DOWNLOAD MP3: Small Ambitions (Dave Bish, 2 Corinthians 3)
SO LET US BEHOLD! Stop and stare at the sublime beauty of Jesus Christ. Gaze on Jesus in his word, beckoned by the Holy Spirit.
V3. Jesus comes as the one who doesn’t just write external rules but writes deep in our hearts – shining in our hearts so we can see him. Beckoning us to come and be with him.
V6. Jesus comes as the one who doesn’t kill but brings life. We have more than enough in us to deserve death, but Jesus gives life.
V9. Jesus comes as the one who doesn’t bring condemnation but righteousness. He clothes us in his perfect righteousness, so that God doesn’t attempt to accept us as we are, but accepts us in Jesus! He is not just an image-bearer, he is the very image of the invisible God. He is the perfect representation of God. He is the supreme revelation. To look on Jesus is to see what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit looks like.
V11. Jesus comes as the one whose work is just temporary like everything else in this world. What Jesus does is permanent. Secure. Unchanging. His work never fades. His blood never fails.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE BEHOLD JESUS?
God tells us here in v18, and our hearts should be bearing witness to the same. We should feel this!
3. Glory, beheld!
v18. TRANSFORMATION! Beholding, v18: “we are transformed”. See Jesus in the word – and the Holy Spirit changes our desires. And it’s not that the Spirit dampens our desires – far from it. He inflames them! But, notice – v18, this doesn’t all happen in an instant. The change is “from one degree of glory to another” – it’s a gradual transformation. This is the tender hand of the Holy Spirit in us – drawing us to Jesus, shaping our appetites and desires.
Change: In our thinking. In our hearts. In our relationships. People no longer to be abused for our gain – but rather they are as Lewis wrote “the holiest objects presented to your senses" – which should make the community of the church the “happiest place on earth”- where together we live as people changed by the Holy Spirit and being changed. This is freedom. Freedom to enjoy God’s world. The Christian is the most free person, able by the Holy Spirit to enjoy great music, magnificent landscapes, savour food, good company, marriage, work. Gifts from God, enjoy with thanksgiving. And most of all: freedom to enjoy God Himself!
The Puritan Thomas Chalmers called this: “the expulsive power of a new affection." Chalmers knew the inner workings of the heart, as we do from our own experience, that we don’t lose our old tastes by being told that they don’t satisfy. A garden pond is nothing when you’ve gazed upon the Atlantic Ocean. The greater expels the lesser.
Earlier we met Odysseus who denied himself what he wanted – like a clenched and miserable religious person… really no different from the person who indulges every slight desire.Now meet another figure of Greek Mythology…. Jason, of ‘the argonauts’ fame, also had to sail that way. His approach was different, he had the musician Oedipus with him. Oedipus struck up his lyre and played greater songs and they remained safe. The Christian hymn captures this kind of vision: “Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but it’s own… awake my soul to sing of Christ who died for me….”
Ropes and restraints won’t change us. We need the greater song! Without it the old pleasures of a good degree, career marriage, kids will please us, all too easily. Into that speaks the Holy Spirit. He says, don’t have such small ambition. He comes to awaken our souls, stirring our hearts– inviting us to something greater, to Jesus. Jesus in whom are fullness of life and real freedom. The Holy Spirit loves nothing more than to cultivate in us a taste for the glory of Jesus. Winning our hearts to what they were made for.
“[We] need not and ought not to set any bounds to [our] spiritual and gracious appetites.”Instead we should:
“to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame [our] desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasures. . . . Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can’t be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value… [Therefore] endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement… There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.”