"And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech--unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one 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 liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:4-18).
God is in the business of changing men. He is changing them into His likeness. When we see Him, we shall be like Him. One evidence that we are in union with God is that we are being changed. If we are not being changed, it should concern us deeply. Do we think we have arrived? Have we been perfected? At the end of his life, Paul did not feel that he had arrived. Rather, he said that he was pressing on to know Christ in all things. This should be the attitude of our hearts at all times, from the beginning of our walk with Jesus until the end.
The question is, how are we being changed? Many desire change in their lives, but never experience victory. They try and try, but year after year they remain the same. It is a discouraging place to find ourselves. If this is your experience, give close attention to the passage we have just quoted, for I believe the direction we all need is there.
First, notice the attitude of heart. We are not sufficient in ourselves. We cannot change ourselves. Trying to change by our own human effort ends in struggle and defeat. At the root of the problem is pride. It is humiliating to admit that we cannot do what we want to do. Paul described this in Romans 7. I believe what he wrote there was his testimony before he experienced the power of Calvary. He really wanted to change, but found himself unable to live up to his own expectations. If this is your experience, be honest before God. Humble yourself before Him and admit that you cannot make it on your own--but be sure that you mean it, because mental acknowledgement alone will not suffice.
Briefly contrasting the glory of the Old Covenant and the New may help our understanding at this point. Paul said that the Old Covenant was glorious. God manifested His presence by many miracles, and the manifestation of God is always glorious. Moses experienced God's glory, so much so that his face shone. The people could not even look at his face! But this glory brought condemnation, because it revealed how far the people were from God. They thought they could keep the commandments of God, but they did not know themselves. When the law came, it produced death. They could not lift up holy hands. Their lips were unclean. They could not approach a holy God. It is the same today, if we try to come to God on our own efforts. If we read the Bible, look for principles, and try to apply those principles apart from an indwelling Christ by the Spirit, the result will be discouragement, failure, and death.
Even though the Old Covenant was glorious, Paul says that in comparison with what God has provided in Christ, the old had no glory at all. Sometimes we find this hard to accept. We wish we could have seen the Red Sea parted--that we could have seen the cloud by day and the fire by night. Why do we feel this way? It is because we have not yet experienced the glory of the New Covenant. This is still just theory to us, not reality. Once we taste the glory of the New, we will never want to go back. One taste of the presence of our glorious God should turn our eyes to focus on Him once and for all.
What the saints in the Old Covenant experienced was primarily with their natural senses. They saw and heard evidence of God's presence with their physical eyes and ears. In their time, God dwelt behind a heavy curtain, and they could not go in to be with God lest they die. They were unclean, and the blood of bulls and goats could not wash away their sin. Although God has done away with the Old and we live in the time of the New Covenant, we can still make the mistake of depending on our natural senses. We can be thrilled with beautiful music, awed by temples made with hands, impressed with great oratory. We can be moved in our emotions, stimulated by great logic in our minds, and think in all of this that we are experiencing God--but it can all be natural, man's effort and ability, void of the presence and glory of God. Paul told the Corinthians that he did not want their faith to rest on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God. Is this also our heart cry?
Brothers and sisters, we need to be ruthlessly honest at this point. We condemn the children of Israel for their failure, but so often we are not willing to acknowledge our own. Are we willing to evaluate our own experience and all that we see around us in the light of what God has revealed of Himself? Is what we labor in bringing glory to God? Does it speak of what God can do, or is it filled with the glory of man? Can we say we are experiencing the glory of God, the power that raised Christ from the dead--or are we struggling? Are we being changed from glory to glory, or from defeat to defeat? We must be honest before God if we want to experience the grace of God that can lift us up into His glory.
Paul says that when anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. This is the key, is it not? We must turn away from every other source of help. We must turn from man's wisdom, from our own knowledge, from our past experiences and every natural help, and look unto Jesus alone. Only Jesus can deliver and help us. Only Jesus can give us life as He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the one mediator between God and man. Until Jesus applies the eye salve to the eyes of our heart, we cannot see. But when we do turn to Jesus, the veil is removed, and we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Every encounter with God is glorious, and every taste of His glory makes us hungry for more. There is no end, for there is no end to God. This is what captured the early disciples. They had experienced the glory of God. They were caught up in a love relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit had come abide, never to leave them alone. He had come within, to be with them forever. They had seen the glory of God in Jesus, but now they were experiencing the same glory themselves. It was the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus: "The glory that you have given Me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are One."
Brothers and sisters, if we are experiencing the glory of a love relationship with Jesus, it is impossible that we will not be changed into His image, for the work is now of God. It is God who works within, both to will and to do His good pleasure. Struggle is gone; defeat is gone. We move from grace to grace, from victory to victory, and from strength to strength. The fragrance that comes from our lives is an aroma of His presence. It is glorious to us, and God can use the overflow to make others hungry for Him. We are now witnesses unto Him. This is the glorious salvation Jesus paid for with His blood. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?