Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is Jesus Showing Through?

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 3:16-18
Paul, in this chapter, compares the ministry of the law with the ministry of the Spirit. The Law of Moses brought spiritual death because written only on stone, it did not change the human heart. It only showed where the heart was wrong and thus brought God's condemnation. The Spirit, however, changes the heart and brings true righteousness. He brings it more glorious because it reveals God more fully, and enables us to be like Him.

In Exodus 34:29-35 we read where Moses came down from the mountain after getting the Ten Commandments from the Lord that his face shined so bright that the people were afraid of him.
So he put a veil over his face. This symbolized the inability of the Israelites to perceive the full truth of God's revelation.

Look now at verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 3 (from the Message Bible):
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are--face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is living personally present, a living Spirit , that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We are free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our face shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.
One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, there's something about the preacher's message this morning that I don't understand."

The mother said, "Oh? What is it?"

The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. He said God is so big that He could hold the world in His hand. Is that true?"

The mother replied, "Yes, that's true, honey."

"But Mommy, he also said that God comes to live inside of us when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Is that true, too?"

Again, the mother assured the little girl that what the preacher had said was true.

With a puzzled look on her face the little girl then asked, "If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?"

That's the point isn't it? If we're Christians, when people see us, Jesus ought to show through - in our homes, our offices, our community, and in every aspect of our lives.

Listen again to these words by the apostle Paul found in 2 Corinthians 3:18:

"And we, who reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness."
Now I want to call your attention to two ideas mentioned in that verse.
  1. We who are Christians are supposed to reflect Jesus. In other words, when people see us they should be able to see Jesus in us - in what we say and in what we do.
  2. With each passing day we ought to be more and more transformed to be like Him. And again, that is to be evident in what we do and in what we say.
So, let me ask you: How would things be different if Jesus came and took your place? Would anything have been different this morning as you got ready to come to church? What if He took over your job at work? Or what if He took my place in the pulpit?

Whether we realize it or not, that is exactly what He wants - to make Himself known to others through our lives. You see, as Christians, our goal should be to introduce Jesus to others - to make Jesus known. We should want everyone who doesn't know Him now to come to love Him, to discover the hope, the joy, the power He can bring into their lives. It is not so much about what we see in the Mirror but what do other see when they see us.

We are to look like Jesus.

Now, if that is ever going to happen, people must be able to see Jesus. But the eyes of so many people today have been clouded by the master of this age. Their vision has been polluted by the trappings of this world and the moral decay that surrounds us.

So how are they ever going to see Jesus? Well, if they're going to see Jesus, they'll have to see Jesus in us. That's why Paul is challenging us to reflect Jesus in our lives by being transformed into His likeness. We must look like Jesus. But what does it mean to look like Jesus? Well, I'm confident you realize that I'm not talking about growing beards or wearing a certain kind of clothing. Instead, it means to be like Him, to imitate the character and nature and attitudes of Jesus.

In fact, in Ephesians 5:1-2 that is exactly what the apostle Paul urged the early Christians to do:
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Be imitators of Jesus? What a bold challenge to undertake!

By the way, when people look at Jesus what do they see? Well, they see a Jesus who is generous with His time, His love, and His power. They see one who is genuine in His care and compassion, and in His commitment to the will of God, and to others.But let's pause for a moment and consider: What do people see when they look at us? Do they see us being generous in the same ways that Jesus was? Do they see us being genuine about our faith and our commitments? People also looked at Jesus and saw Him to be incredibly receptive. He would welcome anyone who approached Him: the intelligent and the illiterate, the child-like and the childish, the prosperous and the impoverished, the dedicated and the desperate, the seeker and the sick. He had such an open door to His heart that He is called, not a "teacher of sinners," or a "changer of sinners," but a "friend of sinners." What better friend could anyone ever find than Jesus? And what kind of friend do sinners find in us?

Again, do we look like Jesus? Do our lives, our hearts, our nature reflect His glory? Are we imitating Him? We must make Jesus known by looking like Him.

We are to sound like Jesus.

Secondly, if our goal is to introduce people to Jesus, then we must begin to sound like Jesus.

When people heard Jesus speak and teach they were amazed. Look at this passage from the gospel of Luke 4:36-37, just following a scene where Jesus had driven a demon out of a man in the synagogue:

All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power He gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" And the news about Him spread throughout the surrounding area.
People were talking. A modern translation, The Message, phrases it this way: "Jesus was the talk of the town."

Anytime Jesus walked into the synagogue, the market, or into someone's home, people talked. His comments, His teachings, His rebukes, His words of love had people talking. Oh, there were people who didn't like to hear Jesus, but they belonged to the rulers who were desperately trying to maintain their control over the people's lives and loyalty.

And there are people today who don't want others listening to Jesus because when they do, questions are raised, and hearts and lives are changed.

In 1 Peter 2:23 the apostle Peter tells us,
When they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.
So our task is to help make Jesus known by sounding like Him.

In 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 the apostle Paul says,
When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we answer kindly.
Our vocabulary, our conversations, our prayers, our stories - must all echo His love, compassion and care. Our message must be a testimony of hope and change that encourages those who know us to want to know Jesus, too. But God has planted among such people voices to proclaim messages of spiritual recovery and healing. Who are these voices? We are. And they will only hear His words if we somehow begin to sound like Jesus. If they're ever going to hear the love story of Jesus, they must hear it from us.

We are to act like Jesus.

Last of all, if we're ever going to introduce people to Him, then we must also act like Jesus.

In John 13, we see our Lord wrapping Himself in a towel, washing the feet of His disciples, demonstrating the heart and actions of a servant. Listen to what Jesus says in verses 12-17 as phrased in The Message:
After He had finished washing their feet, He took his robe, put it back on, and went back to His place at the table. Then He said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer. If you understand what I'm telling you, act like it - and live a blessed life."
"If you understand what I'm telling you," Jesus says, "then act like it."

This scripture isn't about foot washing but rather about being a servant.

The person who trusts in Jesus will do what He is doing and even greater things, because Jesus goes to the Father for us to make it possible! We're called to act as He did - to give people God's promises, teach them about God's kingdom, serve people's needs, love people with our hearts and hands. We are to bring people into God's presence - to help them find healing and to point them to God's sacrifice on the cross, and to help them find salvation in Him.

I read an interesting story about a young boy living in Paris at the end of the World War II. He had been orphaned by the cruelty committed by the German forces. Now all alone, he was having to scrounge around the ruined city as best as he could to find food, clothes and shelter. But nearly everyone was experiencing desperate times, and he found that people either ignored him or had nothing to give to him.

Years before, he had heard someone talk about God and Jesus. But with the hell on earth that the war had brought into his life had not thought about God. One cold morning, he was wandering down the street, staring into the windows of shops and caf├ęs. He stopped outside the window of a small bakery. The smell of the fresh bread made his stomach ache with pain. He was so absorbed by the smell and sights of the bakery that he didn't realize an American soldier had come up and was watching him. The boy hardly noticed it when the G.I. walked past him into the store. He did, however, notice the large bag the baker was filling for the G.I. with rolls, breads, and pastries. And the boy could hardly breathe when the soldier exited the shop, knelt down and handed him the bag.He looked at the G.I. with astonishment and gratefulness. Finally, he asked the question that was running through his mind: "Mister, are you Jesus?"

To be mistaken for Jesus! !hat an bold idea - to have our actions so remind others of what Jesus is about and what Jesus would do.

Shouldn't that be our goal? Shouldn't others see Christ in our lives?

Now we are not Jesus but shouldn't we be working to be more like Him?

Let me say this in closing. The closer we walk to Jesus the more like Him we will become!