Monthly Archives: June 2015

2 Corinthians 12.9-21

Title: Called Out to Be Different

Text: 2 Corinthians 12-11-21

CIT: Paul concludes this passage with a review of his apostolic superiority and the sacrifice he has made to bring them the gospel and establish them as a church. His biggest fear is returning to them to find they are still like the world.

CIS: We are reminded of those who serve and sacrifice as God has called. Furthermore, we are reminded that we’ve been called to be distinct and different from the world.

Introduction: In Acts 8.1, we see a young man named Saul who was quickly rising through the ranks of the Sanhedrin. Zealous for his faith and powerful in his position, he traveled near and far to persecute those who were creating a cult religion from his religion. Stamping her out and purifying his religion were his goals. He was faithful, loyal and dedicated. He was also wrong.

Then, something incredible happened to him: he met Jesus and everything about him changed. Faithfulness, loyalty and dedication still characterized his life; however, Jesus had changed his manner. It became most evident in the change of his name. Saul means demanded or desire. Paul means little or small. No longer would Saul make demands as a zealous leader. From now on, he goal for purification of the church would come through different means.

v 9-10; I am reminded this week that the church has been at its strongest when she was weakest in the world. When she has power in the world, when she has influence through numbers, she becomes weak and idle, napping away in the light of God’s love. She is arrogant and haughty. But, when she was reduced to numbers of people who felt the scorn and shame of bearing Christ’s name, then, she was weak and feeble in the eyes of the world, but powerful in her service and sacrifice to God. That is when she became most useful to him.

In today’s passage, Paul repeats much of what he’s said throughout his letter. It’s what you do when you come to the conclusion of your paper or message. Tell them what you are gonna tell them. Then tell them. Then, tell them what you’ve just told them. Here is his conclusion – his epilogue to his foolish speech:

  1. His Claim to Apostolic Superiority
  2. His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice
  3. His Concerns in Apostolic Sincerity

1.     His Claim to Apostolic Superiority (11-13)

exp.: rd v 11a; forced means pressed; ‘between a rock and a hard place’; rd 11b; inferior; means to come up short; Romans 3.23; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 2 Cor 11.5 & 9; need; in v 11-13, there are two ways it looks like he comes up short compared with these super apostles:

  1. Is in comparison to their abilities and
  2. In comparison to their abundance provided by the church.

exp.: he then explains to them that they are wrong by both accounts; 1. By signs and wonders and power (might deeds) – and 2. He wasn’t a burden to them;

  1. By signs and wonders and power (might deeds); spiritual side (v 12); this is a clear indication that it is God who is working; we have an example in the Exodus (Deu. 26.8) God brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; with great deeds of terror and signs and wonders. 6.27: 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” Paul is reminding them God has displayed his power through the Apostle Paul – and they were witnesses to it. 2ndly…
  2. He wasn’t a burden to them; physical side (v 13); Listen, to be in the ministry costs money. There is food, shelter, transportation costs; etc.

ill.: I’ve been blown away at the added expenditures we’ve incurred to send missionaries to our UUPG. What a great reminder that we have others on staff serving for us that we need to care for.

app.: Church, I’m done with this point, but don’t let this teaching moment flee from your minds. Let’s not be like the Corinthians who neglect Paul’s needs. Think of those who serve you and care for them. The UUPG missionaries: We don’t want them to be a burden to the people they serve. Kristin: she ministers to our children and many other children who aren’t members here.

t.s.: Paul opens this section with a reminder of his apostolic superiority, established through his work…2ndly,

2.     His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice (14-18)

exp.: rd v 13a; This is the third (time) I have prepared to come to you. Really? We actually have no record of this other visit in Acts. And this has led some scholars to say that what Paul means is that this is the 3rd time he has readied or prepared himself to come for another visit. But this doesn’t line up with 13.1-2; read; I can see how someone might take 12.14 and make it fit that way, but 13.1-2 takes too much work to change. I think it’s best understood as Paul wrote literally: This is the 3rd time I’m coming to you; as I did when present on my 2nd visit;

One more word about this: we don’t have to have a record of this 2nd visit outside of this letter. After all, we didn’t have many of the events Paul describes in chapter 11 – concerning his suffering. My guess is that Paul made a quick, painful visit to Corinth while he was serving in Ephesus on his 3rd MJ.

exp.: Then Paul gets to the heart of the matter; rd 14b: And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. The word burden has the connotation of weighing down; as in a beast of burden whose load is so heavy, it cannot carry it; however, the etymology of the this word shows that it eventually come to mean in Paul’s day, a financial burden – having such a debt to carry that it weighs one down. And You see this financial meaning illustrated as he continues in 14c; For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

He explains this more fully in v 15a; spend and be entirely spent; exhaust; then, he asks a series of rhetorical questions:

  1. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 15b
  2. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? v17
  3. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? v18

ill.: Its as if Paul is saying: I have sacrificed so much for you and will sacrifice more – how can you not see that? This is exactly what Paul says Christ did in 8.9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. He was spent out entirely on our behalf.

app.: Can we stop and rest on this truth for a moment? Apostolic Sacrifice is often overlooked. Those who have been called and commissioned to serve are often taken advantage of and then discarded when the church is done with them.

Ill.: Please allow me a bit of transparency and honesty here. When I took my 1st pastorate in Wyoming, my greatest fear in following this call was that I would give all of my life in service to the church – spending my strength and energy, the vitality of youth, only to be discarded when I was older and weaker. At times that still takes over my thoughts: that I would sacrifice for you in so many ways while I am younger and stronger – then, when my energy would get lower and my mind not as sharp; when the church would be strong and healthy, you would forget those years of service and cast me aside for some younger, smarter, more talented preacher.

App.: but I am reminded often of my hero: Jesus. Think about the Calling of Christ – Sent by the Father; He humbled himself and was obedient to the will of the Father; abandoned by the very ones who called him Lord, he died on a criminal’s cross and was buried in a borrowed tomb; He is the picture of sacrifice on so many levels. He is Paul’s hero, too – the man he has attempted to pattern his life after.

t.s.: His Claim to Apostolic Superiority; His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice; and finally

3.     His Concerns in Apostolic Sincerity (19-21)

exp.: He genuinely loves them! He has sacrificed for them; He has demonstrated his calling and commission before them through signs and wonders. Now, he asks them another question: rd v 19a; Lit.: defense in the Gk is the word from which we get apology. Don’t confuse them – he’s not using apology like we think of as “I’m sorry”. An apology is a defense for why you believe what you believe. But he clarifies: that is not what I’m doing here! Rd 19b; κατέναντι θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν· Lit.: over and against (position or place) as in the opposite side; i.e: before God in Christ we speak. Rd 19c; and why? To build you up – like a house; οἰκοδομή – to build a house.

ill.: We’re not trying to defend ourselves for what we’ve done. No, we’ve done what we’ve done because we are building a house here – and you are that house. So we see his sincerity, now look at his concerns: rd v 20-21;

exp.: what a word for us today… my concern is that the church will be acting like the world! In

  • Quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder
  • Impurity
  • Sexual Immorality – πορνεία; All forms of sexual misconduct – adultery; Fornication; Incest – 1 Cor 5; And homosexuality.
  • Sensuality
  • Practice – same word we have for the Book of Acts: The Acts of the Apostles.

app.: The church is not to ACT like the World! We are to act – practice Christianity. We repent of murder and impurity and sexual immorality and sensuality. It does not matter if the 5 Supreme Court Justices make a law saying that marriage is contrary to God’s Law. We obey God’s law. I declare publicly that I will not perform nor sanction homosexual marriages. Nor will I condone the killing of unborn babies – even if it is the law of the land. And furthermore – I will continue to proclaim this Word – that we has a church have a responsibility to abide by it’s laws over and above the laws established by 5 misguided justices.

But let’s remember the context: Paul is talking to the church, telling them to act like Christians. And, for those who don’t act like Christians – they will not be accepted in the church. The world is going to act like the world. We, however, have been called to come out from among them and be different.

ill.: Friday, when the SCOTUS issued its decision on homosexual marriage, I felt strongly that I should make a statement as pastor and for my congregation. I cannot begin to fully express my deepest disappointment, in spite of the fact that I was already pretty sure it was coming, when 5 non-elected individuals decided to redefine what marriage has meant for 5,000 years. This is what I wrote:

As a disciple of Christ who has established God’s Word as my standard, I cannot agree with the decision issued today by the Supreme Court of United States. The marriage of a man and a woman was instituted and sanctioned by God in the first two chapters of Genesis. Neither the state nor the nation has the right to redefine that standard of one man and one woman being joined together in holy matrimony. The marriage bond itself was created to be a picture of the gospel and of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.

It appears now that the law of the land will be to recognize homosexual unions as the new standard for marriage. However, as believers, we must obey God rather than mankind. Regardless of the SCOTUS redefinition of marriage, as followers of Christ, we should proclaim the traditional definition of marriage as given by God. Nowhere in Scripture does God endorse same-sex marriage. In fact, there are multiple passages that condemn homosexuality in both the Old and the New Testament.

The message of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. No matter how sin is redefined, it doesn’t take away the need for forgiveness. Without the grace of God, we would be doomed to live out our lives blindly – following our own passions and pleasures. But God, in his infinite mercy, was gracious to us and not only showed us our sin, but offered us a way to find forgiveness from our sin. If we remove the need for forgiveness, then there is no hope and no Good News in our message for a lost world.

Therefore, we will show the grace and love of God to others, while taking a stand for traditional marriage, by openly proclaiming His message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. While it is true that we disagree with others about same-sex marriage, we understand they need to be shown the same unconditional love that Christ has given us.

Application:

  1. We don’t respond as the world does.
  2. We take care of those who take care of us.
  3. We make every attempt to keep the church pure.
  4. We show the love of Christ in all matters.
  5. We stand for the Truth and on God’s Word no matter what anyone else does. We’ve been called out to be different and to be distinct.

Conclusion:

How do we know if we’re doing this? Paul tells us in the next chapter, as he concludes this letter (and we’ll look at this in greater detail next week) to examine yourselves: see if you past the test. Are you in Christ, is Christ in you?

Invitation:

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Church Discipline, Evangelism, Gay Marriage, Homosexuality

Statement from Dr. Fred Smith in reaction to the US Supreme Court ruling on marriage:

As a disciple of Christ who has established God’s Word as my standard, I cannot agree with the decision issued today by the Supreme Court of United States. The marriage of a man and a woman was instituted and sanctioned by God in the first two chapters of Genesis. Neither the state nor the nation has the right to redefine that standard of one man and one woman being joined together in holy matrimony. The marriage bond itself was created to be a picture of the gospel and of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.

It appears now that the law of the land will be to recognize homosexual unions as the new standard for marriage. However, as believers, we must obey God rather than mankind. Regardless of the SCOTUS redefinition of marriage, as followers of Christ, we should proclaim the traditional definition of marriage as given by God. Nowhere in Scripture does God endorse same-sex marriage. In fact, there are multiple passages that condemn homosexuality in both the Old and the New Testament.

The message of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. No matter how sin is redefined, it doesn’t take away the need for forgiveness. Without the grace of God, we would be doomed to live out our lives blindly – following our own passions and pleasures. But God, in his infinite mercy, was gracious to us and not only showed us our sin, but offered us a way to find forgiveness from our sin. If we remove the need for forgiveness, then there is no hope and no Good News in our message for a lost world.

Therefore, we will show the grace and love of God to others, while taking a stand for traditional marriage, by openly proclaiming His message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. While it is true that we disagree with others about same-sex marriage, we understand they need to be shown the same unconditional love that Christ has given us.

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Filed under Gay Marriage, Genesis, Happenings, Homosexuality, Scripture

2 Corinthians 12.1-13

Title: God’s Amazing Grace

Text: 2 Corinthians 12.1-13

Introduction: In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul touches on the grace of God for us. There is no definition here – at least not in words that are meant to define it for us.

I’ve been thinking of the words – the way to explain the grace of God. And words fail me. I hate, I abhor the idea of leaving it to experience alone. However; if you consider God’s grace – words alone cannot draw into visibility the incredible vast expanse of his marvelous grace. And, when you experience it, you’re left with a sense of having been overtaken – overcome – overwhelmed.

God’s Grace – his Amazing Grace is perfect in timing. It is measured out to the one in need completely. Its not that there isn’t anymore of God’s Grace, it’s that his Grace is sufficient. You don’t need anymore. You can’t do without any less.

There is no far-seeing shoreline to outline the boundary of his Grace. It’s like being adrift in an ocean. No, it’s like treading water in an ocean of grace. It’s consuming and engulfing at the same time. Trying to explain it like you can contain it is useless – it’s defeating.

It is experienced – a felted thing. And what’s more is that it is delivered without payment to the recipient. Its expense is incalculable and yet available to the poorest in spirit.

Here in 2 Corinthians 12, it looks like Paul is boasting; however, a closer look shows us that he is not boast at all, but rather letting us get a look at Grace from a distance – from a high height that will show us God’s Grace. At first, we see Paul just treading water, but as we pull back, we’re allowed to see the big picture. It’s as if Paul disappears and we’re left with a view of the ocean – the ocean of God’s grace.

We begin in v 1; rd v 1; lit.: It is necessary to boast. It isn’t profitable or beneficial to Paul. He’ll gain nothing from it. We don’t now it yet, but we will. His boasting must continue – to move on to visions and revelations.

And then he tells us of a personal experience – in the 3rd person. We know it’s him because of v 7; Paul does this because his story to us will unfold like a play – like a set of scenes, or acts, or movements. The first act is all about God.

1.     It is God who acts for his purposes and his glory (2-4)

exp.: rd v2-4; I know a man; this man; this man in v 5; This man is Paul; cf.: v7; he was ἁρπάζω; Raptured, caught up; My favorite: snatched away; That’s the picture of the graverobber in 1 Thessalonians 4.17: 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Paul was snatched up to a place called the 3rd heaven or paradise. Three questions come out of this small bit of information.

Q1: When did this take place? He gives us a time frame; 14 years ago; But, I’m looking for the event. Given of what we know about this letter, we can safely assume that Paul is talking about the year that Barnabas found him and took him to Antioch and the time he spent in Antioch. Some have assumed he was talking about:

  • When he was stoned and left for dead outside the city
  • When he was in a trance
  • Or when he had the Macedonian vision
  • However, none of those fit the time frame Paul gives. So, we must assume it was about the time he began his service in Antioch.

Now, let’s talk about paradise or the 3rd heaven for a moment. I know you probably have questions and I doubt that my quick look at this will suffice. So, let me keep this brief and encourage you to do your own Bible study:

The Third Heaven:

  • Does not indicate that there are three levels (Jehovah Witnesses)
  • Heavens is plural in the Gk probably because of the Hebrew is plural (šhā·mǎyim)
    • There is the idea that there is the expanse above us where the clouds are and the birds fly –
    • 2ndly the stars and outer space
    • 3rd – a spiritual level; neither space nor locale; 10.14 gives us the heaven of heavens; 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

Paradise:

  • Paradise is understood to be synonymous with The Third Heaven; it is true that many scholars think this is a 2nd rapture; Origen thought Paradise was a place on earth – the garden of Eden perhaps, guarded by an angel with a flaming sword. I don’t think that. These sound like one and the same.
  • Paradise is used 3x’s in the NT: here; Luke 23.43; Rev 2.7 – each reference indicates the place where God is.
  • This is the same word used in the LXX for the Garden of Eden – the place where Adam and Eve walked with God until they rebelled and were cast out.
  • So, I think we can surmise from this that Paul, using the 3rd person terminology, was snatched away into the presence of the Lord.

There are probably some more questions: Like, What did he see and hear there? How long was he there?

1st, he doesn’t know if he was physically, bodily resurrected or if it was spiritually – an out of body experience.

2nd, he doesn’t tell us that he sees anything.

3rd, he does tell us that he heard things, but for whatever reason, he is not allowed to repeat to us.

ill.: I’m reminded of Revelation 10 and the 7 thunders. We know of the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls and plagues; however, when it comes to the 7 thunders, we’re left in the dark. Evidently, John saw and heard things he was not allowed to repeat. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

app.: so, here is what I think we’re supposed to get from this passage so far: God acts for the purpose of his glory. That is what he is concerned about. He’s not concerned with what others think about you or me. Our glory isn’t his goal. And the same goes for Paul. He is working in Paul’s life doing what Paul needs. Paul will work and give all the glory to God.

t.s.: There is a problem that arises when we as humans have these supernatural experiences: An Act II, if you will – and that is…

2.     Man’s tendency is toward intercepting that glory (5-6)

exp.: rd v 5-6; Paul’s got his head in the right place, and we’ll learn why in a moment; for now, note the tendency to boast about such experiences; that is what we do as humans.

Paul will boast only in his weakness; however, for the moment, he’ll keep this boasting within limits; I think there are some good reasons for this:

1st, we can easily take the supernatural experience and set it up as a standard.

ill.: Someone speaks in tongues. Lets say its Phil Baker. Everyone is impressed. All of the sudden, there becomes this standard that others must have this experience. Another speaks in tongues and so there are now two people above everyone else. It becomes like a special club and everyone then wants to join that club.

I remember once sitting in a group of pastors. There were about 8 of us. We had come together to encourage each other and to build a bond of unity in our community. Many evangelical denominations were represented amongst these men. On this particular day, at this particular meeting, a new pastor was introduced. It was his 1st meeting. One of the Pentecostal pastors asked him if he had been baptized in the spirit. It was if he already knew the answer and had sensed it. When this young pastor affirmed that he had indeed been baptized in the Holy Spirit and that he spoke in a prayer language, it was if these two were somehow higher than the rest of us. We were welcomed there, but until we were to have this experience, we would somehow be inferior in rank.

1st, we can easily take the supernatural experience and set it up as a standard – using it to elevate ourselves above others.

Allow me to share a deeply personal story: I can see where God has supernaturally interposed himself into my life at the most important times. When asked of these times, I felt special – even superior. I’m ashamed of that. What God gave to me and what he did for me were exactly what I needed to be here today to preach his word boldly. These Supernatural experiences from decades ago have sustained me thus far. And, I suspect it will deep into the future. If I’ve shared these experiences with you to make myself appear to be holier than or more blessed than you – I was wrong. And, I’m deeply repentant of that. Please forgive me.

2nd, I think that speaking of these experiences is like casting pearls before swine. I now understand that. These gifts are pearls – not to be discarded carelessly before others who couldn’t care less. These experiences become fodder at parties to throw around and make fun of Christianity.

app.: Man’s tendency is toward intercepting that glory which only belongs to God – either for glorifying himself or for purposes of ridicule and persecution. Furthermore, for our instance here, it appears that these super apostles are doing just that.

t.s.: So why hasn’t Paul done that? Why hasn’t he ‘glorified’ in his experience? He tells us next. I call this movement:

3.     God’s Grace is seen in his intervention into our attempt to steal his glory (7-10)

exp.: We see ‘purpose’ in what God is about to do – we find reason in the actions of God; rd v 7a; conceited is a compound word demonstrating an elevation of someone to an overly high position; here, meaning conceited in thought – whether of Paul, himself or, of others who might hear of this vision and revelation. And, why “conceited”? rd 7b; because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations…the Gk word here is ὑπερβολῇ or hyperbole. This word means just what it says: surpassing greatness. We often times use hyperbolic language to describe something way beyond what really happened for exagerated effect. I’m starving to death! I’m dying of thirst! He hit that baseball a mile! He’s shooting the basketball from the rafters! Paul isn’t using hyperbole – that’s an english term we get from this Gk word.

This vision is so incredible, God chooses to humble Paul. rd v 7c; a thorn was given me in the flesh; what in the world does that mean? Many guesses have been made; however, Paul tells us a little; rd 7d; a messenger of Satan to harass me; Just what is this thorn?

  • Tertullian is the 1st to mention it. He was around a little over a hundred years after Paul. He says that tradition passed down for that 1st hundred years was that Paul suffered from a recurring earache or headache. Yo un dolor de cavessa. I have a pain in my head. Na neun mori apa yo.
  • If you take the Gk lit.: a messenger (angel) of an adversary. It could mean people making trouble for him. This makes sense in that the highest high for a preacher would be a supernatural experience from God. The lowest of lows is when people within the church torment us. And yes, I mean tormented. There have been incredible acts of evil within the body toward pastors.
  • Others have said it was his eyesight. Namely from Galatians: you would have gouged out your own eyes for me… see with what big letters I write. You probably remember in Acts, when he was brought before the High Priest: “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ” Now, how could he not recognize Ananias? Paul was a part of this group years earlier. Answer: Poor eyesight.
  • Bishop J.B. Lightfoot in his Commentary of the Epistle to the Galatians writes that interpretations vary throughout the history of the church as ‘in the Apostle’s temptation a more or less perfect reflection of the trials which beset their own lives.” We think that whatever we suffer from must be what he suffered from. A former pastor of mine once said that the thorn in the flesh was deacons! I leave that pastor unnamed…
  • The truth is that God has left us in the dark as to what this ‘thorn in the flesh’ was.

app.: what is important in this sentence is the part that is repeated twice: Do you see it? to keep me from becoming conceited… when God works in and through our lives in miraculous, supernatural ways, it can lead to boasting. How many of us as teachers and preachers, men of God, have taken glory for ourselves that was only intended for God? Just as we get cocky and conceited, God is so good about humbling us – and showing us that none of this is really about us.

t.s.: So we have God’s Action for his purpose and glory; our tendency to steal that glory; and God’s intervention to keep us humble. Next, we see God continuing to act.

4.     God’s Great Grace (8-9)

exp.: rd v 8; 3x’s; I’m guessing there were 3 different season of prayer and fasting, pleading with God to remove this thorn. This is mirrored in Christ prayer in the Garden? Do you remember how he ended that prayer? Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done. Rd v 9a; Paul quotes Christ and brings this boasting around full circle – back to his weaknesses. Lit.: Sufficient for you is my Grace; And continuing literally: for my power in weakness is perfected (completed). τελέω, it means like reaching a goal. Rd v 9b; gladly there in the English, is the sweet or sweetness; What a great perspective: it is a sweet thing for Christ to be glorified in my life.

app.: Aren’t you glad for his mercy? What if he did to us as we deserved? What if he gave to us according to what we really deserve? Anytime we wanted to touch his glory, what if he treated us as we deserve? Isn’t that really what Adam and Eve did? Your eyes will be opened and you will become like God…

t.s.:

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus, deeper than the mighty rolling sea; higher than a mountain, sparkling like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me.

Broader than the scope of my transgression, Greater far than all my sin and shame, O magnify the precious name of Jesus, Praise his name.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Conclusion: we end with how it should be (10-13)

exp.: read v 10a;

  • Weaknesses
  • Insults
  • Hardships
  • Persecutions
  • Calamities

10b; For when I am weak, then I am strong. It could be translated: For when I am weak, then I am able. Rd 11-13; Well, there you have it: I have made a fool of myself on your behalf!

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2 Corinthians 11.16-33

Title: A Necessary Foolishness

Text: 2 Corinthians 11.17-33

CIT: Paul has suffered greatly for the mission he was called to accomplish.

CIS: Paul’s reason for boasting should remind us that God works through our weaknesses.

Introduction: A few years back, a man stopped by the church and wanted to visit. He told me his name was Beatty and that his dad had been the pastor of Calvary back in the late 40’s maybe the early 50’s (48-51?). He asked many questions and left after a short tour. He was just a little boy when his dad was pastor at Broadway and Bow.

I’ve often thought of him and wish I had got some information from him. Like, where is he today? What about his siblings? Pastor Beatty was the senior pastor of Calvary during some of its largest attendance days. I’ve heard numbers of over a thousand! Even 1,500! I would love to see some definitive numbers.

Just curious: How many of you here were members of Calvary in the late 1940’s? Recognize them.

Transition: In our text today, Paul is going to boast about his work. He does this in some ingenious ways.

  1. 1st, he introduces us to his sarcasm.
  2. Next, he establishes his station in life.
  3. Then, he employs a form of boasting familiar to the Greeks, but with a twist: He’ll focus on his suffering.
  4. Finally, He concludes with his service, and makes note that his service has always been through weakness.

Transition: let’s begin with Paul’s use of Sarcasm.

1.     His Sarcasm (16-21)

exp.: rd v 16-18; Very well then, if boasting is what I must do, then I will do it! It’s not the way Jesus would respond; but for me, it is a necessary foolishness; rd 19-20; I can do this because you know how to put up with it: Why, You’re so brilliant that you put up with fools while they take advantage of you. Rd v 21: to which he is saying, “Oh poor me, I was too weak to enslave you and exploit you by taking full advantage of you! I should have been stronger than that!” You can see his sarcasm. Some scholars think that stories got back to Paul of these super apostles actually getting them to do all of the work and using up their resources for their own benefit. Taking such great advantage of them that one of them actually slapped one of the members in the face!

ill.: We can see this possibility in Acts where Paul was order by the High Priest to slap Paul (23.2); And of course, with Jesus as well (John 18.22); Maybe these super apostles were taking such advantages of the Corinthians, even to the point of mistreating the membership.

app.: If this is true, it adds to Paul’s sarcasm: I was too weak to slap you around and enslave you for my purposes!

t.s.: From his sarcasm, Paul moves to what I call His station.

2.     His Station (22-23)

exp.: rd v 22-23; note 4 questions frame our outline:

  • Are they Hebrews? This deals with the Religious part of who he was; a Hebrew of Hebrews; training under a famous scholar, Gamaliel; Acts: I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
  • Are they Israelites? Israelite; of the Tribe of Benjamin; Ethnicity; born a Jew – both mom and dad are Jewish; he spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek! He was well educated in the Scriptures in any and all languages where copies of God’s Word could be found.
  • Are they Abraham’s Offspring?
    • John 8.33ff; in the famous discourse with Christ; Jesus says: If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did…;
    • And in Romans 9.6-8 Paul wrote: For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    • Abrahamic Covenant; not just born into it, not just studying in it, He’s a part of the lineage; He would later write that not all who are from Abraham are Abraham’s descent. Believers are a part of this, too. He would tell the Galatians: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
  • Are the servants of Christ? I love the picture the Gk paints: Lit.: Servants of Christ are they? παραφρονῶν λαλῶ; I must be out of my mind to talk this way! ὑπὲρ ἐγώ; I am hyper! Lit.: above and beyond. My service goes above and beyond theirs. I think this has two implications; 1st, that he is
    • A Believer: someone who comprehends the work of Christ and the redemption that comes through that work. And 2ndly,
    • A Minister – someone who has been called into service; namely, someone who has received a commission to go, proclaim and disciple.

ill.: sounds similar to Phil 3.5-6;

app.: Well, they’ve received the same calling, surrendered to the same mission; however, there is more to this calling than meets the eye. To talk about it is really crazy, but nonetheless, he must.

t.s.: So, he uses Sarcasm and he notes his Station of prestige in relation to these other super apostles. Now, he dives head first into how “hyper” – far above and far beyond – his service takes him…

3.     His Suffering (24-29)

exp.: Look with me at how Paul breaks down his suffering. He breaks down his boasting into three categories flowing between physical mistreatment by others to natural disasters or tragedy.

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25;

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship (κόπον ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν μόχθον)·

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25; Physical Mistreatment; Gal 6.17; “Let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. I guess so.

This portion of his argument is framed in terms of repetition: 5x’s; 3x’s; once; 3x’s; D.A. Carson says that this threw his detractors off. Paul uses a familiar form of boasting by following a particular outline – Res Gestae Divi Augusti which translated means: the deeds of the divine Augustus. It reads like this: Twice I received triumphal ovations. Three times I received curule triumphs. Twenty times and one did I receive the appelaiton of imperator…” In following this form, Carson writes that Paul was expected to say:

“I have established more churches; I have preached the gospel in more lands and to more ethnic groups; I have traveled more miles; I have won more converts; I have written more books; I have raised more money; I have dominated more councils; I have walked with God more fervently and seen more visions; I have commanded the greatest crowds and performed the most spectacular miracles.”

Instead, Paul goes in a direction they’re not expecting. Now, obviously, there are experiences here we’ve not heard about in the book of Acts; for example: We only know of 1 time that he was ship wrecked; And, if I’m right, it’s after this letter is written. Furthermore, if you trace his missionary journeys, you’ll see he was on a boat at least 9 times in the book of Acts. And, Phillip Hughes (NICNT) says there are at least nine other voyages from place to place subsequent to the writing of II Corinthians and prior to the Malta shipwreck.

ill.: Pastor Saeed Abedini, in an Iranian prison, was recently beaten. Again. This comes from the website of the ACLJ (the American Center for Law and Justice) it was posted 4 days ago.

http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/american-pastor-saeed-abedini-attacked-beaten-by-fellow-prisoners

Wednesday of last week, fellow prisoners viciously beat American Pastor Saeed Abedini in prison.

Unprovoked, fellow prisoners  attacked Pastor Saeed as he attempted to leave his cell, punching him in the face near his left eye and nose.  In addition to physically beating the persecuted pastor, prisoners demolished a small table Pastor Saeed used to study and read.

As he was attacked, Pastor Saeed called out for help.  Iranian prison guards did intervene and prevent further injury.  However, Pastor Saeed suffered injuries to his face – his eyes beaten black and blue.  He was able to be seen briefly by a prison doctor, and thankfully he did not receive any broken bones.

This wasn’t the first time he was beaten.  Over the course of his nearly three years in prison, he has suffered numerous beatings, including from prison guards.  He has sustained internal injuries that require surgery.  With each beating, his condition worsens.  Even before this most recent beating, Naghmeh testified about the toll it has taken on him, “I’m not just worried about his physical pain, but his psychological [pain].”

He is suffering because of his Christian faith, beaten and bruised for the Gospel. Pastor Saeed was able to recount this beating to a family member in Iran who was able to visit him today and see his injuries first-hand.

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

  • Note the Dangers:
    • Natural Disasters
    • Human Disasters

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship; v 27

And then to top off his physical pain and suffering, he adds a phrase, I think goes unnoticed: rd v 28;

  • Mental Anguish:

ill.: as a young pastor, I was asked if I would meet with someone. I, of course said yes. As the visiting moved along, this man I was meeting with told me of a bank account in which he had saved up enough money for his funeral. Then he told me he wanted me to have access to that account because he was going to end his life. When I told him I had a responsibility to get him help, he threatened to leave my office and go home and take his life in front of his kids right then. If that happened, he said it would be my fault.

That experience plunged me into a deep depression that took me three days to climb out of. I mean for three days it was hard for me to function. We were able to work through that tough experience in his life – but I was scared.

Three times I have been asked by members of 12 step programs to be their 5th step – the one to whom confession is made. Two of those experiences did much the same thing. I was tossed into a sea of depression. I heard confession to evil that I didn’t even know existed. Just standing here thinking about it … hurts.

app.: Paul is letting the Corinthians (and us) know that there is a psychological side to ministry that bears such a heavy load – and it is inexplicable – unexplainable.

t.s.: He concludes this section by saying: 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? We see his sarcasm, his station, his suffering, and he closes with his service – the way it has been even from the beginning…

4.     His Service (30-33)

exp.: rd v 30-31; it’s kind of an odd statement for us, but I don’t think so from him and his readers; for them it was a way of signing his name to what he’s just said – something akin to us putting our hand on the Bible and having someone ask us: Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the Truth so help you God? I do. here Paul is declaring that his entire service has been in weakness; it even started that way. Rd v 32-33;

Application: We’ve not experienced these things and we don’t really even know anyone who has. So how does this apply to us?

  1. The struggles of life should become the altars of praise. This past week, during my morning reading time, I read about David and had an insight I’d not really grasped before. David sinned a great sin against God by having a census taken of the people. He knew it was wrong. He was counseled against it by his friend, Joab. But David would not listen. God sent an angel of the Lord to draw his sword against Jerusalem and some 70,000 men died from pestilence. David saw the angel there – 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” You know the story. David was told to go and sacrifice to the Lord. He purchased everything needed to do so and sacrificed to the Lord. Then, The LORD told the angel to put his sword back in it’s sheath. Then in 2 Chronicles 22.1 it reads: Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” Now, I knew that story and that was how the Temple got to it’s location. Repeat: But somehow I missed that it was the struggle of life that brought an altar of praise.

It makes me wonder about this place. How did it get here? What happened here a century before we got here. Did someone dedicate this land to God, even before there was an Old Jacksonville Hwy? I don’t know.

  1. Do you know that you enjoy this facility at the expense of others? To quote: We stand on the shoulders of Giants. Many have worked hard to have what we have. It may seem that others take advantage of our generosity, but I don’t think those who’ve sacrificed see it that way. This ministry exists because of the faithfulness of many believers who have kept it going for many decades now. Many of those believers are dead now. There are some still here. And, should you remain faithful, you’ll be a part of that group of witnesses who surround us now.
  2. How have you expressed your gratitude? My I propose something? This year marks 125 years that Calvary has existed. It is the 2nd oldest Baptist church in Smith County. There aren’t too many churches with a longer history. It was established in 1890 and was a mission of First Baptist Church. It was called North Tyler Mission. I propose we celebrate. Let’s throw a party. Let’s invite the people who were a part of it’s heritage and honor them. People from 1st People from Colonial Hills. Pastors from our past who sacrificed in many ways to keep things moving along. For those pastors who’ve gone home to be with the Lord, what about their wives, their kids who are still alive. We could honor them. Former staff members; deacons; workers; Let’s do this up big. Will you pray about being a part of something like that? We could invite Mrs. Sarah Wall – whose mother joined this church in it’s sixth week. I don’t know if she could make the trip, but we could invite her. Maybe we could track down Mr. Beatty and his family?
  3. Have you considered being a part of this great body? Maybe God’s calling you to join our church and to build upon the work of those who’ve gone before.
  4. If you’ve never asked Christ to forgive you of your sin and commit your life to him, I offer him to you today.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Boasting, Church History, Faithfulness, Loyalty

2 Corinthians 11.1-15

Title: Instinctual Leadership

Text: 2 Corinthians 11.1-15

CIT: Paul’s boasting is with good reason. He is led to it by

Introduction: Pastor Joe Wright had been invited to serve as the House’s guest chaplain by Rep. Anthony Powell, a Wichita Republican who was also a member of Wright’s church. Accordingly, Pastor Wright composed a prayer, read it at the opening of the legislature on January 23,and departed, unaware of the ruckus he had created until his church secretary called him on his car phone to ask him what he had done.

Reportedly, one Democrat walked out in protest, three others gave speeches critical of Wright’s prayer, and another blasted Wright’s “message of intolerance.” House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (also a Democrat) asserted that the prayer “reflects the extreme, radical views that continue to dominate the House Republican agenda since right-wing extremists seized control of the House Republican caucus last year.” Rep. Jim Long, a Democrat from Kansas City, said that Wright “made everyone mad.” But Rep. Powell, who had invited Wright in the first place, claimed that House Democrats were only trying to make political points with their criticism and affirmed that he supported the theme of the prayer. What did he pray that was so bad?

Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. Lord, we know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. 

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism. 

We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism. 

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. 

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. 

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. 

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. 

We have killed our unborn and called it choice. 

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. 

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem. 

We have abused power and called it political savvy. 

We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition. 

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. 

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our fore-fathers and called it enlightenment. 

Search us oh God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. 

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Amen.

R Kent Hughes tells a similar story in his commentary on 2 Corinthians. He writes: Many years ago a number of government officials in The Hague, who were more fashionable than religious, invited Van Courtonne, the famous court preacher of Paris who was of Dutch descent, to preach in their State Church chapel. But because Van Courtonne considered their interest more social than spiritual, more a curiosity than a zeal for truth, he declined to come. When the invitation was repeated several times, he agreed to accept—on the condition that all the government officials would be present. They agreed.

The famous Van Courtonne appeared and preached on “The Ethiopian” from Acts 8. His sermon had four points:

1) A government official who read his Bible—something rare.

2) A government official who acknowledged his ignorance—something rarer still.

3) A government official who asked a lesser person for instruction—something extremely rare.

4) A government official who was converted—the rarest thing of all!

Van Courtonne never received a second invitiation.

What is it about the Truth that makes people so mad? … especially those in leadership? Are we really so righteous and holy that we have a right to be angry when confronted with the truth? that is not what ‘above reproach means?” If anyone here thinks that he has obtained perfection, let me say: Get over yourself! Good! Nobody got up and walked out!

Yes, it is true that being confronted with our sin is painful. But as it says in Proverbs 12.15: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Paul is hoping these Corinthians will listen to him. Look at 2 Corinthians. In chapter 10, He has just explained that boasting has limits – the limits of the work of God through the Apostle. After this passage that we’ll look at today, Paul will begin his boasting in v 22. But, only in his weaknesses! For today, he’ll explain where this boasting is coming from and just why he is driven to boasting. Namely, he describes three instincts:

  1. The Paternal Instinct of an Apostle
  2. The Pastoral Instinct of an Apostle
  3. The Prophetic Instinct of an Apostle

Transition: Let’s begin with the 1st instinct, the paternal instinct…

1.     Paternal Instincts (1-6)

exp.: it is interesting how many times we see the personal pronoun “I”; rd v 1-6 w/ emphasis; Parents don’t usually have to explain ourselves to our children; but, sometimes we do – especially if we think it’s going to help them; if we think it’s for their good; Paul is really hard on himself here;

  • I wish
  • I feel a divine jealousy is zealous;
  • I betrothed
  • I am afraid –
  • Even if I am unskilled: idiot; I told you Paul was being hard on himself! It simply means, Untrained or unskilled – not professional;
  • I am knowledgeable!

Paul’s use of parental terminology and illustrations is rather common; to make his point from time to time in the letters he compares his feelings and emotion to that of a parent;

  • to the Corinthians themselves, in 1 Cor 4.15; 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church
  • Phil 2.22 of his relationship to Timothy again; But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
  • Turn to 1 Thess. 2. He tells them of his parental instincts using both the father and the mother; Turn there:
    • Dare to share (2.1-7) – facing strong opposition
    • Care to share (2.8-9) – being affectionately desirous of you – to share our very selves. Like a mother
    • Go out there to share (2.9-12) – like a father; a hard worker; is not a burden to his children but is holy and righteous before them; exhorting and encouraging and charging his children to live in a manner worthy of the name we bear.

This is what our missionaries are enduring even now in Montenegro. This is what our missionaries will endure when they head out overseas.

  • And likewise, in Philemon 10 of his relationship to Onesimus; I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

ill.: I have two fathers in the ministry; One who was a part of my conversion and growth (And, has kept up with me through the years) and another who invested heavily in my ministry.

  • 3 John 4 – John says: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. And often calls those he’s writing to my little children.

ill.: This is something we can relate to, as we consider what Paul is saying. We as fathers wish to present our daughters to their future husbands – pure and prepared. We have a divine jealousy for them. We want to protect them from those who would take advantage of them. I think of some dads who will do this sooner than later. You’re thinking, man I got years before that happens to me! Listen, the years pass so fast! David – to Ellie; Lee to Audry; Bob – to Abbey! And mothers feel no less toward their daughters: Dawn to Kristin; Melissa to Allie, Jennifer and her girls and the list goes on –

app.: you understand what he means – you get this illustration of a parent’s instinctual concern.

t.s.: Paul demonstrates his parental instincts through his concern for this church, his baby, if you will. Next, he shows us his…

2.     Pastoral Instincts (7-11)

exp.: rd v 7; a pastor knows he’s called to preach, at whatever expense he can; for Paul, he didn’t want the Corinthian church to be burdened; rd v 8;

ill.: Teen Mania has been in the news for the last few years because of their financial woes. In an article I read in World magazine, they were spending money in wasteful ways. One such report was that Ron Luce paid TD Jakes $100,000 to speak in New York at their BattleCry event in 2008. Jacob Morales (Luce’s executive assistant) says Teen Mania chartered a $21,000 private jet and spent more than $4,000 on a two-night stay at the Ritz Carlton for Jakes, whom Luce wanted as a Teen Mania partner. Morales says he had discretion over $10,000 in cash to buy imported flowers, chocolates, rare bread, candy, iPods, and other gifts for the Jakes family to find in their hotel suite, green room, and two Cadillac Escalade limousines.

app.: Now, I don’t want to disparage Jakes or Luce. I’m sure there are fans of these ministers here in this room. From what I understand, Jakes didn’t accept Luce’s offer to speak at first – it was only after much prodding and pressure to get him that he gave in to Luce’s advances. My point is that this isn’t anything new: the super apostles were an expense to the Corinthians. My guess is that Jakes had no idea of the financial struggles Teen Mania was experiencing.

What I do see is a man here who loves the people he’s trying to reach so much, that he took a hit financially to bring them the gospel. He even accepted gifts from others who saw his work as missionary and wanted to contribute so that he could forego making tents to spend time in ministry. And, that appears not to be the case with these so-called super-apostles.

exp.: and Paul declares this in the next verse: rd v 9; And the effect has been tremendous, rd v 10; But the Corinthians might not see this…they might see his refusal to accept payment as spite; rd v 11;

app.: a pastor loves his congregation. Just how to describe it? I’m not sure it can be put into words. Maybe love isn’t supposed to be expressed in words; maybe love is simply shown through the sacrifices made and the actions one takes to protect and care for others – like a father or mother, like a pastor and his church.

t.s.: finally, Paul displays his…

3.     Prophetic Instincts (12-15)

exp.: The role of a pastor is to wear many hats; gratefully, I’m blessed with many around me who help keep the ministry going. There is the pastoral role already mentioned, but there is also the prophetic role – the job of declaring thus saith the Lord. It involves the spiritual side of what we do. The prophetic instinct is to smell out unhealthy, unsound doctrine and those who lead the church astray.

rd v 12-15; he calls them false, lit.: pseudo apostles; he says they’re disguising themselves: is the word μετασχηματίζω; So you have this small schematic of a larger one; These false apostles are like the one they imulate, the one who disguises himself as a angel of light. Their end will correspond to their deeds. Like Satan, they’re fooled into thinking they’re something.

The prophet, using the Word of God as his standard, works to see that believers are being transformed into the image of Christ. There is a huge difference between the two. Note: There is a difference between a change that takes place with the believer vs. the non-believer. In Romans 12.2 Paul says: Do not be conformed (schematic) to this world, but be transformed (metamorphosis) by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

app.: Wow! Paul puts it so clearly: these super apostles were simply smaller diagrams, schematics, patterning themselves after the devil – and they probably didn’t even know it! Acting out of pride, selfishness and greed, they acted like the one they were following. That isn’t what we do as believers. It is God who works in us, transforming us, as we work out our salvation – with fear and trembling.

And isn’t that the goal of the parent, the goal of the pastor, the goal of the prophet who speaks the Word of God to you? – that you would be renewed, that you would discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Conclusion: Paul’s message has been much like Van Courtonne’s and Pastor Joe Wright’s prayer to the Senate. What would have happened if the leadership in Paris or in Kansas would have bowed their heads before God and asked for wisdom to see … what did he pray?… see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Application:

  1. A Heart of Humility: The church and its leadership must humble itself before the Lord. There is no place to stand before the Lord.
  2. A Zeal for Honesty: The church and its leadership must deal honestly with God’s Word. What does God’s word say? What does it mean? And what does it mean for me? What is God calling me to do in light of what I’ve just heard?
  3. A Spirit of Wisdom: The false apostles of today, who proclaim another Jesus and present a different gospel, must be identified. They are slick and smart. This calls for wisdom on the part of the believer.
  4. A Physical Boldness: We must confront false doctrine. We must speak out against the sin that is becoming commonplace in our society and culture. The days of being quiet about sin are behind us.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Bible Reading, Discipleship, Humility

Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members

In researching for my message this week, I came across a blog by Thom Rainer. I thought I’d share it with you guys…

Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members.

  1. “When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.” Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them.
  2. “I will have bad days, and it will show at times.” A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times.
  3. “Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’” I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be.
  4. “I am sensitive about my salary.” There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core.
  5. “I struggle when the church numbers are down.” I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church.
  6. “I would love a true friend in the church.” I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time.
  7. “Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.” I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach.
  8. “I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.” I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be.
  9. “I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.” Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation.

Most pastors do indeed love their church members. But most pastors have a challenging work, one that is impossible without God’s strength.

 

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Filed under Thoughts, Happenings, Events

2 Corinthians 10.12-18

Title: Boasting: Some Ground Rules

Text: 2 Corinthians 10.12-18

CIT: the super apostles had set themselves up by making comparisons to themselves and to Paul. They were enjoying the fruit of Paul’s labor in Corinth and were leading the Corinthians astray.

CIS: Boasting has ground rules;

Introduction:

Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist pastor in London, England, had a pastor-friend, Dr. Newman Hall, who wrote a book entitled, Come to Jesus. Another preacher, writing an editorial for a local paper, wrote a scathing and lengthy article that ridiculed Hall. Hall bore it patiently at first, but over time the article gained steam and popularity. Hall decided he would sit down and write a letter of protest in his defense. His answer was full of retaliatory rhetoric and inflammable invectives that out did anything the dastardly article had done to him. So, before mailing the letter, he took it to his good friend Spurgeon for his opinion and proofing.

Spurgeon read the letter carefully and handed back to Hall. While the letter was passing back to Hall, Spurgeon asserted that it was indeed a well-written letter. He said it was excellent and the writer of that article deserved everything that letter possessed. “But,” he added, “It just lacks one little thing.” After pausing in thought Spurgeon continued, “Underneath your signature you ought to write the words, ‘Author of Come to Jesus.’”

The two godly men looked at each other for a few moments. Then Hall tore the letter to shreds.

I want to talk to you today about boasting; about pride; about glory; about authenticity. There is a level of authenticity that should bring you pride and even cause you to boast. However, just where does that happen? In the OT, there is a word: Hallal. It can mean to shine, to praise, to boast or to glory. It has other meanings as well. If you think about it for a moment – wouldn’t you say that there isn’t too much difference between these words?

  • Shine
  • Praise
  • Boast
  • Glory

Are there ground rules in the Bible for such behavior? Are there times that is it ok for us to boast? What about boasting in matters that aren’t yours – boasting in other’s accomplishments and authenticity…

In our text 2 Corinthians 10.12-18, Paul outlines this matter of boasting and sets some ground rules – rules that he will follow as he begins boasting in the next chapter. Here is his outline, as I see it:

  1. Boasting within the Limits
  2. Boasting within the Labor
  3. Boasting within the Lord

Transition statement: Let’s look the 1st section here in Setting the Ground Rules for Boasting:

1.     Boasting within the Limits (12-13)

exp.: rd v12a; Paul comes back to this ‘commending’ again, showing us that he is taking about these super apostles. Paul never refers to these super apostles by name. He never addresses them straight on. Instead, it’s as if they’re in the room and Paul knows they’re listening. He address the Corinthians, with the full knowledge that these others are listening in; Let’s look at a few words; you wouldn’t notice it in the English, but there is a play on words in these words we just read; ἐγκρῖναι ἢ συγκρῖναι; Classify or compare; It’s like he’s saying you’re not the standard and someone else is not the standard; You don’t compare within and without;

  1. You’re not supposed to compare yourselves with others
    1. not to their work;
    2. not to their accomplishments;
    3. not to their standards; Rd v 12b; Two more words; Measure – meter; Boasting by way of comparison to others is outside the limits;
  2. You’re not supposed to compare others to yourself; you’re not the standard either! When people do this, Paul says, they are without understanding.

This is our 4th word; συνίημι; Lit.: to set together; The idea is that the puzzel pieces are coming together in your mind piece by piece and wah-lah, you understand; Really to the point of insight; There is intelligence intimated here – that is, the capacity to understand;

ill.: In the 80’s, there was a slogan pushed by Nancy Reagan: Just say no. She was determined to get out the knowledge that drugs are bad for you and that would lead to people no longer using drugs. She felt that knowledge was the key. But we’ve learned that knowledge alone doesn’t stop drug use. There is a 2nd step to knowledge – the application of knowledge. It’s called Wisdom.

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

The funny thing about it is that Tomatoes were considered fruit until the Supreme Court ruled in 1893 (Nix vs. Hedden) that tomatoes were vegetables. Scientifically, they were wrong. They did it because the ruling allowed the tomato to be taxed under the Tariff Act of 1883. Since then, many have assumed tomatoes are vegetables. Scientifically though, they have seeds – which make them fruit. But I digress…

app.: the point is that knowledge isn’t anything unless it’s used correctly. Knowledge would be the directions. Wisdom is following those directions. Paul says these guys are without understanding. They may act like they know a whole lot – and they probably do; but, really, they just don’t know how all of the pieces fit together. They’re foolish. Rd v 13;

t.s.: Boasting can be done within the Limits. Well, what are those limits? He actually states it right there in v 13 – that work that has been assigned to us, namely – the labor; And that’s our 2nd point, 2ndly,

2.     Boasting within the Labor (14-16)

exp.: with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, rd v 14; For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. This area of influence is the Corinthian church! Paul was commissioned by God to go. Paul states clearly that he and his team of missionaries were the ones to plant their church. I’ve been racking my brain as to who could have been considered the planter of this church before Paul. Think of the division: “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

  • Christ – we’ll yeah, but he wasn’t the missionary – he’s the boss who does the sending.
  • Apollos – No, he doesn’t appear until after Paul establishes the church in Acts 18;
  • Cephas – Maybe… We don’t know when he came through; but maybe the argument from the super-apostles is that they get their ‘commendation’ from Cephas;
  • Paul – seems to me to be the 1st one on the scene.

So here’s what I think: I don’t know this, but this is a theory I have: the super-apostles were disciples at some level with someone like Cephas (Simon Peter) or Apollos. And, they used Cephas or Apollos or some other Apostle or even church to commend themselves to the Corinthians. That’s my guess. Truth is, we just don’t know.

So, to be clear now, Paul clarifies for us in v 15-16 that this boasting can be done within the area of assignment from God; rd v 15-16; this boasting, as it were, was in this foundation that they’ve become a base of operations – not boasting in them, as much as boasting in what will be done through them – taking the Gospel even further from Jerusalem. At one point, Corinth was the boundary of how far the Gospel had been taken. Now, they created a base of operations that enabled Paul to take the Gospel further. Paul didn’t have to boast of what anyone else had done – there was plenty of boasting to do in what God had done in Corinth and what God was doing through them to take the Gospel further. And, just as Paul didn’t need to boast of anyone else’s work – so they shouldn’t be boasting in the work that he had done. That’s just wrong – that’s outside the limits.

ill.: It’s like if you take your compass and pencil and draw a circle from Jerusalem, the outside line of how far the Gospel had gone would go through Corinth.

app.: Paul has bragging rights, as it were, because this labor, established by God was his. No one else could possibly say what he could say. And, Paul says: so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. He won’t take credit for someone else’s work. That would just be wrong – out of limits, so to speak.

This is precisely what he tells the Christians in Rome when he writes to them and says in 15.17:

17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” 22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

t.s.: So, boasting within the limits, within the labor and finally,

3.     Boasting within the Lord (17-18)

exp.: rd v 17; his reference here is from Jeremiah 9.23-24; 23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

If you’ve missed it to this point, he makes the context of this boasting so clear:

  1. It is limited:
    1. Do not boast in your wisdom. Stop there. Wisdom is a good thing. But, to boast in YOUR wisdom isn’t.
    2. Do not boast in YOUR
    3. Do not boast in YOUR Rd v 18;
  2. It is in the labor of the gospel
    1. Boast in that he understands me.
    2. Boast in that he knows me.
  3. It is only in the Lord
    1. Who is perfect in all he does (He practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness)

Conclusion: the following comes from the Preacher’s Commentary, 2 Corinthians, written by Kenneth Chaffin

Cliff Barrows is one of the best-known musicians in the Christian world, having led great crusade choirs all over the world for more than a third of a century. I have come to know him very well through the years and am constantly amazed at both his ability and his spirit. Through his many years of close association with Dr. Billy Graham in the work of evangelism, in addition to directing the music for the crusades he has produced both the radio and television programs and has carried countless other leadership roles within the team and the association.

Cliff is an excellent speaker, and when I was leading the schools of evangelism for Dr. Graham, I made every effort to get him to speak at each of them. The first time he spoke I discovered by his reaction to my introduction a very interesting thing about how he viewed his work. My usual routine was to tell something about what each speaker had done that would be interesting to the audience. Since most of them knew Cliff only as a Music Director, I took a moment to tell of his other activities and to comment on his great value to the team and its ministry. My introduction so embarrassed him that he had a hard time getting started with his talk. Afterwards I apologized and asked what I had done wrong. He said, “Kenneth, I appreciate your inviting me to speak and I know that you were sincere in your remarks, but it just makes me uncomfortable when someone tries to give me credit for things that God has done.” That is boasting in the Lord.

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord! Let him sing:

Revive Us Again

Chorus: Hallelujah Thine the glory, Hallelujah amen! Hallelujah Thine the glory, Revive us again!

Verse 1: We praise Thee O God For the Son of Thy love; For Jesus who died and is now gone above.

Verse 2: We praise Thee O God For Thy Spirit of light who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

Verse 3: All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain, who has borne all our sins and has cleansed every stain.

Verse 4: Revive us again. Fill each heart with Thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

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