As you may know, Mr. President, 'railroad' carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by 'engines' which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.
What Thomas A’Kempis said is right, “Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” The kind of change the scripture speaks of today is a transformation of the heart.
I knew a man by the name of Jim VanDiest. Billie’s husband. I only knew him as a man filled with the Spirit that was a natural evangelist, a man that was passionate about others coming to know Christ, a man that wanted the focus of SACC to be first and foremost the importance of knowing Jesus Christ. A dedicated man. The rumor about Jim Van Diest is that he was not always a completely honorable man, then sometime in the 70’s he had a heart attack? Although not good for his health, it changed his life, it changed his world, his spirit was rocked by God, and he was transformed. I’m told my father used to call Jim, “a trophy of grace.”
Ross Massey, one of the pillars of this church for decades, used to testify that when he was young, he was a wild boy, a lot of bad decisions, then something happened. And he changed. And his heart mellowed. And how many people have been impacted by his faith, his dedication.
People can change. You want to know how to be more like Christ? As God never gave up on you, never give up on others. Some of you have a story of personal transformation. You are a “trophy of grace,” a living testimony that when the Spirit of God gets hold of you there is a transformation. When the time is right, tell your story. One of the great verses in all of scripture is coming soon in 2 Cor. 5:17…
I am not going to go into great deal about the Moses reference, only to explain that when you read Ex. 32-34, Moses went up on the mountain to hear from God, he received the ten commandments, it was such a glorious event that his face literally radiated, he wore a veil to hide the glory of God because it was too much. Now Paul is saying that since Christ came to earth, a new age has dawned, a new covenant is upon us, we are living in an age when we have been given the spirit and yet we wait for the fullness of eternal life, and one of the most amazing phrases in all of scripture is found in v. 9.... “how much more…” How much more do we radiate the glory of God than Moses.
I really do not know what it would have been like to live prior to Jesus Christ, but I do know that now we are offered the fullness of Jesus Christ through the Spirit. Using the metaphor of Moses, the veil has been lifted. This means you can change. This means the possibility of a transformed life is real. Never give up on anyone. Pray for the veil to be lifted, pray for the glory of the Lord to shine upon your family, your friends, and those in the community that are hurting and struggling. Pray for those who are angry over a broken relationship, bitter. People can change. Believe it. Expect it. Pray for it. Pray for the veil to be lifted.
Then we come to this rich verse: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
The Lord’s glory is to to see that which is good about the Lord. The handi-work of his creation is a reflection of his glory, a new born baby causes people to burst forth in praise of God because of the purity and goodness, an image of the glory. And the Lord says, you are a testimony of God’s glory: his goodness, his righteousness, his purity, his holiness. If you are follower of Jesus Christ, then you will reflect the Lord. People can change, and you will be used by God to make a difference.
“We with unveiled faces reflect the Lord glory...” Unveiled faces. Not only can people change, but God can and will use you to change them. Never give up on people to change, and let the Lord use you as an instrument of his glory. Let people see the Lord through you. You want to know how to restore a broken relationship: reflect the Lord’s glory and believe that people can change. The hardest heart can melt. The most stubborn person can soften. And if it happened to you, it can happen to others… The change we are looking for in others, a new behavior might be good, new patterns, new commitments, those are all good, but the lasting change is a relationship with Christ. It’s a sobering truth: the only Christ some people may see is you. Not that you are Christ, but that you reflect his glory.
Is it any wonder, that just a few verses earlier, Paul said, “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” One of my personal sins: lacking in boldness. I err on the side of caution. There are many times I need to listen to the spirit of God and speak or act. Because of the life changing reality of the Spirit, Paul is very bold.
A few weeks ago I had a funeral. Now if I could pat myself on the back for a moment, I had more than a few complements. The family waxed eloquent. I happen to know some of those that were there, so I heard many compliments. A few days later somebody told my mother what a good job I had done, and she passed on the compliment. I was feeling pretty good. Then I went to the mailbox on Friday, right before I started working on this message, and I received a letter from a dear Christian woman who I did not know but had been to the funeral, and she said, “I left the service with a feeling of disappointment.” She was complimentary all right, but she said, “where was the hope?” I believe this woman was used by God to remind me to not be afraid to be bold, to talk about the hope we have in Christ.
Here is another insight in this scripture: not only can people change, but so can you. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory…”
You want to restore a broken relationship, sure, others can change, but more importantly, you can change. Perhaps this is the greater insight. When I read this scripture, what I am hearing is that I can become more and more like Christ. The process of transformation is entirely the Lord. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, because we have no power to change ourselves. Salvation is an incredible gift, but the transformation of your life does not stop. The Lord will continuously mold you and change you --- if you let him. People can change. Never give up on them. And so can you. Never give up on yourself. The Lord doesn’t. Do you think you are already as good as you are going to get? The Lord hasn’t given up on you, so don’t be so foolish as to give up on yourself. The Lord will continuously change you. Your age makes no difference. Your background does not matter. Your past is of no consequence. You can not be so bad that there is no hope. With the Lord there is always hope. You can become that trophy of grace, a model of what the Lord can do to change a person.
Change is possible. Transformation is necessary, if there is to be full restoration. The book of 2 Corinthians is written by Paul to people who used to like him but now are troubled by him. Paul does not give up, he is saying you can be changed by the Spirit of God, and so can I. When a broken relationship is healed, it does not mean going back to the way things used to be -- isn’t that what we so often have in mind? If restoration means one or both people in the relationship have changed for the better, then the relationship will be better. It means there will be more depth. That’s why when a young couple first gets married they are under the impression that nobody in the history of the world loved each other as much as they loved each other. It’s one of God’s grand illusions that he lets us have that is probably good for us. But then tension happens, problems come up, and somehow when it is sorted through and the couple comes back to a meeting of the minds, the most amazing thing happens, and it is as if the couple loves each other more. How did that happen?
When God changes people, and relationships are healed, he never says, “as good as new.” God’s motto: “Better than ever.” If you are going to go through all the heartache of fighting with somebody, the reward when you come out the other side is depth. Somehow God will give you a strength, a hope, a faith.
Never give up, because people can change. The transformation is a gift from the Lord. The Lord will use you to reflect his glory. Never give up on others, and never give up on yourself, because you can change too, becoming a trophy of grace. And the most amazing things happen when God changes people, the transformation is from bondage to freedom. And freedom is a gift from God, freedom to be different, freedom to choose right, freedom to live. When the Lord gives you his spirit, the Lord will pronounce, “Better than ever.” Broken relationships can be healed because God, through his spirit, has the power to change people. Even me. Even you.