Pastor Galen, March 3rd, 2019
Ex. 34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3:12-4:2
Have you ever seen someone who was so happy that it seemed like their face was glowing? Maybe they won an award or received a promotion at work. Maybe their significant other told them they love them for the first time. Or maybe they got accepted into the school or program of their choice and it made them so happy that they just couldn’t stop smiling.
We have a phrase for this — we say someone is “beaming.” “Beaming with joy,” “beaming with pride.” “Beaming with confidence.” Even though in reality light may not actually be emanating from their body, this is the best way we have come up with to describe this phenomenon.
On the other hand, when someone is feeling sad or depressed, angry or frustrated, we say that there’s a dark cloud hanging around their head.
In Exodus 34 after Moses met with God and received the Ten Commandments, it seems that his face was literally glowing — light was actually radiating forth from his skin, the Bible says that his face was shining.. So much so that the people were afraid to even come near him!
Can you imagine this happening? Imagine that you turned to the person next to you and their skin started to glow? Or imagine that every time you came to church, or read your Bible during your morning devotions, you had such a profound and transformational encounter with God that it made your face radiate light!
For Moses this didn’t just happen once. It seems that every time Moses would enter into God’s presence he would emerge with his face glowing. Every time he encountered God he was changed. God is so holy, God’s love is so powerful, God’s justice and righteous are so all-encompassing, God is so glorious, that every time Moses would encounter God’s glory, some of that glory would kind of rub off on him. And everyone around him could see it.
So much so that Moses started to wear a veil over his face when he was around other people. He would take the veil off when he would go into God’s presence and proclaim God’s words to the people, but then he would cover his face up so that the people wouldn’t be afraid.
The Law and the Spirit
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians has an interesting take on all of this. Earlier in chapter 3, Paul contrasted the hope that we have in Christ to the law that was given by Moses. In verses 7 to 9 he says,
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, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! (2. Cor. 3:7-9)
Paul is basically saying that if Moses’s face radiated light after receiving the Law, which was essentially a list of punishments for wrongdoing, how much more should we, who have experienced redemption and restoration through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and who have the Holy Spirit living inside us, radiate forth God’s glory to those around us! The commandments told us what we needed to do to avoid death, but Jesus came to bring eternal life! How much more glorious is that?
Unveiling the Truth
But Paul says that for people who haven’t heard about Jesus, it’s like a veil has been placed over their minds, preventing them from seeing the fullness of God’s glory. So many people in our world today are trying to find meaning and purpose and direction. They’re trying to find hope in the midst of despair. They’re seeking healing and restoration. But they don’t realize that Jesus is the key to all of this.
Paul says that knowing Jesus is the key to understanding who God is. Verse 16 says that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Cor. 3:16) and verse 17 says that “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).
It’s only in Jesus that we can experience true freedom. It’s only through Christ that we can truly see and understand who God really is. Jesus said in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Col. 1:15 says, “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” and in Hebrews 1:3 we read, “[Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.”
So Jesus is the clearest picture that we have of God! If we want to know what God looks like, all we have to do is to look at Jesus.
Many people have a distorted image of who God is. They think that God is unloving, unjust, that God hates them, or that God would never accept them because of who they are or what they’ve done.
Many of these same people grew up very religious or around religious people. But maybe they only ever heard the “Thou Shalts” and the “Thou Shalt Nots”. Maybe the religion they grew up with was essentially just a list of rules. Or maybe they never went to church and their only experience with Christianity was what they saw on TV or what they heard about in the news. (If you see how Christians are portrayed in media, it’s no surprise that so many people, especially young people, have no interest in coming to church!
Don’t Hide God’s Glory!
And so Paul says here in verses 12 and 13 that, since we have experienced the love and the grace and the mercy expressed to us through Jesus, then we should NOT be like Moses. We shouldn’t hide God’s glory! Paul says that we should “act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside” (2. Cor. 3:12, 13).
In other words, if we’ve experienced the transforming love of Jesus, then our faces should we beaming with God’s glorious love! It doesn’t mean that we’re always going to be happy, but that there should be something different about us, that there should be a hope within us even in the midst of despair, there should be an element of joy even in the midst of sorrow, that can only come from God. If we’ve been transformed by God’s glorious presence, then God’s glory should exude out of us. We as Christians should shine forth God’s goodness and mercy and justice and love and truth to everyone around us.
I know that when we experience God’s love it can be tempting to just want to keep it to ourselves. Maybe we don’t want other people to think that we’re crazy, or maybe like Moses we don’t want to scare other people away. Or maybe we just want to relish in God’s love. We just want to bottle it up and keep it to ourselves.
But happiness and joy and love are meant to be shared! Maybe that’s why when we experience something truly wonderful it’s hard for us to keep it inside. Even when we don’t say anything, it still shows. We’re not meant to keep joy hidden away — joy is meant to be shared.
And so Paul says we shouldn’t prevent people from gazing at the glory of God, we should shine forth God’s love in all its fullness. He says we should “act with great boldness” (2. Cor. 3:12) and “not lose heart” (2. Cor. 4:1).
So How Do We Do This?
So how do we do this? How do we shine forth God’s love?
#1 First of all, in order for us to radiate Christ’s love, we have to continually enter into God’s presence and allow Jesus to illuminate and transform us. This is one of the reasons we come to church every Sunday. We gather together to be refreshed and recharged, to encourage one another, to worship God, and to hear God’s Word together.
I would also encourage you to spend some time with Jesus regularly throughout the week. Carve out some space each day or a few times each week just to be in God’s presence. You can read the Bible, listen to a hymn or praise song, read a Christian book, or listen to an encouraging or uplifting word. And then take some time to respond to God in prayer. The beautiful thing about praying to God by yourself is that you can say whatever you want to God! You don’t have to worry about what you’re saying or how you’re saying it — God already knows your heart. It’s important just to spend time regularly in God’s presence.
#2 When you come into God’s presence — either in church or at home by yourself, ask God to transform your heart and mind.
God’s love is unconditional, and God reaches us right where we are. But God loves us too much to let us stay trapped in cycles of sin and despair. God wants to continue to heal and redeem and restore us, to free us from the things that keep us captive so that we can experience true joy and freedom. As Paul says, “we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
This is why in church each week we pray a prayer of illumination, asking God to reveal God’s truth to us. We want God to transform us, to change us more into the image and likeness of Jesus, so that we can radiate God’s love to the world around us.
#3. Look for every opportunity to radiate God’s love to others — especially to those who are different than you. Everytime we extend love to someone who looks different than us, or has a different set of religious or political beliefs or perspectives than us, God’s glory shines all the brighter through us.
Many Christians seem to think that their purpose in life is to point out everyone’s flaws, to tell them how wrong they are and how God is going to punish them someday. But I find that many people already know that they’re not perfect. They already know that they’re not good enough to earn God’s favor. What so many people DON’T know is that God loves them, that God is waiting to welcome them, that God’s grace and mercy is free and unconditional. And it’s our job to tell them, it’s our responsibility to love them with God’s love, and to point them to the God who loves them radically and unconditionally.
Of course God’s love for us is not passive. God’s love is powerful and transformational. So much so that when God’s love saturates our being, we are never the same again.
So let’s be people who shine forth God’s love, and let’s love people into the Kingdom. Let’s surprise them with how loving and generous and kind Christians can be, and let’s point them to Jesus, the Source of all love. Let’s continually enter into God’s presence and allow ourselves to be transformed. And let’s radiate forth God’s love to the world around us. Let’s not hide it, let’s shine forth God’s glory!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.