Many of us as believers find ourselves at odds with the secular world as we grow deeper in the Lord and walk in submission to the Spirit. The things that use to bring us happiness now grow cold when compared to the joy found in our Savior. I came across a few passages in 2 Corinthians that made some amazing points. Let’s look at the background and then make God’s word through Paul applicable to us today.
Paul was originally a persecutor of the faith. So not only was his message looked down upon as he spread the gospel, but the people also used his previous position to question his character and authenticity. Imagine the difficulty Paul faced being rejected personally and then having his message rejected as he traveled to share the good news. We all face the same issue after we find our value in the Lord. Not only are our beliefs questioned but the life Jesus turned us from stays with us as a stigma. People think we are hypocrites because they don’t yet understand the power in the blood of Christ. Let’s look at three passages that pulled at my heart and see how Paul walked in this. Let’s learn for him.
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
This is beautiful. People can question what you believe, but when you are walking in and led by the Spirit you are without fault in what you present. You bring the simplicity and godly sincerity of God’s Word and the good news of Jesus. The goal is not to rely on earthly wisdom (watered down Christ) to draw people but to let God be God while you plant His seeds. The harvest belongs to the Lord. It is because of this that Paul can have a clear ‘testimony of conscience’ when people question what he professes to the lost.
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? (2 Corinthians 1:17)
Here we find Paul explaining his presentation of the gospel and innocence in seeking acceptance from his actions. He makes the people aware that his explanation of the Gospel isn’t intended to gratify his flesh through praise for him. It is from the Spirit and focuses the glory to God. The reactions of the listeners is not a priority to a believer. We are called to be an example in a dark world. Our light should not dim when the environment we walk in stays dark. We reflect the light of God without apology and should accept the same rejection that our Savior received if that’s the result of our walk.
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9)
This passage came before the others in the Word, but was kept until last as a summation which says it all. As children of the living God we can present His word and represent Him in our actions without worry. His Word is true, everlasting and unchanging. The reaction of the lost belongs to them and the transformation of their hearts belongs to the Lord. We should reflect God’s light through the guidance of His Word and Spirit never using our own wisdom which waters down His perfect power. His power is manifest in our weakness and submission. Your walk is with your Lord and the opinions that walk incites are the fuel that glorifies God and makes Him shine brighter. You be the vessel and let God be God! In that there is no fault.
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)
During a quiet time this verse opened up to me and I’d like to share what I feel this verse is saying. Let’s put ourselves in the position of this woman. She sees Jesus in the flesh professing the truths of God and healing people. She has no doubt He is a great man and great teacher. I hear people that are like minded today believing that a great teacher with a great life philosophy walked around teaching 2000 years ago. They see the truth in His wisdom but can’t move into what He truly brought to earth.
Then there are those who believe in who Jesus was but neglect the relationship with the Father that His death provided. The Bible says that even the demons believe in who Jesus is. In the gospels they refer to Him as the Son of God before He casts them out. Believing that He existed as a great teacher or even believing He was the Son of God doesn’t provide the salvation His blood offers. The woman in the passage above admired and believed in His. She blessed the woman that gave Him life and was grateful for Him. She professed in front of a crowd her admiration for Him.
But let’s look at Jesus’ response. He explains that the true blessing is in the Word He brought to earth. The blessing is in Him as the Word and not a man. Jesus wants us to experience all that is available through Him, not just admire the miracles. Not just who He is, but the fullness of God’s Word manifest through Him. The true blessing comes in walking with the Lord and not just seeing Him walk by. The greatness of God is seen when we follow His lead, submitted to Him, instead of walking ahead and asking Him to catch up when we need Him. While His existence as God in the flesh is important to believe, it’s in the grace and love showed to us through His death that must be experienced to see God’s blessing. Hear God’s word spoken through the lips of the Savior. Follow His example of love and compassion for the lost. Submit to the Father just as the Son did and be filled with the same Spirit that brought Christ out of the grave.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (as Elijah did) But he turned and rebuked them. (And he said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them”) And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:52-56)
As I was reading this above passage this morning my spirit was stirred. I see the Samaritans as a representation of the unfortunate people who struggle because they haven’t received the fullness of the Lord through Jesus Christ. This could be unbelievers who know nothing of His love and it could also be believers who have never surrendered in order to know the depth of His love through receiving Him. In both cases we see people who are refusing to receive the presence of Jesus. I see no reason to pass judgement on this. I believe that even the most devout follower has moments of self-sufficiency where they try and move in a way contrary to the expressed will of God. We are all “Samaritans” until we receive our Savior and then we have moments of relapse as trials and temptations shape and mold our faith. With this in mind the rest of the passage spoke to me in a more meaningful way.
I see two responses to people who are struggling with receiving Jesus or walking in His fullness. I see James and John who remind me of the legalism found in many churches today and I see what Jesus has to say. How many of you have made mistakes in your life that cause shame to dwell in you? How many of you have felt rejected when you try and become vulnerable with those in the church in expressing that shame? How many of you have felt reconciled to God in repentance only to feel condemned by a church that is supposed to represent Him? I see two disciples who were closer to Christ and His teaching than anyone the church today can offer make this same mistake. They fail to see the flaws in this world as the reason God became flesh and dwelled among us. He allowed His blood to be spilled as the sacrifice that erased rejection from sin. Yet the church and its believers can still manage to drive away those who thirst for the living water. I know this doesn’t apply to all churches. I am speaking to those who carry the weight of shame and get hurt through a spiritless congregation. Please see what the true reaction of a Spirit lead church should look like through the words of Jesus Himself.
Jesus responds to His disciple’s desire to punish these people with a rebuke followed by His beautiful truth. “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.” He rebukes the crookedness of their spirit and then simply states His earthly purpose. There is salvation in Christ, acceptance of your repentance, and unconditional love from the Father. Do not accept unloving condemnation as the heart of God. The heart of God is found through the sacrifice of Jesus. I hope that you will draw close to God when those on earth can’t reflect a love they may not understand. I hope that the hearts of the church will soften and see the opportunity found in repentance of the lost, and the opportunity to show the love of God through Jesus to even the most rejecting heart. Let Christ be the Leader and you can make a difference.