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2 Corinthians 3:1-18 Notes

The majority of these students, who were fully engaged in the youth ministry through their senior years, were at one time in super church…some in nursery as well.

We have needs for Super church, next, and nursery investors…not financial but personal…people who while give time every other week to invest the future.

Email or talk to Erin to find out what that would look like for.

Many of those who have a vision for investing in the next generation are in fact…the next generation…older high school and college students.

That is very encouraging to me…but let’s not let the next generations carry our load for us.

  1. INTRO

We are being pulled in two opposite directions at the same time.

One is the direction that demands we become bold, confident… “Decide…which side of history/science/culture/current issue are you going to be on?”

The other is in the direction that demands we give up on all absolutes… “You cannot come to permanent conclusions about things…the world is grey it’s not black and white.”

Can be very confusing.

The current trend in TV programs and movies (which both reflect and set the general culture) is what I would call “confident insecurity” or “bold hopelessness”

“Be a hero”… “Take a stand”… But “Don’t think anything is ultimately true” and realize that whatever you take a confident bold stand(and you must) is not absolutely real…nothing is.

Here is how I picture it.

Humanity is huddled in a sort of base camp, collected in various collections of…wondering “what are we here for…what are we going to do?”

When suddenly someone rises up and confidently says “Follow me…I know the way…we had it all wrong…let’s climb that mountain.

A number of people follow them of camp start the descent…things don’t turn out as well as the confident voice said they would.

Some die on the mountain, many straggle back…and wait.

Another voice rises up…another group follows them…some straggle back.

Eventually, people lose hope…stop leaving camp, stop trusting the bold voices…too many disappointments.

They become cynics, or selfish, or hopeless…or just die off.

This happens in real time…but it unfolds over generations.

It is embedded in the cycles of history.

Today we are in 2 Cor. 3…and we want to think deeply about the boldness of hope…and absolute hope.

Not your hope, versus my hope.

We can, and we must live with a kind of confident boldness…but it must be based on gospel hope.

I hope that will not become outdated, or leave us empty and disappointed in the end.

3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Paul was accused by some of “patting himself on the back”…they thought they saw this in Paul probably because this was so common in their own lives.

We often pass judgment on others based on our own tendencies… “It takes one to know one” as the saying goes.

But clearly, they did not know Paul…what they thought they saw, (Paul bragging about himself, being over confident) was not what Paul was doing…he was boasting of the power of the gospel not of himself.

They had, at one point, even asked for letters of reference…can you imagine?

Paul was not opposed to the idea of reference letters, he had written letters of recommendation for others, like Timothy.

But come on…really…Paul planted the church…sacrificed for them.

You, he wrote, are my letters of recommendation…written on human hearts by Christ not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.

They had, back before they had come to their senses, demanded that Paul produce reference letters..

Paul says, look at your own hearts…God has written his glory there.

This same glory, of the gospel, is what my life is about.

He had asked in chapter two “Who is sufficient for these things?”

It’s a rhetorical question…the answer is “no one.”

So, don’t mistake this for Paul being arrogant and wrongly self-confident…”look at what I have done.”

He knows better…he knows who this is all about.

Who is up to such a huge calling he asked?

Well, he answers himself here.

“We are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.

This is all a set up for the basis of his confidence and boldness.

It’s not either “be bold and confidence in life” or “be humble and trust God.”

It is be humble and trust God…in order to be bold and confident.

He uses their former demand for a letter of recommendation and his response that they are his letters of recommendation…what God has written on their hearts is his “resume”

And turns it all into a powerful vision of what it is that God has written on their hearts…what he has done and is doing in their lives.

This, is what empowers confident boldness in Paul’s life.

So he gives the heart of the gospel…written on human hearts…to make it clear why he is living a bold life.

God has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

This expression “new covenant” is where we get “New Testament” from…as contrasted with the “Old Testament.”

The death of Christ has established the new covenant.

What exactly is a covenant anyway?

Covenant is essentially a partnership (often not between equals).

If it were between nations it would be called a “treaty”

It can be one, like it is with God to us….a covenant where God has all that we need, and we have nothing that he needs…but he wants a partner relationship with us because he loves us.

So, God makes promises and asks us to keep certain commitments.

Because in a real relationship…there is privilege and responsibility that flows both ways.

There are four of these covenants in the Old Testament…Noah, Abraham, Israel, David.

Noah: Man has become so terrible that God has to hit a massive reset button…all but just one family is killed.

Now before you think “What kind of God is this?”

Remember that the mortality rate for every human generation is 100%…they were all going to die.

And throughout time humans die at different ages, not everyone gets to become old.

But in that generation, most died at the same time.

It was for them judgment…but for humanity at large it was a severe mercy.

And a covenant promise was made…God will not hit reset like this again, the earth will be a reliable place for humans to work and live in a relationship with God.

God himself will keep this promise though humans will continue to fail.

Noah doesn’t have to do anything…God is making and keeping this promise all by himself.

In fact, we see that Noah fail miserably…immediately after he gets off the boat.

Abraham: God chooses a man, calls him from his home in Ur (Iraq) and promises to give him an expansive family and resources and influence.

In return, Abraham’s role in the partnership is to trust God (live by faith) and train his family to do what is right and just in relationships with one another.

-God is going to bring his blessings to all families through this one family.

Israel: Abraham’s family has now become a nation.

They are told to obey a set of laws in order for the entire community to live well as God’s partners.

As they do, they will be blessed and will represent him to the rest of humanity…bless the whole world.

David: Israel is now a very powerful nation and they have a king, David.

God covenants with David…and he is to lead the nation to obey the laws and do what is right and just in relationship with others.

King David…breaks faith with God.

He repents but this foretells the future of the nation.

Israel as a whole broke the covenant partnership with God…they worshipped other gods, they practiced terrible injustice with one another.

Eventually, after many years of God’s patience…they lose their land and are taken into exile.

It all seems very HOPELESS but even in exile the prophets speak of a future time when God will restore the covenant in spite of their failure.

This is what is called the new covenant

Jesus comes and is introduced as the one who will fulfill all these covenants.

He is from the family of Abraham: he will bring the blessings of that family to the whole world.

He is the faithful Israelite: he is able to truly obey the law

He is the king from the line of David: he extends God’s kingdom of peace and justice to all.

And Jesus is not mere human but God become man

He is that faithful covenant partner that we are made to be, but failed to be.

In spite of our continued failures, Jesus is committed to making us into partners who are becoming more and more faithful…more like him.

That’s the backstory for what Paul writes next.

He is going back to the covenant made with Israel…the covenant agreement written by God on stone and delivered \ by Moses to the people.

He is going to compare the old with the new covenant…for the very practical reason of explaining…that this is the reason that he lives with such bold confidence.

Moses descended from the mountain where he had encountered God and had been given the covenant commandments.

This encounter had somehow altered Moses physically so that his appearance, specifically the brightness of his face, struck fear into the hearts of the people.

This is unusual…but not weird, as we think of weird, if you consider the facts of the matter.

We are not just physical beings…and reality is far, far more than the material cosmos we inhabit.

So, a physical being, named Moses, comes down from a physical mountain, called Sinai…holding some physical pieces of the mountain on which some words have been miraculously written.

But this man…doesn’t look merely human right then and what he is holding is not merely human in origin.

He has encountered God up there…and that encounter has changed his appearance…but it was a temporary change.

Paul calls the law delivered down from the mountain by Moses “the ministry of death”…not because the Ten Commandments or any of the rest of the law is bad…it is of course, good.

But because though it is good, it’s “ministry” or impact was death not life…because humans are unable to keep it.

Imagine a law of nature…say the fact that “Humans must breathe in order to live.”

It’s not a bad law…it is a description of reality on planet earth as it is designed.

Then imagine that humans have made certain decisions that have altered their ability to breath air…not just that but we have made the air itself toxic.

Is the law of nature “humans must breath air” “bad”…no, but this very law…Is now a pronouncement of death on us because of our inability to breathe.

What is to be done?

It’s just an analogy…they all have flaws…so don’t over think this.

But what is done is we are given new lungs that can breathe air…but these lungs require ongoing connection to Christ in order for them to work properly.

The day will come when the toxic air itself will be remade…for now, we live sort of like deep sea helmet divers, connected to life as we live in a potentially deadly environment.

This may sound very vague, and non-concrete…but practically speaking it is accurate.

We live in the world and not of the world.

As we live day to day…believing in Christ, valuing him in our hearts, and following him with our lives…we thrive and we are changed more and more into Christ-like people.

The air around may be toxic…and potentially deadly but we can live spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally healthy lives…as we stay connected to Christ.

Now let’s read what Paul wrote:

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, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 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.

Glory is a very common word in that paragraph(10 times) and in the entire letter.

It means…Magnificence, beauty, power, luminosity, brilliance, fame, renown.

In referring to God it is a description of his character and is usually pictured, or experienced physically, as a “bright light.”

It is who and what he is…he is a being of immense power, beauty, fame, brilliance.

The entire physical universe…with all its burning suns…is like a candle at midday compared to his glory.

You cannot look at our sun, which is not a large star as stars go… for more than a very brief time without having your retinas destroyed.

Same kind of thing happened…not just physically but mentally and spiritually…when people encountered physical manifestations of God’s glory.

It was more than they could handle.

But glory is an abstract quality…God is Spirit…he manifests himself in physical ways but his glory is not just what he “looks like”…photons don’t bounce off him and return to our retinas…he is not a celestial object.

But using the idea of a physical manifestation of God as a comparison… God is much more luminous…brighter, more glorious than all of the physical cosmos.

Look, Paul writes…the Old Covenant was glorious, it was from God for man.

But it is nothing like the glory of new covenant.

In the pitch dark, a candle is bright…but when the sun comes up…the glory of the candle flame gives way to the greater glory of the nuclear fire of sun.

This is the glory of the gospel…this is why is Paul so generous with his use of “glory” here.

This is the basis of his hope…and this hope is the foundation for his boldness in life.

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.

Paul wrote that the New Covenant is permanent…it is not going to end…the old Covenant has now given way to the new.

Not because it was bad…because we were unable to keep it…and it was never meant to be the finale.

The old paved the way for the new…emerged into the new.

The new is far more glorious, and it is permanent.

There will be no “next Covenant”…no “newer covenant.”

When Jesus said at his death “It is finished.”…it is in fact finished.

Noah, Abraham, Israel, David…the New Covenant in Christ…it is all finished.

Paul uses Moses as an illustration…he of course, has great respect for Moses…he would have been a hero of his…so this is no put down of Moses…but rather an elevation of Christ.

Moses, Paul said, hid his face because the “glory” of the Old Covenant was fading from their view.

To this day, he said, the veil covering the glory of God is there because of the hardness of human hearts.

They can’t see the old covenant has given way to the new…the old covenant glory has faded.

But when one turns to Christ, then the veil is lifted…God’s glory is revealed to and in them.

And this glory has the very powerful and practical result of making humans free.

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.

When we trust Christ and his finished work on the cross…we see God’s glory with unveiled faces.

AS we turn continually in faith towards him…we are being transformed and becoming more like Christ over time.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

This doesn’t mean we are free to do whatever we want or feel.

To do whatever we feel is to live as slaves to our feelings…and there is no freedom in that.

We are now free from sin’s bondage and its corresponding condemnation.

We are free now to live in this new Covenant partnership with God.

We have freedom (the power) to live as we are designed to live.


IS IT possible to live with a humble, dependence on God…and a confident boldness?

A boldness that impacts what we actually do with our lives?

It is.

Look at how Paul frames it.

First a question:

“Who is sufficient for these things?”

The answer:

“no one is”

Then the fuller answer:

“We are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

And then the life application:

“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”

Our hope is in the permanence of the glory of the gospel.

**We won’t follow Christ and then find that he has failed, or changed his mind, or. has been outsmarted or outdated…if we follow him we will not get life “wrong” in the end.

*We follow him boldly…because he is the Lord of life…and this is the one permanent hope to be boldly confident in.

This hope must serve to make us bold…not self-centered, not full of hubris, not loud and obnoxious…but bold.

Let’s look at what this boldness of hope actually is using two opposites:

  1. Fear.

One opposite of boldness is fear.

The boldness of hope overcomes fear

How does hope counteract fear?

It only does that when our hope is permanent, fixed.

We fear what might happen to us (fear is future centric)…because for us the future is fluid, unknown…largely out of our control.

And contains many potential and actual…bad things.

But hope based boldness is founded on confidence in the gospel…nothing is out of God’s control…that includes the future.

This doesn’t mean you will always “feel” bold…or never “feel” fearful.

My feelings of confidence, of boldness…have proven to be extremely fickle.

As a youth…I would sometimes feel confidence going into a game and begin to play well…then suddenly something would happen to undermine that confidence, a missed basket for instance…and everything would change…boldness would flee.

I have been in social settings where I am feeling quite confident…then suddenly something is said or done or thought…where it all drains from me…where did it go?

It went the way of all feelings…they can change like Kansas weather.

So, I’m not talking about feeling confident, feeling bold…I’m talking about living with confidence…with boldness.

What does that even mean?

It means that though you may not feel “bold”…what you feel is largely irrelevant.

*Not unimportant…but irrelevant to the main point.

What is relevant…will I live with boldness in what I give my life for?

Will I be bold in what I give my life for…Jesus asked, “Even if family and friends turn against me?”

Will I be bold in what I give my for…Jesus asked, “Even if people insult me and persecute me and say all kinds of evil against me?”

Will I be bold in what I give my life for…Jesus asked, “Even when I am tempted to fear those who can only kill my body?”

Don’t chase the boldness of hope as a feelings of self-confidence.

Don’t lose hope when feelings fade…be bold in hope, the hope of the gospel.

Live the boldness of hope in the actual choices of your life…what you give it away for.

  1. Shame.

Another opposite of boldness is shame.

Shame drains boldness.

The boldness of hope overcomes shame

Again, I am not talking about feeling embarrassed or ashamed…I am talking about not letting shame become the engine that drives your life.

The boldness of hope is that Christ has forgiven me…my past sins are covered…my future sins as well for that matter.

As I mess up I must fess up and move on…with grateful, bold hope.

After my Freshman year of college I looked back on a year where I had lived largely as a fearful, and foolish person…I had not demonstrated or communicated faith to the people around…my teammates.

Going into my Sophomore year I had determined to begin to live a life of confident hope…but I reasoned that I needed to change schools…start over.

I was ashamed of my former lack of faith…my fears and timidity.

I thought I need to go to a new school where no one knew the “old me” and only this “new me.”

God shut me down pretty quickly… “You aren’t going anywhere…my grace has covered your sins and your fear…now live with the boldness of hope here and now…

they need to see changed people not perfect people.”

Maybe you feel shame over past choices, over things done to you or by you…over failure of faith or a period of being timid, selfish, sinful…whatever.

The gospel covers all that…you have a foundation of hope that can take shame and empower boldness.

Again, not bold, the feeling…but bold, the life.

Life, tell…the gospel…we don’t preach ourselves, Paul wrote, but Jesus as Lord…as us as his servant.

Be a forgiven person…not a person who has never sinned…be bold in honesty.

Be bold in generosity.

Be bold in conviction…bold enough to smile and not frown when people disagree or even hate you for your convictions.

Be bold in hope even as you struggle to figure out complex life issues…knowing the details may be confusing, but the outcome is never in doubt.

Be, as Paul wrote…very bold.

As culture is being pulled apart by the demand that we must “confidently decide” but “There is no ultimate standard by which to decide.”

We live with the boldness of permanent hope…we are not pulled into pieces…into disintegration….our lives are becoming more integrated, more whole…more like Christ.

As we behold the Lord’s glory and are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

Because of this hope…we are very bold.

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