TAKE Time

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Life is like a calendar.  It’s a fixed schedule of “wasting” [the prettier word for aging.]  Those 24 hours in every single day seem like a vast sea of opportunity for renewal but by the time you fall into bed at night you realize the “light and momentary troubles” we call daily life have been like the outgoing tide sweeping away all the moments and hours available.  You can’t count on the efficient management of a calendar to insure renewal.  In fact the calendar is basically only the confirmation of the “wasting” part. 

Time continues to march on.  Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. You’ve heard those before right?  Here’s the secret no one wants to hear; the blessing of renewal is more like exercise. “Finding” time in those 24 hours is an illusion that can waste away your renewal as surely as lack of exercise and aging waste your body.  It’s awful isn’t it?   BUT “we fix our eyes not on what is seen [those 24 hours], but on what is unseen [our need for renewal] since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  It’s your calendar!   You’ll never “find” time, TAKE time for renewal.

Speak Up!

II Corinthians 4:13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”  Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak,
AND
Genesis 11: 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

The II Corinthians passage led me to a deliberate search for what the Bible had to say about the words “spoken” and “speak” and that’s how I arrived at Genesis 11.  Genesis 11 is the story of Babel where God chose to confuse their words to deal with their desire for power.  God recognized there was such a powerful relationship between desire and words that “nothing they plan to do will be impossible.”  The story reads as if it’s only an act of suppression about words.  I think it’s more a lesson about the focus of desire.

When our focus as followers of Jesus Christ is our desire to raise our voices and plead with God to reveal his power contained in our words everything changes.  In the midst of all the confusing babel around us today we need to let our desire be God’s power.  That desire will give new power to our words and reveal the timeless truth of that same phrase “then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Speak up!

ESV Speaking for Itself

Isaiah 29:16
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 45:9
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Isaiah 64:8
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Job 10:8-12
Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?

Jeremiah 18:2-6
“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Romans 9:20-22
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Timothy 2:20
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.

Unmasked

2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 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. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. [NIV]

A veil is a piece of material worn to protect or conceal the face and certainly must affect the ability to see clearly.  “Veil” is a prettier word, but “mask” better describes the man-made barrier between us and God that can dull the mind and cover the heart. 

Moses covered his face with a veil to hide “the end of what was passing away” but “we are not like Moses” because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed…”   

“…Since we have such a hope,” we can be “very bold.” Are we bold enough to be unmasked?  Are we bold enough to trust God at work in us and let others be witnesses of “the end of what [is] passing away” as we are changed “into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  May it be so.

New In Quality

2 Corinthians 3:7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! [NLT]

God’s law was chiseled into those tablets of stone.  What could be more permanent than stone?  Those tablets were “new” then but they are lost today.  God had something even more permanent in mind; the same truth reproducible in the hearts of transformed people.  Truth that would be new not only in point of time, but also new in quality…for all time. 

Etched in stone or etched in life is the difference between the law versus the Spirit and the bottom line of the new way.   Now “the Holy Spirit is giving life.”  God’s truth is not new but the “new” quality is truth being chiseled into our hearts.  No wonder it sometimes hurts but it’s truth that will last for all eternity.  We are the tablets the world sees today.

Another Option

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 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. [NIV]

* Confidence [the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something]
* Competence [the ability to do something successfully or efficiently]
* Letter [actual literal terms or wording]
* Spirit [the implied elements of thought and attitude] 

The Apostle understands the comfort of trying to obey the law is a much clearer standard to cling to than the mystery of obeying the Spirit.  The human option is to use obedience to the law to define our competence and give us confidence that our behavior will save us.

The Apostle reminds us there’s another option: our new covenant of obedience to the life we have through Christ.  That obedience defines our confidence in the sovereign reliability of God’s competence to change our thoughts, attitudes and behavior from the harshness of the literal to the Spirit of life in Christ…and that will save us…and others.

External, Internal and Eternal Image

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are 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. [NIV]

“Known and read by everyone” got me thinking about how much effort we spend on creating an image we think will make us look good. It’s easy to confuse image and vanity because both are so closely tied to external influences.  Attention to our image supports almost any part of the economy I can think of at this moment; housing, auto, clothing, food and certainly personal care. It’s not a bad thing to want to look good but these external things are only a convenient way for us to manipulate reality.

Paul reminds us part of our image is paying attention to our internal, intangible things that are far less easy for us to manipulate by buying the “right” whatever.  They’re written not with ink on a contract or a sales slip “but with the Spirit of the living God.”  Paul confirms that what is written on our heart becomes a visible part of our image that can be “known and read by everyone.”  It takes the our external efforts and God’s internal commitment  to complete the eternal image being written within us: “You are a letter from Christ…known and read by everyone.”