Daily D – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 CORINTHIANS 3:17-18 (NLT)
There are many Christians who quote a snippet of this text. Apparently, they are unaware of the basic guideline of biblical interpretation which says that every text must be read in context. Excising a few words, like “wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” almost never leads to good interpretation. This, in turn, leads to faulty application.
A Christian concert at the Dallas County Convention Center back in the 1980s provided me with a wee bit of understanding of the problems associated with misusing this biblical text. During one of the band performances, a young man of college age danced with all his might before the Lord, or something like that. Several people seated nearby admired him for his Spirit-filled enthusiasm. The sweaty guy with glazed eyes and hyperactive emotions looked a lot more like someone looking to impress the ladies. Sure enough, someone spoke the snippet above, “wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Again and again through the years, I have heard this snippet used to give validity to all kinds of behavior. It is almost a ready-made excuse. After all, who can argue with someone who says, “God told me” to do this or that? (Please note I am raising my hand.)
This text and context are about spending time in such immediate connection with God that we look less like a sweaty hormone in action and more like Jesus at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). Notice verse 16: “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Please read the whole chapter for a better understanding. It refers back to the Exodus when Moses would speak with God face to face and come away glowing. He had to wear a veil when he returned to the people.
The idea is that when we spend time with our Father in heaven, we become more like him. We are shaped by him. With apologies to Rudolph, some might even say we glow. People see more of him and less of us. John 3:30 takes on new meaning and application. At the transfiguration, Jesus was brighter than bright. Here’s the thing, the more time we spend with Jesus, the more people recognize we have spent time with Jesus. The liberty attendant to this reality is the freedom of the unconscious awareness of grace and beauty in action.
This freedom leads us to live as he lived and to love as he loved. It moves us to serve as he served. Life becomes less about us and more about others. Anyone who uses “freedom” to excuse their marginal or sinful behavior is not exhibiting Jesus. Their demonstrations are not spiritual, but carnal. Carnal means they have opened the door to Jesus, but they left the other door open, too.
True freedom closes the other door and seals it shut. Once a person habitually enters the presence of God, all ideas about freedom and personal gain take on new meaning. Whenever a person spends time with God on a consistent basis, he or she begins to love the things he loves and wants those things more and more. True freedom is choosing more God-given goodness while discarding anything holding us back from moving in that direction.
In John 8:11, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” Sin left her humiliated and broken. Jesus forgave her and gave her freedom to live a new life. He would have done the same for the man if the coward would have shown his face. What prevents you from living in the full freedom Jesus gives?
I will enter into God’s presence daily and live in the freedom he provides.
Our Father, I want more of you. I want people to see more of you and less of me. I want to live the freedom you provide when I close the door to sin habits and enticements. Amen.
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Deuteronomy 8:12-18 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint rock for you. He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your ancestors had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.“
Deuteronomy 1:2, 3 It is an eleven-day journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by way of Mount Seir. In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, Moses told the Israelites everything the Lord had commanded him to say to them.