When someone encounters Jesus and the veil is lifted and the Spirit breathes lives in your heart, you are not the same person. You change. I want to end outlining a few gospel fruits. Or evidence that you have truly met the Christ of the new covenant.
The first gospel fruit is freedom. Going back to what I said earlier about competence coming from God, thank goodness that ministry competence comes from the Lord. This means God is ultimately responsible. He is the one who empowers our ministry. Prayer and discerning God’s leading in order to act in step with the Spirit is what is required of a Christian minister.
To think, God is with me, making this incredibly inadequate person, me, into someone who can impact people. That’s an incredible privilege. It’s not up to me, it’s up to God. I don’t have to force or press things through and impose my will on people so that they change according to my timetable. Instead, I am freed up to be more watchful for signs of God’s activity in a person’s life and then prayerfully join him to minister to that person when their heart is ready.
The key is, wherever God is moving, I need to get in line with that. Our sense of adequacy for the task comes from God. We are not competent in ourselves. Who is equal to the task? No one. Therefore, we can be free. We are not shattered by failure. If something doesn’t work out, I guess God was not in it.
In ministry, many ministers either get shattered or they grow proud. If things are not going well, their self-esteem is shattered. If things are going well, their pride swells. Or they work really hard and burn out because they take the spiritual responsibility of ministry upon their own shoulders. They think ultimately the welfare and spiritual progress of others depend on them. These are all symptoms that we have placed ourselves at the center. We wrongly believe–our competence, our hard work and dedication is what accomplishes change in others. This is a demonic lie straight from the pits of hell.
Instead, because we are God-centered, when things go well, we can give glory to God. When things don’t go well, it’s not a big deal because we just have to wait because God is not in it right now. We depend on God for everything and leave the results to him.
2 Cor 3
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
There is freedom under the new covenant of grace. We still want to follow God and do his will. We want to do God’s will not because we have to. Because when you are under the law, you feel like you have to do many things. You feel fearful and guilty when you don’t do things. Brothers and sisters, we have been set free. We are no longer under law but under grace so we do things because we want to do things. No one is looking over your shoulder or keeping score or making you feel bad. We do God’s will because we genuinely love him and want to do things that please him.
This expresses a difference in the quality of our relationship with God. There is intimacy. That’s a second gospel fruit. Before when we were under the law, under the old covenant, it was up to me to keep the rules. If I do X, Y and Z, God will be pleased with me. It’s up to me to keep the law. Everything is based on my performance. It’s like a relationship between an employee with your employer. If you are the employee, you can’t be completely free and intimate with your boss because at the end of the day, you know that he or she has to give you a performance review. Intimacy is impossible when you are under the Law where the relationship is performance-based.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the Law. The Law describes the character of God. You shouldn’t kill, you shouldn’t steal, you shouldn’t covet. The problem is–telling someone not to do something doesn’t automatically make that person want to follow your advice naturally. You start by looking at the mirror and you see that you are sagging and bulging, but seeing the truth about your physique does nothing to help you not be sagging and bulging. You just feel condemned by the mirror of truth. Under the Law, you stand condemned. The law is like a finger of accusation pointing at you. The letter of the law was an instrument that kills us because we can’t follow through and obey everything under the Law. We stand condemned.
The Law keeps you distant from God because you don’t want to keep showing up before a God who must be very displeased that you keep sinning and falling short. You are scared of God because He is holy and you are not. This creates a wall between you and God.
On the other hand, the new covenant of Christ is not law but grace. God gives grace to you as a free gift. Though you deserve death, God instead punishes his own Son so that you and I can be spared and forgiven. There is an acrostic for G.R.A.C.E. that I find helpful–GRACE stands for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. It’s all grace. All of my acceptance from God, it depends on Christ, His righteousness is given to me. I am not condemned. There is no condemnation in Christ.
2 Cor 3
9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory.
Righteousness is the opposite of condemnation. It’s like we were on trial before God and Christ comes in and takes our place. Therefore, in Christ, we’ve been acquitted. We’re off the hook. Because of what Christ did for me, I am righteous in the sight of God. On my best day, I can come to him. On my worst day, I can still come to him. Because of grace, we can get close enough to God long enough and come to Him frequently enough to develop intimacy.
Legalism or Law and Grace are two paradigms we can live by. The legalists are good at telling you and telling themselves what they are doing wrong. They are fussy nit pickers whose hearts toward God are icy cold. Those who follow the grace paradigm just enjoy God. They are overflowing with thanksgiving and joy.
Which paradigm are you following? Simple litmus test: how much do you enjoy God? Are your affections for God icy cold? How warm is your heart towards God? How quickly can you shed tears of gratitude and joy? If you can honestly say that you enjoy God, you enjoy being with him, I would bet that you understand the grace of God and you understand the gospel.
The gospel fruits include freedom, intimacy, the next is boldness. This is all very related. Because we depend on God and He did all the work on our behalf through Christ, we can approach his throne of grace with confidence.
2 Cor 3
12 Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness.
We can exercise great boldness because of Christ. Paul goes on to say in v13 that we are not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites could not stare at his face. Moses had a special relationship with God. He served as a mediator between God and the people. The people did not enjoy the same level of freedom and intimacy and boldness to approach God as Moses did. So they depended on Moses to go up the mountain and speak to God and tell them what God says. For us, because of Christ, the veil has been removed. This means, we have direct access to God. You don’t have to go through Moses to access God. You don’t have to go through the Pope. Or a priest or a pastor or your small group leader. You can go to God yourself and approach him with boldness.
This means, when you sin under the new covenant, you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to feel condemned. You can run to the Father boldly and ask for forgiveness, being confident that He will forgive you. If you are under the Law and you are a legalist and you sin, you run away from God. Because you feel condemned. God won’t accept me. But if you understand the new covenant, when you sin, you can run to the Father because you are not condemned. God wants you to come to Him. He loves you and wants to forgive you.
When is the last time you ran to the Father? Maybe you’ve never run to the Father. Go to him for the first time today. Boldly. Not sheepishly. Not cowering in fear. But boldly as a child running into his father’s arms.
To wrap up, the gospel fruits that we’ve covered thus far include freedom, intimacy, boldness and the final one is a catch-all–the fruit of becoming more and more Christ-like.
2 Cor 3
18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
If you met Christ, you will change. If you made a decision to follow Christ decades ago and you are still the same person deep down inside, maybe you never met him. Run to the Father today. Even if you’ve been to church for decades, consider today the first time in your life and run to him. The number of times doesn’t matter or trying to figure out precisely when was the first time? Just keep running to the Father as often as you can.
When you meet Christ, the Spirit performs his redemptive work in the only place that will produce deep change–your heart. If you consider the relationship of the old and new covenants, it would not be incorrect to say that the new covenant does not abolish the old covenant or it does not abolish the law. Instead, it establishes the law in the only place it will be effective–in the heart. There, the Law of God is internalized so deeply that it becomes more than ink on paper or letters engraved on stone tablets. It is the law written on our hearts. And because it sinks that deeply into the core of who we are, we change increasingly into the image of Christ.
There are many potentially counterfeit fruit–things like zeal and commitment to a local church, obedience in service to others. A military can train its soldiers to act very zealously and to be committed to their platoon and to obey without question through human means. But there is no way to mistake someone who has spent time gazing at the glory of God in the face of Christ, who has been meditating daily on the far-reaching implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only to save but to sanctify us. With unveiled faces, we can approach the throne of God like Moses did confidently, boldly because he won’t reject us or turn us away. He will be so happy that we’ve come into his presence where true intimacy can develop.
They say, over many years of marriage, husband and wife begin to look like one another. Not sure if this applies in my marriage because Jackie is far prettier than me. But I see many marriages where this is true. Likewise in our relationship with Christ. The more you spend time with God, the more time you spend gazing at Jesus, the more you will be conformed to that same glorious image. We will become more and more like Christ. Becoming increasingly Christ-like in our character.
Let’s not be like the Judaizers who saw that the glory of Moses was fading and like a dying ember in a flame, they kept blowing on it and fanning it because they did not want the glory of Moses to fade. We have to let Moses fade. And in the place of Moses, you can substitute your ethnicity, your culture, your quirky traditions, whatever, if it is not Christ, we need to let those things fade. We have to let Moses fade away, as he should. We have to let our ethnicity and culture and traditions fade. Instead, let’s redouble our efforts to go to Jesus. Gaze upon the glory of God in the face of Christ. Run to him. Don’t hesitate. Don’t delay. Our faces have been unveiled. Be confident. Be free. You are not condemned. He loves you in Christ.