The greatest gift that truly keeps on giving
December 23, 2023 | Darin Stalbaum
About the author: Darin, and his wife, Gretchen, have been members at ZPC since moving to Zionsville thirteen years ago and Darin is currently serving his second term as Elder. They have three children, Luke, Kyla, and Teagan. As a family, they have been blessed by and served in the children’s and youth ministries, the Great Banquet, Grace Marriage, and various classes and Bible studies that have challenged them in their faith. They have spent Monday nights the past nine years doing life and building relationships with their Home Group family.
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NRSV)
In Exodus 34, Moses returns from beholding God’s glory on a mountain top with his skin shining so much the people were afraid of him. The reflection of the presence of God on Moses’s face was so powerful that Moses covered his face with a veil. Moses’s intimacy and interaction with God literally changed, transformed, or transfigured him. Moses glowed! Bible commentaries state the root of the same original text word is present when we see all of these words for “illuminating change” translated into English, including within this mountaintop interaction of Moses, the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17 and Mark 9, and here in 2 Corinthians 3.
Fast-forward to God’s new covenant and our greatest gift, Jesus! Through Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, God fulfilled the Old Testament legal requirements that history has proven we are not capable of fulfilling on our own. The birth, life, and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us, is God’s plan to restore face-to-face “mountain top” intimacy with us! The gift of Jesus is as personal as a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift with your name on the tag and accepting God’s gift in faith results in his “legally justified by Jesus” stamp of approval for you. God also provided the law and its history through Moses so we would have no doubt that access to God through Jesus is a necessary GIFT that we are incapable of earning or attaining on our own. Rather than the death we are worthy of (inability to stand face-to-face before God on our own), we receive transformative and illuminating life we are not worthy of (God’s holy standard met through Jesus)! This is mercy and everlasting grace, the greatest gift ever!
At ZPC, we often talk about our aim of becoming more and more like Jesus, as we recognize and submit to God’s merciful, gracious, and restorative work in our lives. Our full and permanent transformation and illumination occurs when our earthly days end and we are fully with Jesus, but in the here and now, his glory shines through those of us that believe, trust, and follow him “as though reflected in a mirror.” Our slow transformation into the image of Christ “from one degree of glory to another” is the gift that truly keeps on giving, so long as we keep on accepting, as we grow to be more and more like him, more and more like Jesus.
Extra credit: Read 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, part of the “love chapter” in scripture, which is about maturing in Christ, progressing from dim reflection in a mirror to face-to-face intimacy, and fully knowing Jesus.
Make us aware of your loving desire for intimacy with us that is displayed across the history of mankind and found within your holy word. Help us understand and remember your plan to bring us back into intimacy with you well enough that we believe and find renewed faith in you, and in your son Jesus. With understanding and faith, grant us the ability to fully accept and appreciate the greatest gift ever, Jesus Christ, and may other gifts and challenges not cloud our receptivity and regard for Jesus. Grant us the joy and eternal hope of Christ and help us reflect him and his love, mercy, and grace, more and more all of our days in the here and now.