Hope for first place glory!

February 11, 2018

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

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.

4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

The Winter Olympics began last week on Thursday. The top athletes from around the world have traveled to South Korea to prove they are the best at what they do. Once again, the world watches in wonder as these athletes compete for the gold medal, but not all sports are equally exciting to watch. From a quick search on Google, I found that snowboarding is the most popular sport to watch in the United States. I wonder if snowboarding is so popular because so many people can relate to it, because so many have tried it or would at least like the chance to try it.

Snowboarding maybe something you enjoy or something you want to try, but since you are still here, Olympic level snowboarding is not your thing. Personally, I am not one for the cold, snow, sore knees and falling down on ice, so the Winter Olympics are not for me either. Nevertheless, we do like the thought of receiving a gold medal. All of us can pick out something in our lives that we work hard on to be good at. It would be nice to get some recognition for the things we do well. Whether it is a thank you from our kids, an award at school, a bonus at work or a special surprise date with our spouse…hint, hint Wednesday is Valentine’s Day…we all know what it feels like to Hope for first place glory!

We all hope for first place glory in something, but we don’t always know how to get it. Moses hoped for it too and he got it, sort of. In our second lesson from 2 Corinthians 3, we heard that Moses had glory. It was glory so wonderful that he had to cover it up when he went out in public. No Moses had not won the coveted gold medal for shepherding in the desert Olympics. The glory Moses had was not his, it wasn’t something he had worked hard for or a special talent of his. Moses’ glory came from God.

As a leader of God’s people, Moses often went before God to find out what message he wanted his people, Israel, to hear. Whenever Moses talked with God, he soaked up some of his glory. As Moses stood talking with the glorious and Almighty God, the literal light of God’s glory passed to Moses. Then when Moses left God’s presence and stood before the people to relay God’s message, they saw his glowing face. His face was like what we often see angels depicted as on TV shows or movies, white and shiny. And when the people saw Moses shining face, they were scared.

The reflected glory of God scared the people for a couple reasons. It scared them because they had never seen a person’s face glow before. Of course, a man with a glowing face was scary, but there was a deeper fear that God’s glory revealed in the hearts of the people. It was their fear of failure. God’s glory appearing as light on the face of Moses carried with it all the things that make God who he is: his power, his infinite knowledge, his love and his holiness. All of God’s qualities are intimidating for us as mortal people, but the quality we fear most is his holiness.

The word holy is said a lot in church, but doesn’t come up much outside of Sunday morning. The best way to describe what it means, is to say that God only does good things. God is always faithful, loving, patient, kind, compassionate, etc. God loves what is good and holy so when he created mankind, he expected us to be good and holy. He even went to far as to define what that goodness looks like and he did it through his law. God gave the summary of his laws to Moses in the Ten Commandments.

In the Ten Commandments, God asked that the people trust in him as their one and only God, honor his name, remember to worship and pray to him, treat their parents and the government with respect, take care of one another’s needs, not hurt anyone, not cheat on their spouse, not steal, not gossip, not be greedy, but be kind, patient, loving, gentle, faithful and good to one another all the time. God’s law was filled with good things and if kept by the people, their lives would be filled with peace and prosperity, but none of the people could live up to it. Thus, when the people saw Moses face shining with God’s glory they were scared because it reminded them of their failures, their imperfections and God’s disappointment in them.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people today still only see God as a law giving judge, who is always disappointed in us. God seems like the Olympic judge with the blank, unimpressed stare who threw out his number “10” score paddle because he won’t ever give a perfect score, who constantly critiques our lives demanding that we be good enough for first place and a top spot on the podium, but we just can’t get there. So, every time we see the shiny gold medal labeled “good” or “loved by God” we want to hide from it because God’s law tells us it is impossible to get. Paul said all of us feel this way about God because

14 their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.

Paul said that there is a veil, something that divides us from knowing who God truly is, so that we don’t see God as anything but a law giver.

All of us have those feelings because of our conscience. It’s the voice inside that God gave us to know what is good and what is bad. We don’t need to see Moses’ shiny face to feel guilty about our lives because God hardwired into us his expectations for how we are to live. So, do you wake up every day of your life feeling like you have done good by God, in other words, do you always love your family, tell the truth, keep your temper in check and are you perfectly content with every relationship and decision you have made in your life? No you are not because your consciences told you so

God meant for our conscience to be a good thing, to guide us to always do the right thing, but because of sin we lost that ability to do good. Sin is our desire to go against our conscience. Sin is something that God never intended for us to have, but something our mutual ancestors Adam and Eve chose to do when God first created mankind. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to sin against God, now all of us are infected with these bad, unholy, hurtful, sinful desires.

Because of our sin, God’s once great blessing of a conscience to guide us, is broken and now serves to convict us when we do wrong. But we hate being wrong and we get tired of feeling like we aren’t good enough. We want to be better and so we do all we can to be better.

Like an Olympic athlete, we figure if we dress right, get on the right team and practice, we can overcome those feelings of failure. We work hard to make enough money, to have designer clothes, a new car, new appliances and a bigger house. We hang out with other people who are successful, healthy and trendy. We keep up on the news and celebrities and the newest phones and apps and diets and workouts so that when those feelings creep up that we are not good enough we can find enough people to compare ourselves to, to feel like we are better than them and therefore we must be good. This has been the struggle of all people ever since we lost our relationship with God. It is a struggle we can only find relief from in Jesus.

Paul wrote,

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.

Jesus is our only source of true glory. Not a glory from keeping his law, but the glory of the gospel, which is the good news that Jesus made us good and holy when we could not. It is the good news that Jesus was our Olympic athlete.

I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics Friday night and saw all the countries walking in. If left on our own to compete to keep God’s expectations for our lives, we wouldn’t even be good enough to be invited to the Olympics, but you are not alone. Instead, God called you to faith in Jesus. You are now one of God’s people and Jesus is the one in front of our country. Jesus is the one with the flag at the front. He leads us in and he also competes in all the events. Not events in a stadium or on a snowy mountain side, but the events of our lives. Jesus came and lived a perfect, good and holy life that we never could.

He won everything God expected us to win, all the kindness, goodness, patience, compassion, love, etc. we were supposed to do, Jesus did. Then Jesus put all his gold medals on us and took our place outside the walls of the stadium where all those who are not good enough sit and he died. Jesus gave up his perfect life and all the glory that went with it, to give it to us and take our place on the outside of God’s kingdom, where there is only God’s disappointment, punishment and death.

But Jesus is greater than any superhuman Olympic athlete, he is God. Jesus suffered and died to free us from God’s punishment, he gave us his medals for being good and holy, then he rose from the dead revealing his true glory as God who has the power over life and death. Jesus rose as a true victor and he promises to raise you and I from the dead as well, to live with him in the glories of heaven.

Through Jesus, you and I are saved, not working on being saved. Since you heard the Word of God and were baptized, the Holy Spirit freed you from your sins and gave you faith. Now every day of your life is what happens after you leave the podium wearing the gold medal, which is why Paul said,

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

We are bold to share the gospel and live free from the hold sin had on us.

You and I are not Olympic level snowboarders. People do not line up to get our autographs and they don’t sit by their TVs waiting to watch us compete in our lives. But you and I have glory. Not the faded glory of God’s law, making demands we can’t keep, but the greater glory of the unveiled gospel that tells us the good news that we are free from sin and dearly loved by God. So, go out and compete boldly. When you get the chance to share the gospel do it, when you get the chance to love, love and when you fall back into sins because you are still this side of heaven and still struggling against sin and this sinful world remember this. Your Hope for first place glory, is more than hope. It is yours through Jesus. Amen.

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