August 30, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 2)

Submitted by Suzanne S. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

  • Reflect on the picture Apostle Paul paints in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

The fact that Apostle Paul says thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession is a pretty amazing statement that I should reflect on every day. As a sinner who is very aware of her sins and shortcomings, it can be easy to give way to the Satanic voices of despair and not focus on what my life is like in Christ. The fact that Apostle Paul thanks God and emphasizes that IN CHRIST we are always led in a triumphal procession makes me really thankful and leads me to think about what is this triumphal procession?

For me, so often I desire that victory over sin, I desire to hold my head high and really be free from the various familiar shackles that bind me up and trip me up at times so I see how Apostle Paul’s confidence comes from the fact that he sees Jesus at the head of this procession. What I need to do is to reflect on this basic gospel message that shows me again how Jesus has already won the battle. He has died for sinners and been raised from the grave to a new resurrection life. He has won the victory over the power of sin and death and it is not through myself where I need to gain my sense of confidence and victory from, but it is through looking at Jesus Christ crucified and raised again.

As I properly align myself with this basic gospel truth every day and as I personally experience this becoming more of my own personal reality as I meditate on Jesus and my life in Christ, then I will join in this triumphant parade along with so many others and become that fragrance of Christ. That fragrance can really be something that others smell about me, that my life is based on grace and my whole life can preach the gospel that Jesus has died for sinners and redeemed people like me. This is my responsibility and my task, and it’s not something I need to force but it’s something that will naturally become a reality in my life as I meditate on Jesus and place my trust in all He has done and join this triumphant parade over sin and death.

Submitted by Ken H. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

  • Reflect on the picture Apostle Paul paints in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

First, it was a bit surprising to me that Paul characterized himself and the early church with the image of a “triumphal procession” being led by Christ, because the description of Paul’s own experience as a minister and shepherd for God’s flock in 2 Corinthians was hardly “triumphant” by the world’s standard.  In 2 Corinthians 1 & 2, Paul spoke of his “affliction,” “suffering,” “deadly peril,” and him being “not at rest.”  From the world’s perspective, such description is in the language of defeat, things that most of us in life would try hard to avoid at great cost.  So what exactly is Paul talking about when he said that Christians are being led by Christ in triumphal procession, and through this procession there will the spread of the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere?

I believe that Paul was able to see himself and the procession of Christian discipleship being led by Christ as being triumphant, because his perspective was not through worldly and secular criteria, but through the spiritual reality that even in believers’ apparent defeat and troubles (through prosecution, through affliction, through deadly perils, through not being able to be at rest over the concerns over his fellow Christian brother and the church), such defeat and suffering for the sake of the cause of Christ ultimately result in the reality of spiritual triumph when such endeavor produce the “fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere,” i.e. the advancement of the gospel message in the world, and the salvations of many who will benefit through the suffering endured by the believers.

This conclusion reached by Paul on how he viewed himself and how he viewed a Christian’s purpose in the midst of suffering for the cause of Christ teaches me about how I should view God and Christ’s lordship over me, and about the purpose of my life.  Whatever obstacles, challenges, and difficulties that I face and we as a church face in ministry are not “defeats” or “failures,” rather they are part of the experience of a Christ-led ministry that ultimately bears the awesome purpose and the mission of bringing the gospel to others.  Although the rewards and triumphs of such endeavors and difficulties endured are not readily visible at times, we are called to endure and be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” because our labor in the Lord “is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  And such enduring is possible also because our ministry is led by Christ himself who was the chief example of one who suffered and endured the cross so that man’s salvation is made possible.

Paul’s message is a timely reminder to me because recently we as a church has been coming together and laboring through all of the outreach events, and we have been laboring hard, taking time off from work or leaving work early in order so that many of them will have one day the saving knowledge of Christ.  I think in the midst of busyness, tiredness, and doing all of these things, it is possible for me to lose sight of the purpose of doing all that we do, especially when my eyes focus on immediate and visible rewards from my labor.  This is also true when our ministry face challenges or discouragement, as I often experience discouragement or lack of responsiveness when I minister to the youth.  When I start viewing such difficulties, discouragement and challenges in ministry as “defeats” or “lack of results,” I may be forgetting the real reason behind why we do all that we do, which is allow the precious gospel message about Christ, which has been entrusted to us, to become the saving knowledge of someone who is perishing.  What I ought to strive for and be convicted of more each day is to know and live out the reality of such noble purpose in my life, and do the extra work in my heart to connect all that I do to this purpose entrusted by God; so that my heart may also utter and proclaim: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.”

  • Reflect on the responsibility of my role as a Christian and the eternal stakes this involves, as expressed in the words: “who is sufficient for these things?”  Have I ever felt the awesome weight of this?

As I participate in InterHigh ministry ministering to the youths, I realize it is often possible to view the students whom we relate and minister to week after week as merely “students” or “teenagers” who seem awkward and slow to respond.  When my attitude and heart get discouraged and frustrated with lack of visible fruits or students’ poor attitude, it is when I often forget the eternal stake involved in ministering and loving these youths–I became more concerned about my performance or the students’ level of cooperation.  That is when I also forget that I am a minister “commissioned by God” to “speak in Christ” in the sight of God (2:17), a person who ought to be “a man of sincerity” who is clear and focused solely on the mission God has entrusted to me.  As a sinner who is weak and constantly failing, I am of course unworthy and insufficient of such entrustment, yet God has nevertheless entrusted the precious gospel to me.  How can I then not feel the awesome weight of this kind of entrustment toward ministering to these students, and continue to focus on my own desire for immediate results?  In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”  The entrustment given to me to minister to these eternal beings (not just “teenagers” as I often like to view them) ought to give me pause, knowing that my effort, labor, ministry, and decisions have eternal stake and significance far beyond the weekly time I spend with them.  My prayers for them and care for them also have eternal significance, which should motivate me to be more faithful in praying for them and to meet their needs.  Therefore, I am to become that aroma of Christ for the people I am called to minister to, and not allow my feelings of discouragement or obstacles to stand in the way of serving with such eternal perspective in mind.

2 Corinthians 2:17

Personal Prayer

Dear God: I want to thank you for giving us Christ, who is the chief example of one who had endured the cross and had shown us that through his suffering and affliction, salvation and forgiveness of man’s sins become possible.  I thank you for allowing me to be a part of this triumphant procession being led by Christ.  I am often short-sighted and eager for instant gratification and visible results to justify my service, when it is clear that this kind of self-oriented view toward serving you is so far from the heart of you, who desires that we become the aroma of Christ to spread a fragrance from life to life to those who are perishing all around us.  I am insufficient for such a task, so I pray that you will help me to deeply consider the awesome weight of your mission entrusted and commissioned to us believers.  I pray that I can view those I am called to love and minister to as eternal beings capable of everlasting splendors so that I can take my life, my decisions, and my work toward them that much more seriously.  I pray that I may connect all that I do in your name to the cause of Christ, the critical mission of turning all those who are perishing to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Submitted by Vanessa O. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

  • Reflect on the picture Apostle Paul paints in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

The picture being painted here is that of victory. Jesus is leading a triumphant procession. In this procession are those who have been broken and won over by Christ – and as someone who was been won over by Christ, I am also part of that triumphant procession. And now that I am part of that procession, I can be used as an instrument to spread the aroma of Christ.

One thing this passage teaches me about the purpose of my life is that I need to remain in the procession. As someone who has been forgiven, someone who has been broken and won over by Christ, I cannot allow life circumstances, difficulties, my personal struggles and sins to cause me to listen to the voices of accusations telling me that I don’t belong in that procession. I cannot allow these voices to speak louder than the truth that in Christ I have victory. Even though I may feel discouraged or defeated because of some situation that happens in my life–the truth is that God has already claimed me as one of his own and I cannot allow Satan to strike me down. I cannot believe in Satan’s lies so that I become paralyzed by fears, anxieties and worries. Instead, the purpose of my life is that I remain in that procession so that I can spread the fragrance of Christ through the way I live my life. I can be the fragrance of Christ through the way I relate to my coworkers or by responding in trust in God when I am faced with some difficulty in my life. Ultimately the purpose of my life is that I would become an instrument by which others may also come to know Christ, that those who have are captive are also won over by Christ.

If this is the purpose of my life, then it’s clear to me that in the end, it’s all about eternity, it’s about whether or not a person knows Christ.  I think I have a precious opportunity to live out this purpose as I serve the middle school students.  I have the privilege of being that fragrance of Christ to them, to set an example for them to follow, to love and teach them and help them come closer to the knowledge of Christ.

  • Reflect on the responsibility of my role as a Christian and the eternal stakes this involves, as expressed in the words: “who is sufficient for these things?”  Have I ever felt the awesome weight of this?

I think I experience a little of this each week as we try to minister to middle school students. Our role as teachers is so important because they are faced with so many temptations and lies of the world. The task may seem daunting to try to teach them each week, to help them understand God’s love for them and draw them just a little bit closer to crossing the line of faith. This verse expresses it well, ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ I certainly am not, but Christ is. By God’s grace and mercy, He gives me this opportunity to be his hands and feet, and gives me the opportunity to be that Christian figure for these kids who would otherwise simply be left with seeing the negative influences they encounter in their lives. It’s a hard task and many times I don’t feel ‘competent’ for it, but I am comforted that Christ gives me that competence

2 Corinthians 2:17

  • In what ways might I be guilty of “peddl[ing] the word of God,” or of similar insincere approaches to spiritual matters for some sort of personal gain?

The word peddler is such a shameful, ugly description of someone who is essentially cheating and lying to gain more for himself or herself. When I first read this verse, I thought about how ugly it would be for someone to water down the word of God and immediately I could think about other Christians who do this very thing. However, as I thought about it some more, I am no different.

I may not be ‘watering down’ the word of God, but I am guilty of peddling the word of God when I seek out approval of others. I want to hear that I have done a good job in doing some task and executing it well. In the end, I am using the word of God for my own gain and engaging in spiritual matters so that others man notice me and applaud me. I am guilty of this when I think I can get something out of my service to God. I realize that often times, deep down there is

is a desire to get something out of what I put in for God. When I come to these moments when I realize this, the only think I can do is come before God and repent. Repent that I have used his word to gain something for myself and again I have to commit to being someone of sincerity as someone who is sent from God.

Submitted by Carmen H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

  • Think about the picture Apostle Paul describes in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

Despite the setbacks Apostle Paul experienced in ministry, misunderstandings, discouragements, persecution, Apostle Paul was not fazed and sees the Gospel as God’s victory. God brought victory through Jesus as Jesus’ death and resurrection brought the salvation of many. Men are no longer in bondage to sin or destined to death. In victory, Christ captured us from the bondage of sin and death, and leads us in the triumphal process. In this imagery, Apostle Paul is describing that Christ is the victor, and the Christian is the captive, once in bondage to sin and death, now becomes captives of Christ. Christ leads the Christians as captives through His triumphal procession. Apostle Paul gives thanks to God, because the Christian who was once bound toward sin and death, is now under the rightful victor and the Creator and giver of life. Apostle Paul gladly takes this role as the captive. It is through Apostle Paul, his team of Christian brothers, and Christians everywhere, that the fragrance of the knowledge of God is spread everywhere. The world sees the trail of Christian captives led by Christ and comes to know God through Christ’s victory.

As a Christian, I need to align myself with this imagery, as a captive of Christ, being led by him. Before I was Christian, I was mastered by the wrong desires, empty ambition, toward sin and death, now I have a rightful king, master, victor through Jesus Christ, and I have a new purpose to become the “fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” As a captive, I follow and obey the victor and I display the knowledge of God. Although the world sees being captives in a negative light, I can share with Apostle Paul’s sentiments to give thanks to God, for captivating me with the Gospel, and I have been captured by Christ, with a new purpose to live a life of love, so that others may come to know God.

  • Reflect on the responsibility of my role as a Christian and the eternal stakes this involves, as expressed in the words: “who is sufficient for these things?”  Have I ever felt the awesome weight of this?

It’s pretty amazing that it is through Christians that God spreads “fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” and we are given the title to be “aroma of Christ” to reveal who God is and His love. Somehow that I, in my brokenness, incompetence and sin issues, God would pick me to be one of His representative. As I have been involved with youth ministry, college ministry, post-graduate ministry, I often feel the weight of my inadequacy, I am definitely not sufficient to spread of knowledge of God, and often wondered whether I am doing more destruction than good to God’s kingdom, did I say the right things, did I give the right advice, am I portraying a proper picture of who God is, with my limited wisdom, resources and love. But God replaces my self-focus to being other-focus, to see the lonely world out there, people looking for purpose, attention and love. Of course I am not sufficient, yet the point is to relate with God, to journey with Him, share His grief for the broken people out there, and pray for them, to do whatever I can to tell them about God’s love. I am thankful that I am not alone, that it is together with the body of Christ, that we represent the aroma of Christ. God gave me leaders from whom to gain ministry and life wisdom, and one another to spur each other toward God’s work. I am amazed that somehow God would use me within the body of Christ to reflect God’s love. I think about my life before I was a Christian, apathetic, lifeless, dead. I was even shocked by my lack of affection in the presence of my own family, and falling into distress about the meaninglessness of living a life without love and all the broken emotional faculties in me. Yet somehow God grouped me together with this church, and together as a team, I can care about other people, be more considerate and thoughtful toward others and God would use me, a broken sinner to be a channel of His love as I serve in different ways, start conversations with strangers and share my testimony about how God changed my life. As Apostle Paul praises that God chose the weak things to shame the strong and the foolish things to shame the wise, that somehow as I participate in ministry, God can reveal His love through me to others.

2 Corinthians 2:17

  • In what ways might I be guilty of “peddl[ing] the word of God,” or of similar insincere approaches to spiritual matters for some sort of personal gain?

As a minister, I become a “peddler” of God’s word, or watering down the Gospel when I overly focus on the good news without the bad news that we are sinners. The Bible exhorts us to “speak the truth in love” and often I find myself cowering from speaking the truth to shy away from relational awkwardness or potential relational disasters. It’s easy for me to speak encouraging words from the Gospel, but it’s not so easy when sin comes and when I notice it, I needed to speak the truth to others. When I avoid those uncomfortable situations, to let things slide, I peddle the word of God for personal gain, so that I can remain relationally comfortable with the people in my ministry, to keep that safe distance. Yet at the same time, when I do not speak the truth in love, to point out to others what faults I see in them, I forfeit the people entrusted to me an opportunity for them to experience and appreciate the Gospel in deeper ways, to become more convicted of the word of God as truth that we are all sinners, and the opportunity for our relationship to go closer. This was not how I was led, my leaders spoke truth to me and took that relational risks. I could have given two responses, either accept what they tell me as truth, as a message from God, those Nathan moments of  “I am that man!” or I could have dismissed what they said and remain a shallow person. My leaders took those risks of pointing out the truth based on Scripture, and because they did so, I know myself better, more humbled, and appreciate the Gospel that God did not have to save me, what punishments I deserve, how unlovable I am, and grow in my appreciation for the Gospel. In the same way, I need to take courage to not peddle the word of God but speak the truth in love when the opportunity comes.

  • Reflect on the relationship between living “in the sight of God” and being “men of sincerity.” 

There is a direct correlation between living in “the sight of God” and being “men of sincerity.” When someone lives in the sight of God, they are humbled and don’t try so hard to be impressive. Apostle Paul could have a lot to boast about, having planted the Corinthian church and led many to become Christians. When the Corinthian Christians did not pay him the proper honor and respect, he did not try so hard to be “impressive” before them, but was sincere to express his love, concern, and genuine hurt. And being men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God that Apostle Paul speaks the truth. He was not so strong, there are times when he was weak, but those are also times when he experienced God’s deliverance. As Apostle Paul expresses his sincere thoughts about his relationship with the Corinthians, his hurt and grief by their original response to him, and comparing him to others, he also experienced God working through all of that, so that the Corinthians are reminded of the truth and Apostle Paul experiences a restoration in his relationship with the Corinthians.

What makes people insincere? People are insincere when there are ulterior motives, or attempts to cover up, to look strong and together before others.  As a Christian before God, I don’t have to cover up, because God knows all things. He knows all my weaknesses and all my sins. I cannot cover up. In that way, I don’t have to cover up and I can be free to express my weaknesses, and my shortcomings, how I don’t measure up. Yet regardless of all this, I can experience being made whole through the love of God and as I experience genuine love through God’s community in the church. Even in relationships, I don’t have to hide my feelings necessarily, but to bring things up and allow these to be opportunities for relationships to grow because we’ve all be given grace and forgiveness in Christ, and so we can be free to give grace and forgiveness in our relationships.

Submitted by Jina K., Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • Reflect on the picture Apostle Paul paints in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

This picture which Apostle Paul paints is truly such an encouraging and strengthening picture of the greater reality of my life.  It is the true picture that God is the Ultimate Victor in this spiritual battle in this world, Christ is the victorious general commander who has won that battle and we are a part of that victorious army.  This is such a clarifying reminder that I must keep in my mind always, since life is often full of its little daily dramas, problems, and concerns and worries which can quickly overtake my focus and make me feel defeated or discouraged.  I find myself daily battling and burdened by my own sins within and the sins of others, as well as the brokenness of this world and sometimes it feels overwhelming and discouraging.  There are days when even from the moment I wake up, I quickly feel defeated by my own sinfulness, character issues and weaknesses.  I see how my temper and impatience hurts the very people I love the most, there are commitments & responsibilities which I fail to meet, people whom I fail to love, I struggle with my own selfishness and pride.  And along with that, there are the many concerns, and worries for others which sometimes feel overwhelming.  The sins and difficult situations which others are in where I feel so helpless and don’t know what to do.  All of these things can sometimes make me feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  However, this passage is so strengthening and encouraging because it reminds me of the greater reality is that God has already won the battle!  I know that in the end, Christ is the Victorious Lord who has defeated all of sin and death.  He has already paid the penalty of sin which is death and has given me victory over death and sin.  Praise the Lord!  And this gives me the hope and strength to continue to fight the daily battle of sin and Satan’s attacks and lies in this world.  I know that I am not left on my own but that my Victorious Lord is right there with me, and leading the way to the final triumph of eternal life with Christ.  This also makes very clear the purpose and identity of my life which is that I am a soldier in God’s army, that in this world there will be constant spiritual battle but that I must persevere in winning others over to Christ–to help bring them from the procession of death to the procession of eternal life

  • Reflect on the responsibility of my role as a Christian and the eternal stakes this involves, as expressed in the words: “who is sufficient for these things?”  Have I ever felt the awesome weight of this?

Yes, I often feel the heavy weight of this responsibility particularly when I think about the truth of who I am; my sinfulness, lack of maturity, character weaknesses and I feel like how can I be sufficient for such a role?  I feel very incapable to be the aroma of Christ to others and to be someone who can save people from death to life.  And my natural response is to want to shrink back and to have a little old me mentality.  But this passage makes it clear that I must fight this kind of insecure and self-focused response.  Because it is a matter of life and death. The stakes are very high.  And also because God tells me that I am sufficient not within myself or my own qualities or competence, but simply because He deems me sufficient.  I am a part of God’s procession of life and therefore one who is able to share the aroma of Christ to others.  This gives me confidence and assurance that it is really not about me, but it is about Christ who is the One leading the way ahead of me.

2 Corinthians 2:17

In what ways might I be guilty of “peddl[ing] the word of God,” or of similar insincere approaches to spiritual matters for some sort of personal gain?

I think I am guilty of doing this the times when I start to focus on how others see me, how I am doing compared to others, and when my focus is more on how I appear to others, whether I am “doing the right things” as a minister, as a leader or as an older one. So that my profit becomes my own ego, and the desire to feel good about myself through approval or recognition or to maintain a good image before others.  But when in truth this is actually peddling the word of God for personal gain.  I must vigilantly examine my own heart and motivations of why I am doing all that I am doing and who I am doing it for and must repent continually when I am convicted of doing this.  Because ultimately, when I’m motivated by any personal gain or lesser cheaper thing, there is really no beautiful fragrant aroma of Christ being spread.  However, its really when I’m motivated by a sincere desire to please and honor God that’s when I experience the power of God, and his heart and burden for people, and that’s when I experience the power of God’s words to lead people away from procession of death toward life and truth.

Submitted by Mark L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • Reflect on the picture Apostle Paul paints in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

Given that what the apostle Paul has in mind as he was writing this, it seems somewhat odd that he would begin verse 14 by being grateful. The picture presented here is one who is being paraded around so that there is a clear distinction between the victor and the defeated.  For the victor, it’s a time of celebration and an opportunity to display one’s strength and might; for the defeated, it would have been a time of utter humiliation and having a sense of doom at the prospect of the impending death or lifelong enslavement.  The latter is a position that no one would ever want to be in. It is something that would have been avoided at all costs.  And yet, it is something that the Apostle Paul is not only thankful but seems to be boasting about the fact that he’s been defeated.  Were it not so, he would have never described himself in such terms and imagery.  The modern-day equivalent of such a sentiment would be someone being thankful for the fact that they had failed in school or had just been fired from their work.  Such failures would have been kept a secret from other people out of fear that they would be ridiculed or looked down upon.  This is because the mantra of the world is such that I need to be successful in life.  In order to attain satisfaction and personal fulfillment, I need to do well in all facets of my life: employment, family life, and even in the church life and in ministry.  I had certain ideas about the way my life should have been.  When those expectations weren’t met, I attributed it to the fact that so much time was spent struggling with my sins: issues of pride, worldly ambition, and selfishness.  I would compare myself to others and often thought that I was just being left behind as others seemed to be progressing and moving on to greater things and responsibilities.  I concluded that this was rightfully happening because of my failures.  I was fully aware of my shortcomings, missed opportunities to love people, and many missed opportunities to exercise faith and to grow my trust in God’s word.  As the discrepancy grew wider between my shortcomings and failures on the one hand, and on the other hand the life that I envisioned for myself as a person and as a minister, there were many points of feeling paralyzed and being in despair.  Verse 14 has offered for me a radically different perspective on my failures and hence my purpose in life.  I realize that in many ways I had been resisting the very idea of one who was to be utterly vanquished, like the defeated ones who are paraded around in a parade honoring the victors.  I wasn’t fully accepting the fact that I’m a failure, that I’m full of worldly ideas of what it means to have a successful life, that I have imported worldliness even in the arena of serving God, that I’m petty, selfish and so forth. Within the world’s mantra that there is clear delineation between victors and failures and there is no such overlap, the purpose of my life would be to be successful and to, as much as I can, minimize or even hide my failures.  But because it is Christ who is leading the procession and not the world, the purpose of my life transforms to accepting and embracing my failures.  Because it is Christ who is leading the procession, I can boast about my failures and weaknesses.  Because it is Christ who is leading this procession, I am released from the tiring need to look at my past failures as something that defines me permanently.  Because it is Christ who is the victor, the purpose of my life shifts in the other direction where it is no longer about winning, being successful and the like but about seeking the magnificent defeat of my pride and ego.  No longer are my past failures a point of paralyzing fixations but a point through which I can welcome personal defeat so that the victory of Christ over me becomes greater and greater.

Submitted by Grace T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

  • Reflect on the picture Apostle Paul paints in v. 14 of God, Christ, the Christian, and the world.  What does this picture say regarding the purpose of my life?

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  Apostle Paul depicts Jesus as a victorious general who is leading us in a triumphant parade through the world.  It is no wonder that Apostle Paul could face anything he encountered in life or in ministry with confidence and hope – he knew that God has already won; and because we are simply following Him, we are always part of a triumphal procession.  Christians are not passive participants in this parade, but are like the fragrance – which spreads far and wide, and gives notice to every person what the God has done. The people in the world are divided into those with two types of reactions to this knowledge – to some, the message is good news that is welcomed and invites them into this procession to eternal life. To others, it is an offensive reminder of sin and death and is rejected.

The purpose of my life is to be this kind of potent and distinct carrier of the gospel, to present this fork in the road that could forever alter a person’s life and eternity. It’s up to me to actively engage others…by sharing the gospel with them, by having conversations, by loving them with concrete actions, by doing whatever it takes to spread what I know and have experienced of God.  The purpose of my life is not to build up my own parade and spread my own accomplishments and successes far and wide. That was what my life used to be about – small, meaningless and frustrating – until I was conquered by Christ.  Each time I am reminded of this, I’m amazed and thankful that God would trust someone like me with such a crucial task.

  • Reflect on the responsibility of my role as a Christian and the eternal stakes this involves, as expressed in the words: “who is sufficient for these things?”  Have I ever felt the awesome weight of this?

As a Christian, my role consists of more than just taking comfort in Christ’s victory over sin and death for myself. I am like this fragrance representing God that spreads out to every person so that they too can join this procession of life. This fact is overwhelming; whether I am straining to understand and love and minister to one person, or I am helping our college ministry reach thousands of new students on campus.  How can I live up to this responsibility – how will this one person be able to experience God’s holiness, love, sacrifice and goodness through someone like me? How can we spread the gospel to so many students in a culture hostile to God and with a million other attractions competing for their attention?  Especially while I am struggling with my own sins, immaturity, my many character flaws and conflicts – I feel not only inadequate but totally unqualified to teach others about who God is.

However, the fact is that I am somehow included in Jesus’ triumphal procession…and I’m not alone, but am alongside many others.  How did I even get here? The start of the fall semester reminded me of my own freshman year when I first encountered this “fragrance” of the knowledge of God through this church.  I noticed a radical difference in the way Christians related to each other, how the gospel actually transformed their life, what kind of commitments they had, how seriously they took God’s words, and the joy they had in the midst of doing hard work and sacrificing.  Even as a distracted student, I could immediately sense that these people were full of life and God seemed much more real to them than to me.  Then, it was through relationships with my leaders and friends at church that I was able to personally experience God’s forgiveness, loyalty, truth, unconditional love, compassion and His higher vision for me.  Because such people spread the knowledge of God to me, my life was turned from a procession towards self-centeredness, isolation and ultimately, death, to one being led by Christ and headed to eternal life.

This showed me that what makes Christians potent is not flawless character/personality or even the ability to give eloquent Bible studies – it’s when their life is completely given over to God’s authority (“conquered” by Christ), when they share God’s purpose and heart, and when they engage in an honest and daily relationship with God.   I don’t have any Christ-likeness that I can eke out from within me to make me competent to represent God to anyone.  But when I subject my sins (and also my selfishness, desire for comfort, fears, personal preferences, etc.) under Christ, He frees me to be able to love and sacrifice for someone else, and in that way share my knowledge of God with them.  As Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…”  I’m so thankful that God knows me thoroughly; He already knows I’m not qualified at all to be a minister or a representation of Christ, yet He is still willing to entrust me with such a weighty responsibility and makes me sufficient.

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