With Unveiled Faces

Are you sad today? Do you know why? If so, you are not alone. Millions of people, especially in northern latitudes suffer from SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognised clinical condition. It is caused by a lack of light or sunshine. SAD is a form of depression especially common in winter but also in summer when for days on end the weather is grey and overcast. The symptoms include sadness, mood swings, fatigue, tiredness, lethargy and difficulty getting out of bed. The medical remedy, apart from moving to a sunnier climate, is to spend an hour a day walking in the light. We can joke about the English Summer but I know this is a medical condition that affects me. We may not be able to do much about the weather but we can decide how much time we are going to spend in the light of the other Son – the one that never clouds over. We live impoverished lives because we don’t spend enough time with Jesus. And surprise, surprise, we experience the symptoms of Spiritual Affective Disorder – impure thoughts, anger, envy, bitterness, resentment. To help us address this condition and get in the mood for today I want us to examine just one verse.

“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.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

If you want to understand the context check out the cross references to Moses on Mount Sinai. Under the Old Covenant God was utterly unapproachable. Paul writing to Timothy describes God in this way.

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no-one has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Since this is what God is like there is no way people could approach him on their own terms and not be vaporised by the light of his presence. Which brings us to the need for a mediator. Notice how the claims of Jesus Christ are so startling. John begins his gospel with these words,

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:17-18)

One of Jesus’ greatest claims is made in John 8:12.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12).

And to his disciples, Jesus asserted,

“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him… Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:7, 9).

The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)

While Moses merely reflected God’s glory from the outside, Jesus radiated that glory from within.

In Jesus we literally see what God is like. The Old Testament Context, the New Testament Fulfilment,

The Contemporary Application

“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.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Lets unpack our verse and find some application for Spiritual Affective Disorder.  So how does this process begin? How do you get a suntan? For a start you have to turn and face the sun. How do we begin to reflect the Lord’s glory?  Same way.

1. Transformation begins when we turn to the Son

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 3:16). We must turn to Christ and acknowledge him as our Lord and our Saviour. When we do this we are born again spiritually. God’s Spirit comes to indwell us and begins this process of metamorphosis. Have you turned to the Son?

If you haven’t you have yet to experience the fulfilling life God planned for you. The Bible describes such a life as still in darkness.  Your mind will be dull (3:14) and a veil covers your heart (3:15).

Turn to the Lord and experience the joy and the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus.  So how does this relationship, this process of transformation continue?

How do you get a deep down suntan? You can’t get a tan in a hurry. The natural way is to live and work in the open. Living under the sun is the best way to get a suntan. It is no different with reflecting the Lord’s glory.

2. Transformation continues as we reflect the Lord

‘… are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.’  The word translated ‘transformed’ is the same word translated ‘transfigured’ in the accounts of our Lord’s transfiguration (Matt. 17; Mark 9). It describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside. Our English word metamorphosis is a transliteration of this Greek word. Metamorphosis – the process of becoming like Christ. It is a continuous process of transformation, from the inside out.  How we can radiate his glory every moment of every day. When your partner or your friend looks into your face, what do they see? When they look into your eyes what do they see?  Peace or worry?

A calmness or frenetic hurry? What do you see in their face? Does worry radiate God’s glory? Does being in a hurry make us more approachable or less? Does bitterness or jealousy or resentment improve my features?

When we do radiate the Lord’s glory, what will our faces look like? Loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self controlled (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of God’s spirit made visible in our faces, our words and in our actions. John in his first letter explains how this radiance of Jesus transforms our lives.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

As we walk with Jesus, led by His Spirit, walking in his light, the radiance of God’s glory brings us into a right relationship with others and keeps us clean before God.  So begin each day by reading and meditating on God’s word, bathing in his light, face to face, unhurried, distracted, undivided, quality time and let Him cleanse you and fill you and equip you to serve him.

We need to take time in the presence of God if we are to radiate his glory. Transformation begins when we turn to the Lord. Transformation continues as we trust the Lord moment by moment to radiate God’s glory. And one day…

3. Transformation will be consummated in heaven

Paul continues in the following chapter to describe where this metamorphosis is leading us.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is seen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I celebrate my 59th birthday next month. Next year is the big 6-0. Outwardly I know what it means to ‘waste away’. It’s linked in a worldly sense, to ‘lose heart’ over a wasting body. There was a survey in the Times a while back  “The age of discovery, From 12-84, what we think about growing old.” All but one made depressing reading – ignoring or fearing old age. The only encouraging perspective was from the 84 year old, Dame Cicely Saunders, the pioneer of the hospice movement…

‘The community needs the dying to make it think of eternal issues. We are indebted to those who can make us learn such things as to be gentle and to approach others with true affection and respect… The Christian faith has something to say about God sharing the suffering. We don’t have an answer, but we have a person who knows what it’s like.’

Outwardly wasting away but inwardly being renewed, day by day trill one day… one day… From the perspective of heaven, the worst we can experience now is but ‘light and momentary troubles’ compared to the ‘weight of glory’ as C.S. Lewis describes it.  Let me close with an entry in Jim Elliott’s diary, written in his early 20’s, about this inner transformation and his own deep longing…

“I walked out to the hill just now.  It is exalting, delicious.  To stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coat tail and the heavens hailing your heart — to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask?  Oh the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth.  I care not if I never raise my voice again for him, if only I may love him, please him.  Perhaps in mercy he shall give me a host of children, that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore his delicacies whose finger ends set them to burning.  But if not, if only I may see him, smell his garments and smile into my Lover’s eyes — ah then, not stars nor children shall matter, only himself.

Transformation begins when we turn to the Lord. Transformation continues as we trust the Lord moment by moment to radiate God’s glory. That transformation will be consummated one day soon when we shall become like him in heaven.

“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.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Lets pray.