September 12, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 7)

Submitted by Sieun C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 7:2-4

“Paul is not afraid to call the Corinthians to action because he is convinced of their genuine standing as Christians. Hence, as a mediator of the Spirit under the new covenant, he has ‘great confidence’ (parresia, better, ‘boldness of speech’) toward them. As the parallel in 3:12 indicates, he is speaking boldly in 7:2–3 because he is convinced that those in whom the Spirit is at work will respond to the commands of the gospel (cf. 3:3–18; 5:17). In the end, nobody can do anything against the truth (cf. 13:8).” [Hafemann, Scott J. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Corinthians. By Scott J. Hafemann, 42-11. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000.]

·       Reflect on the facts Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians of in v. 2 as he pleads with them to “make room in your hearts,” and how crucial this might have been for the turnaround of some of the Corinthians.

Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians of who he has been to them, how he has conducted himself up until now. With the harsh things that Paul had brought up, they felt suspicious towards him, attributed ill-will, other motives, and questioned him. So as he pleads with them to make room in their hearts for him and his words, he reminds them of how he had conducted himself up until now. He hadn’t wronged any of them; he had corrupted no one; he had taken advantage of no one. This was how Paul often appealed to this church, a group of unruly, immoral, immature believers. At this peak where they can turn their hearts against Paul and reject all that he’s trying to say, Paul reminds them of how he has always related to them, previously of his hard labor and sufferings to bring the Gospel to them, and here, how he has never wronged or taken advantage of them, then going on to affirm his love for them, telling them what a big piece of his own heart they are taking part.

This was crucial in putting a break on whatever anger, hurt, defense the Corinthians must have felt against Paul, gave them an opportunity to pause on their tracks, remember Paul’s faithful work with them because of his commitment to God, the love and work he labored out on them, never wronging them–these truths helped turn their stubborn hearts around and repent. Think about how even with me, when someone wants to bring up something uncomfortable or damaging to my pride, it’s often that reminder of what they are speaking as–people committed to God and to truth, people who are committed to obeying God by loving me with truth and have always conducted themselves in this kind of way–this is what stops me from becoming defensive or resistant, even awkward about the whole situation to consider the truth.

·       Is there someone in my life I need to “make room” for in my heart on similar grounds?

No matter where I am, I need to be teachable and to have my heart wide open so that God can do his work of continually shaping and molding me. The older I get, I need to do this more and more deliberately because the pattern with age is that pride settles, heart wants to close up and think I know what I’m doing with life, with my spiritual walk. As I get older, I can think that I should know what I’m doing and should just be in the position of teaching others. But this is so false and this would be Satan at work trying to stunt what God wants to do, stunting the vibrant work of the Holy Spirit. One area I can think of is that I need to do this even with younger people who may see something about me, about ministry that I have been missing until now. This making room in my heart is having this humility that hungers for God’s truth to shape and chisel out, knowing we’re all committed to God’s work, truth, not out to wrong, corrupt, or take advantage of anyone. I need to do this with those I am co-laboring with, my fellow staff, as we work together and things come up where we sense barrier or issues, to have my heart wide open to accept truths about me they want to bring up, because fact is, as we work together, God will stir up things and want us to speak to one another out of love and truth.

2 Corinthians 7:8-9

·       Think of what would have happened if Apostle Paul was afraid of causing the Corinthians “grief” and did not send the harsh letter.  Have there been times when I sacrificed truth so that I would not hurt people’s feelings or offend them? 

If he acted on his fear of causing them grief, don’t want to hurt them, they would have continued in their pagan and corrupt ways, and eventually the church would have died, the people in it would have spiritually died, with those who can’t stand it will just leave. They would have remained immature and ugly in their character and conduct, would have not been that salt and light God commands them to be in the city, and ultimately as no one responds to the promptings of the Spirit, the church would have become dull and deadened.

I think about this fear of not responding out of giving the other party grief a lot as I think about disciplining my son. He’s getting stubborn and disobedient, whiny and bratty, and if I respond to my fear of him crying because of the pain from discipline, he will never mature, never grow up, become a bratty and disobedient and stubborn teenager who will be a pain to whomever he encounters. I need to extinguish that fear in me of causing him grief, and discipline out of love for him.

I think about this fear I have of bringing grief and that painful struggle to those I am ministering to. Even though I can testify that it was in the times of struggle and pain that I grew and got chiseled, somehow it’s still so hard when I think about the grief and the struggle that one will have to go through as I bring them some truths about themselves. But after years and years of ministry, it’s seeing people who had been entrusted to me not grow and mature the way they should have that’s been teaching me the painful lesson of needing to bring truth and go through some difficult times of speaking truth when the right occasions and times arise.  I can’t miss these opportunities because spiritual growth is like physical growth where things need to be addressed as God brings into the light else there will be major stunting in growth, immaturity, and eventually, the heart will be dull and deadened to responding to the things of the Spirit.

·       What does the phrase “grieved into repenting” (v. 9) and “godly grief,” teach me about the value of emotional pain over sin, and the value of correction? 

A lot of times, it’s emotional pain that can properly lead people to repent, to see God’s own heart and experience godly grief rather than self-deprecation and worldly grief. There are times when the Spirit convicts me of this kind of grief as I see how God must grieve and be pained over my sins and struggles, but many times in my Christian walk, it has been the pain and anguish of my spiritual leaders trying to minister to me and love that had caused me to experience pain about myself, pain over my sins.

·       Are there ways in which I refuse to tolerate a sense of grief or sorrow over my sins?

As I get older, when my sins get repetitive and don’t seem to change, there are times when my heart just doesn’t want to feel grief about it anymore. It’s the same temper, it’s the same issue with my tongue and tone, it’s my same pride and controlling ways, and there’s that stubbornness inside that says–I don’t want to feel bad about this again! But that’s why it takes work, of confessing, of confessing to others, of apologizing yet again, to bring my heart back to that soft place where it can feel grief about myself and my sins, can find that grace not just as amazing, but more deeply so as I see how much more stubborn and persevering God’s grace is upon me.

·       Recount a time when I was confronted by someone over my sin, and I “opened my heart” (see v. 2) toward that person, and so was led to experience “godly grief” that led to repentance.

I can recount many times when instead of listening to my own emotions and feelings, my own thoughts, I opened wide my heart to a person bringing me truth and experienced grief and repentance. It seems like where I am right now, experiencing grace of God as well as responding to my calling to be a minister is because at these different junctures, somehow by the grace of God and conviction of the spirit, I chose to open wide my heart instead of being stubborn. Because there was a time I considered dropping my faith to pursue sin.  That one talk my leader and older sister had with me reminds me of that clearest time I somehow miraculously opened my heart and listened, experienced godly grief about the choices I was about to make, and was able to go down a path of repenting and completely turning around.  It was a miracle because I walked into the talk determined to be stone faced and go my way afterwards, but somehow in the middle of the talk, her pleading, a sudden reminder of how she had ministered to me and loved me stopped me in my tracks and cracked open an opportunity to feel grief and a desire to turn around. And it really is the work of the Holy Spirit because I was so ready to not listen, yet somehow God broke through the hardened exterior.

Personal Prayer

Father, I thank you that you have used your faithful servants, brothers and sisters who were committed to you and to truth, to turn me around from the many times I wanted to harden my heart, didn’t want to listen to truth about myself, didn’t want the scales to fall out. I thank you that Your spirit is always active and working to humble and soften hearts, that where your words are being spoken in truth, your Spirit is also working actively to bring conviction. I pray that as I get older, I would continue to open wide my heart and have the childlike humility to hear truth and grow, that I wouldn’t become stubborn and dull. Also, I pray that as you have spoken to me through the words and boldness of others, that I too will be bold with others you have placed under my care. Help me to not listen to my fears that don’t want to grieve others, my wimpy emotions that want to keep things clean and nice, but remember that we are in a spiritual battle with a need to help one another mature and grow, and that it is a necessity to be bold in speaking truth to one another.

Submitted by Myra C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 7:2-4

·       Reflect on the facts Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians of in v. 2 as he pleads with them to “make room in your hearts,” and how crucial this might have been for the turnaround of some of the Corinthians. 

The fact that Apostle Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to make room in their hearts shows how they must have been hardened towards him as he had recently rebuked them. He had sent them a harsh letter and was afraid that the Corinthians wouldn’t continue to listen to his words. Being hardened towards someone can prevent us from really hearing the message and truth that the person wants to deliver for our benefit. Sometimes the truth/message can be or must be delivered in a harsh way in order for that the person to really see the seriousness of their sin. But often times instead of hearing the message and being hit by the truth, our hearts close up and refuse to listen. It might have been crucial for Apostle Paul to plead with the Corinthians as it might have caused them to at least check their hearts and opened it slightly to hear what he had to say to them.

·       Is there someone in my life I need to “make room” for in my heart on similar grounds?

God’s word is always at work and is always living and active, yet whether I receive that truth or not depends on the condition of my heart and whether I have made room to hear it. As I get older, it is so important for me to make sure that I make room in my heart when listening to words of truth and correction from my people whether it is my leaders, my husband, or my friends. When truth is given to me, there is the temptation to harden my heart before my leaders out of pride or fear or insecurity. It’s that closed heart that refuses to listen because I don’t want to feel bad about myself. Or I can be tempted to think that I shouldn’t be struggling with this anymore and get distracted by those kinds of self-focused thoughts instead of hearing my leader’s words. Or my heart could be closed because of pride before my peers and my husband.

 2 Corinthians 7:8-9

·       Think of what would have happened if Apostle Paul was afraid of causing the Corinthians “grief” and did not send the harsh letter.  Have there been times when I sacrificed truth so that I would not hurt people’s feelings or offend them? 

If Apostle Paul was afraid of causing the Corinthians grief and did not send the harsh letter, they would have continued to allow the unrepentant brother to flaunt his immorality and would have never repented. People in the church would be stumbled and perhaps even giving into immorality as well. The church wouldn’t be the church as it should be. They might not be grieved or be angry at Apostle Paul, but sin would continue to grow and infest that church.
Truth often hurts/stings but it should be given out of love and care for the other person. It is loveless to sacrifice truth so that I don’t have to hurt people’s feelings or offend them. This is actually very cowardly and self-focused. If you really care about someone, you’d be willing to take a risk to tell the person truth to benefit the person. One time that I sacrificed truth so that I wouldn’t hurt people’s feelings is when a friend who I was living with was being very selfish, bratty, and self focused. Instead of moving closer towards her out of love and in truth, I distanced myself because I didn’t want to rock the boat and make things uncomfortable between us. I kept a safe distance so that I didn’t need to deal with it but it wasn’t so I could keep the relationship but mainly because I didn’t want to offend her and deal with her. This was actually really unloving and selfish on my part as I realized how I was distancing myself from struggling with another person. I had to really examine my heart and repent for my cowardice and lack of love. Also, I regret it because I ended merely having a shallow relationship with that person instead of one based of commitment and truth.

·       What does the phrase “grieved into repenting” (v. 9) and “godly grief,” teach me about the value of emotional pain over sin, and the value of correction?

The phrase “grieved into repenting” and “godly grief” teaches me that it is crucial to be having sorrow over my sins in order to repent of them. A commentary stated how God intends for us to feel the full weight of sorrow for sin so that we can enjoy the full expression of joy in salvation. Without the emotional pain over sin, we can’t appreciate the mercy of God.

·       Are there ways in which I refuse to tolerate a sense of grief or sorrow over my sins?

The way in which I refuse to tolerate a sense of grief or sorrow over my sins is when I am rationalizing or minimizing my sins. Instead of seeing the full weight and damage of my sins upon myself, on those around me, and on God, I minimize it thinking that it is not a big deal. Or I promise to myself that I won’t do it again and make excuses about why I need it. Other times, I’ll rationalize I sinned only because of the circumstances or because people pushed me towards that decision. In these small voices in my head, I argue with the truth given to me, sometimes even while truth is being spoken to me in a message or from a friend. Sometimes, I can even agree with the person giving me truth but merely intellectually and not allowing myself to emotionally take n what I have done. This is refusing to tolerate any kind of sorrow towards my sin but trying to make it into less and less of a big deal.

But when I do this, I forgo the opportunity to genuinely repent of my sins before God and to genuinely experience relief and joy of forgiveness. By not experiencing the full weight of sorrow for my sins, I don’t get to really fully experience joy in God’s grace and mercy. If sin is not sorrowful, the forgiveness is not that weighty or significant. It’s like an apology that you don’t even know why your apologizing for. It has no meaning and actually is offensive to the offended party.

·       Recount a time when I was confronted by someone over my sin, and I “opened my heart” (see v. 2) toward that person, and so was led to experience “godly grief” that led to repentance.

One time my peer confronted me regarding a potential sin and I ended up minimizing my actions, saying that it wasn’t a big deal and that I was okay. I gave her a list of reasons and excuses. She was worried and wanted to bring up specific incidents that caught her attention. My pride and defensiveness flared as she brought these things up. But I opened up my heart towards her because the words she spoke were truth and I knew I could trust her and I knew it wasn’t easy for her to bring up this uncomfortable truth. It was a risk on her end to bring up this truth in that I might get angry, avoid her, be completely offended, etc. I saw the love in her action and my heart was open to hearing that truth.  Through that painful time, I was able to see where I was headed and how I was letting myself open towards sin and Satan’s lies. Because of her I was able to confess to my leaders and repent before God. It was really painful but our relationship also grew stronger as I was confident of her love for me to take such a risk.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please make room in my heart to hear truth. I know You are always at work and that your word is that double edge sword that is living and active. Help me to make room in my heart that your word would cut out all the sin in all the dark and hidden areas of my heart. Expose me and help me to grieve a godly grief over my sinfulness instead of merely minimizing or rationalizing it or excusing it away. My default mode is to avoid truth and distract myself to no end so I don’t need to deal with truth, but Father, help me to see that I lose out and forgo genuine repentance when I do so.

Lord, please also give me love and courage to be a person of truth. I confess that often times I can be cowardly and selfish to the point of not wanting to bring up truth because it is hard and offends people and rocks the boat. It is uncomfortable. But, Lord, help me to see the consequences of not being a person of truth and the damage caused by this kind of unlovingness. Lord, I thank you that we can be a people, a church who are committed to one another hence are called to truth in love for one another. Thank you for bringing so many people who love me in truth instead of distancing themselves from me when things get uncomfortable.

Amen.

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