September 21, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 10)

Submitted by Jeremiah L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 10:1, 9-11

·       What fundamental misunderstanding of Apostle Paul is betrayed by the people quoted in v. 10?

The Corinthians fundamentally misunderstand Apostle Paul because they believed that because “his bodily presence [was] weak, and his speech of no account,” that he lacked true spiritual leadership and authority. They looked at his letters, which were “weighty and strong” and compared that to how he appeared to them in person, and viewed him as being timid. Because of this, they concluded that perhaps he was not as spiritual as others, such as brash teachers, or as the Corinthians were. They looked down on him as a result and judging from what we’ve learned already about the Corinthians, many of them were probably attracted to those who were more showy and ostentatious. They misunderstood Paul, even though the reason he acted the way he did was following the example of “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Christ was not showy, not trying to draw vain attention to himself. His spiritual authority and the weightiness of his words stem from his humility and obedience to God the Father, as it talks about in Philippians 2.

·       What are some ways in which people can misunderstand spiritual leadership?

People in this day and age are often wary even of the idea that there can be such a thing as spiritual leadership. Even when people assent to the idea of spiritual leadership, people can misunderstand spiritual leadership when they look to outward appearance, talents, and perhaps external showiness as criteria for what gives a person spiritual leadership and authority. This is especially true in today’s culture. Today, even certain preachers take on the personas akin to that of rock stars, and people might hop from church to church in large part based on a preacher’s personal charisma. All these traits that people are commonly attracted to can be used, of course, but fundamentally, proper spiritual leadership and authority comes from a person’s obedience to God’s word. Obedience to God’s word is evident in how a person treats others, in a person’s commitments, in how much they sacrifice for others, in their character, in how much they are other-centered, and in whether they actually love. So it may not be the most winsome, charismatic, or the most effective public speakers or forceful conversationalists who carry the most authentic spiritual leadership and authority. These outward traits are not what God calls us to as Christians, although if you have these traits, by all means they are to be used to love others and to spread the gospel.

When I think of my spiritual leaders, those older and wiser figures in my life whom I have given proper spiritual authority over me, what was it about them that convinced someone like me, someone naturally disdainful of even the idea of authority, to even submit to the very idea of spiritual leadership? It wasn’t brash, showy personas, it wasn’t even things like talent. What gives a person true spiritual leadership and authority is their obedience to God, it’s how they live out what they believe in, it’s tested character produced and refined by a life of submission, sacrifice, and love. It comes from a life of dying to one’s self so that others can live. I’ve seen these traits exhibited in my spiritual leaders’ lives.

2 Corinthians 10:7-14

·       Reflect on the words “[the authority] the Lord gave for building you up” (v. 8) and “we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ” (v. 14).  Apostle Paul seems to be carefully defending the spiritual authority he has over the Corinthians, as people to whom he brought the gospel.  What is my view of authority in general, and spiritual authority in particular?

In general, I think growing up, I had a flippant view of authority, probably through seeing authority abused frequently in different contexts, and the cynic in me wanted to take the blanket view that all authority is bad. This line of thought is particularly damaging when it comes to issues of spiritual authority because as Paul says, spiritual leaders are there for the express purpose of building a person up and when you reject the role of a spiritual authority, you actually do a lot of damage to yourself. Like many people, when I was younger, I used to hold somewhat to the belief that spiritual matters are primarily a person’s subjective affairs. But going at spiritual matters by yourself and without the benefit and guidance of trusted spiritual authorities is foolish. There are many others who have a longer and more consistent track record of obeying God and following him, of loving others, of living out their Christian faith in a hostile world. They are authorities in Christian faith because they have been tested in their faith and have stood firm. It would be foolish not to rely on spiritual authorities just as it would be foolish not to rely on authorities in any other context. As Paul says, spiritual authority is given by God. It’s ordained by God and God gives spiritual authority to people in my life, NOT to destroy me, but to build me up. There’s a reason Apostle Paul has to remind the Corinthians that the spiritual authority he has been given by God and that he exercises over them is NOT to destroy them. I think it’s human tendency, when corrected (as the Corinthians were by Paul), to equate discomfort as just being bad. But in any area of life, when you submit to an authority and allow for their instructions and guidance, even times when submission could cause you moments of discomfort when there needs to be correction, that leads to flourishing.

·       To what extent have I embraced the role of spiritual leaders as people with God-given authority over me to “build me up” in Christian maturity?

As I get older and see a clearer picture of my sinfulness and my lack of wisdom in many areas, I grow in awareness of just how much help I need to grow as a disciple and as a minister. Spiritual leaders are there to help “build me up” in Christian maturity. For me, I think one pitfall that I can fall into is to view my spiritual leaders primarily as people whom I need to please for my own self gain, akin to how a person would view a boss at a workplace. When I view my leaders like this, I end up wanting to steer clear of them when I “mess up,” wanting to hide, wanting to appear that I am doing better than I actually am out of fear of what they might think. There was a lot of hesitation on my part in my relationships with my spiritual leaders early on. This is not the picture of proper relationship with spiritual leaders. In v. 9, Paul goes the extra step to emphasis that his goal is not to frighten the Corinthians. His goal is to build them up, and for that to happen there has to be honesty and trust and proper understanding of the role of spiritual leaders. What does it really mean to build a person up? When I think of how my spiritual leaders have built me up, it didn’t happen through things like empty flattery or anything like that. The way that they have built me up is through things like having a higher vision for my life during times where I didn’t have any vision for myself, ministering to me at my lowest points and in my ugliest confessions, praying for me and speaking the word of God into my life, even when it had to come in the form of some correction. I would not be where I am today without spiritual leaders in my life and their covenantal commitment to me. Although I still struggle with wanting to hide from my spiritual leaders at times, in different ways now perhaps because as I get older there’s a different temptation of feeling like I have to have everything “together” by now, my awareness and appreciation for their role in my life has definitely evolved. My track record says clearly to me that I need continually need spiritual leaders in my life to be those truth-speakers in my life.

Submitted by Jeanne T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 10:1, 9-11

  • What fundamental misunderstanding of Apostle Paul is betrayed by the people quoted in v. 10? 

Verse 10 says, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” I think one misunderstanding the Corinthians had of Apostle Paul that was betrayed in this verse was that He was just all talk; that in his letters he uses strong words, but in person he will be weak and not as harsh or authoritative, or in other words, not really take any action or exercise any real authority in the matter. Apostle Paul clarifies that what he said in his letter is what he will say and stand for in action when present.

  • What are some ways in which people can misunderstand spiritual leadership? 

I think people can misunderstand spiritual leadership in the same way–that spiritual leadership should not include any actual exercising of that authority. People can think spiritual leaders can teach and say things, even strong things, but that spiritual leaders should not or will not actually do something about an issue. But Apostle Paul makes it very clear that his ministry is not just about words in vs 11: “Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.” In some sense, sometimes people expect spiritual leadership to be passively influential but essentially powerless to act. But true spiritual authority has authority that can be exercised, just like any positions of real authority in life, from CEO’s to teachers, parents to coaches.

I think another way people can misunderstand spiritual leadership that’s highlighted in this passage is judging leaders based upon their ability to speak or other aspects of their presence. The Corinthians took issue with Paul because they thought his “bodily presence” was weak—maybe he was not a striking man or seemed kind of frail. They also faulted him because they thought his speech was “of no account,” because he did not speak with the oratory flourish that other professional orators spoke with in their day. I can see people thinking someone may not be a great “spiritual leader” if they aren’t eloquent and speak plainly, or if their presence is not appealing in some sense or if their personality is not charismatic. People can attribute these things to spiritual leadership but someone could be a great spiritual leader and not have some of these characteristics.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

  • Reflect on the glory and privilege of serving God in the spiritual war Apostle Paul describes in vv. 3-5.  To what extent has Christian history demonstrated the divine power of God’s “weapons” to demolish strongholds, arguments and lofty opinion “raised against the knowledge of God?” 

Christian history demonstrates that God’s weapons has enduring power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God, across the ages, nations, and in continually changing social and cultural climates. The fact that there are Christians of all walks of life, and that the lineage of Christians has continued from antiquity until today’s digital world is testament to the gospel’s divine power. Christians have been persecuted, Bibles have been burned, governments have tried to stamp out Christianity from existence, but now one of the most thriving house church movements today is happening in China. Darwin tried to explain away the existence of all of life, and Nietzche said God was dead, but today we see brilliant scholars and intellectual grad students in our graduate ministry turning to God because they are astounded by the beauty, the design, the order, the information and irreducible complexity that is true of something from the single cell to the solar system. I think closer to home, God’s Word has pierced the mind and heart of each believer from antiquity until now—anyone who looked inward and saw that he was a sinner in need of grace, and that he could not be the lord of his own life lest he ruins it, and brought hope and meaning and purpose to the poorest of the poor to people like us who have all the comforts of modernity but still find life empty and meaningless.

  • What are the “weapons” available to every Christian today? 

I think the weapons available to every Christian today is knowledge of God’s word and reason. God created our minds, and if he gave us weapons to destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God, this means he gave us means to know His word, and use his word to argue and break apart arguments and lofty opinions that are in the end, lies.

  • What steps can I take to better utilize these “weapons” to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” in my life? 

First, I need to know my thoughts to know which ones are not obeying Christ and need to be taken captive. Though life is busy I need to take time to quiet my heart, and think about what thoughts are in my heart and still guide my life and cause me to be swayed. I can know the word of God and see how it is true in life, and really win arguments in my heart. I can become convinced through reflection and through knowing God’s word, of what is true in my heart—to grow in convictions through wrestling with God’s word and really become persuaded that God’s truths are right, his ways are good, that heaven is real and his reward is real. Growing up in a media-saturated, post-modern world, I know there are still thoughts and values I have that are strongholds, arguments that are against God. Theses and supporting statements and reasons, and sometimes “evidence,” that ultimately add up to the message—don’t follow God, don’t trust him, don’t give him your whole life—instead—eat, drink and be merry. I need to break down those arguments with reality and God’s word.

Submitted by Jonathan W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 10:12-18

  • What would be the result of Christians “measuring themselves with themselves” and “comparing themselves with themselves”?  Are there ways in which I can be led astray to do this?

The result of Christians “measuring themselves with themselves” and “comparing themselves with themselves” is loss of objectivity, then delusion. Imagine a class where each student is allowed to determine his grade. For the most part, people would give themselves a grade based on what they feel like they deserved, not on any actual standard for mastery of the subject. Then later on, if someone pointed to the A they received from that class as evidence of their knowledge and proficiency, they would be considered rather foolish. Similarly, if a Christian uses only himself to measure how he is doing as a Christian, if he is living a good Christian life, it would be easy for him to think he’s doing very well. Without any standards, if he tithed 2% of his income, went to church at least one Sunday a month, and prayed over his meal every now and then, he might consider himself quite generous and pious. However, if he saw how other people are living – tithing at least 10%, going to church every Sunday, committing to serve in the mission field for a year or longer, sacrificing their time to reach out to non-Christians every week, etc. – he would be able to accurately evaluate his own commitment and convictions.

While that example may seem rather extreme, there are definitely ways I can be led astray to measure my life apart from objective standards. When life gets stressful, whether due to work, school, or personal reasons, or ministry becomes frustrating, like when someone is cold or unresponsive, it can quickly become easy to start feeling like I’m doing enough for God. From there, it’s just a few more steps to start feeling like my devotion and zeal for God is too much, that I should pursue a more “balanced” life and not be so passionate about religion. Hence, it is important for me to remember the lives of people like Paul, other Biblical heroes (like Joseph or Joshua), more modern heroes of faith (like Jim Elliott or Mother Theresa), as well as Jesus, our ultimate example and role model.  Despite countless obstacles and hardships, they remained faithful and obedient, and in Jesus’ case, even when it cost Him His life. This then really puts my own commitment to and passion for God in proper perspective, so that any notion of being or doing “too much” can be corrected and dismissed.

  • Reflect on the truth of v. 18.  Are there some ways in which I commend myself to others, or even to myself?

v. 18 states that it is the one whom the Lord commends who is approved, not the one who commends himself. This verse highlights again the importance of having the right standard when evaluating my life. If I think I’m properly living out Christianity by my own standard, I could very well be completely mistaken. Instead, I need to turn to the Bible and see how my life does or does not match what the Bible posits as a life that pleases God. Ways in which I can commend myself to others, or even to myself, are to put forth my small acts of righteousness and obedience – such as being nice to my wife, treating someone to a meal, or simply being part of ministry – as evidence of my spirituality that God will in turn be satisfied with. Rather, when I examine the Bible more closely, God is more interested in the kind of person I’m becoming – am I excelling in gratitude and generosity? Am I bearing the fruit of the Spirit more and more? Am I growing in my heart for the lost, and for joining in His salvation work of bringing the Gospel to them? Am I maturing in my Christian discipleship, and becoming someone God can use to love and bless other people? Am I seeking a comfortable, self-centered life or am I suffering for the sake of Christ? Ultimately, I need to use God’s Word to properly evaluate my life, rather than focusing on the externals and what can be seen by others.

  • In what ways does my life reflect a desire to become “one whom the Lord commends?”

My life reflects a desire to become “one whom the Lord commends” in various ways, where the fundamental theme are obedience and faithfulness. First, I’m committed to being a part of ministry at our church, even though I’m in residency and my work schedule is stressful and extremely busy, leaving very little free time for myself. This isn’t to say that being a part of ministry in and of itself automatically leads to a life that God commends, but I am convicted that God calls every Christian to ministry, and that through ministry, God not only uses me to bless others, but often times more primarily, He uses ministry to mold and shape me into the person He desires me to become. An important part of being in ministry includes submitting myself to the people God has placed in my life to lead me so that I can be corrected and guided in my Christian discipleship. Secondly, I am committed to my relationship with Him, and have prioritized spending time in His Word and in prayer on a daily basis, so that I will grow closer to Him and become more like Him. Thirdly, I am committed to a life of sacrificial love as modeled by Christ. This means that I am striving to live a life that purposely limits my own freedoms, so that I can better meet other people’s needs and demonstrate God’s love for them, in ways that will help them draw closer to God.

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