The invitation to dine with a Pharisee was not something Jesus and his disciples received everyday.
The disciples were a bit surprised. He was not.
Once inside the small but adequate compound, Jesus sat down on the floor and reclined around the mat set out with food and drink.
News that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house got around the town fast and uninvited locals entered the compound and as was customary sat down along the wall to just watch and listen.
This didn’t bother Simon the Pharisee one bit as it just meant more people to watch him derail this itinerant preacher and turn his false teaching into mishmash.
Having people crash this Pharisee’s dinner party didn’t bother Jesus either. They were all there by divine appointment to see something that would change their lives.
The party was in full-swing when all of a sudden the attention of the people along the wall as well as the men around the table was drawn to the small and narrow doorway of the room.
For there she was. The men all knew her. Not that they had all been with her but most had desired her.
But that was before she met Jesus. Once she met Jesus she changed. She used to be an immoral woman, a harlot, but not anymore.
But, regardless, of the change that took place in her life after she met Jesus—the fact is she was still a woman with a reputation and for her to enter this house—the house of a religious leader was a really bold move.
Why was she there? What did she want? Was she just another curious onlooker or did she have a reason for crashing the party?
It didn’t take long to find out, as once her eyes adjusted to the dark room and she saw Jesus—she made her way to Him without a word.
She was carrying a very expensive looking alabaster jar that smelled of very fine perfume—obviously the reward of many years of saving her ill-reputed earnings or perhaps a gift from her parents long ago before she became “The Immoral Woman”.
Simon, the Pharisee, who had an eye for such treasures knew that an alabaster container like the one she was carrying filled with perfume was worth a great deal of money—so why was she carrying it into his house, why was she approaching Jesus, and why was she crying?
And then she did the most amazing thing. She knelt down at Jesus’ feet and began to clean them with her tears and then unbelievably dried His feet with her long hair.
And then she began kissing His feet as though He were someone precious , cherished, and adored whom she treasured.
The audacity of this woman—the nerve to interrupt his dinner party with such revolting, outrageous, daring, and unflinchingly bold behavior!
But then, she did the absolutely unthinkable. She took the alabaster vial of perfume and wastefully poured it all out upon Jesus’ feet.
It was a careless, unthinking, reckless act in Simon’s eyes. To waste so much money on the feet of this teacher—what was she thinking?
And to be so bold as to cause such an extremely emotional, over the top, uncalled for, and extravagant scene in front of so many people—What possessed this woman to do something like this?
That was Simon the Pharisee’s question and quite frankly it’s a good question.
But before she could answer it—Jesus did.
And what was Jesus’ answer?
Quite simply, her boldness, her extravagant demonstration of love, her over the top demonstration of affection for Jesus, and her willingness to recklessly pour out onto Jesus’ feet what had to be her most treasured earthly possession was all the result of hearing Jesus say—and neither do I condemn you—you are forgiven—go and live out your life in peace.
That is essentially the story of Luke 7:36-50.
And it leads us right into our study today which comes out of 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.
Let’s read the passage.
This week we took Nancy’s dad to Rutland to do some shopping and we stopped in at the Ponderosa Steak House for lunch.
As we were sitting there eating, I was facing the TV and saw a soap opera come on called The Bold & The Beautiful.
And of course, the scenes that accompanied the theme song were all of beautiful women, handsome men, lots of money, vissages of power, and the epitome of a life of worldly influence, luxury, and self-satisfying pleasure.
And this idea of what it means to be “bold and beautiful” must be appealing to people because since its premiere on March 23, 1987, the show has become the most-watched soap opera in the world, with an audience of an estimated 26.2 million viewers.
Now it may interest you to know that God also talks about what it means to be bold and beautiful.
And I know it won’t surprise you to know that what He sees as “bold and beautiful” has nothing to do with what Holywood tells us it is all about.
But what may surprise you is what it takes for a person to really become “bold & beautiful”.
Well, that is what Paul is explaining to us in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 beginning with becoming bold.
He begins in verse 12 by telling us what produces boldness in life and it has nothing to do with money, power, good looks, nice clothes, prestige, or worldly treasures.
He writes: “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” (ESV)
And what Paul is talking about is that knowing Christ has fully absorbed the totality of God’s wrath toward us who have believed in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin—gives us a great confidence to live our lives boldly, confidently, powerfully, unselfishly, and even extravagantly so as to make much of Christ among those who don’t.
That’s what Paul is saying in verse 12.
And what does he mean when he uses the word “bold”?
The Greek word he uses is parrhsia (parresia) which is talking about living an openly bold and confident life for the cause of Christ.
And the “boldness” Paul is talking about is our willingness to venture out, take risks, and do the right thing or say the right thing at the right time, regardless of the barriers, challenges, fears, or even rejection we may encounter.
It is speaking the truth, and living the truth without letting fear of the consequences or results paralyze or compromise you.
It is not living a perfect life but it is living life looking forward at future opportunities to make much of Christ as you keep focused on God’s promises instead of living life in the past looking back in the rear view mirror at your past as you keep fixating on your sin.
It is living life as one who has been forgiven and who knows it and believes it.
You see that is why the formerly immoral woman was so bold—she knew she had been forgiven.
She wasn’t dragging her past behind her anymore.
She had been freed from her sin, the eternal consequences of her sin, and the fear of God’s judgment for her sin and this caused her to live boldly—to respond to Jesus boldly—and extravagantly.
If we understand what Paul is saying here—we will understand that the reason why Christians do not live openly bold, confident, generous, and extravagantly responsive lives for Jesus is because we really haven’t come to terms with the fact that Jesus has said—“And Neither do I Condemn You.”
And in the story in Luke 7, the immoral woman whom Jesus forgives does not feel this need to leave town, get a new identity, hide her face, or not go into public places.
She has been forgiven by God Himself and thus is not afraid to live her life out in the open.
And that’s what forgiven people do!
They don’t have to find another job, leave their marriage, move across town, find a new grocery store, or exile themselves from church.
They who believe Jesus’ words and embrace the forgiveness He offers are able to live life and live it boldly for Him.
They don’t have to hide behind a false veneer of self-righteousness, pretending to God, themselves, and everyone around them that they have it altogether and are not struggling with sin in their lives.
They demonstrate what John Piper refers to as “gutsy guilt” in that they believing the promises of the Gospel are fully confident that even on their worst days—when it would appear to anyone watching that they looked more like an unbeliever than a believer—that God still loves them, still forgives them, still accepts them, and will finally and ultimately deliver them.
That is what the prophet Micah is talking about in Micah 7:7-9 when after sinning in some fairly significant way against the Lord he states:
7) But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
8) Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.
9) I will bear the indignation of the Lord. Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light. And I will see His righteousness.
Listen, those believers who are living weak, anemic, spiritually powerless, and really veiled lives are believers who do not truly know and understand the ramifications of the Gospel.
They really struggle with believing God has or will forgive them and thus they are spiritually powerless.
Furthermore, they don’t know who they are in Christ nor what Christ has done for them and it shows in their spiritually toothless lives.
If you understand who you are in Christ you will be bold for Christ! That is what Paul is saying here!
And then in verses 13-17, in what is really a sort of a side note, Paul makes the point that people who do not know Christ and His forgiveness cannot understand this.
The truth of the New Covenant of Grace is veiled to them so that they simply cannot see what God is offering them in and through Christ—which is freedom from sin, sin’s guilt, sin’s power, sin’s penalty, and ultimately, sin’s presence so as to live a life free from fear.
But according to verse 15, this veil lies overs people’s hearts.
“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.”
Thus, the problem is not an intellectual problem—it is a heart problem.
People don’t understand the Gospel and their need for Christ because because of their hard hearts.
Left to themselves, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, no one will desire Christ because of their hardened spiritual disposition.
Has the veil been lifted from your heart? Are you attracted to Him? Do you love Him and desire Him more than life itself? Do the Scriptures speak to your heart? Does the Gospel we are talking about and have been talking about since I came here make sense to you? Then praise God.
Or maybe you answered “no” to those questions but you wish you could honestly say “yes……I wish I loved Christ the way you talk about—I wish I was attracted to Christ—I wish the Scriptures spoke to my heart—I wish the Gospel made sense to me—I wish I could feel and think the way you do about Jesus.”
Then pray and ask God to remove the veil covering your heart.
And if you, in complete sincerity, ask Him to do this—He will.
The promise of Scripture is that when anyone turns to the Lord—they become a new creation in Christ. That is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself . . . ”
In other words, when we come to Christ we become a brand new creation in Christ because the veil of our hard heartedness toward God is removed and now instead of running from Him we run toward Him.
And all of this is from God—it is His doing—he is the One working in our hearts to accomplish this.
And when people finally turn to the Lord they begin to grow in Christ and in their understanding of the ramifications of the Gospel and see that they are indeed free from their pasts and their sins and the eternal condemnation for their sins.
That is what Paul means in verses 16 and 17 when he writes:
“But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil [of spiritual hard-heartedness] is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”
What is liberty? It is freedom! It’s the Greek word, ἐλευθερία (eleutheria) and it means—are you ready for this? It basically has the idea of “freedom to do what is right and pure”.
In other words, whereas before salvation we were enslaved to our sin and its consequences—once we turn to Christ for salvation, God frees us from our sin, from its eternal damnation, and from our inability to please Him.
Now as believers we are freed from our spiritual blindness and deadness that made it impossible to want to please God and to in fact please Him.
But not only that—we are not only given the freedom to now please God—we are given the freedom to pursue God, know God, experience God, and enjoy God.
And as we experience, see, and enjoy more and more of God so as to see His glory in and throughout our lives we end up becoming like Him.
Paul makes this point in verse 18.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (ESV)
You see when we grow in our understanding of the Gospel and the ramifications of the Gospel so as to truly embrace it, believe it, and live boldly in it—so as to experience and enjoy God through it we will find ourselves being transformed by it into the image of Christ Himself—which is beautiful!
Can you imagine standing before the throne of God one day and hearing the angels commenting to themselves on how much you look like Christ?
Well, believe it or not, that is going to happen!
In fact, it is happening right now—You, if you are a believer in Jesus, are becoming like Him—from one degree of glory to another—as you grow in your understanding of what God really did for you when He sent Jesus to die for you—so as to believe it to be true of you.
Thus, the key to becoming bold & beautiful as believers is believing what God says is true about you in Christ not what you think or others think is true of you!