October 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 10-12)

Submitted by Sarah S. from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

2 Corinthians 11:2-3 (ESV)

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 

2 Corinthians 11:22-29 (ESV)

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Apostle Paul is so confident and able to say that we have the divine power to destroy strongholds, arguments, and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.  He experienced the power of God to take every thought captive to obey Christ.  But how does that go along with all the sufferings that he experienced in his life?  In the midst of his sufferings and weakness, Apostle Paul witnessed how awesome and strong is God’s power.  Again, this reminds me that my understanding of true power and its source is skewed and twisted.  Throughout life I’ve been told that power is being able to outdo/out-compete others.  Those that are powerful are people who can control others for their own benefit.  Power means the ability to distance oneself from problems common to man.  Yet, here is a picture of Apostle Paul, constantly on the move, dodging enemies, being shipwrecked, punished and beaten unfairly, never at rest or at ease, and always emotionally torn and pressed by his worry for all the churches knowing full well the dangers and temptations that would lead them away from a pure and sincere devotion to Christ.  There was nothing Apostle Paul was able to control.  He was controlled, in a sense, by others – emotionally, physically, and mentally.  He led a life where from the world’s perspective would be characterized as “weak” or even a “failure”.  But, what is the reality that I need to remember and embrace for myself?  The power of God and the ability to demolish strongholds or being able to experience that kind of divine power is directly tied to a life of suffering and weakness.  There is no other shortcut.  Feeling the external and internal pressures of life and ministry, allowing my world and emotions to be fully affected by one person’s confession of sin or their spiritual state, never fully at rest because of the concern for the churches and believers, being tired from, yet, another attempt to meet up with a student and experiencing rejection, or feeling that worry and anxiety of having to bring up a serious conversation and feeling vulnerable afterwards and fearful of how she took the talk…through those times of weakness God somehow works.  Perhaps relational walls/barriers are brought down, God provides insight into someone’s situation and spiritual state that allows me to know how to pray more specifically, someone is jolted out of their spiritual passivity and realize their sinfulness, another person experiences godly sorrow leading to repentance.  Those verses in 2 Corinthians 2:9 becomes so much truer, that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power becomes perfect in my weakness.  It’s in these times of offering myself up to suffering, weakness, not having anything in my control where God is waiting to pour out his power upon that person’s life or in my own.  Then, what does that mean? One thing is that the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of that divine power working in me or in the people within my ministry is my insistence to be powerful in the way that the world defines power.  Each time I refuse to surrender my life or that split-second decision to close my heart/schedule/mind only means that sin and its strongholds will remain un-attacked and cause continuous destruction in a person’s life, arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God will continue undermining God’s authority, and thoughts and beliefs will never come under Christ’s rule.

Submitted by Judge H. from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (ESV)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Apostle Paul makes the point that we are not waging war according to the flesh. This is not a battle I am taking part in that is based on my own ability or my own strength. Christ has called me to join in His army, to become one of His foot soldiers in the spiritual battle for souls that is raging, in this world and particularly on the campuses around us. But what is it about this battle that is different? It’s that’s my ability, the strengths I have in myself and the things that I feel that I can do, aren’t really going to be very effective in waging this war. Apostle Paul even makes the distinction that our weapons are not of the flesh BUT have divine power to destroy strongholds, meaning that my fleshly weapons cannot do this. What I am competent in, what ability I have in and of myself, simply trying to employ this on my own strength is not going to do much for the kingdom, not going to really be able to push back the enemy advances in where we’re fighting. This is not the nature of the Gospel and the nature of spiritual warfare. I may be able to draw people to myself with my personality, put on some happening event, and build some form of community or bonding with the guys who are coming out. But all of this is ultimately peripheral to the Gospel calling and the work God wants to do through me as a minister. Instead, He gives me weapons capable of destroying strongholds. He gives me the power of prayer, to come before Him and seek Him for our needs and to help align my heart with His, and He gives me His word and spiritual insight to speak to people to people right where they need heart it, and help soften them a little more to the Gospel or help them understand the heart of God a little more. And like any weapon, these are things I need to sharpen and practice with to become better at. I must recognize that these are weapons which will be spiritually effective, and through which my own skills and abilities can best be put to work.

2 Corinthians 11:2–3 (ESV)

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Apostle Paul made it his consuming mission in all of his ministry to help develop holiness in all those he ministered to, and his mission was no different here with the Corinthians. He strove to present them as a pure virgin to Christ. Knowing the Corinthians, how base and sinful so many of them were and what lives so many in that church had come from, how was it that Apostle Paul could have such vision for them? These were the last people you might think of as being presented a pure virgin to Christ, and it’s probably not how they saw themselves either. But throughout letters to them, its abundantly clear that Apostle Paul still believed they could mature to reflect holy lives. He can hope to present them to Christ as a pure virgin because he is able to see them as Christ does, forgiven and pure and cleansed and holy in His eyes because of what Christ has done. And Apostle Paul writes to remind them of the Gospel and how it should then build holiness in their lives. In my own life and with the people entrusted to me, this understanding of Christ’s holiness in me has to start with my own life. I cannot be bogged down in shame and guilt over my sin, fearful to grow and try to press on toward holiness for fear of failing or because I’ve failed too many times. I have to accept how Christ sees me, as holy and righteous because of what he’s done, and allow this to lead me to a heart of wanting to strive for holiness to be realized in my life. And its only as I strive for holiness that I can try to guide others along that path, showing them as well how Christ sees them once they have accepted His salvation. In the same way, I need to share this vision Apostle Paul had for the Corinthians and help the ones God has brought to our church to strive for holiness whatever their past may have been.

2 Corinthians 11:22–29 (ESV)

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Who is made to fall and I am not indignant? Apostle Paul concludes this long list of sufferings and hardships with this point, and it places it squarely in the context of love. Its as if all of his listing of hardships and sufferings was to build up to the most important point, that the greatest pain he bears is the weight and anxiety for all the churches and for their protection from sin. All that Apostle Paul went through was because of his commitment to Christ and his love for the churches. At every turn, at every point of decision whether to embrace or avoid suffering, he must have thought of the churches and felt their need, felt their anxiety. As I minister to people, as our churches become larger and more people come and more needs are laid before us, I cannot on my part simply try to push myself through out of duty or commitment to the idea of our group being something. It has to be a continual return to the idea of who I am serving and why, and what will happen if I refuse to take on more or engage in the hard work that is necessary to do what Christ has called me. Love is going to cost me, and if I am truly working out of love, than it should know no bounds. In general I have lived my life blocking off pain and trying to prevent myself from being affected by others, because usually every time I did it caused more pain and came at a cost, and I learned early to guard my heart. But the Gospel demands that I not be this way. It requires that I open wide my heart and love others, the guys in my lifegroup, the rest of our students, the staff here in Austin, the lost on our campus, and so many more. I must love them and embrace them and let them affect me, and let their needs and their struggles and hardships, and a desire to help them fight sin, all of this needs to move me to work and give myself, just as it did for Apostle Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (ESV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

How is it that I can boast in my weakness? I was stuck on thinking about the difference between a life that is filled with Christ’s power, with Christ working through weakness, and a life of confidence and assurance and ability. I think the latter kind of life is a very narrow one, where I could stick to what I am good at and where I know I will be effective or succeed. But there is no cost in such a life, no suffering because I would be doing things I know would succeed. Instead, Christ calls me to a life of working out of weakness, so that I can experience His strength. This means I must constantly be pushing myself, putting myself out there beyond where I am comfortable or where I know I will succeed. This point was brought home for me this past week when I heard of how some of the younger bros were pushing themselves out of their comfort zone to reach out. I was so challenged by this because I see so much need at UT. I want to use that picture of them as a motivation, to not settle but keep pushing the limits of what I commit to, what we can do and who we can reach, so Christ’s weakness may work in me and touch people to transform their lives.

Personal Prayer  

Dear Lord,

As I’ve gone through 2 Corinthians this time around, I have been struck by the fact that Apostle Paul made himself to vulnerable to loving the Corinthians despite know the kind of pain it could cause. He opened his heart to bearing their burden, to suffering and carrying on in weakness for their sake, all out of a heart of love and hope for them to come to Christ. Help me to open my heart, to be willing to bear the cost and pain and toil of love. Help me to share the vision of presenting people as a pure virgin bride to Christ, and may this move me to greater and greater commitments and a willingness to never settle or rest, but always seek to reach as many as possible in whatever way, that they might know you and have eternal life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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