is god religious

So how do we change our identity from a merely conscientious [yet failing] servant to “successful son or daughter”?

The short answer is; we don’t, but He can. Listen to full sermon here.

Many times I have reminded you that sin is not the bad things that we do but the deep desire within all of us to be independent from God – to be our own bosses. Man started out as children of God in the Garden of Eden. Through stepping away from God as Lord and Father man became a slave to his own independence – we became slaves to our own self focus. The rest of the bible is really little more than the story of how God acts to return to us our true identity as His sons and daughters. God’s intent is that we go directly from slaves [to self focus and sin] to sons and daughter. Unfortunately, for most of us this return is a three step process. We start as slaves to our self focus and sin which becomes our second nature; so much so that we have no power, in ourselves, to return to our true identity.

For most of us, who begin to respond to God’s offer to return to us our true identity, we enter step two – we become “religious”. We desire to live as sons and daughters but we believe that this change is something we have to earn. This makes perfect sense to us because as we approach God we become more and more aware of His holiness and, at the same time, our sinfulness. We see His perfect law and we decide that if we keep it well [or at least better than most of our peers] we can become good enough to become His son or daughter. We are now in relationship with the law. God’s law is now the intermediary between Him and us. This seems to work well for a while, but the burden of perfection is too much for even the best of us. Now we find ourselves as slaves under law.  This is a miserable existence – just ask Israel. Sadly, many Christians never go beyond the experience of this intermediate identity.

So how do we change our identity from a merely conscientious [yet failing] servant to “successful son or daughter”?

The short answer is; we don’t, but He can. So how does this process of transformation of our nature occur? The answer begins with 2 Cor. 3:7-18

 Now if the ministry that brought death [the law], 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? [note the word “ministry” – what is being described here is a work of the Holy Spirit]

If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! [the word “righteousness” here means righteousness between God and man and it mean more than sinlessness. As well, it  means a right relationship with God, which means becoming His son or daughter]

For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. [This makes the holiness of the Old Testament look pale in comparison.]

And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!  Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces [Greek for “unveiled” means open and transparent] all reflect [Greek word for “reflect” means not only to reflect but to contemplate] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Here are the characteristics of this ministry [work] of the Holy Spirit:


  1. It brings righteousness – we come to know we are right with God, that we belong
  2. It brings a glory that lasts – under the law we all live under the burden of the question; “God, what have I done for you lately?” Our sense of belonging lasts only as long as our last success. The new work of the Holy Spirit brings a glory and change of identity that lasts.
  3. It brings hope – life under law is hopeless [perfection is impossible – you can never win]. The new work of the Holy Spirit brings infinite hope.
  4. It brings boldness – because of the new work of the Holy Spirit we approach God without fear.
  5. It brings freedom – the new work of the Holy Spirit sets us free from “do more and try harder”. It is the kind of freedom you experience when you step off the exercise treadmill. It is the freedom from the fear of judgment.


So, how does this transformation actually work? Right at the end of the passage Paul says,

And we, who with unveiled faces [the Greek word means open and transparent] 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 Cor. 3:18

I want you to take note of the word “reflect”. The passage seems to say that as we reflect the Lord’s glory, we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. This is a fair translation, but the Greek word used here means more than just “reflect”. The word can also be translated as “contemplate”.  It could be put this way, “As we gaze at and contemplate the wonder of Jesus, we begin to reflect more of him because we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit through the act of gazing at Jesus”. In the simplest terms – focusing our gaze upon Jesus transforms us through the power of the Holy Spirit. I like to put it this way, “beholding brings becoming”.

Keeping our focus on Him is our part, but what is the Holy Spirit doing to bring about the transformation while we are attending to Jesus? Jesus describes it like this,

“He [the Holy Spirit] will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you”. John 16:15 Jesus goes on to make it perfectly clear when He says while praying to the Father, “… you have loved them even as You have love Me.” John 17:23

The new work of the Holy Spirit, that changes our identity from Slave to sin to Child of God, is to take the eternal, perfect, limitless love of the Father for Jesus and make it real to us! This love transforms us from the inside out. It is so powerful it actually changes our nature from sinner to son [or daughter]. It meets the requirements of the law so that we can bypass that sad second stage of religion. We can go from merely a servant to a son or daughter!

Paul calls it the Spirit of Adoption.

“…. You did not receive a Spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba” Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”.  Rom. 8:15-17

Here is now it works; The H.S. takes the love the Father has for Jesus and makes it real to us at the deepest level possible. This love has the power to transform our nature. From being self centered we become God centered. The change is so deep and complete that we actually become new creatures, children of God!

It is important to note that this work of the Holy Spirit is not intellectual or theoretical. He provides a real testimony [real evidence] that you are God’s child. It is an experience and not merely an idea! You should expect it and ask for it.


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