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An Examination of our Fitness for Duty (2 Corinthians 12 and 13) March 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons.
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AN EXAMINATION OF OUR FITNESS FOR DUTY

(2 Corinthians 12:14-13:14)

We began our study of 2 Corinthians 10-13 with a look at two necessary traits for our spiritual warfare, boldness and humility. Paul has up to now primarily been describing his own fitness as a soldier of Jesus Christ. Now he tells the Corinthians that he is coming to examine those who claim to be soldiers of Christ and see if they are truly fit for duty. He hopes though that the church will be able to carry out this examination on their own. For that reason he gives them some principles and guidelines, hoping that they will follow them in examining those who claim to be soldiers of Christ and exposing some of them as frauds.

We as a church are responsible to examine ourselves both as individuals and as a church. It is essential that we prove ourselves fit for duty.

1. We prove our fitness for duty by maintaining a parental sacrificial love (12:14-18). If you could sum up these chapters, you would find that this is the epitome of Paul’s fitness for duty. He loves the Corinthian church with the sacrificial love that we know of primarily as the love of a father or mother for their child. At the beginning of chapter 11 he talks about being the father of a daughter who makes sure that she gets the perfect match in a husband. In 1 Corinthians 4, he says that the reason he speaks such strong words to them is because he is their spiritual father.

Being a parent is not easy. Paul points out that he loves them more than they love him. Paul felt the pain that comes when a child does not appreciate their parents instruction. Paul no doubt became impatient with them at times. He never, however, disowned them. He never turned his back on them. This church treated him worse than all the other churches. Yet we find he plans on sacrificing again for them because he feels that is what is best for their future.

He does this in the face of the lies which were being spread about him. He refers to them sarcastically in the last part of verse 16, “I’m a sly one, I am! I’ve trapped you before and I’ll do it again.” The sad part is that some likely believed the lies. They would rather put their confidence in men who had made themselves the measure of spirituality rather than Paul who exhibited humility and sacrificial love.

He reminds them not only of his sacrificial love but also of those who he sent to the Corinthians, like Titus. Paul did not play good cop, bad cop with the Corinthians. He and Titus loved these people with a parental sacrificial love.

a. We are accountable God to maintain this love among us (12:19-21). Paul asks this question, “Do you really think I need to defend myself to you? It is God who sends me. I am accountable to him. All that I have done, all that I have written, all that I will do or write in the future is for one purpose and one purpose only – your edification, to build you up.”

Paul has actually spent much time defending himself in this and other epistles. He does not do it though for his sake but rather for the sake of his children. He does not need to explain himself to the church but if that is what will build these people up in Christ, that is what he will do.

Paul knows, you see, that self-defense often leads to sinful behavior. He lists those things that he fears might happen. It is an awful list filled with the “Dreck” and the mud of this world: contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions (politicking), backbiting (evil speaking), whisperings, conceits, tumults (the chaos that result from fussing and fighting). Verse 21 tells us what results from this type of behavior: humiliation and mourning. Have we not experienced this ourselves?

It is easy for us to turn our backs on such situations. They are painful. Love does not turn its back on such a situation but rather recognizes its responsibility before God and works toward reconciliation and edification. Both are necessary. It is not enough to bury the hatchet but rather we must work to build up that one, with whom we have fought. One identifying characteristic of true forgiveness is the desire to do what is best for that person you are trying to forgive.

Is that not what Paul is doing here? This church has had a history of tolerating sexual immorality and other types of extreme living. Some had openly repented but others had yet to do so. They were not currently living that life style but had not repudiated it. We do not know why. Perhaps they were making excuses for their past behavior. It could be that the false teachers were making excuses for these people. Paul reminds them though that there are no excuses for sin and they need to repent. Paul, why confront these people. Those sins are in the past. Paul’s answer would be this, I love them also and I am going to do whatever I can to bring them to repentance even if the price is deep grief. Why does he do this? Because he is accountable before God.

b. We are empowered by Christ to maintain this love (13:1-4). To knowingly go into a situation with both guns blazing would be easy. To maintain your love for people when you are the focus of their attacks and your message is one that they do not want to hear is quite another. There is really only one way to maintain your love for people with whom you are in conflict, through the power that comes through Christ. Certainly, we should follow Christ’s example but what Paul is teaching here is more. He is speaking of the resurrection power of Christ working in our weakness, strengthening us, enabling us to love those who do not love us, who spread lies about us, who withdraw from us, who continue to make excuses for their behavior. Just as Jesus suffered and died in weakness to save the world from sin, God wants us to suffer in weakness so that he can empower us to help us to love and forgive and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ.

c. We will undertake immediate, specific action when we truly love (13:7-10). We have already seen what Paul plans on his arrival but like a true parent, he does not wait until his arrival. Already we find him praying and writing. Now God may or may not allow you to sit down and write a letter, although that certainly is something you could consider but there is every reason in the world why you should be active in praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ, whether you have a problem with them or not.

First, pray that God would keep them from sin. Everyone of us is surrounded by temptations and everyday some of us are in such danger that we need the protection of God to keep us from evil. Pray that God would keep husbands and wives faithful and our young people pure. Pray that God would keep our business men honest. Pray that God would keep our people from gossip and evil speaking. Pray for them by name. Pray for them by sin. Pray for them by families. Pray for them. Protect them with your prayers.

Secondly, pray for their spiritual preparation. To be complete means to be trained, ready for battle, ready for the game, to have learned the discipline necessary to stand firm when the body gets tired, to be prepared. Pray for new believers, pray for believing teens and children, pray for believers moved by God to serve the Lord fulltime, pray for your pastor, pray for the advisory board, pray for each teacher, each officer, pray for those who have yet to undertake service for God because they do not feel prepared.

d. We have God’s presence when we maintain our love for each other (13:11-14). If we do this, then we will have God’s presence. Worship music does not bring God’s presence. Even prayer itself does not bring God’s presence. When God’s people, however, are at peace with one another, when they are of one mind and one accord, then, we can rest assured that God is with us, whether we feel him or not. When we fuss and fight with each other, when we gossip and backstab, when we puff ourselves up before others, God leaves, I think in much the same way he left Samson. Delilah cut off his hair and Samson woke up and did not even notice that the Spirit of God was gone. When we do not love each other as we should we are like Samson. We still have the muscles and the know how to use them but the strength is gone.

2. When our love is unfit, we should examine our faith (13:5-6). I come to these verses last because they hold up a serious warning. If we, like some of the Corinthians are lacking in love, we need to pay attention and examine our faith. Why? Because faith and love go together. If love is missing, then something is wrong with your faith. Either you do not have true faith in Christ or you need to strengthen that faith that is in you turning to the power of Christ that is in you to empower you to love others and to quit the sins of contentions and whisperings and unforgiveness.

Some of you may be asking yourself, how do I know if I am truly in the faith. Are you trusting Jesus, His crucifixion in weakness and His bodily resurrection from the dead by the power of God for forgiveness of sins. It is only through Him that we can be forgiven. Trust Him today and enter His service and His family for all eternity.

NEXT WEEK: JESUS, THE SERVANT (Isaiah 42)

 

 

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Weak Credentials (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) March 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Suffering.
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“WEAK CREDENTIALS (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

We should gladly prefer humiliation with God’s power to exalting experiences.

I. Because only God can evaluate our experiences (verses 1-7). The scientist cannot evaluate religious experiences. It is beyond his area of expertise. He may or may not believe in them but there is no way that they can be scientifically evaluated.

So we are on our own when evaluating religious experiences. One of the bestsellers on the Christian market for several years now has been Don Piper’s “Ninety Minutes in Heaven.” It is the story of a pastor who is pronounced dead at the scene after an automobile accident. He tells of what went on during a ninety minute time period before he was brought back to life through the power of prayer. For a while there was another book on the market, where a man claimed to have spent thirty something minutes in Hell. How do we evaluate these experiences. Paul would argue, only God knows. Paul’s believes that he himself was possibly taken to heaven for a short time but he says, I really do not know how to evaluate this experience. It was wonderful, it was amazing, I heard things that I cannot repeat. It is my own experience but I do not even know if it was a vision or if my body was taken up to heaven. I cannot tell if it was a mystical experience or a miraculous one. I just do not know.

That is a wise attitude to have when looking a religious experiences. Seeing is not believing. As important as miracles are as proof of the truth of Christ, miracles alone prove nothing. The Bible makes it clear that Satan can work miracles. The first miracle after creation may have been performed by Satan when he entered the serpent and made it talk.

For that reason, we should be cautious about exalting our experiences or exalting people because of their experiences. That was part of the problem that was being faced in Corinth, they were evaluating apostles by outward appearances which is why they put themselves in such danger of deception.

A. The natural mind cannot comprehend the supernatural (verses 1-4). One can tell that Paul hesitates to discuss his experience. He understands that in reality, talking about such experiences is not profitable yet he does it, likely because his enemies were performing or at least claiming to have performed miracles among them. In verse 11, Paul describes for us the types of apostolic works which he himself performed among the Corinthians. Such works were used to confirm the truth of God. We generally do not need such miracles now because we have the word of God which we are responsible to believe.

But Paul does not attempt to discredit their credentials of miracles but rather reminds the Corinthians that he also has such credentials but that revelations and miracles are impossible for our natural mind to evaluate. In Germany we had a good friend, not a believer, who claimed to have psychic healing powers. This person was not only convinced but could also give you examples of healings that they had performed. There is not argument against such a thing. Either you believed or you did not. Man cannot adequately evaluate supernatural or psychic experiences themselves. One can perhaps evaluate the honesty and veracity of the one performing or experiencing the miracles but the experience itself our natural mind cannot evaluate.

B. The natural mind tends to exalt the outwardly superior (verses 5-7a). It should not be disturbing that the natural mind cannot adequately evaluate supernatural experiences. What should be disturbing is the tendency of our natural mind to trust itself and exalt those who appear through such experiences to be superior to others.

Paul recognizes this in verse 5. He understands that there are certain aspects of his life that call attention to themselves. He knows that these are the things that attract the natural man and that would build him up. That is why in verse 6 he refrains from giving the details. There is great danger in being exalted by man. It serves in bringing neither the exalted nor the exalter closer to God. Paul had likely had this experience while he was in Tarsus, before he began his ministry in Antioch. Fourteen years he had preached Jesus but had neglected to preach his own experience, an experience that perhaps had exceeded every miracle that Paul had ever performed.

Paul perhaps recognizes that not just his hearers are susceptible to exalting the outwardly superior but that he himself is also might be in danger according to verse 7 of exalting himself beyond measure.

Whoever it is that might tend to exalt Paul, there is one who knows how to prevent that exaltation, the Lord Himself. We do not know much about this thorn in flesh, although the word infirmity used later on indicates that it was a physical ailment of some type. We do know that in Paul’s case, Satan himself had a hand in the suffering.

That does not mean that all suffering is from Satan. It does mean that God, just as He did in Eden allows Satan to work but that God’s purposes are accomplished through Satan’s work. Believer, I can no more tell you whether Satan has a hand in your suffering than I can tell you if your mystical or miraculous experience if from God. Such things only God knows. What I can tell you, however, is this, your suffering is not without purpose. God knows your suffering and he allows it because through it, you can, if you will, glorify Him.

II. Only the Lord can empower us through humiliation (verses 7-10). This is not the only purpose of suffering but this is what Paul focuses on in these verses. Paul goes to the Lord in prayer three times, each time asking for the pain to be taken away. The Lord’s answer is shocking! You have what you need. You have my grace. I am giving you what you need Paul. I am going to accomplish my power through your weakness. Paul, you do not need this experience. You simply need me to take care of you. I can accomplish everything through you that I need to in the midst of your pain and suffering.

A. The Lord gives humility and power through suffering (verses 7-9). Paul talks about this earlier in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. Paul tells us that this is part of God’s plan, that the abundance of the power of God to change lives is realized in us despite the weakness of our earthly bodies (verse 7) so that He is the one who is honored and glorified and not we ourselves. You see, it all comes down to this, people seeing Christ in us as we witness to them of His life-changing power. Jesus promised in Acts 1:8 that we have power through the Holy Spirit in us to witness of Him. That Holy Spirit power, however, becomes focused in our weakness. In humility that power is revealed in its fullness. You see, suffering is sometimes necessary so that God might show to others the power of Christ in our lives.

B. That is why we, like Paul, should prefer humility of suffering and the power that comes through it to the luxury of freedom from pain (verses 10). Paul did not want to hurt, yet he loved Christ and Christ’s people so much that he gladly preferred pain so that he might have the fullness of the power of God.

Now you may, like Paul, suffer an infirmity, that is, suffer physically. You are allowed to pray that God would take away the pain. There is nothing wrong with that. When you pray, though, pray that if he allows you to suffer that the power of God in your life would be revealed by that power. Too often we doubt God. When he does not take away the pain, we assume is does not answer prayer. Remember, it is in that very pain that he may reveal to those closest to us the very power of Christ that they need to see in their lives.

It is not just, though, in sickness. It may be a reproach, that is, a disaster of some type. The loss of a job, of a house, of a spouse. Your pain is not without purpose. God wants to show the power of Christ through your life.

Or perhaps you are in need. You do not have some necessity of life. Although most of us are obviously not in that category, some may be. Even when you do not have food on your table, adequate clothes on your back, or heat in your house, God’s grace is sufficient for even you. His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Are you persecuted? Are you made fun of at work, at school, or even at home because of your faith in Christ? This promise of power in weakness is to you. Rather than feel sorry for yourself, turn to God for grace and humility in suffering and fullness of power to reveal Christ to your persecutors.

The last word in this list, distress, simply means extreme affliction. Maybe you are not physically sick or going through disaster or persecution or lack of the necessities of life. You see, what your particular trouble is does not matter. That is why we cannot compare our troubles to each other. There is no trouble too great for God not to bring out his fullness of power in you.

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable. Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through. God specializes in things thought impossible and He can do what no other power can do.”

By Oscar C. Eliason

NEXT WEEK: AN EXAMINATION OF FITNESS FOR DUTY (2 Corinthians 12:11-13:10)

 

When Is It Right For a Christian to Brag? March 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in False Teachers, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons.
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“WHEN CAN YOU BOAST IN SUFFERING? (2 Corinthians 11:16-33)

Paul was an humble man. He does not like to boast. He finds boasting to be contrary to the word of God. He is familiar with what Proverbs 27:2 commands, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.” His parents taught him that “to seek one’s own glory is not glory” (Proverbs 25:27). He understands that “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Paul himself taught in an earlier epistle to the Galatians that humility is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Yet Paul on this occasion writes that he is forced to boast, to praise himself, to seek his own glory in defense of his position as apostleship and he does this by boasting in his suffering.

I. Why then does he feel that he needs to boast? Paul is convinced that he needs to differentiate himself from the false apostles, the false teachers, the charlatans who have come into the church in Corinth. In the same way, it is important that we differentiate ourselves from the charlatans of this age (verses 16-21). We live in an age with many options. All of them claim to have some measure of truth. The local church, however, according to 1 Timothy 3:15 is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Fellowship Bible Church and other gospel preaching, Bible believing churches in the Castleton area are the supports of the truth in this area. We have a responsibility to call attention to the truth of the gospel of Christ. It is part of our commission from Christ to enlist followers of the truth of Christ. How then are we supposed to do that?

A. Well, normally we follow Christ’s example (verses 17, 21). Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 10:1 when he refers to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. This is the humility of which we spoke earlier. Jesus, as we referred to earlier during our celebration of the Lord’s Table came to this world in poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). He went to the cross in weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4) beginning with Palm Sunday when he entered into Jerusalem in the midst of great rejoicing but with no pomp but rather as the Old Testament predicted rode in lowliness on the colt of a donkey even to His actual death on the cross where he suffered in great weakness. Jesus did not show great strength on the cross but rather died relatively quickly. People sometimes lasted for a long period on the cross but Jesus succumbed to His suffering quite quickly. His death was not impressive. Spiritually, we find that he became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), the one thing that Jesus as God hates, that He became. In His life and in His death, both physically and spiritually, Jesus displayed the ultimate in humility, meekness, and gentleness.

Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:20-21 that this is our calling, to bear patiently with humility the suffering that we receive because of the good that we do. We are not to lash out, we are not to attack back, we are not to rebel, we are rather to suffer as Christ suffered, submitting ourselves to that persecution.

Paul points out that this is our normal manner of operations, humility and meekness and gentleness and patience even in the face of great persecution but Paul in verse 17 says that there is an occasion to depart from the normal path of humility. There is an occasion when it is proper to boast. That occasion is when we need to differentiate ourselves from those who are charlatans.

B. Normally the charlatan takes advantage of others (verse 20). In verse 19 Paul refers to these false teachers as fools but he sarcastically says, “You Corinthians are so wise that you can accept the fools who take advantage of you.”

They enslave you to their will.

They use you up to the fullest extent.

They take what belongs to you.

They put themselves up on a pedestal among you.

They punish anyone who may stand against them.

We find this hard to believe that anyone would stand for such a thing but cults are full of people who are enslaved by religious leaders who follow this pattern. We need to be aware that such groups exist out there and that this church itself is not impervious to the infiltration of such false teachers themselves.

II. So Paul says, “Because these people are infiltrating themselves among you, I need to differentiate myself from them. I must point out the ways in which I am superior to the false teachers.” Paul mentions that his passion for Christ and His gospel is different but he does not stop there. He also points specifically his personal sacrifices among the Corinthians themselves. Paul fears though that these people might be deceived by the charlatans and brings up his suffering as a characteristic that differentiates the true apostle from the false apostle and the true church from the charlatans (verses 22-33).

A. In many ways we are equal or interior to the charlatan (verses 21-22). Apparently it was expected that an apostle must be Jewish. These false teachers were claiming to be Jewish in every way. Ethnically, culturally, and religiously these false teachers were Jewish. Paul does not dispute that but rather points out that he takes a backseat to no one in his Jewishness. His pedigree all the way to Abraham was in the records of the temple in Jerusalem. Although he had been born outside of Palestine, he had been trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the leading teachers at that time in Jerusalem. Paul had been immersed in both the culture and the religion of the Jews and had come out a Pharisee. No one could question his Jewish credentials.

In the same way, the false prophets of our day try to demonstrate that they are from God by proclaiming loyalty to Jesus Christ, some even proclaiming that He is their Savior. We at Fellowship Bible Church our also loyal to Jesus Christ. The false prophets of our day talk about their faith and how God answers their prayers. This very building in which we are sitting is a testimony to how God answered the prayers of a small group of people who had no money, no land, no leadership, and no credit. Those people knew what a credit freeze was long before the rest of us found that out. The false prophets claim to base their beliefs on the Bible. Our very name testifies to the fact that we make much of the Word of God in this church. It is our authority for what we believe, for what we do, and for what we hope for in eternity. The false prophets are in no way superior to us in their claims.

B. In our attitude towards suffering, we, like Paul, should be superior to the charlatan (verses 23-33). Paul presents a pretty extensive list of hardships and trials which he had endured as proof that he was more of a minister of Christ than those false prophets who were attempting to deceive the church at Corinth.

He begins by pointing out that he has generally suffered more. Notice that he has not said that the false prophets have not suffered but than in comparison Paul has worked harder and longer and suffered in proportion to and because of the amount of work that he has done.

He says, “I have been beaten more often.” The list here is quite impressive: beaten by the Jews with thirty-nine stripes (which was one under the maximum allowed number under Jewish law) five times, beaten with rods (presumably by the Gentiles who apparently were not limited in the amount of blows they could offer) three times, and he was stoned once (Acts 14:19 records how that he was stoned and left for dead).

In addition, Paul did not choose the easy route of staying in a city and remaining there in safety but he traveled frequently despite the constant dangers that we a regular part of traveling in those days. This involved the danger of shipwreck, the danger of fording flooded rivers, the danger of highway robbers, and the danger from those who followed him from city to city spreading false rumors against him and inciting riots against him and those who worked with him. It is obvious that there was nowhere that was safe for Paul.

Finally, Paul mentions what was known to the Corinthians that he labored and lived in want. He did not get enough sleep; he did not get enough nourishment, in fact, sometimes he did not have any nourishment to speak of; and he did not have clothing to protect himself from the elements.

1. How does this prove that Paul is more a minister of Christ than the false prophets? His labors and suffering proved that the cares of this earth were unimportant to him. Paul’s safety was relatively unimportant to Paul. His health and welfare was a secondary thing. Paul was not working for retirement but rather for eternity.

Now none of us have suffered like Paul has. Should we? Is this the lesson that we should take from this? No! There is no reason for us to take a vow of poverty and sell everything we have and sick suffering so that we might become more spiritual. Verses 31-33 make it clear that to flee suffering is not necessarily wrong. The lesson we can take though and should take from Paul’s example is this. The cares of the earth should be unimportant to us (verses 23-27, 31-33)…

2. …because the cares of Christ’s body are of ultimate importance to us (verses 28-29). Again we see in Paul’s life that you cannot divide love of Christ from love of your brethren. This principle is taught over and over again. If you love God, you will love your brethren.

Notice first of all that Paul is not talking here about his evangelistic ministry but rather his responsibility for the spiritual growth of the churches. Paul worried about their welfare. Several times Paul mentions how that he prayed night and day for the churches. He wrote letters, he sent colleagues to help the churches, he visited the churches when he could, he gave his life for the churches.

When they suffered, he suffered. Although the word “weak” in the Bible can mean sin, Paul uses it to speak of our suffering, physical, financial, emotional, mental weaknesses which make our lives harder. Paul suffered with the churches. He was not distant from them but rather identified with them. He sympathized with them and did what he could to help them. This was an evidence that they were a priority to him.

When they began to stray, to stumble, Paul also showed he cared. In fact, this whole letter is evidence that Paul put Christ’s church ahead of the things of this world. If you wanted to make Paul mad, just try to introduce false doctrine or sin into the church. Paul fought for the purity of Christ’s church and the health of Christ’s church as if it was his very own.

Believer, do you love Christ’s church? Is it a priority in your life? How important to you are the people with which you share this room? Would you die for them? Would you live for them? Do you get angry when you see someone trying to cause them to stumble? This is our test as believers? This is the test the proves whether we are Christ’s disciples or whether we are just paying lip service?

NEXT WEEK: WEAK CREDENTIALS (2 Corinthians 12:1-13)

 

 

The Face of the Enemy (2 Corinthians 11:1-15) February 22, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in False Doctrine, False Teachers, Religion, Satan, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Leadership.
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THE FACE OF THE ENEMY

(2 Corinthians 11:1-15)

The hardest enemy to face is the one that you do not recognize. This is what Paul fears in this passage. He identifies both the characteristics of the enemy as well as those of the true preacher of the gospel, so that the Corinthians might not be deceived by the enemy. He begins by asking them a very interesting question…

I. Why do you put up with the enemy (verses 1-4)?

A. Their teaching is defiling (verses 2 and 4).

Paul emphasizes the importance of a pure message. There were those in Paul’s day who preached an impure message. Paul describes this as “another Jesus”, a “spirit” and a “gospel” of a different kind. This was a huge problem in those days. It is still a problem today. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul describes those who preach a different Jesus as storeowner who waters down the wine that he sells.

This is a serious charge. In 2 Corinthians 10:6, Paul says that he was ready to punish, to take vengeance on those who pollute the gospel of Christ. Paul is not having an intellectual debate in this book. He is battling for the purity of the church.

In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul mentions that his gospel message was unadulterated. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: “What adulterates the gospel? What makes the true gospel another gospel?” Based on 2 Corinthians 11:4, I would say any of the following adulterate the gospel:

1. Any presentation of Jesus other than what is presented in the word of God corrupts the truth. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God who became man, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for my sins as predicted by the Old Testament, was buried and rose again according to the Old Testament, and ascended to heaven to take His rightful place as Lord of the universe. Any direct or even indirect denial of Christ’s character defiles the truth.

2. Any reception of a new Spirit other than that taught in the Scriptures is also suspect. When I hear that I must have some experience with the Holy Spirit that is superior to trusting Christ and receiving the indwelling of the Spirit, I have reason to doubt the truth.

3. Finally, when I see a list of what one must do to be saved, even if the list is of good things, I am aware that another gospel is being preached. In other words, an addition of any means that makes salvation possible other than solely by God’s grace. This applies to those who believe you have to live righteously to stay saved. If I teach that I have to live right to be saved or to stay saved, then I am adding a human means to my salvation. That, in God’s estimation, is rotten fruit (Ephesians 2:8-9).

B. The enemy is deceptive (verses 3-4, 13-15).

In this way, Paul connects these people with Satan. In the same way that Satan deceived Eve, these false teachers try to deceive God’s people. He says that they like Satan transform themselves. They are not what they appear to be nor are they who they say they are. They are liars and are not to be trusted. They are deceptive. This should not surprise us. Satan’s tactic never really changes. He deceived Eve in the garden and since that day he has continued to deceive the world, being so effective at it that Paul says, Satan, the god of this world has blinded their eyes.

C. Their end is destruction (verse 15). They share not just their character with Satan but also their end. Jesus warned in Matthew 25:41 that those judged by God will have their place in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his messengers. Although there are multitudes who are following Satan and his messengers into the lake of fire, it is specifically reserved for Satan and those who preach for him, even if those messengers are naming the name of Christ.

II. The other side of the question is this, why do you reject your spiritual father (verses 1-2 and 5-11)? You should trust me to put a stop to Satan’s doomed deceivers who are trying to destroy your purity.

A. Why? Because I have been a jealous father to you (verse 2).

What was in those days the great desire of every father for his daughter? That she be taken care of, that she given to a man, to a husband, who would care for her, protect her. Great gifts of money as a dowry were provided in order to guarantee that the daughter would have a good husband. Paul is saying, I greatly desired to find a husband for you who would care for you, who would protect you. I have labored and sorrowed, preaching Christ at every opportunity, just so that I might present you pure with a full dowry to Jesus Christ. Paul took his responsibility for the church very seriously.

The pastor or missionary and other ministers of the gospel often have two families, the physical family and then the people for whom he cares spiritually. That is a very difficult task to handle and Paul chose not to get married for that very reason. He had his hands full with his spiritual family.

B. I have also been a generous father to you (compare verse 3 with verses 5-9). My knowledge (verse 6) and my sacrifice (verses 7-9) speaks for itself.

We reveal through our knowledge of God whether we are true ministers or not (verse 5-6). This is a constant. Effective ministry is not based on numbers of attendees or whether people like us or not. It is based on God revealing Himself through us. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:5-11. If people do not see Christ revealed in our lives and our message, our ministry will be in vain. People have to see more than good morals. That’s why Paul condemned these false teachers. They made themselves the standard of good morals. That’s why upholding the Ten Commandments as a standard to live by is, in and of itself, a dead end. The best they can learn through the Ten Commandments is how evil and vile they are. People have to see Jesus in us.

Jim Elliot once prayed, “Father, make me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

How then do we make sure than not only our message but also our lives reveal Jesus Christ? One way is through sacrifice. Paul mentioned several times throughout his epistles, that he did not take advantage of those to whom he ministered because he feared that would hinder the ministry. Paul is not saying that ministry does not deserve or need money. What is saying is this, our ministry must not be motivated by money or the need for money. To the extent that our ministry is money dependent and not God dependent, to that same extent our ministry will be suspect.

C. I have been a loving father to you (verses 10-11).

There was nothing more important to Paul than to please His Lord. He had a passion for preaching the gospel because he had a passion for Christ. He also had a passion for people because he had a passion for Christ. That, of course, is why he was passionate to protect those people from the false teachers. He was looking out for them to protect them because he loved them.

NEXT WEEK: WHEN CAN YOU BOAST IN SUFFERING? (2 Corinthians 11:16-33)

 

Boldness and Humility in Spiritual Warfare (2 Corinthians 10) February 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Boldness, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Leadership, Spiritual Warfare.
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BOLDNESS AND HUMILITY IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE

(2 Corinthians 10:1-16)

INTRODUCTION: I remember the first time that I lost sleep because of the ministry. I felt like we had been dropped into the middle of a boiling pot of water with no way out. I had no answers. In fact, the situation over which I lost sleep that night continued for over two years and I never had any answers. I remember how that first night, my wife and I talked over the situation and talked over the situation and how that I looked into the pitch dark of our bedroom with not a sound stirring in the rural area where we lived at the time wondering, fretting, asking God what to do and not getting any advice from Him that I found useful.

It is good to know that others have been where we were at that night and not only survived but were victorious in their battle against Satan. We are going to look at one of those victors in battle, the Apostle Paul, for the next few weeks. I trust that his example will serve for each one of us as a wake up call to what serving Christ means.

There are many aspects to spiritual warfare but I would like for us to look at the attitudes that are necessary for successful spiritual warfare: boldness and humility.

I. Boldness is necessary to assault spiritual disobedience (verses 2-6). Perhaps this goes without saying but boldness is a necessary attitude of warfare of any kind. Paul is careful, however, to define the battle so that we can understand the reason for his boldness.

A. The battle is not personal (verses 2-3). Notice, I did not say physical or mental or emotional. There are definitely physical elements to spiritual warfare. In 2 Corinthians 7:5 Paul mentions his arrival in Macedonia, an area north and east of Achaia, the province where Corinth was located. He makes it clear that he was totally affected by the spiritual warfare in which he found himself. It seems likely that, at the time this verse talks about, Paul was clinically depressed. He was in a rough state of affairs.

We tend to view those who take medicine for depression as second-class Christians. Now I am sure that there are times when medicine would be unnecessary if people dealt with their spiritual needs properly. Let us not forget, though, that there is no shame in being troubled and there is also no shame in being physically affected by those troubles. James reminds us that Elijah was a man subject to the same troubles that we are. Our Lord Himself went through extreme physical and emotional weakness so that He might sympathize with our weakness.

This battle then is physical and emotional as well as spiritual but it is not personal. For that reason, spiritual victory is not dependent on an outward show of boldness.

Paul had a few enemies in Corinth who were accusing him, among other things, of being a wimp. They said, “Sure, he can write a mean letter but when he shows up, we will just walk all over him.” Paul admits in verse one that there is some truth to this accusation. He has a tendency to be strong with the pen and weak in presence. Paul says, however, that does not matter. This battle is not about me. It is not about my style, my abilities, or my methods.

If ever there was a lesson we need to learn, it is this one. How many times have we heard people say, if we could just get the right music style, the right atmosphere in the church service, we could see things happen. These things are important but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could just have some miracles for people to see or a powerful preacher or an excellent training program, then we could move our community for God. All of these things are fine and have there place but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could learn to pray like David Brainerd, sing like the Wesleys, preach like Luther, serve like Mother Teresa, organize like Billy Graham, and survey like Bill Hybels, we could have revival, we could win spiritual battles. Revival, however, does not depend on us, it does not depend on our methods, nor does it depend on our style of ministry. Spiritual warfare is not personal.

B. What is this spiritual warfare of which Paul speaks? This war is a spiritual assault with the Christ’s gospel against the stronghold’s of disobedience, the unbeliever and his or her way of thinking (verses 4-6).

In these verses, Paul mentions the goal of our battle (verses 4b-5), tearing down spiritual strongholds and bringing others to Christ. He does not, however, mention what our weapons might be. He simply says (in verse 4a) that our weapons are mighty in God. Paul is not saying that his weapons are superior but rather that his God is superior. Our weapons are mighty in God. Whatever the form that our earthly weapons may take, they are mighty in God (see Mark 14:36). In other words, spiritual warfare is dependent on God. Our warfare is only possible, our weapons are only effective if God is the might behind them. When we pray, if we are effective, it is of God. When we preach and teach, if we are effective, it is of God.

This is basic but we stray too easily from this truth. Paul said, my effectiveness is not dependent on me but on Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). George Morrison once preached, “Men who do their best always do more, though they be haunted by the sense of failure. Be good and true; be patient; be undaunted. Leave your usefulness to God to estimate. He will see to it that you do not live in vain.” We cannot evaluate our usefulness by the response of the world to our personality. Only God can evaluate our usefulness.

II. The second attitude that Paul found necessary seems to be the opposite of boldness. It is humility. Humility, however, is necessary to edify the body of Christ (verses 7-11).

A. Edification is for one’s own army not the enemy (verses 7-9). It is through edification that we are able to as an army rather than as individuals attack the spiritual stronghold’s. That is in some way or another, one of the main themes of almost all of Paul’s epistles. Jesus put it this way, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”

Paul intended to spiritually assault those teachings and those teachers who were preaching a false gospel. Paul speaks in verse 6 of punishing, literally, of taking vengeance on those who preach a different gospel. For those, however, who are Christ’s, that is, those who put their faith and trust in Christ, his goal is different. He is not interested in their destruction (verse 8b), he is not interested in pulling down their defenses. That is reserved for the enemy. Paul’s goal for his fellow-believers is not pulling down but building up.

In this Paul is following the example of Christ. Matthew 11:28-29 describes these characteristics in Jesus Christ, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus did not find it shameful to reach out to us as sinners but rather humbled Himself, made Himself lowly in order to save us. Paul says, my ministry is modeled after Christ. I am not ashamed to humble myself nor am I ashamed to boast. My goal is you edification.

B. God gives us authority to edify with humility one another (verses 8-11). “Why, Paul, do you humble yourself this way? You are an apostle! Why allow these people to treat you this way?” Paul might would answer, because my authority as an apostle is to build up the body and not to pull it down.

It would be easy for us to say at this point, “Sure, that is good for Paul but I have no authority, I have no responsibility, I have no ability to edify my brothers and sisters in Christ!” Let us see what the Scripture says.

Twice in Romans 14-15, Paul commands believers to get along with their brothers in the area of doubtful things so that we might edify one another.

Four times in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says let edification be the determining factor as to whether you use your spiritual gift or not. If your spiritual gift does not build believers up, then leave it at home.

Three times in Ephesians, Paul points out that the purpose of the church, of this church, and how we relate to one another, is that we might edify one another. You and I as believers are commanded to edify one another and this edification is necessary if we are going to grow in Christ. It is not just for the pastor or the teachers or the advisory board or the adults but everyone of us is responsible to build one another up in Christ.

III. Now boldness and humility come from the same source, the ministry of Christ’s gospel (verse 12-18, especially verses 17-18).

A. These spiritual traits do not come from our moral example (verse 12). This is really a repetition of what Paul wrote earlier but Paul wants to remind them that he is not his own standard. He is held to the standard of God. Those who spend their time setting themselves up as spiritual standards are fools. Certainly Paul set himself up as an example but not in the same way as these false teachers did. He said it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The danger of keeping rules is not that you may be too strict. The danger of setting yourself up as a moral example and standard is not that you might not reach your own standard. The danger of setting yourself up is that by doing so you miss the truth. Why do good, moral people go to hell? Because they do not understand that Jesus Christ is the standard. They are looking for ways to outweigh what is bad in their life. Jesus has an empty scale on the bad side of the scale. But when we make Christ our source of righteousness we have the source we need for boldness and humility in spiritual warfare (verses 14-15a). Why could Paul boast? He had the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).

B. The goal of our boldness and humility, of pulling down the enemy and building up the brethren is the expansion of Christ’s gospel (verses 13-16).

You might ask, if Paul has all this boldness and humility from God, why does he keep laboring with these Corinthian believers. Are they not more trouble than they are worth? Paul would answer, “No, they are part of the goal, the boundaries, the sphere of work that God has set up for me.”

The goal of the body of Christ’s faithfulness, that is, Christian growth is the expansion of the gospel. Verse 15 shows us how this should work.

Opportunities are lost when we do not grow in faithfulness to Christ. Paul had been forced to give so much time to issues in Corinth he had not been able to enter some open doors. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, he describes how the necessity of sending Titus to Corinth combined with his own emotional state prevented him from entering the open door in Troas. Even Paul could not go it alone but needed the aid and assistance of the body of Christ to be effective in the ministry of the gospel.

That may seem like a contradiction. Are we not dependent on God and not on man? The answer is yes. Let us not forget though that one of the main tools God uses is His church. We are His army responsible to pull down strongholds of disobedience. We are His body responsible to build one another up in mutual growth in Christ.

NEXT WEEK: THE FACE OF THE ENEMY (2 Corinthians 11:1-15)

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.

Sermons from 2 Corinthians 8:7-8 September 27, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Religion, Second Corinthians, Stewardship.
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From MacArthur – This sermon is actually the last of an eight part series on money and giving with the last four focusing on the passages we have been looking at the past four weeks. You can find links to the whole series here at Monergism.

It is hard to find sermons that divide the passage like I have but this one covers verse eight nicely and gives some interesting insights to the book of Hebrews as well.

Giving yourself abundantly (discipleship) September 23, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF DISCIPLESHIP IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:5-6

So far we have seen the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. We have also looked at the attitude of willingness that joy produces in our giving. Today we want to consider what it is that we actually should give. We must give ourselves totally to the Lord.

BACKGROUND 

Paul realistically had expected a little help from the Macedonians in the benevolence offering that he was gathering for the Jerusalem church (verse 5a). Paul, of course, knew the Macedonians well. He had led many of them to the Lord. He knew the readiness with which many of them had received the gospel (for example, the church at Berea in Acts 17).

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-8 we find an earlier description of some of these people. Paul was probably less than a month in Thessalonica before he was forced out of town. He had fond memories of these people. From the very beginning they received the gospel with joy even in the midst of great affliction. Paul says that in this they were imitators of him and Silas and Timothy as well as of Christ. In fact Paul had set himself up as an example before the church in Thessalonica and encouraged them to follow him, to imitate him and they had done so.

Because Paul had lived before them with joy in affliction he thought he knew what to expect of these believers. He thought that they would react in the area of giving in the way he reacted, laboring to meet this need in some way.

BUT PAUL’S EXPECTATIONS WERE EXCEEDED.

The Macedonians proved their discipleship by their obedience and surrender to God’s will. They gave themselves to God and to others (verse 5b). Instead of giving out of their ability, they out of their poverty gave themselves first to God and then to others and finally, gave financially.

FOLLOWING THEIR EXAMPLE

First, you give yourself up to God. When you trust Christ as Savior you are no longer your own man. You belong to God. You are His.

Look back in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. In those verses Paul is explaining why it is possible to give ourselves to the Lord. “The love of Christ compels us… [to] …live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again.” In fact, Romans 14:7-9 points out that one of the reasons that Christ died is so that we might give ourselves totally to Him.

That is what discipleship is, totally giving yourself to another so that you might learn from Him how to live. Christ died so that you would give yourself to Him. He wants you to leave all and learn from Him.

YOU CANNOT STOP WITH GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD. 

Secondly, you give yourself up to the people of God. I belong to God and then I belong to you. Not because you pay me as your pastor but because Christ paid for me and made me a part of His body of which you also are a member. I know that some were uncomfortable last week with the statement I made about church membership. I have no desire to make you uncomfortable but you need to understand that you are not your own. You belong to the body of Christ.

Now you might say, “But Robert, the context is not the submission and commitment of individuals to the local church but rather the submission and commitment of three local churches to an apostle and his team of missionaries.” If you should say that, you would be absolutely correct. You see the real issue is submission and commitment to each other. It plays out in all kinds of ways. Between individuals. Between churches or groups of churches. Between congregations and leadership. Between churches and their supported missionaries. None of those relationships can replace the others. If I have a bad relationship with an individual in this church, I cannot make up for it by being a good pastor. If we have bad blood between us and another church, we cannot make up for it by being faithful to support our missionaries in Nigeria or Argentina. In the same way, my relationship to the body of Christ at large cannot replace my relationship to this local church. In every one of this relationships submission and commitment to Christ and to my fellow believers is demanded from me.

THE MONEY PART

Finally, after giving yourself to God and giving yourself to fellow believers, then comes the practical parts of putting money in the offering plate, teaching Sunday School, etc.

John Piper put it this way, “It is possible to give gifts to people and to God, and yet keep yourself at a distance. Money, [and if I may interject, preaching, going to the mission field, doing evangelism, teaching Sunday School, church attendance, church membership, Awana service, cleaning the church, keeping the nursery, all these things] which ought to be an expression of personal commitment, can actually be a substitute for personal commitment. Paul does not want that kind of money [or that kind of service]. Of first importance is to give ourselves to God and to God’s people. Then our gifts will be pleasing to the Lord.”

(From John Piper’s Sermon – Christmas Joy and the Kirchensteuer)

PAUL’S NEW EXPECTATIONS OF THE CORINTHIANS 

Paul’s expectations have now changed (verse 6). True Christian performance is now expected (verses 8-11). He is not expecting what he had expected from the Macedonian churches. He is expecting the Corinthians to give of themselves. He knows that if they give of themselves, they will give generously to the benevolence offering for the Jerusalem church.

He expresses this first of all by saying in verse 8 “I want you to prove that you have given yourself to God. I want you to prove that you are a disciple, a learner of Jesus. I want you to prove that you are an imitator of Christ. Prove that you are living for Him. Prove that He is the Lord of your life.”

He does not ask them to give themselves to Christ, to live for Christ. As he mentions in chapter 5, that is a given. It should be a reasonable assumption that when someone says, “I am a Christian,” they have given themselves to Christ. In a way it is like dropping your maiden name. We knew a fellow once who had what we would call a dysfunctional family. This fellow met a young lady, fell in love with her, proposed and made plans to marry. He made an unusual request though. He said to her, “I love your family. Your father is more like a father to me than my father is. Your mother is more like a mother to me than my own mother. I want to take your family name to be my family name.” He asked his bride-to-be if he could take on her name. In other words, he dropped his “maiden” name and took on her name as the family name.

When we trust Christ, we take the name of Christ, it is reasonable for people to expect us to be totally loyal to him and to expect us to prove the legitimacy and sincerity of our love to Christ through our actions.

ALL BECAUSE OF JESUS 

In verse 9 he appeals again to what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross. Everything that Christ did, He did for our sakes, to make us rich in joy and grace and love, to redeem us from our sin, and according to 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, to cause us to overflow in thanksgiving even in times of great trial. Look at these verses, especially noting verse 15. Paul is saying that the troubles we go through will be eternally worth while because of what Christ through grace has done for our sakes. We will be presented along with those to whom we minister to God’s glory for all eternity.

About a year ago I preached from this passage a sermon on avoiding burnout. If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to deny yourself, follow Christ, and serve others. According to verse 16, giving yourself to Christ will keep you eternally motivated.

If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to realize it is about Jesus revealed in you and not about your comfort. According to verse 17, giving yourself to Christ will reorder your priorities.

If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to realize that the eternal reward will be worth it. According to verse 18, giving yourself to Christ is evidence of an eternal perspective and not a temporary perspective.

BACK AGAIN IN CHAPTER 8 

In verses 10-11 he basically says, “Show your fruit.” There are many who do not want to judge others and sometimes that is the proper thing to do. It is, however, always appropriate to look at your own heart and life and see if you are bearing fruit. Are you proving your love for the Lord Jesus? If you are holding back in any area of obedience then your love is suspect. We should be able to see our own fruit better than anyone around us. We are after all the tree. What does your fruit show? Does it show a love for Christ or for someone else?

SHOW BLOOD 

During the American Civil War there were in both armies, units of soldiers designated as provost guard. These men served as the military police and were engaged in all kinds of duties from guarding military prison camps to protecting boats that were unloading supplies. One of the tasks sometimes given to the provost guard was to prevent an unauthorized retreat. As soldiers clashed in battle, it was common for some to turn and run. If this was allowed too blatantly, discipline would be lost and the battle would be easily lost. The guard would stand behind the lines and when men began to retreat toward the rear of the army, the provost guard would prevent them with the cry, “Show blood”. If they could show a wound, they would be allowed to pass through. If they could not, they would be forced to return to the front lines to fight. My call to you today is, “Show blood.” Jesus Christ shed His blood for you. Show your love to Him and to His church by giving and serving and suffering, if necessary, for Him.

REMINDER

If you are not in the Lord’s army, you cannot show blood. If you are not planted in Christ Jesus, you cannot show good fruit. Jesus died for you that you might become one of His. He shed His blood to redeem you from sin. He wants to make you rich, to give you something eternally to live for but you must come through Him. No man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. You must trust Him as your Savior for salvation.

Spurgeon from 2 Corinthians 8 September 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Incarnation, Jesus, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spurgeon.
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I try to link every week on Thursday or Friday to sermons touching on the passage of Scripture from which I’m preaching. Obviously that gets hard when (1) one does not have time to look for good sermons and (2) when the past two weeks have linked to the best ones already. I did save a good one for next week but this week I have only one to offer you. It’s a good one though. The condenscension of Christ is the basis for any giving that we might undertake. Enjoy!

2 Corinthians 8:9 from Spurgeon “The Condenscension of Christ”

The Joy of the Lord is our Motivation. It Produces an Attitude of Willingness. September 16, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Joy, Prayer, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Stewardship, Tithing.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF WILLINGNESS IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:3-4

 

Last week we looked at the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. This week we want to look at the attitude that joy produces in our giving. Joy produces willingness.

“GRACE” AND “GIFT” SYNONYMOUS IN THIS CHAPTER

Before we look at willingness, I want to explain something about the words “grace” and “gift.” The translation in our pew Bible (NKJV) takes the same word and when it refers to God’s work translates it “grace” and when it refers to the Macedonians’ work translates it “gift.” In other words they gave (i.e., graced) just as God had given (had graced) to them (compare verses 1 and 4).

What we do and what God does should not be all that different. He freely gives. We should freely give. As we saw last week, He is motivated by joy and we are to be motivated by joy also. The primary difference between God’s giving and our giving is our ability. God’s ability to give is limitless. Our ability is not. There is no one who has limitless resources. We cannot give as God gives in that sense. How then are we to give?

It is expected that we give (or “grace”) to others according to our ability (verse 3a). Now I am using the word “expected” here instead of “commanded” because Paul was careful not to use that type of phraseology but he does go to great lengths to set down some principles here by which we can live.

WHY TITHE? 

The greatest argument there is for tithing is proportional giving. You give according to what you have. People argue about whether you give according to your net or gross. They ask do you tithe on social security and retirement if you have already tithed on that money when you first earned it. It is interesting that the principle here is not complicated but simple. If you have, then give according to what you have. If I have a dollar and you have ten cents, naturally I should be giving more than you give because I have much more. Certainly, other factors play into the matter and we will speak of those but the principle is clear, give according to what you have. When I get more, I should give more. I don’t need to pray about it. I don’t need to think about it. I give, motivated by the joy of the Lord, out of what I have.

THE ATTITUDE MUST BE CORRECT. 

This is only acceptable if you have a willing mind (verse 12). Now what does Paul mean? Look back a couple of chapters to 2 Corinthians 6:2. Paul is talking in this verse about the day of salvation. “Behold, now is the accepted time.” Is salvation a good thing? Absolutely! It is a very good thing. If you want your giving to be a very good thing, it must come from a willing mind. Not from a mind that is seeking God’s blessing and grace but from a mind that is willing because it is motivated by the joy that comes from God’s grace. Paul has nothing against fairness. He talks about that in the next few verses but what makes tithing acceptable and well pleasing to God is not the percentage point but the willing mind. That is, of course, why many people do not tithe. Their mind is not willing. If you want me to do something that I am not willing to do, I can usually find some excuse not to do it. If I am willing then it is not a problem. I must have an attitude of willingness. Where do I get this attitude of willingness? It is motivated by joy in the grace/gift of God.

I’ll never forget one night as a kid with my dad in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We were listening to a big name preacher on the subject of the judgment seat of Christ. The preacher made the statement, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.” On the way home, my dad made a statement that I will never forget. Now my dad believed and believes in tithing. In fact, I remember him preaching from the Old Testament that you skipped giving the tithe, you should give another twenty percent. He believed in giving but he said to me on the way home, “Robert, that preacher got it backwards. It is not, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.’ If God has you, He will have your pocketbook.” As I grow in the Lord, I understand better and better what my dad was saying. What I give is only acceptable if I have a willing mind, a mind motivated by the joy of the Lord.

psst!!! I WON’T USE THE WORD “SACRIFICE” BUT THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BELOW 🙂 

Willingness gives (graces) above its ability (verse 3b). This is what I mean by an abundance of willingness, an overflow of willingness. These were “gung-ho” givers. Just as God’s grace overflowed to them and the joy that comes from experiencing God’s grace overflowed to them so also did their willingness to give overflow. Obviously, you cannot actually give beyond your ability, above what is in your power. You cannot give what you do not have but these people were sitting on ready and the minute God gave to them they were ready to give it out. These were people who had nothing but their main concern was not what they had but God’s grace and joy in Christ and how they could show that grace through giving.

Paul then speaks to the Corinthians about their willingness in verses 10-11. He says a year ago you were ready, you were willing to give. Now it is time to put your money where your mouth was. It is after all to your advantage. If you give willingly, if you sit on ready to give, your giving will be well-accepted by God.

NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY 

Again, I want to make the point that this applies to more than just giving. In verses 16-17 of this chapter we find that Titus was of his own free will ready to assist the Corinthians, not because it was an important mission but because of his care and his concern for the Corinthians. He was zealous, he was eager, he was “gung ho” in his readiness to take the offering because he cared for the church in Corinth. An abundance of willingness will not only make you willing to give financially but will make you willing to pour your life into the lives of other people. Often, we are not ready to pour our lives into others, we do not have this attitude of willingness.

MAINTAINING WILLINGNESS 

We find this attitude of willingness difficult to maintain but maintain it we must. This is not a new problem. Remember when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray and he took some of his disciples with him. He went a little way from his disciples and when he returned he found them asleep and he said to the “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This tips us off to why we are sometimes not willing to give and to help. We are not watching and praying. We are not evaluating and examining the situation and we are not bringing to God our concerns about the situation. You want to be more willing to serve God? Let yourself be motivated by joy (as we talked about last week) and let yourselves be strengthened by watchfulness and prayer. You must purposefully pay attention to your life in watchfulness and you must be going to God in prayer for yourself and for others. I understand that prayer meeting has at least in my lifetime been the least popular of worship meetings that we have. I understand that there is not a lot of motivation for people to get together and pray but if you want a motivation, this is it. God will strengthen you and make you more willing to give and to serve and to sing and to resist sin if you pray.

 The abundance of willingness not only applies to giving and to caring for other believers and to resisting sin but it also applies to giving out the gospel. Paul was a ready Christian. He wrote in Romans 1:15, I am now ready to preach the gospel in Rome. He had often been hindered from going there but he was ready the moment God gave him the opportunity to rush in and give the gospel. There are a lot of hindrances to giving the gospel in the workplace and in the family and in the community but what God wants to see is a readiness to give out the gospel when the opportunity is there. That is where the abundance of willingness helps, in that we see the opportunities God gives us and we pounce on them and use them to give out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The abundance of willingness also applies to how we receive and react to the gospel. Even at the time of salvation, we see that some of these people were blessed with an abundance of willingness. In Acts 17, the people of Berea were presented by Paul and Silas and Timothy with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 11 says that they received the word with a readiness of mind. When you read the Word of God, do you have a readiness to search the Scriptures and respond to them? Do you come to church planning to respond to the message? During the congregational singing, do you come planning to respond to the musical message or are you a spectator?

WILLING CHURCHES 

Willingness demands, implores, begs for the opportunity to give to (to grace) and to commune (to fellowship) with others by serving (deaconing) them (verse 4).

We call ourselves “Fellowship” Bible Church. That word is found twenty times in the New Testament and five of those times it talks about an offering and four of those times it refers to the churches in Macedonia. These people had determined that they were partners with the church in Jerusalem and they were going to help them, they were going to commune with them through a financial gift. We use the term fellowship to mean sharing a good time with each other but how many times do we think of the offering as a show of our fellowship with other believers in Christ. These people not only thought of the offering as a vital method of fellowship but begged to be able to participate with the other churches in it. Yes, fellowship has an emotional aspect and it has a spiritual aspect but it also has a very practical aspect. If we give as He gave to us we will fellowship with other believers through sharing with them what we have.

We were discussing on Wednesday night the meaning of fellowship and how to explain it to teenagers. The youth workers came up with the term friendship. I like that. There is another word that describes fellowship. It is “partnership”. Do you know why we have church membership? Because we are partners together. This partnership we have in Christ, in this local church is a willing partnership and should be motivated by the joy of the Lord.

WILLINGNESS PRODUCES SERVANTS. 

This willingness not only produces fellowship in sharing with other believers but it also produces servants. The word here is where we get our concept of deacons. How would you all like to be deacons? Serve through giving. I want you to notice two quick things about service. In this verse (8:4) we find we do not serve alone but in fellowship with and for other believers. Service in the body of Christ is not a single person serving but the whole body serving. You may be serving in just one particular way but like a body, every move you make is in conjunction with God working in the hearts and lives of others. Secondly, in 9:12-13 we see that service through sharing not only meets needs but results in true thanksgiving. Do you want to be thankful? Learn to share! Learn to give! Learn to serve! Learn to deacon as a church not individually but as the body of Christ.

 

CONCLUSION: Did you come to church this morning with a willing mind? Are you willing to respond to God’s message? Perhaps God spoke to you about one of these matters. You need to respond. Today. Not to me but to God. Will you purpose in your heart to respond in that area with which He is dealing. Perhaps you need to start giving financially more or out of a different motivation. Maybe you need to pour your lives into others in a more consistent or in a more sacrificial way. Do you need a willingness to witness of the gospel of Christ? Are you holding back fellowshiping with God’s people? Some of you need to find a church to which you are willing to commit yourself in partnership, a church that you are willing to join as a servant of your Head, Jesus Christ. There are other areas. These are the ones most obviously spoken to by the Bible but there are many areas. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Remember, willingness comes from the joy that God’s grace gives us and is maintained by watchfulness and prayer. If you have been watching during this sermon, evaluating yourself, then what you need to do now is fall before God in prayer.

The Bereans were willing to respond to the gospel of God and because of that response they are in the presence of God right now. That is the only hope of salvation, responding in faith to the message of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to respond to the truth? If you have a willing mind, you will find that God will accept you through faith in Jesus Christ. He will save you today, if you are ready to respond. Respond to Christ Jesus in faith today!