September 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 5)

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

“Paul’s confident longing for the future and his burden to put off the sin and suffering of the present is derived from the presence and power of the Spirit.  This ‘groaning’ is not a natural response to suffering and sin, but the supernatural gift of God.  God prepares his people for the future by giving them a longing for it and does this by granting them his Spirit as a down payment of his presence.  Only those who have begun to experience the glory of God long for its consummation in the midst of their adversities.” [Hafemann, Scott J., The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Corinthians.  2000 Zondervan p.214)]

  • Why did Apostle Paul groan?   What were Apostle Paul’s feelings toward heaven?

Apostle Paul’s groaning stemmed from his hope in heaven. In verse 4, Apostle Paul says “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” The mortal represents our worldly life, full of values and things that don’t last. The “life” that Apostle Paul refers to is eternal life, and not just everlasting life but the fullness of the resurrected life that God made available through Christ. The sense you get here is that Paul can’t wait for this life to arrive. Paul’s longing for heaven was a visceral experience that he describes as a groaning.

  • Reflect on the phrases “We walk by faith, not by sight” and “So, we make it our aim to please him.”  To what extent are these true of my life?  What does this reveal about my confidence in heaven and the fact that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” one day?

To walk by faith and not by sight is to live for the things of eternity rather than the things of earthly reward. When it comes down to it, it’s choosing to invest my time, energy, and money in things that ultimately will not yield me any earthly rewards that I can see, but on things that please the Lord. Being involved in ministry means that much of my time and energy is spent on things that do not really gain me anything in a worldly sense.  Even my decision to move down to Riverside was prompted by a desire to walk by faith and not by sight, to reject my worldly notions of a selfish and comfortable life and instead invest my life in eternal things. Yet even in the midst of this kind of life I need to fight against my natural tendency of walking by sight. By nature I’m lazy and basically selfish, and my natural way of functioning in life tends towards self-preservation. Self-preservation is walking by sight, as it’s from the worldview that there is something to be gained in this earthly life—that if I preserve my life and keep it for myself then there is more of it I will be able to enjoy. The reality however, is that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ one day, and that we will receive what is due for all that we did in this life whether good or bad. There is an ultimate reality beyond life on earth that we will all enter into. All the things that I’ve done for earthly reward will be rendered utterly worthless on that day. To the extent that I know that there is really nothing to be gained on earth but everything to be gained in heaven will I work hard for the things of eternity by pushing myself emotionally and physically by taking on more responsibilities and burdens, and volunteering to do things that I’m not necessarily confident in doing.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

  • Are there people, including myself, whom I still regard “according to the flesh” (i.e., according to physical and worldly criteria)?

In the world, you are valued and loved if you can perform well and are competent. It means you’re able, capable, strong. I think that I still regard myself according to the flesh by this kind of worldview—I feel valued, accepted, and loved if I can contribute a lot to our ministry, especially if I can do things and contribute in ways that other people can’t. The cross however, tells me that there is no connection between how much I am valued by God and my competence. The cross was the ultimate show of weakness–an all powerful God suffering death on a cross, exposing the “power” of the world as false and powerless to save in any way. As someone who has been saved by the blood of Jesus, I have a whole new reality where I can see people, including myself, not through the lens of the world but through the eyes of God—that I am someone who God valued so much for Christ to die so that I could have life.

  • Reflect on v. 17 for myself and for the people in my life with whom I am called to share the gospel. 

As I think about this verse I just think about what the “old” represents in my life—growing up in the church but never really taking God seriously, living selfishly, heartlessly only valuing my own success and advancement, only able to experience joy in my personal success. It was a miserable life, but at the time I didn’t want to let it go. I kept on trying to hold onto the old instead of letting it pass away. Once I let these things go, I began to experience a kind of newness from God. I look at myself today and surely there are many things of my old self that I still need to put off, but I can confidently say that I am not like I was and that in different areas of my life the old has gone and the new has come. It didn’t happen by magic. It took a lot of hard work on my part and on the part of my leaders. But I can attest to this verse, that through Christ my life has become a new creation.

As I think about the students, many of whom have recently become Christian, my heart goes out to them because I know it’s tough. They may not feel like they’re a “new creation” just yet, but from my own experience of God restoring and redeeming parts of my life, I know that this verse is true. I can confidently see them through the lens of this verse, that they themselves might not really see themselves as that new creation, but that’s how God sees them, and God is the one who “calls things that are not as though they were.” One thing I can offer these students is spiritual vision for their lives because I know that the same God that saved me has saved them. I can give them confidence and hope in the promise of this verse because I can testify to the ways God has made me a new creation.

Personal Prayer

God, thank you for the promise of heaven. Indeed because of your salvation through Christ we are a new creation. Thank you that the old has passed away and is being swallowed up by the new life that you provide. Lord I pray that more and more the fullness of your eternal life would swallow up the things that are mortal—the ways I still live by sight, and parts of my old self that I still hold onto. God you are a god who doesn’t merely save us from our sins, but you bring us into the full, resurrected life through Christ.

Submitted by Jammy Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

• Why did Apostle Paul groan?   What were Apostle Paul’s feelings toward heaven?  

Apostle Paul groaned because he longed to, “put on our heavenly dwelling.”  He recognized that our “earthly home,” which he calls our “tent,” that when it’s destroyed there will be something else, a future building from God.  This building would not be made with human hands, but it’s eternal in the heavens.  Apostle Paul longed for the heavens because he felt the burden of this life, which must’ve stemmed from recognizing his own sinfulness to the all the ministry that he was doing.

• Reflect on the phrases “We walk by faith, not by sight” and “So, we make it our aim to please him.”  To what extent are these true of my life?  What does this reveal about my confidence in heaven and the fact that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” one day?

As Christians I think it would be so hard to walk by sight instead of by faith because what we see here on this earth is filled with so much ruin and destruction.  The sinfulness of man is great and I when I peer into my own life, down into the depths of my own heart, there’s nothing good down there.  When I read the news, everywhere there is pain and destruction, and people who are lost and without any meaning in life.  This past week one of the brothers gave bible study and through it shared his testimony of the life he lived before he came to Christ.  Here was a man, hurt, lost, empty and seeking some sort of meaning in his life.  He found it in reckless living, but through God’s mercy and faithfulness, God broke through to him and he turned his life to Christ through his older brother and when he recognized just how much of a helpless sinner he was.  I wonder how many others like him are out there.  When I walk by sight, it’s difficult, but it does lead me to recognize just how much we need God.  Therefore, I must walk by faith, knowing that there is a greater reality, which is that God sent his one and only son to die for my sins and forgive me of my sins, and that if I believe in this there is for me eternal life, a life beyond our earthly tent.  There is hope beyond this world that is full of grief and strive, and I can take confidence in that, and it leads me to really strive to aim to please him.  When I think about the fact that there will be that day when I will have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ one day I think about both my sinfulness and also the responsibility that God has given me to be a minister of the gospel.  When I think about my own sinfulness, it’s easy to get down on myself and it’s also easy to excuse it as this is just how it’s going to be.  The effect of that is that I resign myself to not struggle with sin as I ought, to not persevere as much as I should. I therefore recognize that I have not taken confidence in heaven as I ought.  Today I am reminded again of the reality of heaven and that I must continue to persevere and to walk by faith.   I am encouraged to know that he’s given me the Spirit as a guarantee as I groan on this earth as Apostle Paul did.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

• Are there people, including myself, whom I still regard “according to the flesh” (i.e., according to physical and worldly criteria)?

Sometimes my focus is still very much on my flesh.  I’m focused on what I can accomplish with my hands, how others perceive me, and whether I am pulling my weight as minister of the gospel.  How I view myself actually carries over to how I view others.  I look at people, and in a ministry context, I sometimes place to much focus on other staff that I’m working with and whether other co-laborers are also pulling their weight and if they are doing what they are suppose to be doing.  When these times come, I remind myself that these things can never get in the way and become something that I choose how I regard other people.  First and foremost we are all broken sinners, rescued, forgiven, and redeemed and we all have been given this privilege to serve God.  This must always be the default in how I view other people.  Another person cannot be deemed more worthy or acceptable just because he’s doing more work than another person, but rather I must see that we are people who’s old ways have passed and that we have become new creations.

• Reflect on v. 17 for myself and for the people in my life with whom I am called to share the gospel.  

It’s amazing that I can testify to vs. 17.  This is the wonder and power of the gospel.  It has the ability to change lives, to do away with the old and to usher in the new.  We are new creations when we give our lives to Christ.  When I think about my past, when I recall where I came from and where I am now the kind of purpose and meaning in my life that I have now, the fact that Christ has forgiven me of all my sins, I am so thankful. I can only stand back in awe of the power of the gospel to do this kind of work not only in my life, but in the lives around me.  I think about the students and their testimonies of how they came to accept the gospel and I am amazed at how God worked in their lives.  As I think about myself and those students that have accepted Christ already, I am filled with hope and confidence that Christ can and will continue to do the same with those that I share the gospel with.  I just don’t know how God will work, but I’m called to remain faithful to God, to what I know and can testify to, God’s changing and transformative power.

Personal Prayer 

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to walk by faith and not by sight on a daily basis.  Help me to be deeply burdened by sin, not only in my life, but in this world.  Oh Lord, I know that I will have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ one day, please help me to make it my aim to please you, to struggle and not give up.  Thank you that we can always be of good courage and that you have given me the Spirit as a guarantee while we struggle here on this earth.  I know that this world is not my home and that I simply passing through.  Father help me to be faithful while I’m here on this earth, to share the gospel and bring the message of good news to others so others might experience their old life passing away and a new life coming in.

Submitted by Linda K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

  • Why did Apostle Paul groan?   What were Apostle Paul’s feelings toward heaven?

Apostle Paul groaned because he longed for heaven. The Holy Spirit inside him was a guarantee of his future life in heaven. He longed for heaven because he knew that in heaven he would be clothed his heavenly dwelling and while he was in his earthly tent he would continue to experience the burdens and his mortality. And yet he was willing to face the various adversities and suffering because he was confident of God’s promise about heaven.

  • Reflect on the phrases “We walk by faith, not by sight” and “So, we make it our aim to please him.”  To what extent are these true of my life?  What does this reveal about my confidence in heaven and the fact that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” one day?

The extent that “[I] walk by faith, not by sight” is determined by my confidence in the promises of God about eternal life with him in heaven. As a Christian I have learned there are things in my Christian faith that I may not see, but can I take confidence in God’s word and promises because I have seen God’s work active in my life and others. With the promise of eternity I do today matters in the future and in eternal life. So it certainly matters how I live my life today because I know that one day I will appear before Christ and tell him how I lived my life. I think about Apostle Paul’s life and how he was able to endure and suffer all he did for the Gospel to be shared because he had a deep understanding of the eternal destiny that laid before him and how he wanted to make the most of his life by telling everyone about the Gospel so they could receive salvation no matter what he had to endure to do so. I’m thankful for this text that as we prepare for this fall am reminded of this awesome promise of eternal life. I think about the ways our ministry each year faithfully walks by faith to welcome the students on the campuses.  This is done in faith for college students to come and hear the Gospel message and receive Christ and eternal life. Then for me, as I think about another year of ministry and with the reminder of the promise of eternal life I am committed to endure all that may come in ministry this year and knowing that God is pleased when I walk in faith to obey his commands.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

  • Are there people, including myself, whom I still regard “according to the flesh” (i.e., according to physical and worldly criteria)?

C.S. Lewis famously said, “You have never talked to a mere mortal” and this is true because everyone was created by God and meant to live for eternity. But for me I can so easily lose sight of the reality that Apostle Paul spoke of that we should not regard people according to the flesh because a person’s character flaws or the way our personalities clash causes me to focus on these external things rather than the eternal destiny of the person. When I see people in this way I am evaluating them by worldly standards and not by God’s standards of love and grace. I pray God will give me his eyes to see people, I can see people as those who need Christ.

  • Reflect on v. 17 for myself and for the people in my life with whom I am called to share the gospel. 

It is amazing that in Christ, I am a new creation. At our last Friday night Bible study, one of our staff shared his testimonial bible study and I was brought to tears thinking about how God saved this rebellious, thrill-seeking and destructive person to the saving knowledge of Christ and now how he is loving and serving the students at UCR. Truly, it is only by the power of God that can transform and save a person’s life. Steve wrapped up the Bible study and said, “Yes, the Gospel is good news when we first face the bad news of our sin. And this is so true about the Gospel.” I was reminded that this is the same God who came into my life to forgive me from all my guilt, shame and regret and transform me into someone God wants to use to share His love, grace and forgiveness. In Christ, I am a new creation and he continues to sanctify me to be pleasing to him. And just as he was worked in my life to save and sanctify he also wants to offer the free gift of the gospel to my family and students on this campus. Thank God for this amazing gift that in him, we will be a new creation.

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

  • Why did Apostle Paul groan?   What were Apostle Paul’s feelings toward heaven?

Apostle Paul groans because he longs to put on his heavenly dwelling.  He longed for heaven and was looking forward to it.  In this present life, we experience suffering and constantly struggle against our sins, but in heaven all this suffering and pain will finally end as we will be reunited with Christ and granted eternal life.  Thus Apostle Paul eagerly awaits and longs for this day.

  • Reflect on the phrases “We walk by faith, not by sight” and “So, we make it our aim to please him.”  To what extent are these true of my life?  What does this reveal about my confidence in heaven and the fact that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” one day?

Apostle Paul writes that while we are living here on earth, we are not yet at home because we are away from the Lord.  And, so to walk by faith and not by sight means that we will always remember God and live before him instead of people.  We have faith that on judgment day we will be held accountable before God and so we live daily to please him.  To live by sight, on the other hand, would mean to live for this world alone and live to please people around us and not be concerned about judgment day and that we will be held accountable before God.

Though intellectually I know that God is watching me and that I ought to live to always please him, I confess that when it comes to daily life, I often resort to living by sight instead of faith.  One of the ways in which I walk by sight is because I am always so concerned about appearing competent in front of people.  To be competent in life has always been my goal because I think that it will earn me respect and recognition from other people.  There are certain things that I can confidently say that I am competent in such as managing logistics and planning events.  However, there are many other things that I lack competence in, but instead of being honest about my lack of competence, in my pride I insist on doing things my own way and refuse to ask for help.  I walk by sight because I am so conscious of people and desire so much to impress them with my competence.  To walk by faith, on the other hand, would be a lot more freeing because I would be able to humbly accept that I am not competent, that I am inadequate and that instead God is the one who makes me more than sufficient.  Instead of resenting the fact that I am inadequate, I would be willing to embrace my weakness and use this as an opportunity to rely on God, knowing that in the end God loves and accepts me and I no longer have to earn love from this world.  To make it my aim to please him would mean that in my inadequacy I run to Him for help and rely on his strength.

I realize that I still have a lot of growing to do in this area and that my immaturity reveals that I don’t have such strong confidence in heaven that Apostle Paul had.  I confess that I am still so people conscious and dictated by what this world thinks of me and in doing so, I rob myself of the rest and peace that God wants to give me by living before him alone.  My prayer is that I can grow in my hope and anticipation for heaven and that through this I will learn to truly walk by faith and live before God.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

  • Are there people, including myself, whom I still regard “according to the flesh” (i.e., according to physical and worldly criteria)?

Yes, I confess that I still regard people according to the flesh and view them according to physical and worldly criteria.  I am easily impressed and intimidated by people who have some high status in this world.  On college campuses, I get intimidated by some students who are part of frats and sororities because I think that we are so different and that they would never listen to someone like me.  I realize that I fail to see these people as broken sinners and that underneath we are all the same.  Also, I realize that I need to grow in my own convictions as a minister and confidence that I have good news to offer them.

  • Reflect on v. 17 for myself and for the people in my life with whom I am called to share the gospel. 

I need to apply this verse to myself and to the people that I am ministering to.  I need to remember that we are all new creations in Christ and so I should no longer evaluate people based on physical and worldly criteria.  I think specifically for myself, I need to claim this verse and trust that I am no longer valued based on my competence or lack there of.  I am a new creation in Christ and so I am now loved and accepted simply as I am by God and not for what I do.  I can now finally let go off my old ways of living that is based on trying to earn love through competence.  Now, through Christ the new has come and so I can be free about my weaknesses and inadequacies and receive God’s unconditional love for me.  Thank God that indeed the old has gone and the new has come!

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray that I can learn to walk by faith and not by sight.  I confess that so often all I do is dictated by people around me.  I confess that especially in the area of trying to be competent I am so people conscious and always want to impress them and receive recognition.  Lord, I pray that I can learn to walk by faith and let go off my old ways of living and instead trust and accept that you love me unconditionally.  Help me to trust your promises for me that you make all things new.

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