getting close to God

Oct 2017 (18)

devotional post # 2173

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

2Co 5:16 For this reason, we are not interested in knowing anyone on a mere external basis. Even though we once knew about Christ on a mere external basis, we do not know him like that any longer.
2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old creature has died; notice, the new creature has come.
2Co 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ made a friend of us for himself and gave us the ministry of making friends for him of others;
2Co 5:19 that is, in Christ God was making a friend of the world for himself, not counting their violations against them, and entrusting to us the message of making friends for God.

getting close to God

Reconciliation is defined as making a friend out of a former enemy. That is what missions is all about. In order to do that, we have to stop thinking of non-Christians as enemies. They are potential friends and fellow believers. We begin by rethinking our relationship with Christ, because at some point all of us view him kata sarka (according to the flesh) — on a mere external basis. But when we hear the gospel, our relationship with Christ changes, and our relationship with God becomes close for the first time. Evangelism is passing on the new friendship. It is possible because when we get close to God, we become new creatures, capable of bringing others to him.

LORD, help us to see nonbelievers as potential friends of God, and help us to pass on our friendship with you to them.

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crazy for God

Oct 2017 (16)

devotional post # 2172

2 Corinthians 5:12-15

2Co 5:12 We are not seeking endorsement of ourselves from you again but giving you cause to brag about us, so that you may be able to answer those who brag about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
2Co 5:13 Because if we seem crazy, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
2Co 5:14 Since the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
2Co 5:15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

crazy for God

Paul is saying that the reputation of his team is being questioned, but that does not matter. What matters is Christ’s reputation. The difficulties that the mission team has faced are well worth it, because Christ died for all. So, our reputations do not matter. Our sufferings do not matter. Only getting the gospel out to those who need Christ — only that matters. If the Corinthians understood that, they would not be criticizing Paul’s team. They would be bragging about their efforts.

LORD, give us the awareness to see the hearts of those who minister among us, and to be thankful for their commitment to you.

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perspective on life and death

Oct 2017 (16)

devotional post # 2171

2 Corinthians 5:8-11

2Co 5:8 What’s more, we are also encouraged, and resolve to leave the body and stay at home with the Lord instead.
2Co 5:9 So whether we stay at home or leave, we are ambitious to please him.
2Co 5:10 Because we all have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
2Co 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

perspective on life and death

Paul’s troubles in ministry have given him and his team a different perspective on life and death. They would rather stay at home with the Lord even if it means departing this life, because they feel safe in the awareness that the Lord knows them. Their ambition is to please the Lord, and they are sure to accomplish that, whether it is by living for him or dying for him.

But a word of caution about this text. Paul is not giving an alternate cosmology to that he gave in 1 Corinthians 15. In that chapter, he outlined the personal eschatology of the resurrection, and stated that it was foundational gospel truth. In that personal eschatology, he stated that when we die, we wait until the resurrection. He also stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that believers will not be “with the Lord” until the Lord descends and raises the dead. So, Paul does not contradict that assertion here. His ambition is not to die and go home to the Lord. His ambition is to please the Lord. The best case scenario is to leave this mortal body and stay at home with the Lord (vs.8). This can only happen at the return of Christ, when we are given immortal bodies that would allow us to stay at home with the Lord.

LORD, our ambition is to please you, whether by living for you or by dying for you.

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depression and encouragement

devotional post # 2170

2 Corinthians 5:4-7

2Co 5:4 Because while we are staying in this tent, we groan, because it depresses us– not that we want to be stripped, but that we want to be clothed, so that the mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2Co 5:5 The one who has made us ready for this is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit.
2Co 5:6 That is why we can always be encouraged, even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,
2Co 5:7 because we are walking by faith, not by sight.

depression and encouragement

Lots of people read this passage as if Paul is revealing a secret power — a knowledge that encourages him. That is somewhat true, but he is not saying that his hope is to someday leave his body and fly to heaven to be home with the Lord. Verse six is parallel to verse four. Being “home in the body” is equivalent to “staying in this tent” — this present mortal existence. What Paul wants instead — and the truth that encourages him even while he is depressed in his tent — is that he is going to be raised to immortality when the Lord returns. The mortal is going to be swallowed up by life. His hope is that “the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also” 4:14. So, his life is filled with both depression and encouragement. He suffers depression in this life while staying in his temporary tent, but he is also encouraged by the expectation of a glorious existence for eternity when Christ returns.

LORD, thank you for the blessed hope, which encourages us despite our times of depression. We wait for your power to rescue us from mortality and death.

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more than release

Oct 2017 (14)

devotional post # 2169

2 Corinthians 5:1-3

2Co 5:1 Because we know that if the tent that is from this world is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made by hand, permanent in the sky.
2Co 5:2 Because in this tent we groan, longing to put on our dwelling from the sky,
2Co 5:3 after we have stripped off, we certainly do not want to be found naked.

more than release

The Greeks believed that humans were immortal beings, trapped inside their bodies, and their goal was release from them. Many people read this passage of scripture and interpret it similarly. But they miss Paul’s point. Paul agreed with the Greeks that human bodies were temporary tents, and that is why he could suffer for proclaiming the gospel without giving up. He figured this body is going to be destroyed anyway. But what Paul expected and hoped for was not mere release. No, he certainly did not want to be found naked: without a body. What he wanted was what Jesus promised: a new, permanent building; a resurrection body. He wanted to put on his dwelling from the sky.

LORD, thank you for the hope of the resurrection at Christ’s return.

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how to stay enthusiastic

Oct 2017 (13)

devotional post # 2168

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

2Co 4:16 So we do not lose our enthusiasm. Though our outer man is being destroyed, our inner one is being renewed day by day.
2Co 4:17 Because this insignificant momentary suffering is preparing for us an extraordinary permanent weight of brightness,
2Co 4:18 as we look not to the things that we can now see but to the things that we cannot now see. Because the things that we can see are temporary, but the things that we cannot see are permanent.

how to stay enthusiastic

Paul’s method of maintaining his enthusiasm for ministry amid a life of hardships and disappointments is his perspective. He sees the end of the game. He sees the permanent extraordinary weight of brightness of Christ’s image, perfectly formed in him and in the others he reaches for Christ. Compared to that, these things he suffers along the way are insignificant and temporary. Destruction of the outer man is hard, but for the resurrection and perfection of the inner one, it is worth it.

LORD, give us Paul’s perspective on suffering, so we do not lose our enthusiasm for life and ministry.

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motivation for mission

Oct 2017 (12)

devotional post # 2167

2 Corinthians 4:13-15

2Co 4:13 Since we have the same spirit trusting in agreement with what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,
2Co 4:14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
2Co 4:15 Because it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may multiply thanksgiving, bringing more honor to God.

motivation for mission

Paul and his team were able to undergo great suffering for their mission because they trusted that the scriptures are true. They spoke out declaring the gospel because they believed it. They trusted that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead would also raise them up. They also knew that the more the gospel of God’s grace was proclaimed, the more honor it brought to God.

LORD, give us the wisdom to look beyond the present, and so to have faith to focus on our mission for the present.

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dying, that they may live

Oct 2017 (11)

devotional post # 2166

2 Corinthians 4:10-12

2Co 4:10 always carrying around within the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be revealed within our body.
2Co 4:11 Because we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be revealed within our mortal flesh.
2Co 4: 12 So death is working within us, but it means life in you.

dying, that they may live

Paul has developed an interesting perspective on his team’s tough times. He sees the troubles and difficulties they have faced as a display of the death of Jesus. It is as if they wake each day destined for the chopping block. But they also demonstrate the life that Jesus offers, so people wanting eternal life in Jesus are not turned off by the suffering these evangelists experience. The team suffers, so that others might live.

LORD, make our suffering count. Lead others to you by the hope we display in spite of our tough times.

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riches within rags

Oct 2017 (10)

devotional post # 2165

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen containers, so that the excess of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
2Co 4:8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
2Co 4:9 persecuted, but not deserted; struck down, but not destroyed;

riches within rags

Some of the Corinthians assumed that Paul was under some kind of curse, because bad things kept happening to him and his team. But Paul said that the tough times he was facing was proving what he said about the gospel. It is God’s grace, not our performance that matters. The tough times we face while trying to live out the truth of the gospel show that God is doing something in us that cannot be explained by mere good fortune. He has given us a treasure to carry around in beat-up earthen containers.

LORD, show us how to display your riches within our rags.

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a flash on a face

Oct 2017 (9)

devotional post # 2164

2 Corinthians 4:5-6

2Co 4:5 Because we are not proclaiming the brightness of ourselves, but the brightness of Lord Jesus Christ, but we ourselves have become your slaves because ofJesus.
2Co 4:6 Because God was the one saying, “Out of darkness a light flashed,” This light flashed in our hearts revealing by illumination the knowledge of the brightness of God in the face of Christ.

a flash on a face

Paul spoke of that brief glance he had of the brightness of God’s face shown on Christ’s face. For Paul, the light was blinding, but he recovered. But he never forgot the glory of God he saw in his vision of Christ on the Damascus road. From then on, his goal and objective in life was to serve cHrist and to serve others for the sake of Christ.

LORD, flash your face before us, and give us the ministryt of revealing you to others.

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