2 Corinth. 13: “Spiritual Dr. Visits”

Overachiever

It’s no secret that men don’t ask questions at Dr. Appointments. There’s even a nation add campaign to get men to ask basic questions regarding their health when they visit the Doctor. Truth be told, I fall into the same category. It’s probably because things in the Dr.’s office can become easily embarrassing. Like when they tell you how much of your clothes your supposed to take off to put the gown on… Suddenly when the nurse leaves you forget how much she said. Or they don’t tell you to have a seat on the table, so you end up sitting in the chair with your little paper gown on while your back sticks to the chair. Or you do end up sitting on the table only to get up and take half the role of paper with you as it sticks to your nervously sweaty thighs.

I had an opportunity to work at a hospital in college, but in order to get the job I had to pass a drug test, which meant I had to give a urine sample. I had given urine samples before but never for a drug test, so I wasn’t sure how much urine I needed to give. I figured the nurse would tell me… The nurse came in, handed me a cup, which seemed to be larger than normal and said, “you know the drill.” I remember thinking, No, no I don’t know the drill, but I did ask, “how much do you need.” She said, “fill it to the line,” but unfortunately I heard, “fill it, you’ll be fine…” It’s no wonder she said,”Woe! Overachiever!” when she walked back in the room.

Examine Yourselves

As Paul closes his letter to the Corinthians you can tell that he’s been a little frustrated. He’s been attacked, discredited, challenged, and scrutinized at every turn. Here in his final words to the Christians in Corinth, Paul pushes back. Now, you could say that Paul has been pushing back for a while in his letter, which is true, but here he’s basically warning them that things could get ugly when he visits, especially if people haven’t changed or turned from their sin. I couldn’t help but think as I read, Boy, this sounds similar to when Christ returns. I’m pretty sure Paul wasn’t trying to take God place in the judgement of others, but he does share a compelling picture of the lens we will all be under upon Christ’s return.

One of the places we see Paul pushing back is in verse 5 when he calls the Corinthians to “examine and test themselves.” Basically Paul is saying, hey, you’ve been pushing on me and scrutinizing me, what about you? 


2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT) Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.


Have you ever done that? Have you ever examined yourself to see if your faith is genuine? It’s necessary at times for every believer to stop and give themselves a spiritual checkup.

10 Questions for a Six Month Checkup

Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary, Chuck Lawless, has a great set of questions we should be asking ourselves every six months:

  1. Are you reading the Bible daily?
  2. Are you praying daily?
  3. How often have you shared the gospel this year?
  4. Are you faithfully fighting sin in your life?
  5. What scriptures have you memorized this year?
  6. Are you serving faithfully in a local church?
  7. Are you exhibiting the work of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-23)?
  8. Who is walking more with God because of your influence this year?
  9. What steps have you taken to spread the gospel to the nations?
  10. How would your family assess you as a family member and a believer this year?

This is a great place to start. Put it on your calendar. Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.

2 Corinth. 12: “Paul’s Thorn”

Then Don’t Say It

Have you ever met someone or been in a situation where someone has said, “I probably shouldn’t say this…BUT…” There was a chaplain when I was in college that would often say these fateful words and I remember at one point hearing people verbally say, “Don’t!” “Don’t say it!” “Stop!” Nothing good ever comes when we say something we know we shouldn’t. Listen to these words of Paul at the beginning of this chapter: Verse 12: This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. From here you can almost hear Paul’s agony between whether he should or shouldn’t continue to share about his revelation/vision. Either way, one thing is for sure, he understands that he’s been given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from being prideful. I like the words of Charles Spurgeon regarding pride, “You have two choices. You can either be humble or humbled.”

Pauls Thorn

One thing you need to know is that there have been many theories regarding Paul’s thorn So many theories in fact, it’s nearly impossible to diagnose Paul’s situation with complete accuracy. Because of the surrounding context, some have suggested that Paul’s thorn came in the form of Jewish persecution. Even in Numbers 33:55 thorns are used as a metaphor for the enemies of the Israelites. Others have suggested that Paul’s own remembrance of his past was his thorn; Paul’s past included the persecution of the church (Acts 8:1-3; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6) which may have continually haunted him and kept him humble. Some commentators even propose that Paul dealt with either carnal temptation or depression.

Here’s a strange point, Paul’s thorn came by way of a messenger of Satan in order to torment him. Yet at the same time it was given to him in order that he would not become proud/prideful. I don’t know about you, but it reminds me of the story of Job. In the story of Job, God gave permission to afflict Job, BUT, and this is a big but, Satan had to adhere to the parameters set by God (Job 2). Do you remember what we read in 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NLT) Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. Compared with the story of Job, we find that Satan is used at times as an instrument to bolster the faith or prove the righteousness of believers.

There’s really two additional things I would like to consider regarding Paul’s Thorn. The first thing is this: The ambiguity of the thorn in the flesh is actually a positive thing. Think of it this way: If Paul’s flesh was cancer, then only the people who’ve had cancer could relate to Paul. The fact that we don’t know exactly the nature of Paul’s flesh only benefits generations of people who can apply it to their own specific problem.

Conclusion

When it all comes down to it, what matters most is not what Paul’s thorn is, but rather what it’s for. Ultimately Paul’s thorn was meant to call his attention that only the grace of God could renew his strength.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinth. 11: “Paul’s Resume”

I can remember getting a phone call in August of 2011 from a District Superintendent requesting permission to distribute my resume. Knowing that Caley and I both felt God was preparing us to transition since October 2010, I agreed believing this was of God and not man. There was only one problem… I hadn’t touched my resume since November of 2003! Since I was on vacation at the time I did my best to update my resume and send it the District Superintendent. I can tell you one thing, it was awful! Like really bad. Not that the things on it were bad, but it wasn’t well thought out and most importantly prayed over. Working on your resume can be a very humbling things. If you’re not careful it can really push the boundaries of your pride, especially its you talking and bragging about you.

Have you ever wondered what the resume of famous people would look like? I would love to see Santa Clause’s resume. Another resume that would be fun to read is Darth Vader’s or even Jesus’ resume would be interesting. I’m sure there’s lots of resumes out there claiming the applicant walks on water… well, at least Jesus’ would be telling the truth. But what about Paul’s resume?

2 Corinthians 11 is in effect Paul’s resume. Now, he was listing off all his accomplishments in a pretty sarcastic tone, but they were still his accomplishments none the less. Before we get into his resume, I want you to look at how Paul denotes the differences between himself and the so called “super apostles.”


2 Corinthians 11:21-23 (NLT)  21 But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 


But then he hits them with verse 23: 23a Are they servants of Christ? This statement in verse 23 is what Paul would consider the major delineation between them and him. It would lead us to believe that according to Paul, you’re not a true apostle until you’ve suffered in the name of Jesus.


2 Corinthians 11:23b- (NLT) 23b  I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.


So here’s the challenge: What does your spiritual resume look like? I heard the author Brennan Manning say once, “When we get to heaven, God won’t count our jewels, he will count the scars suffered in His name.”

I’m constantly reminded of the words of Luke in Acts 5:


40 …They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. 42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

 

2 Corinth. 10: “God’s Mighty Weapons”

Have you ever been there? Have you been at the place where you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, but someone doesn’t agree? Not only do they not agree, but they start talking about you behind your back and trying to undermine your authority. Paul understands you dilemma, he’s there!

We know from other documents and church history that Paul wasn’t a tall handsome fella, but that didn’t change the boldness by which Paul preached. In fact, if you remember Paul’s character in Acts, he was feared because of his tenacity for killing and imprisoning Christians. Although Paul’s intensity and tenacity didn’t go away, it just got refocused in a more productive way… Christianity.

God’s Weapons

In verse 4, Paul makes a declaration as to the weapons he and his team use for fighting against human reasoning and every proud obstacles.


2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NLT)  We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.


So what exactly are God’s Mighty Weapons? According to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (ch. 6), God’s Mighty Weapons are: faith, truth, righteousness, the gospel message, and the Word of God. You may be thinking, where does one find these weapons to use, well again, according to Paul’s letter, the Holy Spirit equips the believers and provides the weapons they need to fight in the war.

As we read through Paul’s letters you may notice that he uses military and armor imagery quite often. Take for instance his words in 2 Corinthians 6:7 (NLT) We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. But let’s take a closer look as to the purpose of these mighty weapons.

Think about this: A weapon isn’t a weapon until it’s used. Until we actually use a weapon is’t pretty useless. Paul informs the Corinthians that he and his team use God’s mighty weapons to…

  • Knockdown the strongholds of human reasoning
  • Destroy false arguments
  • Destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God
  • Capture rebellious thoughts

Now try using a gun, or a sword, or a knife to accomplish all this! Sounds funny, but it’s exactly the point Paul is trying to make. Paul makes it clear that “worldly” weapons are useless against spiritual matters. It’s the epitome of “doing our fighting on our knees.” If you’re going to wage a spiritual war you better be ready to use spiritual weapons. Because the takeaway today is this: A weapon isn’t a weapon until it’s used.

 

 

2 Corinth. 9: “The Jerusalem Relief Fund Prt. 2”

As we discussed yesterday in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul spent close to ten years raising funds for Judean believers who were experience incredible financial hardship due to many issues, one being a great famine.

In Chapter 9 Paul continues to talk about and warn the Corinthians about his expectation for them to give towards the Jerusalem Relief Fund.


2 Corinthians 9:3-5 (NLT) 3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. 4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! 5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.


 As I read this section of scripture, I couldn’t help but here Paul half guilting the Corinthians to give. In one breath Paul is saying, “hey, I’m coming, be ready; but in another breath he says, “but I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly…” Really Paul? I mean, that’s what I would think if I was hearing this letter read to the congregation. But here’s the thing. Paul wasn’t asking the church to give more money, he was reminding/urging them them to “finish what they started” (see 8:10-12).

Hilarious Giving

Paul then moves to a farming analogy regarding scattering seed that the Corinthians would understand. The analogy is meant to remind the people to be wise with their seed (money). But the analogy isn’t about the seed at all! It’s actually about what the seed will produce, the harvest! Paul is saying here: Don’t be like the foolish farmer who was stingy with his seed (money) and didn’t trust God with their future harvest (financial security), because you will inevitably forfeit God’s blessings (not always financial). Instead, Paul urges, sowing generously will invest in an eternal harvest that will exceed your expectations.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT) You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 

The word cheerfully is the Greek word  ἱλαρός (hilaros), which is were we get our English word hilarious. Basically Paul is saying, God loves a person who is so cheerful in their giving, it’s almost laughable. 

John Wesley was a Hilarious Giver  

The following is from an article in Christianity Today (Winter 1987), “What Wesley Practiced and Preached About Money” by Charles Edward White:

In 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one-year his income was £30, and his living expenses £28, so he had £2 to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still lived on £28 and gave £32 away. In the third year his income jumped to £90, again he lived on £28, giving £62 away. The fourth year he made £120, lived again on £28 and gave £92 to the poor.

Wesley preached that Christians should not merely tithe, but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.

In 1744 Wesley wrote, “[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds… you and all mankind [can] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers, he’d given everything else away.

Try to Out-Give Give

John Wesley tried to out-give God, Paul wad advocating the challenge to try and out-give God, shoot… my wife and I have tried to out-give God. The reality… you can’t out-give God. When you give with a generous, grateful, and hilarious heart God will always out-give you. Don’t let your income determine your outcome today.

2 Corinth. 8: “The Jerusalem Relief Fund Prt. 1”

You’ve seen it. You’ve been there. And quite frankly it doesn’t effect you anymore. What am I talking about? Giving. Whether it’s idol threats of, “without your help, we’ll have to close;” all the way to images of (cue the music: “I Will Remember You”) dogs, cats, and horses shivering, wet, and cold; you have been relentlessly pursued to give.

Truth be told, I hate fundraising! I hate fundraising because I know the congregation hates fundraising. The congregation typically hates fundraising because of either their past experience, or what they’ve seen or heard from other people. One of the excuses that people give for not going to church is, “all they ever do is talk about money.” I honestly try to avoid talking about money unless its absolutely necessary, or unless it’s our annual “Blessed Life” Series were I unashamedly talk about God’s design for biblical stewardship. I say it every year and I’ll say it again here, “I don’t preach about money because I want something from you, I preach about money because I want something for you.”

The Power of One

When it comes to giving or teaching about giving, I’m a lot like Paul. There were times when Paul had to be stern, not for his sake, but for the spiritual growth of the people around him. Other times we find Paul excited to share the opportunity to give towards a note worthy cause.

Perfect Example: Each year as a church we are blessed with a strong vision for expanding God’s Kingdom through four key areas of ministry. We call this initiative Power of One. Jesus before his Ascension communicated to his disciples the strategy for spreading the Gospel. We read in Acts 1:8 what Jesus said to his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (NLT).” So the four key areas of funding are what we call our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and Ends of the Earth ministries.

So each year we have our annual Power of One Sunday. This Sunday is not only a celebration of what God did through us to advance his Kingdom the year before, but it’s also a Sunday where we hear about how God plans to use us as a church in the coming year! Our goal is audacious and God sized every year, that way each year only God can get the glory for reaching the goal.

Coming up on Sunday, August 24th we’re celebrating 1% Sunday. Because God instructs each believer to bring 10% called Tithe (literally translated “a tenth”), we’re asking every household to bring 1% of their household income as their “Offering” (anything above tithe is offering). Our hope is to raise $53,150.00 on one Sunday!

I say all of this to show you a modern day version of what Paul in effect was trying to accomplish with the Corinthians.

The Jerusalem Collection

While Paul traveled during his ministry he always remembered and raised funds for the church in Jerusalem. Interestingly, Paul spent close to ten years soliciting funds for what is commonly referred to as the Jerusalem collection. This was a collection he took up among the Gentile churches to help Judean believers who were facing harder than usual economic times as a result of a famine during the mid to late 40s.

As I mentioned earlier, I hate fundraising, so I can’t imagine fundraising for close to ten years! If you think about it, a fundraising effort of this size requires enormous investments of time and energy. So yo have to ask yourself, why did Paul do it? For one, the need was genuine. The Jerusalem collection was first and foremost an act of charity. Paul understood that the situation in Jerusalem was dire. Famine, food shortages, double taxation, and overpopulation were just a few of the things going on in Jerusalem at the time.

As we close today here’s the takeaway and challenge: Paul saw a need and met a need, what need are you challenged to meet today?

 

2 Corinth. 7: “Difference Between Sorrow and Repentance”

Finally some good news! This must have been what Paul was thinking when Titus came to bring an update from Corinth. Up to this point all we’ve heard about was all the problems plaguing the church in Corinth, but now there’s a different story.

I don’t know about you, but I can always find a reason to celebrate. I love to celebrate! It doesn’t matter what it is, I truly love to get together, laugh, joke, have fun, reminisce, and celebrate! Child looses their first tooth, celebrate! You brought home an “A,” celebrate! Your hamster had babies, cry, mourn, give away the babies then… celebrate! You can almost hear the change in Pauls tone as he recalls the emotions he experienced when he, Titus, and the rest of Paul’s team celebrated the change in the Corinthians.

Paul mentions that he sent a “severe letter” letter to the Corinthians, but we need to know and understand that this isn’t the previous letter we read as 1 Corinthians. This “severe letter” is one of two letters that were lost of Paul’s four letters to the Corinthians. It’s also important to know that the primary content of this lost letter was how deeply hurt he was by the actions of the Corinthian church. Paul eludes in this letter (2 Corinthians) to being upset over his authority being questioned. Paul’s purpose in writing the letter was not to make the church feel guilty about what they’ve done, but instead to experience the conviction that only God, through the Holy Spirit, can bring.


2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NLT) I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.


Difference Between Sorrow and Repentance

Paul makes a very important distinction here between sorrow and repentance. One of the key differences is the action that is associated with both. Someone can be “sorry,” or “filled with sorrow,” over something they did, but still not be led to repentance. Repentance is an action, not a feeling. You can “feel” sorry, but if you’re “feeling” repentant it’s because you repented. Repentance, involves a recognition that a wrong has been committed. It’s also the difference between the “Godly sorrow” verses “worldly sorrow.”

The kind of sorrow that God intends results in a change of heart:Your sorrow led you to repentance (v. 9). It’s apparent that the church in Corinth felt sorry for how they treated Paul, but the church didn’t stop there, you see repentance goes further. It not only recognizes the wrong committed but also seeks to make it right. This the Corinthians did by admitting their blame and by punishing the offender (2:6; 7:11). At it’s core, this action of the Corinthians is godly sorrow. Godly sorrow recognizes the wrong committed and then does everything within its power to repair the damage. Simply put, godly sorrow is constructive.

Two People and a Cup of Coffee

As a commentator noted in a story: Two people are chatting over coffee. In reaching for the sugar, one of them accidentally knocks her cup in the other’s lap. A typical reaction would be “Look at the mess I’ve made. I’m so sorry.” This is the voice of regret. A certain kind of person will continue to berate herself for her clumsiness. But constructive sorrow is different from either. It says: “Here are some napkins. I’ll get the table cleaned up. And please let me pay the cleaning bill.” Constructive sorrow is the kind of sorrow that leads to salvation and leaves no regret (v. 10).

The Corinthian people wronged Paul and had to face the reality of their actions. And so it is with God. We have all wronged God at some point in our spiritual journey, and we too need to come to the reality that we will be held accountable for our actions. The question isn’t whether we feel “sorry” or not, the question is, what we going to do about it.

 

2 Corinth. 6: “Prove It!”

I’m not sure if people growing up in my neighborhood were just skeptical, but a popular phrase you would hear often was simply, “prove it!”

  • I can run down this hill faster than anyone else… prove it!
  • I’m a better hockey player than you… prove it!
  • I can cross this down tree over the crick with my eyes closed… prove it…?

Even though I grew up on the south side of Philadelphia we had a small wooded area at the end of my street we called, “the woods.” My friends and I loved going to the woods! Even though it wasn’t large, and it sat right next to the Northeast Corridor (The main railroad track system that ran from N.Y. to Washington D.C.), it was our little slice of eden.

One of the coolest aspects of the woods was the large oak tree you had to cross to get over the “crick.” You read that correctly, the crick. Okay… okay… the creeeek. Not very large, and really just a water runoff during heavy rains, the oak tree stretched all the way from one side of the creek to the other. There was only one problem, if you fell off the tree you would drop at least 15′ to the shallow creek below.

On a hot day in the middle of summer I said to my friends, I can cross the tree over the creek with my eyes closed, to which my friends of course responded with… “prove it!”

Paul Had To Prove It

Because Paul was up against a group of supposed “Super Apostles,” he had to spend a lot of his letter proving the difference between the two. When you read Chapter 6, you’ll notice not only Paul defending his actions, and the actions of his associates, but he also brings to light the differences between himself and this other group. One of the key differences is the way Paul proved himself and his ministry.


2 Corinthians 6:5-7 (NLT) We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.


Paul said, we proved ourselves by our…

  • Purity
  • Understanding
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Holy Spirit Within Us
  • Sincere Love

I always pay attention when Paul creates a list, and for good reason. Paul’s lists give us incredible insight into how we too should live. Don’t ever think that Paul’s lists are unattainable because, well… it’s Paul, but rather, Paul himself indicated that he’s nothing special; just a guy who lives to honor God with his whole life.

If you were to walk into work, school, a family function, or even just being out and about declaring you’re a Christian, how would “prove it?” Would you be able to say, well… I’m pure, understanding, patient, kind, the Holy Spirit is in me, and I show sincere love. Don’t be discouraged if this isn’t true, just begin to live in a way that proves that is.

 

As a Pastor

Speaking as a pastor today, I’m challenged by Paul’s words in verse 3 and 4: We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.

People tend to think that Pastor’s are off-the-hook because we’re pastors, but that’s not true at all! In fact, James 3:1 says the exact opposite when James declares that teachers/preachers will be “judged more harshly.” I desire as a pastor to live in such a way that these verses are reality for me. That’s my challenge today.

The End of the Story

You’re probably wondering what happened with the crossing of the tree over the creek with my eyes closed. Well, I certainly proved something that day… I proved I couldn’t do it.

 

 

2 Corinth. 5: “Christ’s Ambassadors”

When I was a student at Olivet Nazarene University I had the privilege of serving in the the Universities Student Ambassador Program. This program allowed students to work in the Admission office performing a myriad of responsibilities. One of my favorite things was giving campus tours. I loved being able to share the rich history of the university and tell the universities story. When I think back to all the things I did, I realize that the university put a lot of trust in me. They believed that I could represent the university well and trusted me with potential students.

Our reading from 2 Corinthians 5 leans towards the same principles for Paul. Although Paul wasn’t calling us student ambassadors tasked with recruiting people to the University of Corinth, instead, Paul calls us Christ’s Ambassadors, tasked with recruiting people to Christ!


2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT) 18 …And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.


Making His Appeal Through Us

Because Dr. Bowling, the President of Olivet, or Brian Parker, the Director of Admissions, at the time, couldn’t meet with every single visiting student, they had to entrust each student to the care of the people around them. From the moment I met a family on the steps of the Admissions Building, to the moment they got in their car to travel home, I represented Olivet. I not only represented Olivet, I represented Dr. Bowling and the rest of the Administration. I can remember the wise words of Brian Allen, VP of Institutional Advancement, “When they’ve had a good time with you, they’ve had a good time with Olivet.” It’s true, and I used to tell my youth group something similar. “If your friends had a good time with you, then they’ve had a good time with God.” Sometimes the greatest barrier to people having a relationship with Christ is having a relationship with you. We can be our best asset or our worst enemy.

Think about what it means for God to make his appeal through us. Think about not only the responsibility of that moment, but think about the trust God places in you! They can’t see God, but they can see you. They can’t hear God, but they can hear you. What does Paul say in verse 20, “We speak for Christ…” no pressure!

The Challenge

The idea and the challenge today is quite simple. If you are Christ’s Ambassadors, then what do people think about Christ when they’re around you? If you speak on behalf of Christ, then what are you saying to the people around you.

From the moment a person shows up on the steps of your life, to the moment they head home, you represent Christ. You get share God’s rich history! You get to tell people God’s story! He has entrusted the wonderful message of reconciliation to you and me…lets try not to blow it.

2 Corinth. 4: “I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again”

In 1997, my senior year in high school, an extremely popular, and rather peculiar song, came out entitled “Tubthumping,” by the band Chumbawamba. This is not a joke, and yes, this is a real song by a real band… it was the 90’s.

The chorus of the song goes like this…

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

This became the the warriors cry for anyone refusing to get knockdown by life! Think about the empowerment in the words, “you’re never gonna keep me down.”

In many ways, what we read in 2 Corinthians 4 is Paul’s clarion call to the Corinthians that he too got knocked down, but he got up again, and you’re never gonna keep him down! Although there is a ton of important scriptures here, it’s an obscure quote that caught my attention in the reading. [SIDE NOTE] IF you want to hear more on 2 Corinthians 4, I’m preaching tomorrow out of this chapter.

Right in the middle of Paul’s argument regarding persevering in ministry, he makes the connection between his faith and the faith exemplified by the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 116. 2 Corinthians 4:13-14 (NLT) 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.

A Deeper Look at Psalm 116

I encourage you to read all of Psalm 116, but here are the highlights for you to consider today:

  • The Psalmist understands that the Lord hears his prayers
  • The Psalmist is suffering from either an illness or a deep affliction
  • While facing death, the Psalmist cries out and the Lord saves him
  • Because the Lord saved the Psalmist, he vows to walk in his presence
  • The Psalmist declares himself a servant of the Lord
  • The Psalmist offers himself as a sacrifice of thanksgiving

 

Not only does it sound like Paul resonated with the Psalmist’s plight, but I want to see what more we can learn today by studying this Psalm. We obviously know a lot about Paul at this point, so lets see just why he would quote from this particular Psalm.
We’re not sure who wrote this Psalm. Whoever it was, they were definitely writing from a deep personal experience and not a communal experience. As far as the date of the Psalm, that’s a little vague as well. As far they can tell, it was written sometime after the Babylonian captivity (539 BC) but anytime around the period after Jerusalem became the place of public worship. No matter when, where, or who wrote this Psalm, one thing is true; no matter the suffering, God receives the glory. The author got knocked down, but got up again, you’re never gonna keep them down!

Get Up Again

I want to encourage you today, when you get knocked down, which you will, get up again! Trust me, I know it’s not easy, but head the words of both the Psalmist.

Psalm 116:1-6 (NLT)

 I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me;
    the terrors of the grave overtook me.
    I saw only trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
    So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
    I was facing death, and he saved me.