October 5, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 6-9)

Submitted by Joyce L. from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (ESV)

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (ESV)

For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:13-15 (ESV)

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV)

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The nature of the gospel; the self-giving nature of love
Through these passages, I’m reminded of how the gospel is shown and displayed not through worldly notions of power, but it is displayed through weakness, brokenness, suffering.  Through dying, through sacrifice, the power of the gospel is unleashed, new life can be born. The nature of the gospel then is love.  It’s being emptied of self, being completely other-centered, enduring through suffering for others, and through that love that others may have eternal life.  Everything about the world’s value is about self.  It’s about attaining power because of a desire to rise to the top, to feel good about oneself, to feel strong.  The gospel is completely opposite from this.  2 Corin. 8:9 says that Jesus, though he was rich, for our sake he became poor, so that we might become rich by his poverty.  Apostle Paul endured through suffering, hardships, daily dying, but through all of that, he was able to make many rich.  This is the gospel message, and that is how the gospel was transferred and passed down to me through all these years, through people who endured, sacrificed, went through hardships, difficulties, death.

The call of a minister
I am called to live out & embody this gospel in my own life.  In the way that Apostle Paul’s life is described here in 2 Corin. 6:3-10, this is also the call for me, for each disciple of Christ, for each minister.  Apostle Paul says that these are the things that commends him as a servant of Christ. One thing is his great endurance in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger.  A lot of these things have to do with physical endurance.  In my situation, I probably will not face things like imprisonment, riots, and beatings, but ways that I can learn to endure greatly as a minister is physically not shrinking back from hard work, pushing myself through my own laziness, pushing through my desire to slow down, going against the temptation to indulge in comfort.  As I think about our ministry here in Austin, there is so much work to be done, so many people that God has been sending and entrusting to us.  There is also the work of continuing to build up this church on the right foundation, being mindful of the soil that is being cultivated. In light of these things, I want to endure physically by pushing myself through those moments where I just want to indulge in my own thoughts, where I don’t want to think about others, to just give myself a break, to not take risks, to give into my own physical/emotional tiredness, to not want to attempt something difficult/new/challenging… and I hope that through pushing through and learning to endure these things, I can be commended as God’s servant.

Apostle Paul also talks about how he went about ministry–by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love. Knowledge.  I am called to have knowledge about what I am teaching to others, the word of God, being able to handle the word of truth.  The false teachers during that time spoke eloquently, were impressive, but they didn’t have knowledge regarding what they were speaking about. They were not speaking truth, they did not know the Bible, but they just said things that would bring them attention and popularity from the people.  I have always desired to have eloquence in speech, but going through the DTs in Corinthians, thinking about the contrast between the false teachers having that eloquence yet the fact of their lovelessness and selfishness, versus the life and heart of Apostle Paul, his genuine love that drove him, desire for truth, the one thing that I want to have and strive for as a minister is a knowledge of the truth.  I need to know the word of God as I minister to the people that are entrusted to me, and more and more, I see that the word of God really has all the resources for me to be able to minister.  I have experienced just simply sharing the word of God with someone, and that having such a powerful effect on another person’s life, to bring them out of the stubbornness of their own thoughts, to experience conviction of sin, to bring sense of comfort beyond any words that I personally can come up with.  I want to desire and strive to increase in my own bible knowledge, through being faithful in my daily devotions, personal bible reading, hearing messages attentively, so that I can be God’s servant that can correctly handle his word.

In addition, Apostle Paul mentions truthful speech in verse 7.  He did not hold back from speaking truth to the people that he was ministering to.  2 Corin. 7:8-10 describes the painful letter that he wrote which produced godly grief in the Corinthians, leading to repentance.  It was personally painful for him to write the harsh letter to them, the emotional labor that he had to go through to write it, and then the anxiety and worry of wondering how they would take it, if they would respond in repentance. However, he went through all of that out of love for them, out of a desire for them to experience repentance leading to salvation.  This is what I am called to do as a minister, to be a person that speaks truth into other people’s lives, regardless of the kind of response that I might receive.  I need to push through emotionally uncomfortable situations, fear of being misunderstood, take risks in my relationships with those that I am trying to raise–out of that loving heart for them to experience repentance leading to salvation, freedom from the sins that enslave them, and just having that jealous heart for them to be reconciled to Christ at whatever cost to myself.

Submitted by Bryan S. from Gracepoint Austin Church

  • The nature of the gospel

The nature of the gospel is life-giving.  It is, however, not the sort of life-giving gospel that so many people in the world today have been falsely advertised.  Sadly, many people in the world, churchgoers and Christians included, think that the gospel of salvation they have received should yield a happy, comfortable life here on this earth.  This is simply not biblical, and certainly not indicative of Apostle Pau’s life. The gospel actually ushers in greater personal suffering and hardship because of the new purpose and calling Christ followers are given.  Christ followers are called to suffer as Christ did, so that others might live.  And so the gospel contains the irony of all ironies.  That as I die, I and others live.  As I become poor, I and others become rich.  This only makes sense because the gospel gives me hope in heaven, in which all the ironies will be wrinkled out.

  • The call of a minister

One call of a minister is the call to instruct. As I think about these passages, Apostle Paul clearly instructed the Corinthians regarding specific areas of life such as marriage, and being generous with money.  Another very evident call of a minister that can be gleaned from Apostle Paul’s life is the call to suffer for God and on behalf of others.  Apostle Paul’s life was a testament of this.  He says in in 2 Corinthians 6 that as a servant of Christ he underwent afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, hunger and more. Apostle Paul wasn’t a masochistic or macho minister who went through hardships merely for hardship sake.  He endured through all these so that the message of the Gospel would spread to more and more people.  He did so in order that he could faithfully represent what it meant to be that servant of God, one who endures sufferings as Christ did upon the cross for others’ salvation.

  • The self-giving nature of love

Love by its very nature is about giving of oneself, and Apostle Paul clearly gave himself to the Corinthians.  He talks about how he sent them the letter that made them grieve, and he says that he did not regret, but then he did.   Why did he have to send the letter?  It only brought him anxiety, and emotional burden?  It’s because he loved them and that meant he wasn’t going to hold onto any emotional comforts.  To this extent emotionally, Apostle Paul was self-giving of himself to the Corinthians.

This self-giving nature of love makes sense to me much more personally now as a parent.  As my daughters grow up, I want to naturally give all of myself for them in order to protect them, and provide them all they need to live full and thriving lives. I would even give my life in exchange for theirs if it ever came down to it.   This all makes perfect sense, though, because this all encompassing, self-giving posture is what love really is about.

  • Holiness

It says in chapter 6 Apostle Paul challenges the Corinthians to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  As those in Christ, Apostle Paul was trying to help them understand that they were now set apart, people of the light, and thus fundamentally different with a new identity in Christ.  It wouldn’t make sense for them to be tied to those of the world, allied with the people who were still in the darkness.

Holiness thus requires that clear delineation between light and darkness.  It requires that as a Christ follower, I identity those clear boundary lines in my life in which I must not be intermixed with the people in the darkness.  When it comes to how I spend my money, I need to be set apart in terms of how I allocate my money.  When it comes to how I spend my leisure time, I can’t spend it on the frivolous selfish pursuits that the people of this world spend their time on. When it comes to even topics of conversation, I need to be set apart with co-workers in terms of what I talk about. I can’t be yoked together with them, just fitting in and talking about what they talk about, doing what they do.  God has set me apart to be holy and that requires that I be set apart in all these specific areas.

  • Generosity

In 2 Corinthians 8, Apostle Paul points to the most generous person of all, Jesus Christ, who though being rich, gave up everything and became poor, so that others might reap the benefits of his generosity. Apostle Paul goes on to talk about how the Corinthians ought to supply the need of the Christians in Jerusalem, that their abundance should supply their lack.  This calling to be generous is a fundamental aspect of following Christ.  So in light of Christ’s clear example of being generous, it is clear that I am called to be generous as well with all of my life.  And it’s not just about being generous with my time and energy, but with my money.  Apostle Paul called out the Corinthians in this specific area and that is something I need to keep asking myself again and again–am I being generous with money?  As I get older, the natural temptation that I feel in my heart is to hoard money for providing for my family.  But I am reminded that God’s calling for me is to be generous, not merely conservative, with money towards fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Suffering, power, weakness

The life of a Christ follower is one in which these three seemingly unfitting words all mesh together.  Through these passages, one thing that is clear is that Apostle Paul lived a life of suffering, and that all Christians are similarly to live this kind of life for the sake of God.  He felt weakness and emotionally spent over his grief for the Corinthians and the other churches.  Even so, through these toils, he experienced the power of God (2 Corinthians 6:7) filling him, giving him the ability to endure through it all.  This is what the Christian life looks like.  It’s experiencing weakness and sufferings because of the good work of spreading the Gospel, as well as loving others with the truth.  But through it all, God the Father fills me with his power.  It is not a power of my own, as that is so limited and failing, but the power of God from heaven.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you for this precious Gospel which has come to me.  I know that it was through the sacrifice and sufferings of so many that I came to know you. I pray that now as you placed me in this position, and entrusted me with the Gospel, help me to be faithful to love others generously with all of my life, so that they might live.   May I not configure my own gospel, which caters to comfort, but Lord I commit my life to you once again, to suffer and die so others might live.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response