Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learning to not be Tools of Satan

2Co 2:5  Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure--not to put it too severely--to all of you. 2Co 2:6  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 2Co 2:7  so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2Co 2:8  So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 2Co 2:9  For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 2Co 2:10  Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 2Co 2:11  so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Paul teaches us some needful things about having a forgiving spirit in this section of 2 Corinthians.  Let me mention a few of them.  He is encouraging the church to accept back someone who has sinned and probably has led the charge against Paul in some way.  Paul has forgiven him since this man has had a sorrow that has led to repentance and he is encouraging the rest to also forgive the man.  Evidently some have decided he needs some further punishment.  Like we all tend to do, they would like to hold it over his head for a while longer and use it to lord it over him in some way.  This, after all, is a great way to look more spiritual than the one who has been caught in a sin.  Never mind that the only difference many times is that they have been caught whereas we have not.  We never want to miss the opportunity to look more spiritual than someone else.  Please read that as being facetious. 

The main point he focuses on is that when it comes to our relationships with others, whether in the church or any other place, our first consideration must always be the Lord and how our actions affect his name and work.  We see this in vss. 9-10 where he sees whether they will forgive one who has confessed his sin or not as a test to see whether they will be obedient in all things and in vs. 10 where he reminds them that all this is being done in the presence of the Lord.  It is imperative that we not be guided by our emotions and pride in how we act toward others but instead what would bring honor to the Lord.

Joseph and is an example to us.  Can any of us image being sold into slavery by our own family members?  What was his motivation to forgive?  If he wasn’t a believer chances are his brothers would have been justified in their fear of being executed.  I believe Joseph knew the Lord and understood what no doubt he had been taught by his father about the Messiah coming through the twelve sons and he also knew from his dreams that they were going to serve him someday.  He forgave because he knew that there was a bigger picture to think about that was far more important than even the horrible injustice done to him and to be honest I doubt we think anything is worse than our feelings many times.  Probably, if we thought about it for a moment, we would have to admit that our words and attitude each day have more to do with how we are feeling than how much we are rejoicing in Christ at any given moment.

Joseph is a type of Christ and we learn that Jesus suffered unjustly for the joy that was set before him.  Part of our Christian duty that we do because we love our Savior is to cause ourselves to think biblically even in moments of anger and injustice to ourselves.  Gen 50:20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  This is a look into Joseph’s thought process and should be our goal as well.  What we are not given liberty to do is to think and act out solely on emotions. 

So Christian forgiveness is a great way to show the love of God in our lives.  And one way we do this is formal, real closure.  We forgive as we have been forgiven by not holding it over someone’s head.  John tells us that displaying such love proves our faith in front of this world, Joh 13:34  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Joh 13:35  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."   Jesus said that love is the greatest commandment; therefore to not show love for each other in forgiving one another and putting forth a real effort to have a good relationship with each other must be considered one of the worst of sins.

Forgiveness proves our love because if we love him we will keep his commandments.  Are we willing to do the hard things?  Are we willing to swallow our pride and prove that we love Christ supremely?  Verse 9 reminds us that none of this is optional.  The Corinthians were to prove their love by disciplining and by forgiving and restoring.  Discipline alone might just be a display of our self-righteousness but if we forgive we show that we had the right motives.  If we are sitting there justifying why we won’t repent or forgive then that is sin; we can’t pick and choose when to be obedient. 

Finally, Paul backs up his words with actions that show his motivation in 10-11.  He knows that Christ is watching.  And then he gives one final reason why we must take these things so seriously, because this is one way that Satan can disrupt the Lord’s work.  Notice, this is done not so much by introducing sin in the church in this case but by the unforgiving attitude of those that “didn’t sin”!  When we are controlled by pride and emotions we have been outwitted and have become a tool of Satan.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Power of the Resurrection

Php 3:10  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

2Co 13:3  since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 2Co 13:4  For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Since tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday let me remind us why this day is so important in the life of a Christian.  There are three main results of the resurrection spoken of in the Bible.  For many, one of the results is all but forgotten and ignored and even denied by some. 

Obviously the first one is that Jesus was raised for our justification.  His deliverance from death meant that the Father accepted his sacrifice as a suitable atonement for sin and thus he will save all who come to Christ by faith.  For this reason alone the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest news mankind has ever heard and for this reason we “celebrate” Christ’s resurrection every Sunday and proclaim this good news to all who will hear.

Later on in Phil. 3 Paul mentions another result of the resurrection, Php 3:21  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  He has already said that he wants to know or experience the power of the resurrection and as he taught in detail in 1 Cor. 15, Christ’s resurrection is proof that God will and can resurrect our bodies at the end of the age and we will live in glorious, sinless bliss forever with him in glory.

But the third result of the resurrection that he mentioned in vs. 10 is that one that we don’t want to miss either.  Over and over again the NT teaches us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead works in us now to live in newness of life.  The above verse from 2 Cor. is a good example of this.  Let me cite two others, 2Co 4:10  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
2Co 4:11  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  Gal 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me

As I mentioned, the above verse in 2 Cor. 13:3 connects the power that we are to live by with the power of the resurrection of Christ.  Perhaps Col. 2 says it as plainly as anywhere, Col 2:12  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Col 2:13  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.  This is said in the context of the Colossians being exhorted to walk in a godly fashion, Col 2:6  Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, Col 2:7  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

The fact of the matter is that each and every one who is truly saved by God has been transformed by being given a new heart and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to live for Christ, not as they did before they were saved.  The classic Arminian says that salvation is simply a matter of us choosing to believe that Jesus died for our sins as if believing in some fact is all God cares about.  But the truth of the matter is that God does the converting and when he does, it comes with the very power that raised Jesus from the dead; we are no longer the same. 

This power is seen to varying degrees in all of us, and as John says and what we will be has not yet appeared  but he also says the each one of us purifies himself with this truth.  

So the power of the resurrection is a justifying power, and it is a glorifying power and praise God it doesn’t leave us where God found us but it is also a transforming power that has already begun its work.