. I need to believe more than I do that the glory of Christ is worth more than anything in the world, including life itself

Let’s begin by reading portions of 2 Cor 3 and 4 and as we do, I want you to notice how many times Paul uses the word glory. It is his theme in these chapters. He begins by contrasting the glory of Moses and the Old Covenant with the glory of Jesus and the New Covenant and then he shifts to the glory of the gospel in and through the ministry God has given him and every follower of Jesus. Let’s read together beginning in vs. 8:

3:8-18 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
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 (the glory of God shining on Moses’ face). 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. 3:8-18

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. 4:1-6

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 4:16-18

When we think about God, I think we tend to think of Him more often in terms other than His glory. We are more comfortable thinking of His love or wisdom or peace or faithfulness or power to help us in our time of need because these are terms we can picture and relate to our lives pretty easily. But God’s glory? Christ’s glory? That’s not so easy to connect with, at least not in terms of God’s glory.

The word glory is a word that means things like splendor and honor and renown. The funny thing is, as humans we are created with a deep longing and attraction to glory. In the same way that moths are drawn to the light, we are drawn to glory and we seek it with everything in us. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing - God created us to love and long for glory – the problem is that sin has redirected us away from seeking the glorious glory of God and from loving the brilliant glory of Jesus Christ and has mesmerized us with lesser glories like being applauded and having a lot of money, and getting promoted and being popular and seeking our pleasure and comfort and whatever else we might give our lives to – and as we pursue these things they seem so big and great and soul-satisfying, but when we get them they always leave our souls empty and dry and longing for more and more. We have no eyes to see or taste buds to savor the glory of God in Christ unless God gives us a revelation deep in our souls of the beauty and power and splendor and honor and majesty and incorruptible worth of Christ’s glory!

I think God has built a metaphor of the true glory into our solar system. The sun accounts for over 99% of the mass of our solar system and that’s what causes all the planets and moons to orbit around it. The sun is glorious, brilliant, life-sustaining, and massive enough to create a gravitational pull that keeps all planets in their proper orbit. God created us to orbit our lives around His glory – it’s the only glory that is big enough to deserve worship and the only glory massive enough to keep our lives in proper orbit. When we try to put anything else at the center of our lives, our lives will eventually spin out of control because nothing else is big enough or glorious enough to keep our lives in proper orbit.

The Damascus Road

When Paul writes of the glory of God in the face of Christ, he can’t help but think of how he was on his way to Damascus, hell bent on destroying the church, when Jesus appeared to him in glorious brilliance, knocking him off his horse and blinding him. And his life would never be the same and he would never live for the same things again because he saw the glory of Christ. A new glory, a new sun, became the center of his life. Paul didn’t just change what he believed. Meeting Christ didn’t just adjust his theological perspective – it completely changed what he lived for! He no longer lived for himself, he lived for the glory of Christ – not because he had to, not because it was the “right” thing to do, but because he had a vision of something so big, so glorious, so worthy of his worship and his life that everything else became trivial in comparison. In fact, he says he considered everything he once valued as a pile of dung in comparison.

When Jesus calls us to follow him, he calls us to live for him – and that’s the best thing in the world. I need to believe that the glory of Christ is worth more than everything else, even my own life, because it is! Everything else, when we put it in the center and live for it, is vain glory – empty glory. It’s a mirage that, when we come to the end of our lives, we will realize was a waste of our lives. But to live – truly live – for the glory of God will be the sun that warms our souls and gives us that greater, glorious purpose to give our lives to. And God shares that glory with us – not that we are puffed up with glory but we partake of His glory and we reflect His glory like small moons reflecting the glory of the sun:

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. 3:18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 4:16-17

I need to, and I want to, believe more than I do that Christ’s glory is worth more than everything else in the world!

2. I need to believe more than I do that those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are doomed to be separated from God and His glory forever

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 4:13-15

True faith, true believing, can’t help but speak out. When we overflow with the good news of Jesus Christ and when we regrip the truth that those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are headed for an eternity that is forever separated from the glory of God – which is the worst existence you could possibly imagine – we will not be able to be silent. Hell is an existence apart from everything that is good because everything that is good is an extension of God. Nothing good exists apart from God. There is no love apart from God. None! There is no comfort, no peace, no joy, no happiness, no fulfillment, no satisfaction, no purpose, no meaning, no life apart from God. He is the author of all these good things – they derive their existence from God. Hell isn’t just an unpleasant place, it is a brutal existence of infinite hopelessness, lovelessness, peacelessness, goodlessness, because it is an eternal existence separated from God and His glory.

So living our lives for the glory of Christ means speaking about the crucified and risen Christ so that, as verse 15 says, grace extends to more and more people resulting in more thanksgiving, resulting in greater glory to God. That is what we’re to live for – not hoarding the glory of Christ, but spreading the glory of Christ so that it extends and extends to more and more people and that will fill our hearts with a greater sense of the reality of the glory of Christ.

Spreading glory or hoarding glory?

Listen, I think this is one of the main reasons many Christians today – even strong Christians – feel like they’re spiritually dragging. If you don’t feel the joy you once did, if your faith seems “blah” and your life seems to be caught in a cycle of powerlessness and defeat – and I think many of us to some extent feel these things – it may sound counter intuitive, but I think a major reason we feel these things may NOT be that we’re not paying enough attention to how we’re doing spiritually, but that we’re paying TOO much attention to how we’re doing spiritually. Let me explain.

When we focus too much attention on ourselves (I know I’m guilty) –and always turning over questions like, “am I sensing the love of Christ?” “Am I experiencing the power of the Spirit?” “Am I excited about my faith?” ”Am I growing in obedience?” “Am I getting victory over that stubborn sin?” “Am I being a better (fill in the space): husband, wife, child, friend, pastor, person…” we can begin to reduce Christian discipleship to an exercise in self-improvement rather than a life of spreading Christ’s glory. In effect we’re hoarding Christ’s glory rather than spreading his glory.

Jesus never meant us to sit in the upper room trying to improve ourselves, he improves us as we are out on the streets sharing Jesus with others. Jesus doesn’t just say, “let me into your life”, he says, “follow me” – go where I’m going, do what I’m doing. And as you do, my Spirit will empower you and my glory will fill you. Paul talks about this glory-spreading motivation in chapter 5:

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. 5:11

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 5:14-15

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 5:17-21

Here’s the exciting news that I need to believe more than I do: when God in His mercy reconciled me to Himself, He also gave me a ministry of reconciliation – calling others to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ who did the great exchange: he became our sin in order that we might become the righteousness of God. Personal experience: times my faith was dragging and got to witness.

3. I need to believe more than I do that God hasn’t called me to pursue a life of comfort and safety but a life of risk for the sake of the gospel

Since we have such a hope we are very bold…3:12

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 4:7-10

So we are always of good courage…5:6

Listen to some of the things Paul is willing to risk for the sake of the gospel (6:4-10):

… in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger… through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This could – and should – be an entire message. And I think it will be one we return to. But inherent in following Jesus is risk. No way around that unless we stop following him. Faith needs risk or its not faith, it’s just common sense. The reason there’s risk is because there’s uncertainty, and if we try to strip uncertainty from our walk with Jesus we’ll end up with a powerless and wasted life. And, to make things worse, we never really can strip uncertainty or risk from our lives so it’s foolish to try to. No matter how we insulate our lives, any countless number of things could devastate or kill us before the day is out.

It’s like the story of Johanna Ganthaler who was supposed to be on flight 447 to Paris but missed the flight and had to take a later flight home. Flight 447 would crash into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 228 people on board. Johanna Ganthaler and her husband missed that doomed flight, but just days later Johanna died in a car accident. There’s no way to strip our lives of risk, but we can strip our faith of power and purpose when we strip our faith of risk. Jesus is worth risk. It’s worse to waste our lives than to lose our lives in the pursuit of something worth giving everything for.

Eaten by cannibals or eaten by worms

John G Paton volunteered to go on the mission field to a remote area known for its cannibals. Many tried to dissuade him from going, including one dear old Christian gentleman who said
“The cannibals! you will be eaten by cannibals!” But John G Paton replied “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms, I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”

Risk is essential – not foolish risks, not presumptuous risks, not risks motivated by the desire for adventure or to be known as a “risk- taker” but well-reasoned risk motivated by a sincere faith and desire to see Jesus glorified. If you are going to love people, it will mean risk. If you are to share Jesus with people, it will mean risk. If you are going to forgive – really forgive- those who hurt you the way Jesus forgave you, it will mean risk. If God calls you to invest financially in His kingdom by giving to missions beyond what you give to the church, that might mean risk. If God calls you to short term, or even long term missions, that will mean risk. If God calls you to adopt a child and give them a loving home and raise them in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, that will mean risk. Risk is all around us – to try to avoid it is like avoiding the air we breathe. Jesus calls us to risk for him. Not reckless, faith and love based risk.

One of the things we want to do periodically as we begin the series on the Holy Spirit is to make you aware of mission opportunities. The power of the Spirit, and the outward flow of witnessing and caring and loving are inseparable. As we highlight different ministries or missions, we’re not pressuring you to get involved in any or all of them – just asking you to pray and ask the Lord what He would have you do. Then just obey what He says. And so this morning, I am going to ask Jordan and Jennifer Slack to come up and share about a mission/ministry that has stirred their hearts and ask you to listen and ask the Lord. After they share I’ll come up to briefly close us.

Conclusion: Three things we need to do more than we’re doing right now

1. Pray that the Holy Spirit increasingly empowers us to love and live for the glory of Christ
2. Pray that the Lord increasingly empowers us to be his witnesses – to believe and speak. Once Christians who witnessed feared a raised sword, now we fear a raised eyebrow. 
3. Pray that the Lord increasingly give us His heart for the lost: billions of people who will be born, live and die without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to find ways to get involved with missions in the world. It might be money, it might be prayer, it might be going short term, and it might be going long term.

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