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We Do Not Lose Heart

July 31st, 2017

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV)

The apostle reveals a thought-altering principle here, that the Christian life is not dependent on what happens to us in the physical or material realm. We live by another principle, a spiritual one, and though outwardly we are wasting away - we all are in decline physically by our mid-thirties - we are never in decline spiritually. Rather we go from “strength to strength” in the Lord Jesus (Psalm 84:7).

The attitude of a pilgrim, that was so beautifully described in Psalm 84, is the attitude of the Christian. We are on a pilgrimage, not merely a journey but a purposeful journey and we should keep our eyes set on the goal. We do not lose heart because we know the outcome of our faith, the result of God’s grace to us in Christ Jesus. The psalmist wrote:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion. (Psalm 84:5-7 ESV)

Certainly there are difficult moments we experience here, setbacks, sometimes severe ones, that may dampen our spirits. But through the eye of faith we can overcome all of these and look to see what God is doing within us each day. Jeremiah the prophet wrote:

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24 ESV)

This is the song of the believer - the mercies of God are new every morning and God is at work in our lives each day. Though outwardly we decline, spiritually and inwardly we continue to grow by God’s grace and mercy. Our hearts should be continually set on Him, valuing His love and grace above all in life, knowing Him personally and enjoying that relationship.

For some Christians, the Christian life is about receiving the material blessings of God. For others, it is about having friends in the Lord, or receiving the social blessings of God. For others, it is about receiving recognition and respect as leaders in the church. These are merely the minor blessings associated with the Christian faith - and we could add many more to these.

But the heart of the Christian life is to receive the new life of Christ, to know God through Christ, to rejoice in our new relationship and in His grace to us, and to let Him renew us inwardly each day. Friends, blessings, respect - all of these are good things, but they are not the main thing. The main thing is knowing God through Christ and receiving His life.

Let this be your focus today.

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Renouncing Secret and Shameful Ways

July 21st, 2017

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

These six verses in 2 Corinthians comprise one of the most influential passages of scripture for me personally, describing what ministry should not be and what it should be. The immediate context was the fractured and divided church of Corinth, and when Paul spoke of “disgraceful, underhanded ways” he was addressing specific practices in the church. Yet these also serve as patterns of abuse in other churches through the centuries.

Piecing together the hints and commands we can say that the church at problems in these areas:

  • The teachers and leaders had justified among themselves that it was legitimate for their to practice immoral things, and to use underhanded ways in handling difficulties in the church. Rather than speaking the truth in love, correctly and lovingly rebuking their brother and sister, instead they would resort to rumor and half-truths in order to damage someone’s character. Rather than reaching out in love and compassion, and perhaps a loving word of correction, they acted toward one another like the world.
  • Practicing cunning and tampering with the Word of God, was another dishonest tactic. When confronted with teachings that the secular culture did not accept, they distorted the biblical position. “Cunning” means to deliberately twist and abuse the words of Scripture until the meaning is taken out of them altogether. “Tampering” means to adulterate the Word of God, and seemingly has the idea of adding words to the apostles letters or to the gospels to make them less pure and more acceptabe to the fallen culture.

The end result was a gospel that was not the gospel and a Christian ethic that was unethical - and there was no end in sight to either of these two.

The only hope for the world is for the church of Jesus Christ to proclaim God’s truth in love, to live out the dictates of the gospel, renouncing the old ways of the world. Speak the truth in love, tenderly redeeming, or seeking to do so, to all around us. This is the light that is from God, and just as God created a world out of nothing, so He is creating a divine church out of common people who are being redeemed by His grace.

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