2 Corinthians 3:17-18
by Tom McClendon
“You’re not just failing, you are a failure.”
That was hard to hear from my best friend. But it was a transformational moment for me that would bring godly fruit for the future.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
Similar to Moses, I had sought each day to go into the presence of the Lord and spend time alone with him in his Word. I longed to have the glory of the Lord shine through me.
But also, like Moses the glow on my face spiritually was fading (2 Cor 3:10-13). Yes, I had been going into the presence of the Lord, but then as I left, I began trying to live the Christian life in my own power. I was failing. No, I was a failure. Before I could truly have the power of God in me, I had to recognize I was “poor in spirit,” a destitute beggar coming to God for his power (Matt 5:3).
Where is this freedom? Was it possible that I was taking the discipline and diligence I had developed in sports and transferring it to the Christian life? God was taking me through my failure to show me that freedom is only in him, power is only in him. For where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Where does this power come from? Just as salvation comes “by grace through faith,” so also our sanctification, our growth in Christ. What is this grace? I love this definition: Grace is God’s gift of the enabling power to live this seemingly impossible life of Christ. Yes, Christ lived the Spirit-filled life while he was on the earth and he will live it through you in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Be filled with the spirit” (Eph 5:18). “Walk by the spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). God’s commands are promises for Christ followers (1 John 5:14-15).
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
What Moses had was an outward glory that was fading. But what we as Christians have is an inward glory that is being renewed day by day. We are “being transformed” (ie. metamorphosis) like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. We are being changed, transfigured. We do not just reflect the glory of God but we radiate the glory of God from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like the veil of the temple was ripped apart because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Heb 10:20), so also the veil of our flesh must be destroyed by the power of God. That is the only way.
Be merciless with your sin, beginning with your thought life. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis describes a little dragon voice on our shoulders telling us evil things to do; we must not coddle it but “kill it.”
Would you not like to be a vessel in the Lord’s house for honorable use (2 Tim 2:20-22)? Then you must “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace,” that you may escape the snare of the devil.
This all must be done with unveiled face (complete confession of your sin) before our father, beholding the glory of the Lord. And then you’ll be transformed from one degree of glory to another. Realizing this comes from the spirit of God day by day, there will be no pride in your growth. And the Lord will continue to give you grace: the desire and the power to live this impossible life in Christ, freedom to do what you ought to do.
Then there will no longer be failure but freedom!