Full Of Grace

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Grace is a beautiful word. We use it today to speak of the beauty of motion. We might refer to the “grace” of a gymnast or a figure skater. The word used in the Bible speaks of the giving nature of God. Webster defines it as, “the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from Him.” In other words, grace is the character trait of God that causes Him to want to give what is best to men. This grace is immeasurable. Paul wrote to the Ephesians regarding the giving nature of God,

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. . . “ Ephesians 1:7

“. . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7

Notice, he spoke of the riches of grace, and of the exceeding riches of grace. Riches refer to having a great amount. The term exceeding, means too much, or an over abundance. We could say, God has too much grace. So much, He cannot help but pour it out on those who belong to Him.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

While His grace is more than we could ever completely fathom, it is also something we can measure and experience. It is measured at the cross. It was on the cross, ‘the exceeding riches of His grace” was poured out; Jesus used the simple phrase “He gave His only Son.” Because of the gift of Christ, the grace of God should never be questioned. Instead, it should be scrutinized. We should take our experiences, and measure them in light of the cross of Christ. While I will not even pretend to understand why each of us experiences the particular trial we are facing, I will take my trial and look at it through the eyes of grace, or the shadow of the cross. At the place where Jesus laid down the riches of His glory, in order to pave a way for me to come to God.

His grace is not only measured at the cross, but can also be experienced daily by the believer. Paul wrote, “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” This grace was something they were experiencing; because He became poor, they were becoming rich. Now, it is important we understand the language that Paul is using. He is not stating that following Jesus is the path to financial success or great earthly wealth. This is not a get rich quick scheme where, if you follow Jesus and are a faithful tither, you will end up the richest guy on the block. Paul is referring to the wealth of spiritual blessings that belong to the child of God. Earlier in the chapter, he spoke of the Macedonians who, though they were very poor, they were big givers and filled with great joy. As you daily walk with Jesus, you will experience the abundance of His grace flowing out to minister to you, regardless of the difficulty you are facing. If you are questioning His grace, go back to the cross and measure it. Reflect on how God gave His Son.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Job 33- Ransom
Job 34- Mr. Fix It

So Sad

2 Corinthians 7:10
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Unfortunately, sadness is a common feeling. We have experienced it in all its varying levels and intervals. We have had little things happen that caused us to frown and go quiet, and we have had deeper experiences that gripped us with sorrow and caused us to weep or even wail. Paul is speaking here, not of the sorrow that comes from your favorite team losing a game, or even losing someone you love, he is speaking of the sorrow that comes upon a person when they realize they have sinned against God. The Psalmist wrote of a time when he was overcome with that kind of sadness;

Psalms 6:6 “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.”

Often, when a person’s sin is exposed publicly or privately, they will show signs of great sorrow. It is not uncommon for people to come to the altar with tears streaming down their faces and confess they have fallen once again into an easily besetting sin. Like the Psalmist, they are certainly remorseful for what they have done, and are looking for a way of escape. Paul warns that although sin will often produce sorrow, not all sorrow will produce a change in behavior.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation…”

The true evidence that a person is remorseful for the sin they have committed, is not the tears that are produced, but the change of behavior that follows. Paul uses the word “repentance;” a word that carries the idea of turning, and involves a turning from sin to God. Too often, we are satisfied with tears, thinking that is enough to show that we are truly sorry for the wrong we have committed.

“What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!” 2 Corinthians 7:11

Paul is describing what godly sorrow will produce. “Clearing of yourself” refers to the removal of the guilt and shame, that comes with sin and failure. It is not the byproduct of a good cry, but of a change of actions, that will clean our conscience. He speaks of the need to apply diligence to your walk with the Lord. This is often seen in building walls that will keep you from going back into sin again. “Indignation” is a word that speaks of intense anger. The person who is sorrowful over sin, is a person who is angry at sin. It has been my experience, we avoid people at whom we are angry; the same will be true of sin. “Fear” is often looked at as a negative feeling, and certainly there are things we are afraid of that are irrational and silly; however, sin is not one of them. The person who wants to succeed in walking with Jesus, must have a healthy fear of sin and it’s effects upon our lives. As long as you think you are immune to sin’s tempting hooks, you will not avoid it, and you’ll find you continue to fall.

Finally, Paul speaks of “zeal” and “vindication”. True turning from sin will create in us a new intensity to follow Jesus. Sadly, I often see people come forward weeping over their sins, only to see them for the last time. Instead of determining they will press on in their walk with God, they go out the doors of the church, right back into the lifestyle that led to failure. If we want the vindication, the victory, the freedom to overcome our constant failures, we must determine to increase the intensity we pour into our relationship with Jesus.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Job 31- My Eyes
Job 32- Self-Righteous

Temple Of God

2 Corinthians 6:16
“For you are the temple of the living God.”

Although this verse is tucked away in a passage not well trodden, this portion of the text is fairly well-known. It is not uncommon to hear this verse quoted, even among those who have not chosen to surrender their lives to Christ. When donuts are on the table and we are about to indulge, we might hear someone say, “You know our bodies are the temple of the living God, we should not defile the temple.” While it is true, what we eat can have an effect upon how we feel, and thus distracts from what we are capable of accomplishing, that is not the primary message of this passage. Paul is talking about the danger of establishing relationships that will lead us astray. He wrote,

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Then he went on to quote from Isaiah,

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” Isaiah 52:11

The greatest pitfall for the children of Israel, was establishing relationships with those who did not follow the ways of God. Once those relationships were started, it was not long before the people of God were departing from the Word of God, and practicing the ways of the ungodly. While this is a danger in any type of relationship, it is especially deadly with romantic relationships. Too often, Christians who are single, will settle for someone who is not really committed to the Lord, rather than being lonely and alone.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

When it comes to relationships, this verse is especially critical. Instead of making a relationship our goal, and seeking to find someone, we should spend our energies seeking the Lord and trusting His promises to provide all that we need. I remember hearing Pastor Jon Courson sharing on the idea of trusting the Lord, when it comes to finding the right person. He used Adam and Eve as an example. When it came time for Adam to find his mate, the Lord had him go to sleep. There, as he rested, the Lord brought along the only person designed especially by God, just for him. Jon went on to say, “had Adam not rested, and ran around looking, he would have ended up with an ape.” Some are seeking a relationship, instead of seeking the Lord. Loneliness is pushing them to seek in places where they are only going to find the wrong person, and ultimately get hurt. Remember, you are the temple of the living God, and there are places where your feet should not take you, and relationships that should never start.

Paul is not suggesting Christians all huddle together and avoid contact with anyone who is not a follower of Jesus. In fact, Paul spent his life making relationships where he could share Christ with others. The difference is influence. We should establish relationships with those who don’t know Christ, and seek to win them to Christ (dating is not the way to do that.) At the same time, we should establish relationships with those who have committed themselves to Jesus, and seek to pattern our lives after them. Paul said, “follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Be careful!

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Job 29- Memories
Job 30- Why Do Bad Things Happen?

 

Rewards

2 Corinthians 5:10
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

A few years ago, I watched a very interesting story on the news. An armored vehicle, after leaving a local bank, had neglected to properly close the rear truck door. Upon making a turn, bags of money fell out of the truck and broke open on the street. People, seeing what had happened, went nuts, rushing into the street, picking up cash and shoving it into their pockets. In the midst of the chaos, a young boy grabbed a handful of coins and ran off. That night, he felt so guilty he could not sleep. The next day at school, the little boy dropped eighty-five cents on his teacher’s desk and told her about the event. She, wanting to encourage him for doing the right thing, contacted the bank to arrange for the return of the money. Since more than $200,000 was lost that day, and only eighty-five cents returned, the bank wanted to honor this young man and asked him to come to the bank to receive an award. When the mayor of the city heard of his deed, he also wanted to honor the child with a public gathering. Later, word reached the executives at Disney, who decided to honor the young man. They invited him, and his whole class, to Disney World; all expenses paid. What a remarkable picture of grace. One young man took what did not belong to him and gave it back to the rightful owners, and in return, was richly honored and showered with blessings.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Paul writes every believer will one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ. At this throne, we will not be judged for our sins; those were judged at the cross and forgiveness was appropriated to each of us when we received Christ. No, at this throne, sin is not the issue, nor is judgment the reward. Instead, our Christian life will be examined. We will be rewarded with treasures in heaven for what we did on earth. When we choose to offer our God-given gifts, talents, time and treasures back to Him, He will not only accomplish great things through us, but reward us for it later.

Earlier Paul had written to these same believers and asked, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Everything we have really belongs to God. Our natural talents are as much a representation of His grace, as our spiritual gifts. We need to take what does not belong to us and return it to its rightful owner.

Now would be a great time to examine your life. All of your time, talents and treasures are a gift from God. How are you using them for the Kingdom of Heaven? What are some ways you can get involved in serving Christ? Keep in mind, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we don’t want to appear empty-handed.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Job 27- Watch Your Mouth
Job 28- Mother Load

Wrap It Up

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

A few years ago we purchased a pool table for the kids as a Christmas gift. Because of the size of the table it was not practical to wrap, so we set it up in the middle of the living room, threw a table-cloth over it and set our breakfast on it. Our disguise worked. The kids went about the morning without even noticing there was a huge gift right under their noses.

Paul writes, God has given us the precious gift of eternal life. A gift received by recognizing we are sinners, and placing faith in Christ. A gift that results in having our sins forgiven, being made right with a Holy God, and having our lives transformed from the inside out. This precious gift, that is so easily received, is sitting right in front of everyone, yet many fail to see it. The reason they fail to see it is because the Gospel has been veiled to them by the devil.

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe…

The word veiled, also translated hidden or covered, comes from a word meaning to hide. Webster defines the word veiled as “disguised or obscured by a covering.” God, because of His love for us, sent His Son to make a way for our sins to be forgiven, and to give us eternal life. He placed this message in the hands of His followers, who continue to herald it around the world, in their homes, schools, and places of work or leisure. Even though the death and resurrection of Jesus were public events, the Bible is the greatest selling book of all time, Christians are in every corner of the world, and the Gospel is preached on the airways and internet, still, many fail to see their need for Christ. Paul explains it is because the god of this world (Satan) is blinding their eyes and obscuring the message of Christ.

Just as the ministry of the Christian is to declare the good news of salvation, the ministry of Satan is to obscure it. He desires to cover up the Gospel message, and make it look like something it is not. He has used many different coverings to hide the Gospel. Some have been blinded with pleasure. They think coming to Christ will mean missing out on the real “fun in life.” For others, he uses fear. They are afraid of what will happen to them if they release control of their lives, and put it into the hands of Christ. Still others are blinded with hurt. They have had difficult experiences in life, causing them to question if there really is a God who loves them.

When we look at our friends, loved ones, or our circle of influence, and see those who have yet to receive or surrender to Christ, we must understand it is because their minds have been blinded and the Gospel veiled. Rather than being discouraged or repelled, we ought to pray. Our prayers ought to be specifically for God to remove the blinders from their eyes, so the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ could shine on them.

As you seek to invite your friends to Christ, church, or an outreach event, pray that God would remove the veil, that they might see Christ as He really is, and invite Him to reign in their hearts and lives.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
05Job 25- How To
Job 26- The Edge

Being Transformed

2 Corinthians 3:18
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Have you ever looked around at the circumstances you are facing and wondered what God is doing in your life? Why it is that you are facing these particular trials, while someone else seems to be immune to them. The answer to that question is tucked away in this verse. Paul writes,

“We… Are being transformed into the SAME image…”

All who have trusted Christ for salvation, have been born again and are in the midst of a process that began at conversion, and will continue until we reach heaven. It is the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus. Paul instructed the Romans that God uses all things to reach that end (Romans 8:28). Every difficulty, every blessing, every person, every trial, is a tool in the hand of the Master to make us more like Jesus. Earlier Paul wrote,

“. . . who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant . . . ” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

One of the ways we are made effective ministers, is that we are being made more like Jesus. The longer we walk with Him, the more we should become like Him. If we are struggling to understand what God is doing with a particular trial, we must look into the pages of His Word, at the person of Jesus, and determine what is lacking in us. I am often frustrated by the way others treat me, but then I am reminded of the way Jesus was treated. I realize God desires for me to love those who don’t love me, to be merciful and gracious to those who are unkind or even hostile. The work of Jesus is being done in me.

Notice, Paul not only tells us what God is doing, but how He does it. He writes, we are being transformed, “by the Spirit of the Lord.” This work of becoming more like Jesus is a work of the Spirit. It is not something that can be accomplished apart from the work of God, or by sheer resolve of heart. It is a work done by allowing the Spirit of God to work within us. A number of years ago, I was sitting on the floor of a church listening to Pastor Chuck teach through John 15. As he explained what it meant to abide in Christ, he said, “God does not want to walk through the factory and see all the work you are doing, He wants to walk through the garden and enjoy the fruit.” I remember being particularly struck by that example, realizing that the secret to my growing in Christ, becoming like Christ, and bearing the fruit of Christ, was spending time with Christ.

It is God’s desire for each of us to become more like Jesus. The more like Him we become, the richer life becomes and the more effective we are in reaching others for the Kingdom. However, it is a work of the Spirit; we must allow the Spirit free reign to speak to us, lead us, and correct us through the Word of God. As we subject ourselves to the work of the Spirit, we will also find that the power of the Spirit is available to us. We will truly become “able ministers of the New Covenant.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Job 23- Where Are You?
Job 24- Still Thirsty?

Fragrance Of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:15-16
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

As a child I spent a great deal of time, perhaps a little too much, watching cartoons. I remember seeing, on more than one occasion, a scene where a character smelled the fragrance of a home-baked pie. The smell would lift him in the air and carry him to the window sill of the farmer’s house where the delicacy sat. Regardless of the danger posed by the farmer, he would attempt to steal the pie. While I am quite certain Paul did not see the same cartoon, he is reminding the Corinthians of the effect their lives can have of drawing others to Christ. He refers to our lives as being like a fragrant aroma that will lead other people to Jesus. Notice he refers to us as being two different aromas, to two different groups of people. If we follow his word order, he seems to be suggesting, to the Christian, the one who is being saved, we are the smell of death, while to the unsaved, we are the smell of life.

Jesus spoke of abundant life being a byproduct of a relationship with Him. He spoke of torrents of living water, and of bearing the fruit of the Spirit. All of this flows from the life of the Christian who is abiding in Christ. Not only providing the Christian with abundant life, but it is also designed to lure others to Jesus. The more time you spend growing in your relationship with Jesus, the greater effect you will have in leading others to Christ.

Paul also spoke of the fragrance of death. Death has at least two smells. One is the rotting smell of decay, a horrendous smell. The other is the fragrant smell that comes off the grill. In Old Testament times, the children of Israel were required to offer multiple sacrifices to the Lord. Part of the purpose, was to offer a sweet aroma to the Lord. The smell of burning flesh is a sweet aroma in heaven and a wonderful smell on earth. Have you ever been driving home, smelled someone grilling, and hoped that the smell was coming from your house?

Paul mentioned being led in triumph by the Lord. The idea is not only that of God leading him into victory, but Christ having victory over Paul. In ancient times, when a general was conquered, he would be laid at the feet of his conqueror, who would put his foot on his neck. We will have the greatest effect on others when Christ has conquered us. When we choose, like Paul, to lay our lives down and pick up Christ, a sweet aroma will fill the air and lead others to do the same. How often have you heard the testimony of another Christian, who speaks of putting aside sin and self, to live for Christ and others, and you were encouraged to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus? That is the fragrance of death leading to death.

Paul wrote that he dies daily, and always carries about in his body, the dying of Christ. He said he was crucified with Christ, and now lives for Christ. If we want to have an increased impact on others for the kingdom of heaven, it is time that we surrender all to Christ, and abide in Him.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Job 21- What’s In It For Me?
Job 22- Participate