The word glory occurs 485 times in the Old Testament, 416 times in the New Testament, and I counted 12 of these occurrences in these 11 verses. The words that I found associated with glory in the lexicon are brightness, radiance, splendor, and majesty. Earlier this year we had the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse. For a few moments the glory of the sun was hidden, and we could look at it with the aid of special glasses. God’s glory is greater and even the reflection of his glory on Moses’ face was too much for the Israelites to look at. They insisted that Moses put a veil over his face. Paul tells us that the glory of the new covenant surpasses what Moses and the children of Israel experienced. The glory on Moses’ face faded, but the glory of the gospel will never fade.
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:16 NLT)
There is incredible good news in what Paul writes here. It is not only possible to change, but continual change is the expectation for anyone who is looking at God’s glory. I am reading Grit by Angela Duckworth. In the chapter on hope she tells story after story to make the point that change is possible. She does not appear to have any belief in God, but she is convinced that we can do things to improve ourselves and others. Paul’s expectation is not the same. His expectation of change is not based on human effort and a constructive environment. His expectation is based on the glory of God and the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit.
Our lesson on Sunday was on the book of Judges. You can listen to it here. The main point of the message is that we tend to forget, and we need to remember. Paul’s point is similar. We must keep turning to God and look him in the face. When we turn away our faces are veiled, and we can’t see clearly. When we turn our face toward God, the veil is removed, we see clearly, and we are changed. If we are not experiencing continual change toward becoming more and more like Jesus, we should examine what we are looking at.
I think Satan has two strategies for preventing us from changing. The first is to distract us. Our distractions are different from those of Paul’s day, but I’m convinced that every generation has struggled to stay focused on God’s face. What is your natural response to a very bright light? I look away. What is your response to a bright shiny object moving in your peripheral vision? I turn and look. We must be intentional in maintaining our focus on God.
Satan’s second strategy is to discourage us. He keeps telling us that we can’t change. He tells us that even if it is possible, it just takes too much effort. God’s approach answers both strategies. God says that his glory is more than sufficient and much better to look at than all the bright shiny objects Satan brings our way. He also tells us his desire is that we become like him (Romans 8:29). He has provided his Spirit to help us change. We need to cooperate, but change is possible and expected.
Who are you looking at? Do you believe that change is possible in you, and in others?
To my grandchildren:
I have many bad habits. God wants me to know that I don’t have to keep them.