Who Wouldn’t Want Delivery?

(Please read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I have used the NIV to prepare these remarks.)

God delivers us from death to Himself.

An actual Twitter exchange between an angry customer and Domino’s Pizza:

Customer: Yoooo I ordered a Pizza & Came with no Toppings on it or anything, It’s Just Bread

Domino’s: We’re sorry to hear about this!

Customer (minutes later): Never mind, I opened the pizza upside down :/

A company, feeling it was time for a shake-up, hired a new CEO with a reputation for ridding his companies of all slackers. On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. He saw a chance to show everyone he means business! The CEO walked up the guy and asked “How much money do you make a week?”

Undaunted, the young fellow looks at him and replies, “I make $ 200.00 a week. Why?” The CEO then handed him $200 in cash and screamed “Here’s a week’s pay, now GET OUT and don’t come back!” Feeling pretty good about his first firing, the CEO looks around the room and asked “Anyone know what that slacker did here?”

With a wry grin, one of the other workers muttered “Pizza delivery guy”.
source: http://www.jokes4us.com/miscellaneousjokes/foodjokes/pizzajokes.html

It is believed that Paul actually wrote four letters to the church in Corinth, but only two of them were preserved and made part of our New Testament.  One of the reasons Paul kept writing to them was to defend his ministry from critics.  The false teachers in the church kept trying to elevate themselves by tearing Paul down.

In our section this morning, Paul is attempting to defend the authority of his ministry in an unusual way.  He effectively wrote, “No one has suffered more for the cause of Christ than I have.  What I know about Jesus and what I have taught you I learned at the ‘school of hard knocks’.”

To his credit, Paul never turned to his sufferings as reasons to complain or any other kind of sin.  Instead, he always turned them to good, brought glory to God, and directed people’s attention to Jesus as the One who delivers us from our troubles.

  1. We are delivered again and again (8-11).

This is obviously a personal section of this letter.  Paul did not want the church to be unaware of the difficulties encountered while ministering on their behalf.  It is unusual for Paul to begin a letter this way.  Usually he emphasized the concerns of the church and not his own struggles.

His TROUBLES were personal.  This is obvious in the repeated use of “WE.”  Our TROUBLES aren’t to be only troubling; they serve the divine purpose of drawing us closer to God.  Imagine how more depressing TROUBLES become when we lack faith.

His TROUBLES were profound.  People of faith don’t pretend to be chipper or strong when they face troubles; they don’t make light of them to impress others.  People of faith are just as deeply affected by grief as anyone else; we have God as a greater resource in overcoming pain.

Paul’s choices of words in vs. 8+9 convey a deep emotional impact from his difficult circumstances.

UNDER GREAT PRESSURE (8) may refer to a persecution Paul suffered in Ephesus (ACS 19:23-41).

DESPAIRED OF LIFE ITSELF (8) indicates a deep sense of grief.

SENTENCE OF DEATH (9) means Paul felt that even God was against him.  Later in life, Paul would receive an actual death sentence and died a martyr’s death.

The point was not to arouse sympathy or to boast, but to do two other things.  Primarily, to glorify God as the Deliverer:

THIS HAPPENED THAT WE MIGHT NOT RELY ON OURSELVES BUT ON GOD, WHO RAISES FROM THE DEAD.

HE HAS DELIVERED US AND HE WILL DELIVER US AGAIN.

WE HAVE SET OUR HOPE THAT HE WILL CONTINUE TO DELIVER US.

Secondarily, to thank the churches for their prayer support.  We tend to reflect on the personal effects of our sufferings.  Paul showed a broader vision by looking at how the church supported him in his TROUBLES by means of prayer.

AS YOU HELP US BY YOUR PRAYERS.

MANY WILL GIVE THANKS ON OUR BEHALF FOR THE GRACIOUS FAVOR GRANTED US IN ANSWER TO THE PRAYERS OF MANY.  The result of God’s deliverance should always result in prayers of thanksgiving.

The greater the sufferings we face, the more we feel loved and the closer we draw to God and one another as we overcome them.  This fact should encourage us, especially in moments of greatest sorrow.

  1. We are delivered to be comforters (3-7).

Giving comfort is what God is all about.

THE FATHER OF COMPASSION (3). (“Merciful Father.”)

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT (3). (“Encouragement” and “consolation.”)

WHO COMFORTS US IN ALL OUR TROUBLES (4).  The Greek word for “comfort” here is the same one used in John 14 as a name for the Holy Spirit – the source of our comfort.  It means “one who stands alongside to help.”

JUST AS WE SHARE…IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, SO ALSO OUR COMFORT ABOUNDS THROUGH CHRIST (5).  (See also Philippians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 4:10; Colossians 1:24.)  THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST does not refer to the passion of Jesus, but to the things His followers suffer that are similar, and to His identification with us.  As Jesus is the source of our COMFORT, it makes sense that we, by faith, identify our sufferings with Him as well.

Giving and receiving comfort is what God’s people are all about.  Paul saw His suffering as contributing positively to spiritual maturing of the Corinthian believers.

We are also familiar with human nature and repeatedly observe that the most naturally sympathetic counselors are people who have suffered the same things.  Paul affirms both the spiritual and emotional benefits of suffering in five expressions found in vs. 4-7:

SO THAT WE CAN COMFORT THOSE IN ANY TROUBLE WITH THE COMFORT WE OURSELVES RECEIVE FROM GOD (4).

IF WE ARE DISTRESSED, IT IS FOR YOUR COMFORT AND SALVATION (6).

IF WE ARE COMFORTED, IT IS FOR YOUR COMFORT (6).

YOUR COMFORT…PRODUCES IN YOU PATIENT ENDURANCE OF THE SAME SUFFERINGS WE SUFFER (6).

OUR HOPE IN YOU IS FIRM BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT JUST AS YOU SHARE IN OUR SUFFERINGS, SO ALSO YOU SHARE IN OUR COMFORT (7).

The question raised as the title of this message seems easy enough to answer: When you’re sick with real problems or worries, when you’re hedged about with difficulties, when you’re down and grieving, why wouldn’t you want to be delivered from those things?  I’ve been ill for a couple weeks now and have prayed repeatedly for deliverance.  Did I want to be delivered from the flu?  You betcha!

But it is human nature to complicate things, so even deliverance is not as obvious as it first seems.  Do people who hold a grudge pray to be delivered from their anger?

Do drama queens pray to be delivered from conflicts?

Do people who feel empowered by their status as a victim pray to be delivered from that circumstance?

Do people who oppose change pray to be delivered to something new?

Let’s be honest.  The person who stands most securely in the way of deliverance is the person in the mirror.  Sympathy is often a good thing, but good intentions can also impede growth if it merely maintains our affections that oppose God’s will.

God has promised to either deliver us or use our trials to change us more into the image of His son.  People of faith do not waste perfectly good suffering.  They struggle, not only with the trial, but with everything inside them that impedes the work of God on their heart.

NEW and IMPROVED!

(Please read 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2.  Quotations below are from the New International Version.)

        Tribal wisdom of the Lakota people, passed from generations immemorial, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Our modern bureaucrats, however, have a set of more advanced strategies such as:

  • Buy a stronger whip.
  • Find lighter riders.
  • Harness several dead horses together to improve performance.
  • Arrange an overseas visit to study dead horses.
  • Reclassify the horse as “living impaired.”
  • Rewrite the performance requirements for dead horses.
  • Provide additional funding to improve the performance of dead horses.
  • Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.

        Any similarity between the above and what happens in government is intentional. It is intended to serve as a great example of why there’s no use trying to fix up the Old Creation. Let it stay dead. Trying to keep the old creation is the source of a lot of frustration and disappointment in our Christian life.

THESIS = A new life in Christ includes a new attitude toward God, others, and self.

CONTEXT = 2 Corinthians is the Apostle Paul’s defense of his ministry.  One set of his critics blasted him for not being Jewish enough.  Part of his response to them was to show that the Good News he preached offered a new and improved means of relationship with God.

You are new and improved (16+17).

        Verse 17is key to what we are discussing and central to our identity:  we are new creations! Our new standing with God is possible because of Jesus Christ; that’s why Paul wrote, IN CHRIST. 

        It is a way of describing our new relationship with God.  According to Romans 5, our old relationship with God needed improving.  Verse eight reads;

BUT GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS OWN LOVE FOR US IN THIS: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US.  Verse ten makes it worse;

FOR IF, WHEN WE WERE GOD’S ENEMIES, WE WERE RECONCILED TO HIM THROUGH THE DEATH OF HIS SON, HOW MUCH MORE, HAVING BEEN RECONCILED, SHALL WE BE SAVED THROUGH HIS LIFE. Paul elaborates; THE OLD IS GONE, THE NEW HAS COME!

        Thank God!  Being a NEW CREATION means we cease being sinners and enemies of God.  Another thing to note about this term is that the scope of our new life includes all aspects of our personhood. Jesus similarly taught Nicodemus: “NO ONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNLESS HE IS BORN AGAIN” (JHN 3:3). This is a “total makeover!” Accordingly, we must think and act in NEW CREATION modes.

        Now we backtrack to verse sixteen to find the application of verse seventeen (and verses eleven through fifteen): our new attitude toward one another (i.e., toward Christ).

        One aspect of being new creations is that we reject a WORLDLY POINT OF VIEW. FROM NOW ON we look at people from God’s point of view.  When we do we see…

  • Victims of the Enemy, not the enemy.
  • People in need.
  • Brothers & sisters; in fact or in potential.

Where worldly eyes see barriers, godly eyes see bridges God has built.

        Paul offers Jesus as an example.  He and others once viewed Jesus from a worldly point of view and saw only a Galilean troublemaker.  Later, with acute vision bestowed by faith, Paul saw Him truthfully, as the Great Reconciler.

 

God did this for you (18-21).

        The old creation did not come about by human will, nor has the NEW CREATION.  Instead, as verse eighteen asserts, ALL THIS IS FROM GOD.

That fact rules out our intellect, willpower, & imagination: we don’t make it up.

        God did it by reconciling US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST (18).  “Reconciling” means restoring our relationship with God which had been

broken by our sin.

        THROUGH CHRIST means that Jesus is the universal solution to the universal problem of sin.  But God doesn’t force His solution on anyone; only those who receive it willingly will be restored.

         Verses 19-21 reveal that God reconciled us in three steps.

    • 19 = GOD WAS RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF IN CHRIST. God joined us & identified with us in the human life of Jesus Christ.  His blood paid our penalty.
    • 21 = GOD MADE HIM WHO HAD NO SIN TO BE SIN FOR US… Jesus suffered our guilt and shame. Because He was innocent He was the perfect sacrifice for sin.
  • Imputation is found in v. 19 NOT COUNTING MEN’S SINS AGAINST THEM. The solution is to impute (assign) righteous status to all who accept Him
  • Delegation .
    • 19 = AND HE HAS COMMITTED TO US THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION. God has delegated to us the responsibility of making Him known to people we encounter.
    • 20 = WE ARE THEREFORE CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS… We represent our homeland & act w/t authority of our Leader.

 

Get busy and receive His grace today (1-2).

        Paul was concerned that the church live according to this message of reconciliation. He demonstrated his concern by using emphatic language: AS GOD’S FELLOW WORKERS WE URGE YOU.  His expression, FELLOW WORKERS, shows Paul’s identification with the church in Corinth and reminds us today that we are responsible with and for one another. Use of the first person pronoun (WE) connects God & Paul.  (See 1 Corinthians 3:9 where Paul describes himself as “God’s fellow-worker.”) So in a sense, Paul is also pulling rank, telling them to get in line!

        Chapter six, verse one presents some difficulty to the interpreter.  The call to RECEIVE GOD’S GRACE is not the hard part.  In fact, RECONCILIATION is the subject of the passage.

        The challenging bit is when he urges them not to receive GOD’S GRACE IN VAIN.  How is that possible? Apart from the egotistical use of the word, VAIN means fruitless, ineffective, unsuccessful, or frustrated. How could that happen?

Paul urged them to avoid a superficial commitment to Christ.  A sign of inauthentic discipleship: a lack of godly fruit. He quoted Scripture (Isaiah 49:8) to reinforce his point, emphasizing it is God’s will to act, decide, choose Him.

Borrowing TIME and DAY OF SALVATION from the Isaiah quote, Paul urged a timely, even immediate response = NOW IS THE TIME OF GOD’S FAVOR, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.

        If that alone doesn’t motivate you, consider a couple other things. One, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is imminent.  Until He comes again, we’re in a season of grace, where reconciliation can happen.  After He appears, there’ll be no more opportunity.

        Second, our own death is also immanent.  As today could be our last, we must bear fruit. Thus, in addition to the command of God, we have two additional excellent reasons to act NOW, not wait.  Whether we’re talking about accepting Christ as Savior or obeying Him as Lord, now is the moment; the door of opportunity has been swung open.

 

        God made us new creations so that we will choose to be agents of change.  We are entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation, helping the world to turn back to God. 

        I came across a negative example of reconciliation in Today in the Word, July 5, 1993.

        “One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. ‘You must,’ Hicks said to Lonsdale. ‘It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year.’

        “So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. ‘I wish you a happy New Year,’ he said, ‘but only one’.”

        That’s not going to get it done, will it?

        God gives us an entirely new life to live in Christ.  We are made new creations to serve as ambassadors from the Kingdom of God to this poor, sin-sick world.  We have a lot of work to be done in an uncertain but ever-shrinking amount of time.  Let’s get started!

Faces Around the Cross – Yours

Please read Galatians 2:17-21.

          In a sermon by Don Aycock he begins: “Menelik II was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 until 1913. News of a successful new means of dispatching criminals reached him. The news was about a device known as an electric chair. The emperor eagerly ordered one for his country. Unfortunately, no one bothered to warn him that it never would work because at that time, Ethiopia had no electricity. Menelik was determined that his new purchase should not go to waste. He converted the electric chair into a throne.

          “There was another occasion when an instrument of death became a throne. On a Palestinian hillside about 20 centuries ago, a cross became a throne for one named Jesus of Nazareth. To this day, that ancient instrument of torture and death is converted into a powerful symbol of life, hope and resurrection. Millions of people around the world see the cross as God’s way of indicating His refusal to let death and destruction have the final word.”

(Retrieved from http://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/11710755/ on 4/17/14.)

          A young man approached an older Christian with this question: “What does it mean as far as this life is concerned to be ‘crucified with Christ’?” The believer replied, “It means three things: (1) a man on a cross is facing in only one direction; (2) he is not going back; and (3) he has no further plans of his own.”

          Commenting on this, T. S. Rendall wrote, “Too many Christians are trying to face in two directions at the same time. They are divided in heart. They want Heaven, but they also love the world. They are like Lot’s wife: running one way, but facing another. Remember, a crucified man is not coming back. The cross spell finis for him; he is not going to return to his old life. Also, a crucified man has no plans of this own. He is through with the vainglory of this life. Its chains are broken and its charms are gone.”

In the light of these truths, would you say you are acting like a “crucified” Christian? – H.G.B.

Our Daily Bread, Saturday, November 28

(Retrieved from https://bible.org/illustration/galatians-220 on 4/17/14.)

          Grace is dispensed without the Law – by personal participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            Throughout Lent we have taken a look around the actual, historical cross of Jesus Christ.  We have noted the faces of the people who were there.  We have learned what we could from their examples, both good and bad, to become, ourselves, more like Jesus.

            But now, in the final installment, we are going to look around the cross one last time, but with spiritual eyes, not historical ones.

          Paul is trying to show the church in Galatia that a return to Jewish-style legalism was a bad idea, because the Law never justified anybody.  The Law God gave Moses was designed, from the beginning to point out our sin so we would repent and seek God’s gracious forgiveness.

 

Be crucified with Christ = be dead to your sin nature.

          Paul is obviously writing about the cross in a spiritual sense because none of us were crucified on Golgotha that day.  Yet he wrote, I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST.  (The verb CRUCIFIED is in the perfect tense, which means that it is a past event that continues to have effects in the present and future.  It literally means “co-crucified.” Matthew & Mark use it to refer to the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus.  Therefore our face is at the cross.)

          We don’t know where he was on the day Jesus died, but we do know where Paul WASN’T – he wasn’t nailed to the same cross on which Jesus died. So when he wrote, I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST,” he’s writing about a two-fold experience.

          One, it was a spiritual experience.  It was not his earthly life that he lost on Good Friday, for Paul died a martyr’s death by beheading several years later.

          Two, it was a personal experience. “I” is a key word in this phrase.  Paul owned his faith fully and personally.  It was not off in a compartment of his life marked “Sunday mornings;” it was something he lived every day.  Philippians 3:10-11 = I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION AHD THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH, AND SO, SOMEHOW, TO ATTAIN TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.

          Spiritual death means disposing of our sin nature.  Human beings are born with a three-fold nature.

          Our Sin Nature is an appetite for disobedience, a fascination with evil, and a tendency to violence (verbal, emotional, physical).  The Sin Nature is morally evil. The part of us that was CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST is our Sin Nature.

          Our Human Nature overlaps the other two and is often mistaken for them.  Human Nature is our tendency to be selfish; the set of behaviors that are based on survival and self-care instincts.  It will be part of us as long as we dwell in this body, but our Human Nature is not intrinsically moral; it can lead to good or evil.  Human Nature is not our problem; misusing it to sin is our problem.  Jesus is the solution.

          Our Spiritual Nature is the inner, non-physical part of us.  This is the part of us that communes with the Holy Spirit in us.  Our Spiritual Nature is the accumulation of our moral decisions and our spiritual actions; the more evil we do or think, the more our Spiritual Nature becomes characterized as evil.  The more we do or think in alignment with God’s character, the more our Spiritual Nature becomes characterized as good.  Think of it as a ratio of good to evil.

          Paul describes the effect of the death of his sin nature; I NO LONGER LIVE.  He did not die spiritually; his Spiritual Nature lived on.  In fact, Paul had a very full life in the Holy Spirit and was greatly used by God to help found the early Church and write most of the New Testament.

          He did not die physically on that day; as we have already observed, his Human Nature continued on.  This explains why people continue to be tempted to sin even after they have been saved.  Human Nature is mistaken for the Sin Nature.  Sinful things continue to have a perverse appeal.  That is not a sign of failure or defeat; no one should be discouraged about that; it’s a sign of being human and nothing more.  The devil distracts and defeats too many perfectly good Christians with false guilt based on this very misconception.

          Paul means for us to know that his Sin Nature died at 3:00 pm on that day when Jesus bowed His head.  He is no longer a slave to it.  The Sin Nature has no influence because it is gone.

         This isn’t just a theological truth to which we must shake our heads in agreement; this is a fundamental change in the way we view the world and from that, a change in the way we live on a daily basis.  Very simply, we change from a “Me and Now” viewpoint to a “God and Eternity” viewpoint.  We get completely away from doing evil or even liking evil. We get away from selfishness and worldly things.  God becomes our first priority, love our primary reaction, and we put others ahead of ourselves.  Just remember – “Me and Now” comes way after “God and Eternity.”  We need to see each day as a divine opportunity to bring Jesus into our world, which has beneficial effects that last through eternity.

 

Be raised with Christ = live in your Spiritual Nature with Christ.

          Life truly begins when we are born again and we can say with Paul, CHRIST LIVES IN ME. The reality of Jesus living in us is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. This is real life – it is our best hope for joy in this world and our only hope for life when our Human Nature ceases to be.

          Paul described the difference this fundamental choice makes when he wrote, THE LIFE I LIVE IN THE BODY, I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.  Let’s break that down:

          IN THE BODY refers to our Human Nature, our life in this world.  This life does not cease when we receive Christ as Savior, but it receives a different purpose.  It conforms to new priorities.

          I LIVE BY FAITH is the characteristic pattern of our new life.  FAITH is oriented toward the Spiritual Nature.  FAITH relies less on the Human Nature, so it is NOT a matter of “willpower,” or “gut feelings,” or having a big brain.  It is all about God, not self. Paul makes plain the specific focus of FAITH, THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.  Jesus and what He has done for us becomes the focus of our faith. Part of living by faith is not being bound to legalistic religious rules.  Colossians 2:20 = SINCE YOU DIED WITH CHRIST TO THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THIS WORLD, WHY, AS THOUGH YOU STILL BELONGED TO IT, DO YOU SUBMIT TO ITS RULES…?

          IN THE SON OF GOD means Jesus is the focus and objective of our faith. 

          WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME shows that you are the focus and objective of Jesus’ faith. His act of sacrifice on the cross is what defines our life and is the example we follow as we live out our faith. The cross and the love of God are so linked in Paul’s theology that you can hardly find a reference to one without the other in all of his writings.

 

          Someone observed a sign in a Pennsylvania cemetery that read, “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”  Now there’s a resurrection-minded bunch!

          Walking home from Easter Sunday at church, a woman saw a man sitting on his front porch in a rocking chair.  He was bent over, his skin sallow and leathery, his eyes beady behind thick glasses.  But there was a great big smile on his face as he rocked.  She walked up to him and said, “I couldn’t help noticing how happy you look.  What is your secret to a long, happy life?”

          He considered this for a moment and then replied, “Well, I smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, drink seven six-packs of beer a week, eat all the greasy foods I can get, and never exercise”

          The woman was stunned.  “Amazing!” she said.  “How old are you?”

          “Twenty-seven,” he replied.

          The mortality rate in the US is 100%.  Everyone is going to die – some day.

          The question is not “when,” but “how.”  “How” as in “How will you live until you die and most importantly; “How will you live after you die?”  As morbid as this may sound, it is at the heart of what we’ve learned today.  Our Sin Nature must die so that our Human Nature can be made subject to our Spiritual Nature.  As Jesus died so that we might live, so must we put to death the parts of our character and personality so that we might live.  It is something we cooperate with God to accomplish.

          Rob Frazier, a contemporary Christian artist, wrote a song titled, “He Doesn’t Want You Better, He Wants You Deader” Dead people don’t mind the pain, Don’t get offended so they never complain They’re not concerned about personal gain, Does that sound like me or you? The truth is rising from the mist And the word is this; That when Jesus calls a man He calls him to come and die! He doesn’t want you better, He wants you deader.

(Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/scripture/illustrations-on-galatians-2+20.asp on 4/17/14.)