Need Some Help

OK, if you read this blog, I need some help figuring this out. There's a set of verses in 2 Corinthians that's intriguing to me, but I want to learn more about it. Here it is:

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says:
"In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you."

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

This is the end of chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6. I'm curious to know what this means: "...[do] not receive the grace of God in vain."

Any takers?


The Ministry of Reconciliation

In chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians Paul refers to the gospel as the ministry of reconciliation, or the word of reconciliation. It's not too hard to understand that, because of our sin, we were all at odds with God at one point in time. But now that Christ has come and paid the penalty for our sins, as we put our faith in Him, we are now reconciled to our Father.

But this passage carries with it another application, one that I sometimes have trouble doing. If God has forgiven us so that we might be reconciled, we need to be very intentional in forgiving one another so that we can be reconciled with one another. Sure, we won't see eye to eye sometimes, but it's a testament to the ministry of reconciliation to those who are on the outside looking in if we can just forgive each other and be reconciled to one another. That means no holding grudges and no unforgiveness. That means tell your wife you're sorry for being a bull-headed idiot.

How can we teach others about this word of reconciliation if we won't be reconciled to each other?


Treasure in Earthen Vessels

2 Corinthians is one of my favorite books. I'm at that critical verse in chapter 4:

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." NKJV

And in the NIV:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Here you have two things. First off, you have this "treasure." Of course, it's the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Colossians puts it, "...Christ in you, the hope of glory." (1:27) As Jesus lives inside all of us who believe, we must keep in mind what exactly He is living in--clay pots. So we have this "treasure" in "clay pots." It really should put some perspective into our lives. In other words, remember, who is the clay pot, and who is the treasure?

So many of us have extremely high opinions of ourselves. I know I do. As a matter of fact, we are trained in the public school system on the importance of having "high self-esteem." And that's exactly what we do...we esteem ourselves very highly. But if we take an honest inventory of ourselves, we realize we're really not all that great. We have pride, attitudes, and short tempers, not to mention the more hideous sins we harbor deep in our thought lives.

We are clay pots to be sure...nothing much to look at, very fragile, and they don't really do much...except provide a place for beautiful flowers. Understand what I'm getting at?

However, despite all this, God delights in using us clay pots. He puts nothing less than Himself in us to use us for His glory. Even though we have many shortcomings, He doesn't abandon us or give up on us. This brings a great deal of joy and comfort to me, because no matter how many times I mess up, as long as I have a repentant heart and keep turning back to Him, I will always have this treasure in me. This is grace.

It would do us well to remember who's the treasure, and who's the clay pot.


The Ministry of Righteousness

"For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory." 2 Cor. 3:9

This passage is loaded with so much about the superiority of the New Covenant over the old. I could write a whole book on this chapter alone, but I didn't want to do that. This thought crossed my mind though:

The Law - referred to by Paul as the ministry of "condemnation"

The New Covenant of grace - referred to as the ministry of righteousness

Righteousness does not come through good deeds or following the law. Righteousness comes another way...through the cross. And because I believe, I have this righteousness! I can think of no other way to put it than this:

Woo hoo!

Some days it's very easy to realize that we don't have it together. Our lives are full of mistakes, bad attitudes, and pride. But it's so important to remember that, apart from our performance, we have the righteousness of Christ. That is so awesome!


One of My Favorites

The first chapters of 2 Corinthians are some of my favorite passages in all of scripture. I went over one of those again this morning:

"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant...."

It's so important to be reminded that, apart from Christ, we can do nothing. It's also important to remember that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It brings peace to know that we can rest in His abilities rather than trusting in our own. In other words, when God gives us a mission to accomplish, He gives us the enabling of His Holy Spirit to get things done. We don't need to (nor should we try to) accomplish a spiritual mission through natural means.

"...our sufficiency is from God...."

I love that.

Remember that today.


The Fragrance of His Knowledge

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." 2 Cor. 2:14

This is a great verse. Note the phrase, "always leads us in triumph in Christ...." In Christ, no matter what is happening, no matter how dire the situation, there's always triumph. Nothing can keep us from God's love, nothing can keep us from the life God has for us, and sin no longer has dominion over us. How awesome is that?!

I also love the second part: "...and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. My in laws make potpourri for their business. When they make it, the scent is very strong, and you can smell it everywhere and on everything. The same is true when we have the Holy Spirit inside of us. People can "smell" Him...people can know that He's real and that He loves them through us.



"Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us...." 2 Cor. 1:9-10

Here are a couple of verses that struck me the other day. Actually, the one part that really struck me is the three different "time applications" of the deliverance from death.

We know that death results from sin...so what Paul is saying with the phrase, "who delivered us from so great a death," is that God has stepped in with regard to our sin. By the death and resurrection of Jesus we have been delivered from the death that we all deserve. And no matter how many times it's said, it never gets old to hear that Jesus took our place, and took the penalty of death for us. We've been delivered from death to life.

Now Paul also says, "and does deliver us...." This is a personal application on the part of Paul and his company. Jesus was working in the midst of their troubles in Asia. They really did face death on a number of occasions for their confession of Jesus. Even so, Jesus was still delivering them.

Finally he says that they trust "He will still deliver us." Paul speaks of a future time when death, the last enemy, will be defeated. There will come a day when all who believe in Jesus will no longer face pain, or sorrow, or death. We will fully realize the life that Jesus purchased for us.

I guess the implications of this passage really spoke to me. The victory that Jesus gives us over sin and death is all encompassing, complete, and full. As He said on the cross, "It is finished."

Completed. Totally. Once for all.


The Body

Well I'm currently in 1 Corinthians. I recently read chapter 12 where Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit and gifts and functions in the body. Two points I noticed:

1.) The Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.

No one can claim they have no gift. We all need to find out what it is and use it. The idea that ministry is left up to the paid professional with the four year degree is not biblical. God empowers regular people by the Spirit for the profit of the entire body. Not using your gift is (putting in harshly) disobedience.

2.) God has put apostles, prophets, and teachers (along with others) in the body.

The "teachers" interest me. Who are these people, and what are they supposed to be teaching? Obviously, they are to be teaching the truths God has set out in His Word. How important are they? I'm not so sure that we can "rank" the importance of each gift in this fashion: you're more important than him because you're a teacher and he just has the gift of helps. No, Paul actually addresses this mindset in this chapter. But he does say, "first apostles, second prophets, third teachers," meaning that these offices are critical to the health of the body. It makes me wonder if we have men and women like this. Each local church needs men and women like this.

Life is Good

The other day I was walking down the drive from the shop back to my house. It was a beautiful day; the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I'm loving my new job. I've got great kids, a gorgeous wife, and work is busy. Life is good!