Category Archives: Still A Mess

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #6: Don’t Make Me Come Back There!

When I was a young man, back when seat belts in a car was not a thing, my brother and I would be cutting up and horsing around while our dad was trying to drive. Naturally, this would not go on for long before we would get our first warning, “Will you guys settle down back there!” Of course, being young boys, we did not always heed the first warning and a more intense, second warning would soon follow accompanied by a piercing stare from the rear-view mirror, “Don’t make me come back there!” That usually did it for us, we listened and submitted to dad’s authority.

While the Apostle Paul lived some 2,000 years ago, his problem was the same as my dad’s. He often had to convince those he ministered to of his authority and records himself having a “don’t make me come back there” moment in 2 Corinthians chapter 13, This will be the third time I am coming to you. ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.’ I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare – since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you (2 Corinthians 13:1–3 NKJV). 

Although Paul’s words are slightly different than my dad’s, they seem to be written with the same intensity, “If I come again I will not spare.” Apparently, there were a minority of believers in the city of Corinth that were not taking Paul’s teaching on sin very seriously and continued in it. Evidently, Paul had told them previously that he would return and expose their sin to the rest of the church. He quotes Deuteronomy 19:15 which states the Old Testament practice of establishing a pattern for verifying the truth of an accusation, by using two or three witnesses. 

What Paul was saying to them was that he would not spare them the embarrassment of exposing them at the risk of their sin destroying them or the others. This same practice, more famously taken from Matthew 18:15-20, is used today by God-fearing church leaders to restore those caught up by sin and to stop the spread of sin into the lives of others.

Paul then gives the unrepentant sinners the evidence they were looking for by stating that his unwillingness to tolerate sin was actually proof that Christ was speaking through him, “Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me.”

All too often the disciplining of sin in the church today is overlooked for all the wrong reasons. You have probably heard some of them:

  • We are not to judge people.
  • Jesus loves everyone.
  • Christians are to forgive everyone.
  • People make mistakes.

Fortunately, Paul understood the price that Jesus paid for the remission of sin and was willing to take a stand against its spread in the church. By caring for the flock of God and by teaching them that their spiritual growth and God’s blessing will require the disciplining of sin, Paul was displaying his authority as God’s minister, as well as the power of God and His Word. 

Just as my dad’s statement, “Don’t make me come back there”  was a way to restore our relationship, church discipline is required to restore our relationship with God. 

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #5: Believe, Live, Love

Growing up, I would see people have an Ichthus (the fish symbol that often signifies Christianity) bumper sticker on their car. Having parents that were Christians, I naturally asked them why they did not have one on their car. I remember my parents responding by saying that they did not want to act in a certain manner while driving that would reflect poorly on Christ. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they did not want their actions to negatively affect someone’s view of Christ. Even though I somewhat understood that as a child, I understand this so much more now that I am an adult and drive every single day. 

In the book of 2 Corinthians, we meet Paul as he is writing to the church in Corinth. The book that we refer to as 2 Corinthians is most likely the fourth letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. In this letter, he comes to them very sternly, proving and reminding them of his apostleship from God, using his apostleship as the basis for his stern words toward them. In chapter 13, the final chapter of 2 Corinthians, verse 5, he concludes by challenging every hearer in Corinth, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” He continues by saying, “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

In a similar manner to how a bumper sticker reflects upon the person in the car, as a follower of Christ, the way that we live has a direct correlation to how those around us view Christ. To properly represent Christ, we must take the time to examine ourselves as Paul challenged the Corinthians. Today, I want to challenge you to examine your life in three areas that John addresses in the book of 1 John:

  1. Your Doctrine: Do you believe the truth about Jesus Christ? What do you believe about Jesus Christ? (Read 1 John 2:22-23)
  2. Your Actions: Are you living according to Christ’s commands? (Read 1 John 2:3-6)
  3. Your Love: How are you doing at loving God and those in His family? (Read 1 John 4:7-10)

It is not about being perfect, but when we do fall short, the Christian life is about confessing our sins and continually accepting what Christ has done for us in living the perfect life that we could not, dying the death that we deserve, rising from the dead, and ascending to the Father. Today, you have the power to point others to Christ in what you believe, how you live, and how you love. Choose today to live in the power that Christ has given you as a follower of His!

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #4: Live in Peace

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

As I am writing this, there have been nightly demonstrations and protests all over the world due to racism and brutality.

As we know, all of the people in this world are not believers in Jesus Christ.

This Scripture is a sad example that even the true believers that Paul is talking to here in this passage, struggle to agree with one another, and live in peace. If we did, God’s eternal love and peace would be with us always.

The world is made up of both non-believers and true believers. As true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are expected to live in peace with one another.

As Paul writes in his closing of his second letter to the Corinthians, he is giving a final blessing to us all. He is directing us and laying the groundwork for earthly peace with all those around us.

Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” 

Romans 12:17-18 adds, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” 

Scripture tells us to live in peace with one another. Even though, as we see in the news today, people who are trying to make a point peacefully and to have their opinion heard, there will always be those who in the midst of this will continually stir up the mess and cause trouble just because they can. I believe the true way to live in peace is to love one another as instructed and strive to live a Christ-like life. Living out the examples Jesus showed us in His life is a must.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 

In conflict, we should remember to find common ground, find something we both can agree upon, and look to Jesus’ teaching. We have to learn to love one another. Hopefully, this will solve whatever our issues are.

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #3: Am I Saved?

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

Am I saved? This is the foundational question of the Christian faith. Our Heavenly Father has graciously made the Gospel message simple enough for a child to understand and believe: We are all sinners (Romans 3:10-18; Psalm 51:3-5) and have failed to meet the standard set by the infinitely holy and perfect God of the universe (Isaiah 43:11-13). Because of our rebellious sinful condition, we face God’s judgment and infinite punishment for that sin. However, God made a way through His Son to be a substitute for helpless sinners. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on a cross (Psalm 47:15; Romans 3:26) taking the Father’s wrath, our punishment, on Himself (Isaiah 53:4-6). Christ rose from the dead after three days as prophesied and later ascended to Heaven (Luke 18:32-33, Psalm 16:10-11) making a way for those who would believe to have eternal life (John 3:16; 17:2). Amen! This is good news! 

So, how do we test ourselves? How can we know that we are “in the faith” as the text says? The evidence of saving faith is not a one-time event but a transformed life. 

A repeat-after-me prayer, an aisle walked, or a membership card signed may bring a temporary feeling of belonging and security but is there evidence of a changed life and the Holy Spirit’s leading (Galatians 5:22-24; Romans 8:9)?

Each week we may check off a list of spiritual things, maybe even biblical things, with the hope that it will make God approve of us, but to what end? Works cannot save. God does not need anything from us (Psalm 50:7-15; Acts 17:24-25). Instead of the mirage of self-reliance, we need to recognize our total dependence on Him. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things (Job 12:10; John 1:2-3; Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 136) and we need to live a life of humble thankfulness glorifying and relying on Him completely. There is no list of spiritual achievements or self-promotion that will impress or gain favor with God. There were no men more religious than the Pharisees but it was the tax collector who recognized God’s holiness, repented of his sin, and went home justified (Luke 18:10-14; Habakkuk 3:2; Romans 4:5).

Do we submit to Christ as King not only of our Sunday morning but as King and Lord of our daily lives (Colossians 1:16)? When life is hard and the world seems to be falling apart, do we pause and remember that nothing happens in the universe except by God’s direct action or explicit permission (Job 1:12; Matthew 10:29-30)? Panic and worry will be exchanged for rest in the knowledge that God causes all things, good and bad, to happen for His glory and the ultimate benefit of His children (Romans 8:28; Psalm 24:1).

Abraham was counted righteous when he believed God’s promise that He would miraculously give him innumerable descendants despite his own inability. His faith was proven when he was willing, knife raised, to kill Isaac, the heir of promise, knowing that God was able to even raise him from the dead if necessary to fulfill that promise (Genesis 15:5-6; Romans 4:3).

Do we believe what God has said, and if so, are we living like it(James 2:14-26)? Are we trusting that He is able to keep us from losing faith, and at the end of our life, bring us home into eternal joy in the glory of His presence (Jude 1:24-25; Romans 8:30)?

The faith we are told to rest in, live by, and be in, is not faith in anything we have ever done or will ever do. It is evidence-based, Spirit-sustained, and works-producing faith founded on knowing God, believing what He says, and then putting it into action. We need to repent of our sinful self-reliance, humbly fall at our Creator’s feet, and beg for mercy. We need to rely on God completely in everything. Our life should be a reflection of reality; that it is God who created all, sustains all, and will carry all things through to completion. When our last hours come we need to be able to die confidently, knowing that it is far better to depart and be with Christ than to live a hundred or a thousand more years in this sinful body (1 John 2:15-17; Philippians 1:23).

He has always been faithful (Psalm 34:8; 119:90). He has always done what He said He would do (Isaiah 46:9-13), and He always will. 

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #2: Rejoice

Paul has just written his letter about the comfort of God, proclaiming Christ alone, the judgment seat of Christ, being a new creation, being a cheerful giver, and dealing with a thorn in the flesh. As he closes the letter out, he has an important reminder. In 2 Corinthians 13:11, he says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” It is so quick, many miss it. He says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice.”It is a complete sentence. He has dealt with a variety of topics but comes back to rejoicing. 

Author J. I. Packer has written, “Even when we cannot see the why and wherefore of God’s dealings, we know that there is love in and behind them, and so we can rejoice always.” We who know and trust God have every reason to rejoice. 

In his two letters to the Corinthians, Paul uses the word “rejoice” eleven times. It is an important attribute and concept to him and for believers. We need more of it. He also uses the word “rejoice” some eighteen times in his other letters. The man suffered often, yet focused on rejoicing.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Philippians 3:1

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13

I am not sure if you have heard of John Calvin from the 1500s. He was a theologian who wrote a classic entitled “Institutes” and is attributed to the doctrine known as Calvinism. He was very intelligent and analytical; therefore, perceived as dry, emotionless, impersonal, and cold. No matter how he may have appeared outwardly, I thoroughly appreciate his statement, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

Pause and smell the roses. Look at the details of nature. See how intricate a blade of grass stands (Yes, watch grass grow). Notice the leaves with their different shapes, sizes, designs, and colors. I love the vibrant colors of flowers as some need full sun while others handle the shade. All of nature speaks of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). The beauty of nature causes many responses and one of them is to rejoice!

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