Beholding the Glory of God | Matt Nickel | 2 Cor 4:1-2, 2 Cor 3:18

February 21, 2021 Speaker: Matt Nickel Series: Stand Alone Sermons

Topic: New Testament Passage: 2 Corinthians 4:1–4:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18

Transformed by beholding God’ glory 

Intro about not seeing things that are right in front of you. We have one job to do as Christians.  To behold the glory of God. This beholding is the thing that changes us. 

  1. We don’t lose heart when we behold the Glory of God (2 Cor 4:1)  Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart. 

I want to start with the concept “We don’t lose heart.” Before we get into this passage deeper,  I want to check in and ask, how are you doing today? Are you feeling discouraged? The last 12  months have been an incredible challenge. It’s ok, if you are feeling discouraged. That’s  normal. This word “lose heart” has also been translated “faint”. To me it brought up the  imagery of being so discourage you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. It’s just not  worth it. We think through this pandemic… almost 1/2 million in the US alone have died.  Businesses have failed, jobs have ended, bank accounts dried up, churches have closed  down… or split and to add insult to injury people have gotten cancer. Politics are a mess.  

It’s easy to be discouraged when the world around us is crumbling… this can sometimes lead  us to a deeper more profound place of losing your trust in God. Is God really good? Is he really  for me? Is he really out there? Does he care?  

If you are feeling this way, I want you to know that is ok. We have to grieve our losses. When  we see something is not right, it is good and right to feel emotions about the brokenness of the  world. Honestly, we are often taught to bury our negative emotions and pretend they don’t  exist. I have been working through some old pain recently… and am learning that shutting out  my pain has ripple effects all over my life. So, if you are feeling this way at all. I hope you are  encouraged this morning. 

As we start reading this passage we jump into the passage like in the middle of a mini series on  Netflix… You are like, ok, so what’s happening again? Who are these people? Why is Paul  talking about not losing heart? Well, he and his church are in the middle of church drama.  Maybe better described as church trauma. Paul is being accused of having wrong motives,  using trickery, possibly adding stuff or leaving stuff out. People are questioning their faith.  Maybe Paul is a jerk. Maybe all the things he said about Jesus were a lie. Was he just trying to  make money? Does he just want to be famous? Have you been through church trauma. Likely  you have. Our church has been through trauma, I want to acknowledge that. How do you not  lose heart when you have church trauma? With all the brokenness in the world around us,  shouldn’t the church be a “safe space”? Yes it should. But it isn’t always. 

By the mercy of God”, we don’t lose heart. When we hear the word “Mercy” we might think  about it in the legal sense of the word… not being punished for something we did… and that is  true. In Jesus, we are not punished for our sins. However in a broader sense, he is talking  about relational mercy. This is the kindness, goodness, gentleness, compassion and empathy  of God. Because of his kindness and empathy we don’t lose heart. Do you recognize the  kindness and goodness of God in your own life? Recognizing God’s mercy or (Beholding the  Glory) in our own lives is a lifelong endeavor. Today I am going to give you some practical ways  to do this. As we are Mercy fellowship, when we see the word Mercy, think this is something  we need to pay attention to. Our vision for our church is to understand God’s mercy, let it  change us, so we can be the kindness and empathy to the community around us… in  Marysville, Arlington, Lake Stevens, Everett. 

“Having this ministry” by the mercy of God. Is literally “being in service to God”. It is initiated  by God. Paul is reminding them that he did not choose to be a Christian. He did not choose to  be a preacher. Jesus chose him. He was happy, rich, and famous… hunting and killing  Christians, when Jesus shows up, stops him in his tracks, and blinds him. so that he can  actually see. Paul is reminding us that it’s not about him. It never has been. And even though  we all have our own stories, when God shows up, when he opens our eyes, we are changed.  This is how it works for everyone. We are all in God’s service. We do not and cannot take the  credit. That would be us hiding the truth. It’s not about the leadership. If a church makes the  ministry about a person, it’s beginning to blind people to the truth. If someone is really good  and explaining the Gospel and the Bible, However I’m not talking about a one time changed…  I’m talking about ongoing change. 

  1. We are changed by beholding the Glory of God (2 Cor 3:18)  

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the  same image from one degree of glory to another.[b] For this comes from the Lord who is the  Spirit.  

So ready to go deeper? Paul here is actually referring to a concept he just unpacked in the last  chapter. Beholding the Glory of God. God’s mercy and kindness is experienced when we  behold the Glory of God. We don’t lose heart when we behold the Glory of God. The opposite  is true too. We begin to lose heart when we can’t see God. 

Paul has just explained one of simplest, but often overlooked principles in the Bible. I believe it  is Satan’s #1 goal to blind us to it. Let me show you. Paul is reflecting on Moses in the  wilderness where he meets God and his face begins to glow. His face is “transformed”. It  freaked everyone out so much that they made him cover his face. He’d probably walk around  at night and not need a flashlight. But over time it would fade. Then, he would meet with God  again and it would begin to glow again. This is how it works. This is an illustration of true  discipleship. We are changed as we behold the glory of God. And when we stop beholding the  glory of God… we begin to fade - spiritually.  

It’s like glow in the dark stars. I got my daughter Olive glow in the dark starts for Christmas this  year. Here is the secret about glow in the dark stars… the only way they work is if they have  spent time in the light to charge them up so they can glow. By middle of the night their light is  basically gone. This is how our faith works for us too. To be transformed… the most important  thing we can do, is spending time beholding God’s glory. This is different than going to church  or reading the Bible. We do not grow simply by gaining more knowledge, going to Bible study,  attending church services, serving in Mercy kids… in fact those things can cause us to fade IF  we are not beholding the Glory of God.  

The word beholding is a weird word. I’m just not sure if we have a better word in English. The  word is also translated reflecting in some translations. However it’s more than that… it is  seeing, contemplating, and experiencing.  

Here is my definition: 

“Beholding God’s Glory is being present with God, noticing and experiencing his goodness in  the everyday parts of life.” 

This is what changes us. It’s not a one time thing. It’s establishing a habit of being deeply  grounded in who God is. 

Check out Psalm 63 

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 

    my soul thirsts for you; 

my flesh faints for you, 

    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  

2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, 

    beholding your power and glory.  

3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, 

    my lips will praise you.  

4 So I will bless you as long as I live; 

    in your name I will lift up my hands.  

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, 

    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,  

6 when I remember you upon my bed, 

    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  

7 for you have been my help, 

    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  

8 My soul clings to you; 

    your right hand upholds me.  

This is what it looks like to behold the Glory.  

III. We prioritize our day by beholding the Glory of God  

So here is what I am saying to you. Our whole lives need to be wrapped around this one truth.  How can we organize our lives around beholding God’s glory? If our light is prone to fade…we  need to recharge every couple hours. There are so many ways. Most of them involve slowing  down, noticing, and enjoying God. 

  1. Simply when we stop to watch a sunset, or carve out some time to take in the sunrise.  We realize how big, amazing, and creative God is…We behold the glory of God. It says  that Adam and Eve walked in the cool of the day with God. 
  2. When we taste delicious food. When it was a kid it was hot, cheesy, pizza, that tastes  so good. It brings new meaning to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We have the  opportunity to stop and behold the Glory of God. 
  3. When you are hiking up mount Pilchuck and you take in the view… 
  4. God actually created a whole day for us to behold the Glory of God… The Sabbath. It’s  a day to recharge spend some time enjoying God. 
  5. When we meditate on scripture and we are stirred by who God is. Absolutely. But  growing up in the church… reading your Bible straight through in a year was a notch in  your belt. A reason for pride. Something to check of your list. Beholding the glory of  God is not soothing your check off your list. It is something you enjoy and you never  want to stop. Bing in the presence fo your Savior. 
  6. When we hear good music or enjoy the words of a worship song 
  7. It todays day and age, it’s not enough to say it’s something we should do. We need to  schedule it in our day. For me, it is getting up extra early for 20 min in the morning with  my cup of coffee and silence before God. I have an alarm set for 10am and 3pm to  remind me to stop and reconnect. And at the end of the day I do the Examen 
  8. When we look back on our day. The prayer of Examen is where you take some time and  look back at your day and notice where God was there and you didn’t even realize it.
  9. When we reflect on God’s mercy and grace. How we are undeserving, but God still  lavishes his love on us. 
  10. When we are hanging out with people and we see God working in someone else.  11. In the quietness. It says Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day. Jesus  went away to be alone with God the father. To be present with God. 
  11. How do we behold the Glory of God in the painful times? - habits. It’s interesting to see  people like Jeremiah 
  12. We are clear when we behold the Glory of God (2 Cor 4:2)  

But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice[b] cunning or to  tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves  to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 

  1. When we behold God’s Glory… he is enough. He satisfies us. It’s easy in America to  feel unsatisfied. We are often reminded on Social Media of all the things we don’t have.  We begin to feel unsatisfied. We start to feel like we are missing something in our lives.  we need to help God out. Make Him look better… You know edit the Bible a bit… don’t  need to try to add things to the Bible to make him look better. We also aren’t trying to  trick people into beholding God’s glory. Our ministry is to behold him and help others to  do the same.  

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of  this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the  gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

  1. It says the “god of this world has blinded them”. You see the whole plan of satan is to  blind people from the gospel… to keep humans from beholding the glory. To be blinded  or tricked, to miss the truth. It’s actually is alluding to how Satan tricked Adam and Eve  in the garden. In fact we can’t make blind people see. It’s as if they are born without  eyes. Yelling at them. Having picket signs. Preaching at them is not going to make the  blind to see. For someone to believe it takes a miracle of God. God has to blind us from  seeing God’s glory.  
  2. What Paul is being clear about here is paralleling the Glory of God and the glory of  Christ. Jesus is God and the good news is that he pursues us with his mercy. He dies to  pay our sins and forgive us and rose again. This is a clear proof of his Mercy: his  kindness, goodness, and compassion for us.  
  3. While this verse is talking about how Satan blinds the unbelievers. He is also in the  business in keeping believers from beholding the glory of God. Think about the things  that keep us from beholding God’s glory. He tries to keep us so busy that we fail to stop  and enjoy the moments around us. He keep us stressed out so we can’t relax in his  presence. He has us fill our time with music, movies, and social media. The longer he  can keep us away from the glory of God… the more our light dims.  
  4. We give God the credit when we behold the Glory of God  

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your  servants[c] for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in  our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

  1. We proclaim not ourselves. There is so much temptation to proclaim ourselves.  Especially when we are successful or do something right. We want everyone to take  notice. When we a good and do spiritual things… it’s easy for us to take credit for it…  but not if we are beholding the Glory of God. It’s his work, not ours 
  2. We proclaim Jesus as Lord. We proclaim Jesus, crucified, risen, and God. He is God.  The glory we are beholding is His glory. The mercy of God… the kindness, empathy,  and undeserved favor of God is embodied in Jesus. Beholding Jesus is the Glory of  God. 
  3. We are just servants, slaves, workers. We can’t make people see, we can’t do anything  apart from him. In fact if we wander from him, our light fades. That is why we make  much of Jesus. He is the source of the Glory. The source of power. The source of  transformation. We need to be near him. This is our right attitude as we Behold the  Glory of God. It’s not emphasizing how weak we are, just at how BIG, how Holy… how  Other He is than us. His power is energizing us as we bask in His glory.  
  4. The God’s Glory is demonstrated in his mercy…. Just as he said “Let there be light” He  says… “Let that person see…” The one who created the world is one who creates sight  from blindness. This light shone in our hearts… and caused us to see the glory of God  in the face of Jesus. 

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,[a] we do not lose heart.