October 4, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 4-5)

Bible Text           

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 5:1-7 (ESV) 5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 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. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (ESV)  14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)  17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Submitted by James C. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Through the passages here, we see the things that drive and sustain Apostle Paul even as he is going through the difficulties of ministry and the suffering he faced. Even though he faced much physical suffering and emotional toil, Paul considers these earthly troubles as “light momentary affliction” as he kept his focus on the eternal things and what he would one day experience in heaven. In fact, he even describes the earthly suffering and trials things that are “preparing” for the “eternal weight of glory” and causing him to long for heaven even more. This is such a powerful perspective that helped turn hardships into opportunities to strength his faith in God and be even more heaven-minded, and from this I get a glimpse of how Paul was able to persevere even through all of his suffering. These grander themes of heaven and earth deeply colored his thinking and his response toward the events in his life and these sustained him in all his trials.

For myself, often I get too caught up just in the situations and challenges I’m facing, and I find myself merely reacting merely to the immediate consequences. Sometimes I think only in terms of what these things demand of me and how challenging life and ministry is, and I feel weary and worn out from the stress and the pressure. On one hand, there is that never-ending list of things to do and areas where I can do more or better in, as a father and husband and friend. There are also those more challenging situations like ministering to people and trying to help them move closer to God. Often it just feels like there just aren’t enough hours during the day to worry about issues or take care the things that need to be done, and this can feel so overwhelming and draining. But from these passages, I am reminded difficulties I face can really be opportunities that cause me to think more about the eternal significance of how I’m serving God and to help me to long for heaven even more. I need to be filled and strengthened by this greater hope and longing, as I connect what I do to the bigger themes of the Gospel. Though groaning and longing seem to be a position of lack, yet as I see in Paul, it helped him to look to heaven more and this filled him and it motivated him all the more to run this race in the present. This is such an encouraging prospect for me and a sharp reminder that I really need to strengthen myself through the hope of heaven and eternity as well.

The call of a minister

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is the reality that has come into a Christian’s life, that our old lives have passed away and that God gives us a clean slate and a second chance at life. This is great news for me, that I get to leave behind the shame and guilt from the past and get to start over. And I used to think of my salvation mainly in terms of how it affected me–the joy and peace that I can now experience personally. While God does want me to experience these things and salvation surely does include these things, he’s intended for it to be a lot fuller than that. From these passages, we see that salvation is not merely just leaving behind a life of sin, but it is to embrace this new life as someone who has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation and this role as ambassador to reconcile people back to God.

To be new in Christ means that I now live for him, being concerned about what he is concerned about, and God is concerned about his lost and wayward children being fully reconciled to him. Sometimes we can have this wrong view that ministry is an add-on to Christian life, that there is the basic Christian life where you get saved and there is this additional thing where you go out and minister to other people. But from here, we see that it is not like that, that in fact, when God saves us from a life of sin, he also saved us into a new life of helping to reconcile others to him. When we have this kind of understanding, then we won’t have the misunderstanding that God is asking us to do something extra when he calls us to be his ambassadors, but we can know that this is what it means to be rescued from a life of living for yourself, and in fact, co-laboring with God in loving and ministering to others is in fact the way that we get to experience God’s power and love in our lives more deeply, as we see in Apostle Paul. This is something I need to be reminded of, especially in those times when ministry is challenging. I need to see that the role that God has given me is his continual work in my life to turn me away from sin and toward becoming that new creation that he had envisioned for my life.

Personal Prayer

Dear God, thank you for this precious Gospel that you have entrusted to me, that my life can take on such an eternal dimensions. Even though I’m so focused only on earthly things much of the time, you remind me through these passages that you call me to consider my life in light of eternity–both for myself and others–and to live that life of reconciling others to you. Thank you for such a privilege and I pray that even the midst of the challenges of life and ministry, that I can keep this eternal perspective and be sustained by you, so that I can persevere and even experiencing your power and filling. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Submitted by David L. from Gracepoint Austin Church

These passages tell us a lot about the nature of the gospel, which is loving sacrifice as demonstrated through the death of Jesus.  The cross reminds us that if we are in Christ, there exists the possibility of being renewed from our sins and reconciled back to the Father, made into a “new creation”.

Personally, as I look back on these past 9 years of being in college ministry I am struck by the amazing gospel message that never seems to get old because of the fact I have witnessed lives that have been radically transformed.  There have been many people with all kinds of pains and addictions, as well as emotional scars from their broken pasts that have experienced healing and a renewed sense of hope as a result of experiencing God’s forgiveness and grace.  However, if the nature of the gospel is to be lived out in loving sacrifice so that others may experience this new life, then concretely, it is the call of every Christian to bear the mark of suffering.  For myself, one criterion I typically use to easily identify whether or not I am on the right track of ministering to others, is NOT necessarily by how well I execute the tasks or even by the sheer number of people in my Life Group.  Rather, I tend to evaluate how much I have suffered and sacrificed myself (i.e., my time, money, energy) for the sake of others.  We see clear evidence of this in Apostle Paul’s life through his heartfelt letters to the Corinthians, and also through the many trials/hardships he faced throughout his ministry.

The call of every minister is to faithfully carry out the message of reconciliation that has been entrusted to them by God.  In addition, we are to be Christ’s ambassadors in this world who represent Him through our words and actions on a daily basis.  What a challenge AND a privilege it is to bear the name of Christ on his behalf.  Personally, I feel the ever-growing gravity and weight of being an ambassador for Christ given the magnitude of my sins.  I’m still very much a proud person and consistently feel the need prove myself to others in order to stroke my ego.  I still battle the sin of envy I have toward those who outshine me and I’m constantly battling my flesh that seeks comfort especially as I’ve grown older, become a father, and recognize the increasing demands of our church’s expanding ministry upon me.  I need to meditate more deeply upon verse 18 as it puts things back into perspective about God, who is the one who does all the heavy lifting in terms of reconciling me (and the world) back to himself.  The verse goes on to say that He is the one who has entrusted me with the ministry of reconciliation, implying that there is nothing I did to merit or receive this incredible gift of salvation and the entrustment of bringing the ministry of reconciliation to others.  It is my prayer and commitment to first receive God’s grace regularly through honest reflection and confession of my sins.  Only then will I be humble enough to acknowledge that it was He who reconciled me back to Him.  Secondly, I want to commit to being a good steward of this ministry of reconciliation, by giving it my all in laboring and suffering for the gospel, specifically for the people He has entrusted under my care.

The passages from today’s text also heavily reference various aspects of earth and heaven.  First, it talks about our experience in the world as being full of suffering, affliction, longing, groaning, and being burdened, either due to our own sinfulness, or perhaps due to the sins of others.  However, it then offers up a measure of hope through the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” that is being prepared for us in heaven.  Growing up, I could not really comprehend verses such as these because I grew up in a very sheltered environment.  Only after I got to college did I begin to realize that there were a lot of broken people in this world as I met people who experienced a lot of pain and suffering as a result of sin.  And yet, somehow, God was able to transform these people’s lives and demonstrate His power through their weaknesses and their broken pasts; and by His mercy I have been able to witness many incredible testimonies of changed lives.  As I have reflected more and more over the years and have seen the horror of my own sinful heart, I have experienced more deeply the power of God redeeming my life and using that which was once broken, to be a source of blessing for others.  It hasn’t always been easy.  While I have found so much joy in serving God, there have been moments when I have just felt weak and limited in my ability to love people.  However, I have experienced the reality of 2 Cor. 5:5 as the power of the Spirit of God has provided me with supernatural strength to persevere and continue in the work of ministry of reconciliation.  As I grow older and see the brokenness of this world, my heart breaks as the darkness seems so pervasive.  Yet at the same time, I find myself becoming more zealous and eager to give everything I have to fulfill the Great Commission and to offer hope to those who have yet to hear the gospel.  And even though I experience failure and disappointment in this world, the joy of my salvation coupled with the knowledge of heaven, is what drives me to be faithful and not give up.

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