Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 7

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.
– 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 NIV

What should we learn from confrontation? What should be the proper response and outcome for a Christian when confronted by someone who is sincerely pointing out something that needs to change? In 2 Corinthians 7, we see both the proper response to correction and the result that God intends for His people.

After writing his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul was concerned that he had been too hard on them in his correction of their behavior. He was worried he had crushed their spirits and was feeling sorry for writing it in the first place. Then Titus arrived and brought him the news that the Corinthians wanted restoration. They were sorry about the problems that occurred and the way they acted. They were eager to make things right. Paul was happy with the news, and his previous worry turned into rejoicing. 

Here we see the Biblical reply to correction and confrontation as well as the result God intends after a Christ-centered rebuke. Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is the response, and reconciliation is the result. Paul wrote, “Now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.” And true repentance always restores and sets things right with God first, then with other people.

Paul goes on to say that Godly sorrow and a repentant heart produces character and qualities in us that the Lord desires. He asserts that it increases our spiritual devotion, makes us serious about doing what is right, and causes us to seek justice. It also results in a restoration of relationships and a deeper connection. Verse 12-13 concludes: “I wrote to you so that before God, you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.” This process, if done God’s way, has an outcome of encouragement and joy.

We can always learn something valuable from healthy confrontation or a time in which we are held accountable. This does not include being verbally assaulted or accused of something patently false. Baseless accusations just hurt without cause. But when the truth is conveyed sincerely, it can draw our attention to a blind spot or area that needs repentance, improvement, and change. These moments can be valuable teaching times that pay life-long dividends.

God uses these moments to bring us closer to Him and people. If it is done in a manner worthy of Christ, the time after a confrontation can be some of the richest with the Lord. He ministers to us in our weakness and brokenness. He assures us of our worth in Jesus and value to others. He also corrects us and turns our minds and hearts toward refinement, growth, and restored relationships. His loving discipline hurts so good.

Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 6

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses.
– 2 Corinthians 6:3-4 NIV

Being in an unfamiliar place can be unsettling. When we find ourselves in a city for the first time, taking a road trip or hiking through the woods, we need good directions to make it to our landing-place. We rely on the instruments or people guiding us to clear the right path so we can successfully make it to the destination. A path that is cleared of roadblocks calms our fears, gives us confidence, and fills us with hope for every step.

Paul regards the eternal message of Jesus Christ and its salvation as the most important destination for everyone’s journey. In this writing of 2 Corinthians 6, he acknowledges both the work of the Holy Spirit and the Christian’s witness in a person coming to faith. In regards to the believer’s responsibility, he writes, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path.” Paul was confident that he and his associates were not doing anything to hinder others from receiving The Gospel. He wanted the church at Corinth and us to know that our experiences, behavior, and actions should work together to point people toward God, not away from Him.

In verses 6-10, this passage lays out the characteristics that should be present in a Christian’s life that will help clear a path for family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone in our circles of influence to hear and receive the saving message of Jesus. Paul says that no matter our circumstances, we should live:

In purity, understanding, patience, and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and sincere love; in truthful speech and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

The qualities of a true believer outlined here are so vital to positively impacting people for Christ. We can satisfy them with intellectual answers or point them to experiences that will make an emotional connection, but they still need to know that God has made a difference in our lives. People look deeper to see if we’ve been changed by the same thing we’re telling them. The message is often seen before it is heard.

May the Holy Spirit empower us to show grace, patience, kindness, and sincere love to a watching world. May we use truthful speech and our lives be a good report so there are no barriers to people seeing a clear picture of Jesus. Let’s clear a path for them to see, hear, and experience the joy of a life with God.

Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 5

So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 NIV

We are human beings, therefore we have a human point of view. We are also finite, and that makes our point of view limited and bound to the restrictions of our fallibility. Because we judge, critique, and see things from a human standard, we value ourselves and people based on outward appearances and superficial criteria. Our point of view is rooted in our humanity and inherently flawed.

In 2 Corinthians 5, after telling the people of Corinth that Christians should live by faith in God and not by human sight, Paul also says that they need a new point of view. He encourages them to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, to shift their view of Christ, themselves, and their evaluation of other people. He draws a definitive line in the sand and writes, “So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”

From this point on, we see Jesus as the Savior who brought grace by his death and life by his resurrection. We see ourselves as new creations in Christ with new life. And we regard others as those whom God loves and seeks to reconcile to himself while not counting their sins against them.

Our relationship with God changes our thoughts. We become His representatives that don’t see things from a worldly point of view anymore. We are new people with new eyes. The way we lead our family, conduct business, treat our friends and co-workers and see the world comes from God’s perspective. Our decisions, activities, words, and life positioning, all have His agenda in mind. The human mindset and angle take a back seat to what the Lord wants to do.

Verse 21 says, “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” People who have become the righteousness of God in Christ, don’t live like they used to and don’t have the point of view of their old self. They seek reconciliation, not hostility. They express love, not hate or indifference. They fight for unity and don’t contribute to divisiveness. They pursue holiness, not just the bare minimum of human goodness.

God makes his appeal through us to the world, therefore, we should align our thinking and lives with Him. An impactful life for God requires a new point of view, His.

Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 4

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NIV

If you have been a follower of Jesus in America for any considerable period, you may have taken one look at the title of this entry and thought it was about the contemporary Christian band most popular in the early 2000s. While that would be a good guess, it is not our subject here. We’re talking about the powerful jars of clay metaphor that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 4:7.

At this point in his letter, Paul wants to make a distinction between his experience and the people of Corinth. He had a unique conversion and suffered intense persecution, including being in prison and having to endure a public stoning. Even as he wrote to them, he had just been near death again. The Corinthians had not faced these circumstances or opposition in their walk with Christ. So, it is was easy for some to idolize Paul as a hero and for others to look down on him as a poor, battered soul.

But starting with verse 7 to the end of the chapter, Paul points out the one, enduring similarity that they all had. He writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” His assertion here is that they were all the same; common individuals revealing an uncommon Savior to the world. They had different experiences but were all just normal people carrying around something priceless.

Paul wants them and us to know that Christians are not special because of who we are, or because of our spiritual resume. We are special only because of what we carry. Just as an expensive item doesn’t get its worth from the box it comes in, the Gospel does not get its power from who holds it nor its value from the clay jar. We have this treasure in jars of clay is a beautiful word picture of God entrusting His extraordinary message to ordinary men and women. Imperfect, temporary vessels who have been given the responsibility to transport something eternal and flawless.

In the ancient world, many things were stored in clay jars including valuable treasures. In our modern world, this is true of the Christian life. The timeless message of the Gospel is stored in sinners saved by grace who are refined by fire and susceptible to being broken just like ancient pottery. Yet, God, in His good pleasure, chooses to deliver His most remarkable thing in such unremarkable containers.

This is why we shouldn’t lose hope in our calling or life with God. This is why we don’t have to despair when we go through hard times. It’s not about us. It’s not about what we can do or bring to the table. It’s about the privilege of carrying the Good News of Jesus to the world so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 3

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers.
– 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 NIV

Confidence is a tricky word and way of being. To be confident is a positive thing regularly interpreted and perceived as something negative like arrogance or pride. And while it does exist on a thin line of interpretation, confidence, by definition, is based on a feeling of trust and firm belief in yourself or others. So, it is fair to say that the right meaning and application of confidence has everything to do with trust and belief. Or better yet, who is trusted or believed.

We see in 2 Corinthians 3 that Paul is very confident. But his confidence did not come from belief or trust in himself but in that of a holy God who gave him life, strength, and knowledge to live out his calling. He writes, “Such confidence we have through Christ before God.” Paul was a well-educated, brilliant, and capable man; yet, he did not rely on his skill and acumen. He depended on the Lord and was quick to give Him glory for who he was and what he was doing. His belief in himself came from his belief in God. His confidence and trust were in the right place and would lead to the right result in his life.

Even more, Paul emphasizes that the accomplishments and abilities of him and his fellow ministers come from the power of God’s Spirit and did not originate in their human gifts, talent, or potential. He says, “We are not competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers.” They were competent because of their confidence in the relationship they had with God through Jesus Christ. Their belief in God’s new covenant empowered their effectiveness in the work of ministry. They were competent because they had the right kind of confidence.

This passage asks two questions of us. One is where does our confidence lie? And two, who do we want to get the glory from our ministry or service to others? The answer to the first question will most likely determine the answer to the second one. Meaning, if our trust is in God and not ourselves, then our confidence will not be arrogant and vainglory will not be sought.

We will not serve out of a belief that we’re the best and only ones that can achieve things. We will not live for self but for Jesus while serving others out of humility and an understanding that God alone placed us there and gave us the ability to do it. If this is our heart and posture, then we will not be worried about who gets the credit for our work or acts of service. We will live freely and confidently with the full desire to see God get all the glory and His name be praised for all we accomplish.

Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 2

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake. 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 NIV

When we live in a community and have relationships with other people, we will get hurt. Sometimes we will get hurt badly. Other times our hearts will be completely broken. This is one of the most unfortunate, yet normative things about the human condition. No one with a properly functioning mind or conscience is immune. So, because of this inescapable reality, we must learn to forgive. It is essential to a peaceful, thriving, and successful life.

In chapter 2, Paul is writing to the Corinthian church about forgiving, restoring and doing life with a man that had hurt him personally and harmed the entire group with some destructive behavior. The man’s actions are not fully specified in the passage, but it does give a clear and practical approach to how he should be forgiven and provides an example for us today.

First, if we hold on to unforgiveness, it can lead to discouragement in our lives and in the lives of those who know and interact with us. Paul says in verse 7 that the man must be forgiven so that he is not “overcome by discouragement.” The word overcome can also be translated overwhelmed and means “to drown or be swallowed up.” The damage of an unforgiving life is collateral and negatively infectious. It can cause all involved to be consumed by sorrow and discouragement. We don’t want our hearts, or all of the relationships we exist in, to be overshadowed by dismay because we’ve failed to forgive others.

Secondly, Paul gives a stronger warning about something worse than discouragement in verses 10-11. He says that we must forgive through the authority of Christ so that our lives are not susceptible to further exploitation by Satan. Anger, bitterness, anxiety, depression, and resentment are just some of the ways that the Enemy takes advantage of us when we don’t forgive. Paul writes, “I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” Satan has a big arsenal of weapons and an unforgiving life creates openings for His attacks. But, in Christ, we are victorious and we demonstrate that victory by expressing and applying His forgiveness.  

Lastly, followers of Christ must love to forgive because when we do, we are committing a loving act, especially if the offense is malevolent or damaging. The Bible assures us here in verses 7-8 that the love expressed through forgiveness provides comfort to everyone involved. Forgiveness reaffirms love, consoles others and shows them God’s heart. When we truly forgive, people are built up, affirmed and ultimately learn more about the love of Jesus through our lives.

Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 1

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

Christian apologist and thinker, Ravi Zacharias once wrote this on the subject of pain and suffering: “We are short-sighted because all we want is to be comfortable. We cannot understand the great plan of an all-knowing God who brings us near to Him through pain or in disappointment with pleasure. Although we wish to avoid it, the pathway of pain can be the means to recognizing our mortality and the rescuing grace of a God so longing to reach us that He was willing to suffer pain Himself.”

This redemptive view of pain and suffering as it relates to our lives and our relationship with God is exactly what Paul is writing to the people of Corinth. He, and those who joined him in Christian service, have experienced many difficulties. There had been much pain and suffering, but Paul did not view it as misery but as a ministry. He declares that God allows suffering, provides the strength for it in each case, and then uses that strength to minister to others. Paul firmly believed that suffering is an invaluable part of gospel ministry and the service of people.

Paul even begins verse 3 by singing praises. But, he’s not singing about his and the church’s circumstances; he is worshipping the One who is in control of their circumstances. He realizes and points out in this section that Jesus suffered, and those whom he calls to follow Him also suffer. But this suffering is not in vain. Our hardships can lead to the encouragement and blessing of those who are also suffering. God can use the pain we share in Christ to give hope and provide comfort to those who need it most.

The word comfort is used 11 times in this passage and means “to console with strength” or “to come alongside and help.” God’s comfort puts strength in our hearts to not only face our difficulties but to overcome them. So, as God comes beside us and consoles with His power in our challenges, pain, and disappointment, may we, in turn, channel that same comfort to our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

The Lord is sufficient in and of Himself to comfort and lift people, but sometimes He desires to use other believers to provide the encouragement we need. When we are discouraged or overwhelmed with our circumstances, the tendency is to focus on ourselves and our feelings only. However, in Christ, we are built to comfort, not for comfort. We receive it in faith from the Lord and then give it to others.

Read This Week: 1 Corinthians 16

A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. – 1 Corinthian 16:9, 13-14 NIV

Metaphors and analogies centered on the “open door” are prevalent. We often use them to encourage an individual or group to take advantage of an opportunity that lies before them. Sometimes, we evoke this word picture to communicate the importance of a moment and the urgency we should take to seize it. Other times, we use it to stress the wisdom needed to make the right choices and even apply it when describing the personable or inviting nature of a leadership style.

The “open door” is a versatile and powerful metaphor to teach and point us toward greater truths. The Apostle Paul uses it to state his intentions to visit the Corinthians as he concludes his first letter to them. He describes his open door as great, meaning it is something to value and regard as excellent. He uses this word because he wants them to know of his eagerness and excitement both to visit with them for an extended period and to take advantage of the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus there. Paul sees the open door he’s been given as a blessing from God despite the obstacles that stand in his way.

This heart attitude seen in 1st Corinthians 16 toward the open doors of life is a great lesson for us. Our paradigm must shift from the duty of sharing Christ with the lost and hurting to that of joy. We must be eager and excited when presented with the opportunity to serve God and others. We should see it as a blessing to build relationships and community with Christians and those far from God.

The way we view our open doors is so important because there will always be challenges and things that oppose our progress and ability to serve Jesus. Our plans can change or be derailed by people, circumstances, and sinful decisions. But, if we stay close to God, He gives us the faith, courage, and strength to see and embrace our open doors with the wisdom and uncommon sense to be successful and useful. We can effectively walk through the doors and make a real difference.

Paul had an open door of ministry, and that was important to him. May our chances to do ministry be of the same importance to us. The stewardship of opportunity is vital and we must change our lives to be in a better position to walk through the open doors that He wants us to pursue every day. Like Paul, may we place our faith in Him and His will, in spite of life’s difficulties, to lay hold of these opportunities while they are still there.

Read This Week: 1 Corinthians 15

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:53-57 NIV

We were reminded once again last week of the brevity of life with the passing of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, and his 13-year-old daughter. They, along with 7 other passengers, died tragically in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. What didn’t make the news were the countless others around the world who said goodbye to family members, friends, loved ones, and co-workers. But, no matter the circumstances, death is a reality for us all – the rich and poor, the free and oppressed, the famous and obscure.

It is always fascinating to see how different societies process and handle death and how people go about dealing with and answering the question of the afterlife. Corinth was a Greek city and greatly influenced by the philosophical assertions of the Stoics. Their ideology denied life beyond the grave and openly mocked the notion of Jesus’ resurrection. This fatalistic attitude had also made its way into the church, and Paul was determined to address it.

In chapter 15, he recounts for us the resurrection of Jesus and gives personal testimony to seeing the risen Christ. His powerful teaching on the resurrection presents us with the central message of the gospel. It is the greatest affirmation of the Christian faith that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead. This truth is the believer’s power for salvation (Romans 10:9) and assurance of eternity in the presence of God.

Without the resurrection, the message of Christ does not have ultimate validity (v.14). If Christ was not raised, our faith is without the forgiveness of sins and ultimate freedom (v.17). Had Jesus died permanently on the cross, he would not be able to deliver us from the power of sin and death. But, because of the resurrection, the sacrifice of Christ has an eternal meaning (v.19) and gives us hope beyond the grave (v.18, 54-55).

When we consider the finality of death and experience grief in the wake of losing those we love and care about, we can have peace. We can weep not as those who have no hope as Paul also wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4. We don’t have to fear the inevitability of death. We can remain committed in our service to God. We can be unshakeable through our hard times. We can still be passionate about helping others and love them with reckless abandonment. We can do all of this because of the victory of the resurrection and the hope it gives us now and forever.

Read This Week: 1 Corinthians 14

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. – 1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV

The “building up” of other people seems to be an exception more than a rule these days. We live in a climate where everyone can express their opinion no matter how unfair, cruel, or uninformed. We exist in a culture where every mistake is sensationalized to a hyperbolic plane, and worst of all, we seem to banner criticism way more than compliments.

To build up another person is to talk to or about them in a very positive way; to make someone healthier or stronger. The writer, Jim Stovall, once said this about building people up, “We need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.” Imagine a relationship, team, or community that does all of these things to and for one another. It would be healthy, affirming, and an empowering place to exist, work and do life. Everybody would win.

This encouraging type of environment is what Paul wanted for the churches in Corinth as he wrote chapter 14. He spends a majority of the section discussing spiritual gifts and their proper application in public worship and community. There were some in the church losing control of themselves as they used their gifts. Others were trying to put their gifts above all the others. Paul recognizes this and concludes this part of his letter with a reminder that all of the gifts are for one purpose – edification.

Edification in this context is the Greek word, oikodomē, which means the act of building up and promoting another’s growth in Christian wisdom, happiness, and holiness. The mistake the Corinthians were making and that we make, is to focus only on our gifts, growth, and edification while neglecting the building up of others. We often want to build ourselves up and for others to use their gifts to our benefit, yet we fail to use our lives and gifts to build up fellow believers. This omission in relationships and the church is not how God designed it and should never be the case.

The Lord is saying to us that we all have something to bring to the table. We all have gifts, talents, and abilities that He will use for his glory and the good of others. We must not only be interested in being built up personally but with whatever we offer – a song, teaching, word of encouragement, an act of service, an expression of a gift – build up and strengthen others as they do life with God. This passage ultimately teaches us that everything must be done so that the church may be built up. May we act accordingly.