Freedom is certainly a relative term. We live in a free country and a man is free to say what he thinks but he may want to consider the consequences of his words from his wife, his family, or his boss, and he definitely will want to make sure it wont hurt his income!
This year the 4th of July holiday falls on a Sunday. As we have honored our members of the Armed Services, let us examine what real freedom is all about. On this Independence Day, I think it would be good to read what many of our American forefathers had to say on the subject of our nation.Patrick Henry "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" John Quincy Adams "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: that it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." Thomas Jefferson "The reason that Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion in the world that deals with the heart." John Adams "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people...it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Abraham Lincoln "My concern is not whether God is on our side. My great concern is to be on Gods side." Benjamin Franklin "He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity will change the face of the world."
The reason America has been great is because of its Christian moral foundation. As we are losing that foundation, we see the fabric of our society deteriorating. We are going to look at a portion of scripture which will teach us what real liberty is all about freedom in Christ.
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
In order to properly understand this portion of scripture, we need to realize that Paul was trained as a Pharisee. This religious sect combined tradition with scripture to come up with a complex system of legalistic requirements. The Old Testament is just as much Gods word as the New Testament, and in the Old Testament we see the teachings of grace, mercy, and forgiveness just as we see them in the New Testament. However, it was too easy for Pharisees and other devout Jews to substitute the letter of the law for the spirit of the law.
We can easily condemn the Jewish rulers in Christs day for their legalisms, and yet we still do the same things today. We think we are Christians by being good, going to church, tithing, living a moral life, and yet we also neglect the importance of love, compassion, forgiveness, and we lose sight of Gods mercy toward us. We can too easily think that God owes us something because of all our good works. Paul understood that the letter of the law brings us to the knowledge that we cannot live a holy life in our own selves. We need Gods Spirit to help us and we need Christs forgiveness and the Fathers constant mercy toward us. We find this same attitude in the writings of the Old Testament. The Old Testament believers understood that a humble and contrite spirit was more important to God than sacrifice. However, they did not fully understand the significance of the lamb sacrifices as we do today.
But by Pauls day, the teachings in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning dependence on Gods mercy had been twisted into an excuse for self-righteousness.
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Paul is referring to Exodus 34:29-35 where Moses wore a veil after being in the presence of God. Apparently his face shone from the experience, and Moses put on a veil so the people would not be frightened by his appearance. Paul uses this story to show us the difference between Gods words engraved in stone which convict us of our sin and need for redemption, and Gods words engraved in our heart by the Holy Spirit after we have been redeemed by Christ.
His point is that even the very words which condemn us of our sin, and therefore bring death, are glorious. How much more is the glory of the ministry of the Spirit which has brought us a new life in Christ!
MacDonald explains, "[Paul] contrasts the Old Covenant and the new covenant. There is a good reason why he should do so at this point. Those who were criticizing him so severely in Corinth were the Judaizers. These were the men who sought to mix law and grace. They taught Christians that they must observe certain portions of the Law of Moses in order to be fully accepted by God. And so the apostle is here going to demonstrate the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old."
This does not mean that the Old Testament is in any way inferior to the New Testament both testaments are Gods word to humanity. What it means is that the Old Testament is better understood in the light of the New Testament. The Old Testament believers were looking forward to the Messiah and their sacrifices were types of the coming sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We now understand better what these Old Testament teachings mean. But the Old Testament believers understood Gods grace and mercy just as much as we do. They understood fully that they were incapable of living righteously and they realized how dependent they were on Gods mercy. All the teachings of the New Testament are contained in the Old Testament.
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
When we have experienced the freedom in Christ, we are more bold to speak the truth. We are more bold to share our faith. We are more bold to take risks. Since we have been delivered from the bondage of sin, we have a freedom to be bold in Christ. Those who are truly free are not the ones who are enslaved by sin and immorality, but rather true liberty can only come when we are delivered from all the wicked desires in our heart. Only Christ can do that. We cannot earn it no matter how good we are. In our own strength we will utterly fail. But in Christ we will have the victory.
We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while he radiance was fading away. 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.
Paul himself experienced this veil on his mind when he was persecuting the church. He thought he was obeying the Old Testament scriptures, but instead he was blinded to the truth of the gospel message. Unfortunately, Christians are not exempt from putting a veil over their minds. How often do we see Christian sects adding on their own traditions to Gods words. How frequently do well-meaning believers want to add the burden of good works and sincere actions to the Gospel of grace and mercy.
It almost seems like it is human nature to want to add traditions to Gods simple plan of salvation. Throughout the history of Christianity there have been cycles of plain and simple faith followed by added rules and regulations made by human decree and tradition. The history of Christianity is one of believers rebelling against old patterns of strictness and of earning Gods favor. Throughout history there have been periods of Christians "rediscovering" the true simplicity of the gospel message only to eventually add their own new legalisms and good works requirements.
When we allow Christ in our heart and the Holy Spirit to minister to us, we will find those veils falling off. Bible reading and Bible study should be both fascinating and enjoyable. If it is not for you, ask Jesus to remove the veil from your mind. Perhaps you have added your own set of good works to earn Gods favor and you have lost sight of the simple and plain teaching of the Bible.
Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Not only will God remove the veil from our mind, but more importantly he will remove the veil from our heart. Perhaps you have been emotionally or even physically battered in this life. You may feel hesitant to trust others and reluctant to reach out in love. You may be afraid of being hurt again or you may feel so wounded by your past that you dont want to open your heart to anyone even to God.
But God will remove that veil from your heart. You can experience Gods love and divine compassion. As you open your heart to God, you will find it easier to open your heart to others. Dont allow the pains of the past to keep your heart bound in the present. Allow Christ to set you free from the scars of the past.
Harris comments, "Whenever a person turns to the Lord and finds in him the end or fulfillment of the law, the Lord completely removes the veil from his heart. No longer is his spiritual perception impaired. He recognizes that the dispensation of grace has superseded the dispensation of the law. He is a new creation in Christ."
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
When you allow the Lord to have complete control of your life, you suddenly discover a new-found liberty. Paul tells us where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We are promised a freedom freedom from worry, from anxiety, from fear, from doubt. Jesus is the one who gives us that liberty. But we must allow him to be Lord of our life. What happens is we keep on wanting to take back our old bondages. Instead of freedom in the Spirit, we look to our own weak and foolish nature for help. The results are predictable we fall back in the same traps as before. Instead of freedom, we find chains. Instead of deliverance, we find problems. Instead of joy, we discover fear. Instead of liberty, we return to captivity. Christ came to see us free. But we must allow the Spirit to minister to us.
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 way we are to walk in this new freedom is a process of us learning how to allow Gods Spirit to transform us step by step. Christ has removed the veil from our hearts and the Holy Spirit will transform us as we learn to walk by faith. But it is a process. Dont be like the Judaizers of Pauls day who accepted Christ as their Savior and were set free, but then they wanted to return to the bondage of keeping the letter of the Law.
There is much bondage in America today. Sin abounds and deviant behavior, immorality, addictions, anger, and selfishness are infecting our society. Dont allow these bondages to enslave you. Christ has called you into liberty. Allow the Holy Spirit to keep you in that freedom.
On this Independence Day, let us not only celebrate the freedom of our nation, but let us also celebrate the liberty in our soul. As John 8:36 promises us, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
This study on 2 Corinthians 3:6-18 © 1999 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New International Version © 1971, Zondervan Bible Publishers
Quotes from American forefathers obtained from the Internet site The Biblical Studies Foundation
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, New Testament volume, pg. 644 © 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Harris: The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 10, pg. 338 © 1976, Zondervan Publishing House