• Tony Birkhead

#thechallenge Week - 3




When I reveal the Authentic me, God is released to set me Free!


INTRODUCTION

A lot of times today we are so intent on capturing the perfect picture or making sure we’re adding the perfect filter to make our situation look better to people that we miss the moment.

Share a time when you worked to create a social media moment instead of just engaging in the situation.

KEY SCRIPTURE

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 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. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ 2 CORINTHIANS 3:7-13.

What does Paul mean by the phrases “ministry of death” (v. 7) and “ministry of the Spirit” (v. 8)?

What do we know about Moses’ experience that Paul alludes to here?

In verses 7-8 and 11-13 Paul alluded to Exodus 34:29-35. As a result of Moses’ intimate encounter with God on Mount Sinai, Moses’ face shone. After he descended the mountain, Moses wore a veil because of the people’s fear. Later Moses wore the veil to prevent the people from seeing that the glory was fading from his face (see 2 Cor. 3:7,13). Paul referred to this event in Moses’ life to point to the real, but fading, glory of the old covenant. Even though the Mosaic Law brought death to all people because they failed to live up to its demands, it was still glorious because it came from God. Yet just as the reflected glory on Moses’ face eventually faded, the old covenant was eclipsed in the light of the new covenant and the glory of God’s grace.

If we have this ministry of the Spirit, what does that say about our identity? What is our role in this ministry?

As children of God, we are now ministers of the gospel and our identity is found in God. The Holy Spirit works in us to bring about God’s purposes for our lives and His kingdom. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

How has the glory of the gospel (the new covenant) surpassed that of the old covenant (vv. 10-11)? How has the gospel of Jesus Christ brought the law “to an end”?

What happens when you try to grow in your relationship with Christ by your ability to keep God’s laws? Why is it important that remember the superiority of the gospel to the law as we seek to grow?

It is impossible to grow in our relationship with God by keeping the law (legalism) because we will inevitably fail to keep it perfectly. Trying to grow by keeping the law only leads to despair. The good news of the gospel is that Christ has fulfilled the law in our place (see Matt. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21). He fulfilled the law’s demands by living a perfect life and dying on the cross for our sins.

READ 2 CORINTHIANS 3:14-18.

When you came to saving faith in Christ, did it in any way seem as if this veil had been lifted?

What is the only way the veil can be removed? What happens when the veil is removed?

As Moses’ veil kept the Israelites from seeing his face clearly, we all had veils obscuring our vision of God’s glory before we turned to Christ. When we turned to Him the veil was removed (v. 16). Our vision of God’s glory in Christ is now clear. This is the result of the Spirit’s work in us.

Based on these verses, what can we conclude is the goal of our Christian walk?

What are we being transformed into? How long does this process of transformation take?

Read Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:18-19, Philippians 3:20-21, and 1 John 3:2 for insight. What do you learn about the process of transformation from these additional passages?

How do you know if this work is happening inside you?

As disciples of Jesus, we are being transformed into His image in whom we see the glory of the Lord. God is always at work to conform us “to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:28-29), and this is a process that will continue until Christ returns or we go to be with Him.

What are some practical ways we could focus our hearts on the glory of God?

Is spiritual transformation God’s work or our work? Why is understanding this answer important in discipleship?

While God is at work transforming us, we also have our role in the process, which is the role of active faith. We believe the gospel message. We gaze upon the Lord’s glory through the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship. We cooperate with the Spirit’s work to produce God-pleasing character in us.


MOVING FORWARD

· What’s something about you that you’d never reveal to your wider group of “friends” on your social media page?

· What veil are you wearing? What are some situations where you find yourself showing “the me I want you to see”?

· What does Christ need to do in you to help you to live a filter-free life?

· What step can you take to challenge yourself to be authentic this week?


PRAY TOGETHER

Close your group time in prayer together. Pray that in the midst of your roles that encompass family, work, and social contacts, you will be obedient to God’s desire to transform you daily. Thank God for the freedom from sin and death available to believers in Christ through the gospel and for the hope you have that one day this transformation will be complete.


COMMENTARY

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

The Old Testament Law was originally given to guide Israel through God’s grace (see Ex. 34:6-7; Joel 2:12-13). Unfortunately, Israel turned from God’s grace and reduced Moses’ covenant to a system of works righteousness. Except for a faithful remnant, Israel reduced the law to an external written code. By contrast, Christ and His apostles reasserted the inward, spiritual nature of obedience as Moses had originally intended (see Deut. 30:1-20).

Moses’ covenant was glorious but fading, in that it was always intended to be preliminary to a much greater covenant. Christ and His apostles represented that greater day—the time of the new covenant whose glory was superior and never-ending.

These contrasts between the old and new covenants made it possible for Paul to contrast the ministry of one with the other. By “ministry” Paul meant the service of those who mediated the covenants to God’s people. To be sure, Moses had so much glory as a minister of the old covenant that the Israelites could not look steadily at his face (see Ex. 34:29-30). Moses’ ministry was glorious. If this had been true of a ministry that condemned men, the ministry that brought righteousness was certainly even more glorious.

Through this contrast, Paul demonstrated his earlier assertion that his competence as a minister had come from God and not from his self-aggrandizement. He was a minister of the new covenant. This made his service to God’s people even more glorious than Moses’ ministry.

3:12. Paul concluded that the contrasts between the old and new covenants gave him hope and made him very bold. The hope Paul had in mind was that Christ’s covenant and its glory would last for all time and accomplish the salvation for which it was designed.

The terminology very bold is ambiguous. It may refer to the boldness with which Paul had just commended his own ministry. If so, Paul justified his confidence on the basis of the nature of the new covenant. It is more likely, however, that Paul introduced the theme of 3:12-18 with the word bold: the message of Christ is fully unveiled and freely proclaimed.

3:13. To explain his boldness, Paul asserted that he and the other apostles were not like Moses. Exodus 34:29–35 explains that after speaking with God, Moses’ face shone with God’s reflected glory. Moses left his face uncovered whenever he spoke the word of God to Israel, but otherwise he covered his face with a veil. Although the Old Testament does not explain it this way, Paul understood that one reason for Moses’ veil was that the radiance was fading away. Apparently, Moses’ face shone brightly for a while but then returned to normal until the next time he spoke with God. Some interpreters have suggested that Moses veiled his face to hide from the Israelites the fact that his glory faded.

3:14–15. Paul stated metaphorically that the same veil remained when the old covenant was read. When Jews in Paul’s day read from the Torah, they saw glimpses of God’s glory, but no more than glimpses. Only in Christ is the veil that obscured the glory of God on Moses’ face taken away. Christ is the revelation of the glory of God in a much greater way than Moses ever was. Yet, because unbelieving Jews in Paul’s day rejected Christ, when Moses was read, a veil covered their hearts. They saw only a small bit of God’s glory because the veil over their hearts also made their minds … dull, hiding the full truth from them.

3:16. By contrast, whenever anyone turns to the Lord in repentance and faith, his or her condition changes. Paul alluded to Exodus 34:34 which spoke of Moses removing his veil, but he shifted the language toward Christ. Those in Christ see the glory clearly because the veil that dulls their minds is taken away. Christians possess renewed hearts and minds, enabling them to see the revelation of God more fully than those under the old covenant had seen it. Many things still remain hidden (see Rom. 11:33-34), but compared to its visibility under the old covenant, the glory of God is now highly visible in Christ.

3:17. Continuing to draw attention to the change that had taken place in Christ, Paul stated, Now the Lord is the Spirit. This sentence is difficult to interpret because it appears to assert an identity between Christ and the Holy Spirit. Such an identification would contradict the doctrine of the Trinity which states that God is one substance, but three Persons. The Persons of the Trinity are not identical to one another. The context indicates that Paul used the term Lord here and in 3:16 to refer to Christ and that he spoke figuratively about the relationship between Christ and the Holy Spirit. He did not intend to describe an identity between Christ and the Holy Spirit. As the immediate context makes clear, Paul did not always speak literally. In the preceding three verses, he had described the related realities of Moses’ veil and contemporary Jewish dullness by identifying one with the other. Thus, it is likely that when he identified Christ with the Spirit, he used a figure of speech (see Phil. 1:21).

He really meant something like “the Lord is the one who sent the Spirit” or “the Spirit is of the Lord.” This is evident from 3:17b, which refers to the Spirit of the Lord. This second half of the verse assumes that the first half does not equate the Lord with the Spirit, but asserts a close connection between them. Paul had already drawn this connection between Christ and the Spirit a number of times in this context.

Paul explained how those who turned to Christ had the veil removed by declaring that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Paul had not yet touched on the theme of freedom in this context, but elsewhere in his epistles this idea is clear enough. Those who seek salvation through obedience to the Law of Moses (as many Jews did in Paul’s day) are in bondage to the law and death (see Rom. 6:6-22; Gal. 2:4; Heb. 2:15). Those in Christ, however, are free from the dominion of sin and death (see Rom. 7:6). In Christ, believers are set free from sin’s guilt and influence. Believers are no longer slaves to sin, incapable of resisting its influence over their behavior. Instead, they become free to withstand sin and to do good instead of evil. Freedom stood as one of those words that Paul used to summarize the experience of salvation in Christ.

Paul did not mean that believers were free from all obligation to obey God. Rather, for Paul freedom in Christ was only freedom from sin—it was not also freedom from righteousness. In fact, freedom from sin was slavery to righteousness. Only this slavery to righteousness enabled a person to serve “in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6). It is easier to understand Paul’s perspective and vocabulary when one considers that he probably drew the image of freedom not from slaves and freemen in the Roman empire, but from Israel’s freedom from their slavery in Egypt. Thus, he did not contrast slavery to another’s control with freedom to be autonomous. Instead, he contrasted slavery to a sinful power that prevented proper worship with the freedom to be ruled by God—to obey Him and to worship Him.

3:18. Paul closed this section with a description of the new life of freedom that all believers enjoy in Christ. He declared that we … with unveiled faces all contemplate the Lord’s glory. By “we” Paul identified himself and those who ministered the new covenant with him, just as Moses ministered the old covenant. Of course, the same is also true for every minister of the new covenant. Ministers of the gospel of Christ all reflect the Lord’s glory. By this Paul did not detract from his statement that all believers (not just ministers) have the veils removed from their hearts. He simply returned to his main issue: defending his own ministry and actions.

With the phrase “contemplate the Lord’s glory,” the NIV translation becomes problematic. This phrase may also be translated as “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord” (NASB). Both translations fit because they conform to the analogy set up between Moses and the ministers of the new covenant. Moses both beheld and contemplated the glory of God. Like Moses, the ministers of Christ are being transformed into His likeness as they are sanctified by the Spirit of God. But the transformation that takes place in followers of Christ has ever-increasing glory, unlike Moses’ fading glory. This expanding glory comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:31-32

We live in a world of fake news, relativity, and social media highlight reels. I mean, come on, do you really think your “friend’s” lives are as #blessed as their Facebook and Instagram feeds say they are? What happened to reality?

What happened to authenticity? What happened to the truth?

A recent Google search on the topic revealed 994,000,000 results of websites claiming to have answers to these very important questions. The dictionary defines truth as a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

So how can we know what is true and what is not? God gives us the filter of His Word. It provides and reveals the truth in every area of our lives. Today’s verse gives us the four step framework to answer this very important question. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

STEP #1 – ABIDE IN MY WORD- The word abide is defined as continuing without fading or being lost. To abide in the word means we need to continue faithfully believing what Jesus has said, and then put this faith into action by consistently walking in obedience to His Word. This leads us to Step 2.

STEP #2 – YOU ARE TRULY MY DISCIPLES- To truly be a disciple of Christ, we need to continue to trust Jesus’ word and obey him on a consistent basis. We need to die to ourselves in every moment and live our lives as a living sacrifice fulfilling the calling he has on our lives. This will ultimately lead to His honor and glory.

STEP #3 – YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH- The amazing promise in this passage of scripture is that if we abide in His Word and obey His commandments, we will in fact, with zero relativity, know the truth.

STEP #4 – THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE- Close your eyes and recite that truth with me, THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE. Isn’t that awesome? The Creator of the universe has revealed ultimate truth to us through His Word. We have been delivered. We have been set free from relativity, guilt, and sinful behaviors that oppress those who do not abide in Him.

We live in a world that is at war with the truth of His Word. As believers, we have been given a gift, a roadmap to freedom. To know truth, we must abide in His word and obey His commandments. Are you abiding in His Word daily? Are you faithfully trusting and obeying His commandments? If not, I would encourage you to develop a new truth habit. Make the decision today to commit to consistently abide in His Word and faithfully trust and obey His teachings.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:13

To be laid bare is a terrifying thought to many. For someone to know every detail of our lives, from our darkest actions to our most depraved thoughts, is unsettling to say the least. There are people who project an image and work for years to construct a positive reputation only to have that carefully constructed facade come crashing down around them, usually making a mess in the lives of those surrounding them as well. In fact, Jesus named the scribes and Pharisees to be people just like this, saying they were like “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones” (Matthew 23:27).

Now here is an interesting conundrum: the religious men of any day, such as the scribes and Pharisees, would undoubtedly profess that they lived a life of “holiness” to please God and fulfill his great designs for human living, yet interestingly when these religious men met God, he came to quite an opposite conclusion. We, being 2000 years removed from this scene, can quietly scoff and sneer at their hypocrisy while enjoying our modern authenticity. But ironically, this seems highly hypocritical of us! Understand this once and for all, genuinely dwell on this, that God knows everything. When we read that “all are naked and exposed” to his eyes, the text really means that “all are naked and exposed”!

With that in mind, is our Christianity lived out as a theatrical performance for our friends, family, and fellow pew warmers? This is a deep question. Remember, if our Christianity isn’t lived in honest expression privately as well as publicly, there is no point. God sees, God knows, and he, unlike people, can’t be fooled.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!

Romans 6:12-15

Several years ago I counseled a woman who was consumed by bitterness toward her father. He had abandoned the family and refused to acknowledge her as his daughter. Then he became ill and sought to make amends, but the woman refused to hear him. She clung to that unforgiving spirit for many years after her father died. When she finally repented, she told me that the burden of her bitterness had kept her from enjoying God.

One of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to make believers aware of attitudes and actions that are contrary to God’s will. If we decide to resist conviction, we will naturally try to quiet the Spirit’s voice—which often means giving the Lord less of our time or none at all. Then unconfessed sin will cause us to walk away from the Father instead of delighting in our relationship with Him.

Sin usually feels good in some way—temporarily. For example, we can feel justified in our bitterness when the other person has wronged us. Sometimes we want to hold on to resentment and prolong our sense of validation. But as believers, we cannot run our life by emotion. We must consider God’s truth: The Bible says that if we refuse to confess and repent, sin will enslave our heart and destroy our testimony.

Satan tempts us with sins that are likely to look and feel good to our natural self—a habit that gives pleasure or solace is easier to justify than one that seems repulsive. But no sinner is truly happy chasing after wickedness. Authentic joy is found only in oneness with the Lord.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 4

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

I recently read an article that proclaimed, “You’re not more of a ‘real’ mom because your house is messy.” As the mom of toddlers, I’ve seen a recent trend in confession-style articles—you’re more of a “real mom” if your house is messy, you’re carrying a few extra pounds, you feed your kids chicken nuggets, you don’t shower every day … and the list goes on. The idea is that portrayed weakness equals authenticity. But the author of this recent article pointed out that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we should just quit comparing.

That’s a good word. The fact remains, though, that people crave authenticity. So what is it exactly? In her article, “Keeping it Real: The Truth About Authenticity,” Megan Hill explores the origin of authenticity as a Christian value:

So authenticity is transparency and admission of failure. It's the rejection of pretense and hypocrisy. It's truth-telling about all areas of life.

I believe Christians can do authenticity best. We serve a God who is always truthful. Never lies. Never deceives. Has, in fact, defeated the Father of Lies. But I fear that without biblical thought, we may accept an inferior and postmodern version of tell-all, tolerate-all authenticity.

Hill makes an important point. There isn’t one specific formula for an authentic life. Authenticity is a lifestyle based on letting God’s truth flow through our lives constantly. We don’t have to feign weakness that isn’t there (we have plenty of it naturally) any more than we have to act like we have it all together. Our lives should be marked by humility, grace, and truth.

Part of being a Christ-follower is also operating in your God-given strengths and letting those bring Him glory. Perhaps you have a knack for making your surroundings beautiful or cooking healthy meals for your family. Or maybe your house is messy because you spend more time outdoors with your kids or meeting friends for coffee. Authenticity is honoring God by being exactly the person He created you to be.

Living this way speaks loudly of the Savior. Consider the story of Peter and John speaking to the religious rulers after healing the lame man. “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

And so, ultimately, authenticity comes from being with Jesus—the most authentic human who ever lived. And as we set aside pretense and embrace humility, others can see Him more clearly.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

And when He had removed [Saul], He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.

Acts 13:22

The most spiritual people I have ever met always have been very down to earth. Theirs is not some phony, head-in-the-clouds sort of spirituality, which is weird religion and mysticism. I have met people who try to come off as extremely spiritual, even in the way they talk. It doesn’t impress me.

On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to meet and spend time with some very godly people. I have always found from our times together that the most godly people are also the most fun. They are the most real. They are the most straightforward and honest, and they are quick to admit their own shortcomings. (That is a virtue, not a flaw.)

God called David a man after His own heart (see Acts 13:22). And if you want to know what made David tick, just read his psalms. In Psalm 34 he wrote, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth" (verse 1).

We know that David had a deep hunger for God and a strong commitment to do what was right. He wrote in Psalm 57, "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise" (verse 7). That was David’s heart: focused, not fickle, meditative, yet brave and courageous. He dialed in on something and stayed with it.

In many ways, David was the very opposite of his predecessor, King Saul. Saul came from a loving home, while David apparently came from a home where he was neglected and even disliked. Saul was attractive on the outside, but inside he was vain, shallow, and devoid of true integrity. In contrast, David had a deep spiritual life and an intense devotion to God. God is looking for authentically spiritual people.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

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