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The Overflow of the Christian life September 30, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Stewardship.
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The Abundance of Giving as Part of the Christian Life

2 Corinthians 8:7-8

No part of the Christian life is isolated from another (verse 7). It is the overflowing presence of all the things mentioned in this verse that indicate an abundant Christian life. For example, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul wrote, “…though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Paul certainly did not discount faith but he recognized that a miracle working faith without the active love of God is worthless.

In the same way verse 8 in this chapter indicates the connection between love and diligence and giving. You see, you cannot have one without also having the others. Now this list is not an exhaustive list but things that Paul specifically had in mind as he was writing to the Corinthian church.

FOUNDATIONAL FAITH

Paul begins with faith. Faith in Christ and His work on the cross is where our part in the Christian life begins. We are aware that before the foundation of the world, God the Father planned in Jesus Christ to provide salvation for us by grace alone because we cannot earn salvation. Then God sends the Holy Spirit to draw us to Jesus Christ. We cannot save ourselves, we do not save ourselves, but God in His grace through His Holy Spirit awakens our heart to respond to the gospel of Christ in faith. There are many, many examples we could give from the word of God but I would like for us look at one in 2 Corinthians 10:14-16:

14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ;

15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,

16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.

Paul had a vision for these Corinthians. When he and Silas and Timothy came to them to preach the gospel to them, he labored among them for a year and a half. He says, “We came with the gospel of Christ in hopes that you would believe, that you would put your faith in Christ but that our goal was much more than converts but that they would increase in their faith in such a way that the church at Corinth would become their partners in the preaching of the gospel.

FAITH OVERFLOWING 

Most of us have too low of a vision. We want to see people turn to Christ and avoid hell. We want to see people live in a way that is moral and not harmful to themselves or to others. That is how far our vision reaches. We have such a pitiful vision. Paul said, I came to preach the gospel to you so that your faith would drive you to become partners with me in reaching the gospel to the world. Do we care if we young people become passionate for the gospel of Christ? How much do we want their faith to grow? Do we pray for our young people, our new believers, our new attendees, do we care if they are growing in their faith? What is more important to us, that people in our church, young or old, have good lives, good jobs, nice homes, good health or that they have a life of vibrant faith driving them to reach others with the gospel of Christ?

FAITH EXHIBITED IN OUR SPEECH AND KNOWLEDGE 

After faith, Paul mentions two things that had from the very beginning been characteristic of the Corinthian church – speech and knowledge. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:4-7a:

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,

5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,

6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,

7a so that you come short in no gift,

“[The Corinthians were] enriched and lacked nothing (verses 5 and 7a)… by Jesus Christ in all utterance and knowledge (we will come back to this in chapter 8:1). They were capable of expressing the truth and they were capable of understanding the truth. These people had put their faith in Christ and it showed in their speech and in their knowledge. They knew their doctrine. In fact, they debated the finest points of doctrine…These people knew the truth of Christ. They were certain of it and Paul was certain of it” (from the sermon, “Things We Can Agree On”).

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul points out that knowledge, even knowledge that comes from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:5) puffs up but love edifies.  It is important that we be articulate about our faith and proficient in our knowledge of Christ, not that we can flaunt it but because these are gifts that Christ makes available to us as a church and as individuals within the church. These tools like faith do not stand alone.

TAKING OUR FAITH SERIOUSLY 

Paul in this list now moves from the basic in faith and from the obvious in speech and knowledge and moves to an area which he greatly emphasizes in 2 Corinthians 7 and 8 – diligence. In 7:5-11 we see Paul commending them for their diligence in dealing with sin within their church:

5 ¶ For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.

6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Paul recognized that with all the problems that this church had, and they had a lot of them, when they understood that there was a situation to deal with, they dealt with it with diligence, with earnest care, with passion. Obviously, there is a time for dispassionate level-headedness and patience but the Christian life is not only a life of faith, a life of expressing God’s truth to the world, a life of learning Christ in a fuller way, it is also a life of passion. Paul encourages their passion by holding up the passion of the Macedonian churches in their giving. This is not a psychological appeal. This is an appeal to their spiritual being. “Look at the passion (diligence) in which they serve Christ (verse 8)! Look at the passion (earnest care) with which Christ died for you (verse 9)! Live with that same passion, that same diligence, that same earnest care (verses 10-11)! I know you can, you have proven it already. Do it again! Do it again!”

ALL THESE THINGS ARE BOUND TOGETHER BY LOVE.

The oil that makes faith and speech and knowledge and diligence work together is love. Col 3:14 says, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

2Co 8:8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love [“for us” Paul said to verse 7] by the diligence of others.

2Co 8:24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

Again we see that love for God and love for fellow believers is inseparable. Jesus Himself taught this when He told His disciples in John 13:34-35:

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is the substance of the abundance of our Christian life. It is not shown not by keeping the rules but by being real in our faith, in this case, as evidenced by our diligence in our giving through love (verse 8). It is impossible to keep rules in abundance. You either obey or you do not obey. It is possible though to abound in the Christian life. This is what the abundant Christian life looks like.

GOD WANTS US TO USE OUR SPIRITUAL AS WELL AS OUR FINANCIAL OVERFLOW FOR OTHERS.

God will use the abundance of our Christian life to fill the lack of another (verses 10-14). Not everyone has abundance in all things. Not everyone is abundant in financial means. Not everyone is abundant in expressing their faith and in their knowledge of God’s Word. Not everyone is abundant in faith, some are even weak in faith. Not everyone has the passion and diligence and earnest care in eternal things that they should. But we can share in the areas where we abound, where we overflow with others. The danger, as for the Corinthians is in not doing it.

Where do you overflow? To whom are you going to give?

Where are you lacking? Commit yourself to increase, to grow, to be enriched by Christ in that area.

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