September 10, 2011

Ministry of Righteousness

"12Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14But their minds were hardened. For to this day,when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And 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.
1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truthwe would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In 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. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For 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."2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

We could read books outlining what Scripture has to say about a ministry of righteousness.  What it is, what it produces, what it does, how it is manifested, how it is focused, what our part is and what God does, what models Scripture gives us, how to evaluate it and do it with accountability, what the prerequisites are and how to guard it, etc.

But for a devotional thought, I would like to focus on how this portion of Scripture leads us to a practical understanding of "a ministry of righteousness", so that we may 1) recognize it and 2) pursue it in whatever we do.

Paul continues with the word hope.  "Since we have such hope".  What hope?  Well, from the preceeding context, it is the hope of an eternal glory from a new covenant which is dependent on the work and power of the Holy Spirit, not self-effort - and nothing can come against this ministry.

The passage says that those who look to the Old Testament glory of the law (presented historically in the Old Testament, but no longer effective or even glorious today) have veiled hearts and are bound in slavery.  They cannot realize the hope described above - the freedom of grace - unless they turn to Christ.  Now vs. 18 is most important to our understanding of a ministry of righteousness.

It says "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."

Recognition.     The transformation from self to Christlikeness comes only from the work of the Spirit of God, not self mortification and effort.  Furthermore, we are matured in degree as the Lord determines for each one of us.  Nobody moves at the same pace as if their was a spiritual maturity template god imposes on every believer to grow in exactly the same way at the same intervals.  Therefore, you may continual to struggle with certain sin in your life as God molds and shapes you while I struggle with other sin as God molds and shapes me.  For either one of us to try and impose our "spiritual maturity template" onto one anothers' life as if we had figured out a common perfect path for growth is sinful and proud.  God is the one working to produce righteousness, not me or you.  In such an instance, the heart is veiled from understanding the glory of grace which comes only from grace.  Sadly, such a heart is still bound by lawful duty.  The gospel is only veiled to those who are perishing.  If someone does not understand the ministry of righteousness and clings to the ministry of death (law bound effort), they are perishing.

Pursuit.    "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."  The pursuit of the ministry of righteousness begins with the manifestation of Christ as the glory of God in my life circumstances.  If you haven't read my book "The Living Image: God Purposed You to Bear His Image and Know His Will", please download a copy of it from the links posted on this page above, or pick one up at Barnes & Noble; that is the whole thrust of my book.  No matter what you are and where you live; no matter what you do, you can manifest the glory of God in Christ Jesus - as long as it meets God's scriptural standards for propriety.  There is a way, despite your sin, for you to be used of God to reveal the perfect and unmerited Grace of God given in Christ through what you do.  Do people see the gloriousness of God through the grace administered by how you do what you do?  If you don't know how to incorporate such a life mission into your career or past time, then read the book.  It is not difficult.

"Let the light shine out of the darkness".  God's mission and message are not fillibusters or clauses on the rest of of our life, they are the purpose for our life.  We shouldn't be working to fit God into the way our life is lived or what we do, we should be fitting our lives and careers around the ministry of righteousness which He has given us.  This doesn't mean preaching - this means doing whatever it is in such a way that God's glory, revealed through Christ, is recognized as something separate from human effort.  This produces light, which leads to unveiled hearts, which leads to freedom...

...which is our competence and hope.

The ministry of righteousness is continuing sovereign rule of Gods grace in my life, despite my sin, for the manifestation of His glory in what He produces, not what I produce of my own disciplined effort.

Are you living a ministry of righteousness?  Are you a Living Image Bearer?

Tomorrow, I will expound on our proper response (not self-righteous effort) to God grace, and how we "work out" our salvation. as it pertains to this discussion.

With you for His glory