Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?2 Corinthians 3:7-8
There is a kind of glory and attractiveness about the old covenant symbolized here by the brightness of Moses' face when he came down from the mountaintop with the tablets of the Law. God caused his face to shine, not anything Moses did himself. But God also made it fade, because He wanted to teach something by that. It was a fading glory, a symbol of something that every one of us has experienced at one time or another. It is the attractiveness to us of a chance to show how much we can do with what we have. Did you ever feel that? In so many arenas of life, someone is thinking,
I've been trained for that. I have the skills. I have the gifts. Let me show what I can do. We make a great impression, but to whose credit? Ours. We are the ones being glorified.
Paul talks here now about the feeling of elation that accompanies an opportunity to show off our abilities. But the record of history shows that everybody trying to live on that basis ends up a day late and a dollar short. It is just not going to work. After a while it becomes dull and boring and routine, and death sets in. He calls that the ministry of death, a fading glory; it does not last. But when you discover a new principle, the principle of God-dependence, you realize that in using your native skills, abilities, and training, God will be at work. In depending on that, there is an excitement and a glory that is greater than the one you feel when you want to show off what you can do. Thus it will not be you, but God, who will accomplish things.
All those who try to live a life that is pleasing to God by self-effort always discover that they never quite make it, because they never know when they have done enough. A lady once said to me,
When I go to bed at night I often wonder if I had tried just a little harder if maybe I could have done something that would have made God happy. But she never made it. Every night there was that feeling of,
I didn't quite measure up today. That is the ministry of condemnation. It is the result of trying to do it with your own resources, by your own efforts.
But Paul says,
If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness(2 Corinthians 3:9). Righteousness means being fully accepted, having a sense of being approved by God, of being honored and cherished by Him. The nearest word I know to describe this is the word worth. God gives you a standing of worth. You don't have to earn it; you start with it. God tells you already in the new covenant,
I have loved you, I have forgiven you, I have cleansed you. I intend to use you; your life is significant. There is nothing more you can add to that.
Lord, l confess that I often have been like Moses, hiding behind a mask, covering up the fading glory of my own efforts. Grant me the grace to simply receive from You the gift of worth.
Is God's grace an embarrassment, or do we see the transcendent glory of relying completely on Him to give us value, and give us peaceful rest from self-effort?