2 John

Too hip for our own good

“Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son. – Vs 9 MSG

Today there is a trend in Christian circles to be relevant and contextual. It is the mantra of the postmodern crowd who believe that we have to do all we can to make the gospel more palatable and approachable to a new generation of believers. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for relevancy and making the scriptures relatable to your audience, but we always run the risk of altering the message in such a way that the central message of the cross can become clouded and even lost. This seems to be the message behind John’s short little letter. Whether he is writing to an actual woman (lady) or referring metaphorically to one of the churches in Ephesus, we don’t know. But it seems clear that he warning his reader(s) about false teachers. This was a growing problem as the church spread throughout the known world at this time in history. The apostles were the gatekeepers of the truth and their numbers were declining. New churches were springing up as the gospel spread, but there were not always knowledgeable teachers in place to educate the people. So it was easy for well-intentioned, but misguided individuals to pop up and begin teaching their version of the Truth.

John simply warns about “anyone who is so progressive in his thinking that he walks out of the teaching of Christ.” The New International Version translates it this way: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ…” This person has “run ahead” or gone too far according to the New American Standard Version. The Greek word means “to go further than is right or proper.” They’ve overstepped proper bounds. So much so, that John was bold enough to say that they don’t have God. Their teaching was so wrong it revealed that they were not even in Christ.

So what was it they were teaching that was so bad? Well, according to John, “They do not believe that Jesus Christ came to earth in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist” (Vs 7 NLT). At best, they were denying the incarnation of Jesus. He didn’t really come in human flesh. He wasn’t really born of a virgin. But they also were probably denying His death, burial and resurrection. If He didn’t really come in a human body, there was no reason for Him to die and resurrect. And that means He doesn’t have a human body today. So in essence, they were denying the key elements of the gospel message. Most likely because it didn’t sell well in their cultural context. They had updated the gospel story to suit their own tastes and to attract an audience that might have found the original version a little too hard to swallow.

Is this happening today? You bet. In countless ways. There are entire movements within Christianity that downplay everything from the divinity of Christ to His miracles. There are churches and teachers out there who over-emphasize Jesus’ humanity and downplay His deity. They stress His role as a model for life as a man, and lift Him up as an example to follow. But in doing so they virtually eliminate His role as Savior and  redeemer. They turn Jesus into more of a life coach and self-help guru than the Savior of the world. These teachers stress social action and civic awareness, but downplay man’s sin and our need for a Savior. In their efforts to make the church more missional, they fail to teach the gospel as life-transformational. Behavior modification takes the place of heart transformation. The Bible becomes little more than a blue print for living and Jesus gets turned into a life coach with some great tips for making a difference in the world.

This is another gospel. But it is NOT the gospel of the Bible. So John warns us to not even give someone who teaches this kind of stuff a greeting. “If someone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite him into your house or encourage him in any way” (Vs 10 NLT). Sounds a little rude doesn’t it? But John knew that false teaching of any kind was dangerous and especially among new believers who were not yet grounded in the truth. They were susceptible to the lies, the pretensions or plausible lies, that sounded so good, but were far from the truth. The lies are subtle and deceptive. They sneak in and catch us unawares. They are cloaked in a lot of terms that seem familiar and give them a sense of validity and credibility. But we have to check to make sure that the truth of the gospel message regarding Jesus Christ remains unchanged. The context should never change the content. Relevancy should never change the reality of Jesus Christ and His incarnation, substitionary death on the cross, resurrection from the dead, and coming return. Or the fact that salvation is available through Him alone, but grace alone.

Father, keep us pure. Help us stay focused on the truth of the gospel message. False teachers abound today and sometimes we have a hard time seeing them. Give us eyes and ears to see and hear truth and recognize falsehood. Protect Your church Father from the lies of the enemy. Help us to see that they are subtle and we can be so susceptible to them if we are not grounded in Your Word and knowledgeable of Your truth. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 John chapter 5

What do you know?

We know that those who have become part of God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot get his hands on them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the power and control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we are in God because we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. – Vs 18-20 NLT

John wraps up his letter with a few simple declarations about what it is we should know as believers in Jesus Christ. He says we should know that as believers, because we belong to God and He cares for us, we will not live lives that are characterized by habitual, repeated sin. We will not be easy prey to the enemy. Sin will be a part of our lives, but not a prevalent or pervasive part. We won’t make it a practice of sinning. We will find sinning repulsive, not attractive. Why? Because we are held securely in the hands of Jesus Christ. He not only died for us, He lives for us. He has given us His Spirit to empower us. Sin becomes an anomaly in my life, not normalcy.

Secondly, John says that we should know that we are children of God. We should recognize that we are called to be set apart, distinct and different from the world around us. In fact, he reminds us that we should also have an awareness that the world is under the power and control of the enemy. Nothing we see happen in the world should surprise or shock us. The news we see on TV and in the daily paper should not be news to us at all. It is the natural outcome of a world under the control of Satan. The Message paraphrases verse 19 this way, “We know that we are held firm by God; it’s only the people of the world who continue in the grip of the Evil One.” That makes it a little more personal, because we are not talking about an impersonal world, but about real people who are “in the grip of the Evil One.” They are enslaved to sin and to Satan. He is using them and abusing them daily. He cares nothing for them, but only desires their destruction. But we have the privilege of being children of God. Do you see the dichotomy here? We are the “haves” and they are the “have nots.” We have what they need, but we are like children from a wealthy family who walk by the poverty in their own community everyday without using our abundant resources to do anything about it. Yes, we are called to distinct, but that does imply distance. We know we are children of God, and we know they are not. But our desire should be that they experience the same adoption into God’s family that we have enjoyed.

Finally, John says that we know that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has given us the ability to understand and know God. John uses two different words for “know” here. The first word is eido and it simply means that we recognize or understand. We see or perceive that the Son of God has come. It is evident in our lives and in His ministry to us and through us. This has to do with perception. The second word is ginosko and it has to do with intimacy. It means “to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of.” Because Jesus Christ has come into my life, I have the ability to know God in an intimate and personal way. I have been reconciled or made right in my relationship with Him. I was once an enemy, but now I am His child. I was once under His divine wrath, but now I enjoy His love and compassion. I have a personal relationship with the one true God.

Do you know that today? Do you think about it? Do you see it and perceive it in your life every day? It reminds me of the words of the old hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed.”

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

Father, there is a lot I don’t know. But I do know that Your Son came to give me eternal life and because of simple faith in the gospel message, I am now Your Son and have a relationship with You that I never could have had any other way. I also know that I am Your child and I live among people who do not enjoy that same privilege. They are under the control of the enemy. They are slaves to unrighteousness. Give me a heart for them. Don’t let me walk past them, judging them as I go. May I perceive their predicament and understand that I have the answer. It is the same gift I received from You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 John chapter 4

Real Love

“This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. – Vs 10 NLT

John has been talking a lot about living a life where our actions match our confession – where what we do lines up with what we say we believe. And this chapter continues that theme. He hammers home once again that our lives should be characterized by love – for God and for one another. Why? Because love comes from God (Vs 7). The very capacity we have to love is a gift from God and reveals that we belong to Him. It also reveals to the world around us that God exists and is at work in us. “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us” (Vs 12 NLT). God has given us His Spirit, who in turn gives us the capacity to love.We give evidence of God’s presence in us through the love that flows from us.

But John’s main point seems to be that we get to experience real love by remembering what God did for us on the cross. He sent His own Son to die on our behalf. Jesus took our place and our punishment upon Himself. He paid the price we could not pay. He wiped clean the insurmountable debt we owed by sacrificing His own life. This is the doctrine of propitiation. Sounds like a big theological term, but it’s really quite simple. It comes from the Greek word hilasmos which means “an appeasing or propitiation.” Verse 10 is translated this way in the New American Standard Version: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Back in chapter two, John states, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” ( 1 John 2:2 NASB). The doctrine of propitiation means that the person and death of Jesus Christ appeased or turned away God’s wrath, satisfying His holiness by meeting His righteous demands. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice made it possible for God to be propitious (or favorable) to us. God is Holy and cannot tolerate evil. In fact, as a holy God, He had to punish evil and mete out justice. That justice demanded death. The wrath of God against the sinfulness and rebellion of mankind could only be satisfied by His just demands being met. Someone had to pay. The problem was that man was in no condition to pay the price that God demanded. So we stood before God’s wrath fully deserving His verdict of “guilty” and His sentence of death and eternal separation from Him. But God stepped in with His own solution. He showed His love by coming up with a perfect plan that involved His perfect, sinless Son.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross satisfied all the requirements of God’s justice, turned away His wrath, and reconciled or restored us to a relationship with Him. John says, “That’s real love!” He loved us at our worst. He loved us when we didn’t deserve love. He loved us when we couldn’t love Him back. Paul puts it this way, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). So John’s logical conclusion is, “since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (Vs 11 NLT). God’s incredible love for us is the motivation behind our love for one another. Just how much has God loved us? “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (Vs 9 NLT).

As John so clearly puts it, “We love, because He first loved us” (Vs 19 NASB). You can’t say you love God and then turn around and hate your brother (Vs 20). “If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?” (Vs 20 MSG). If you are loved by God, and you are, then you should love God in return. More than that, you should love others with the same kind of love He has shown you. As Charles Ryrie so aptly puts it, “To live a love-filled life is to live a God-filled life.”

 

Father, thank You for Your incredible love for me. I didn’t deserve it. I still don’t deserve it, but I bask in it every single day of my life. Help me learn to love my brothers and sisters in Christ with the same selfless, sacrificial love. So that the world may know that You live within me. By this will they know that we are Your Son’s disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35). Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 John chapter 3

The Proof Is In the Pudding

“Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. – Vs 18 NLT

My wife loves it when I say, “I love you!” But she loves it even more when I show here how much I love her with actions that express my love for her. If all I ever did was express my love in words, but never backed it up with tangible, heart-felt acts of kindness and love, she would begin to question the truth behind my words. With that in mind, today’s blog is like a part two of yesterday’s blog, “Talk Is Cheap.” John seems to be the same basic thought by continuing to stress love in action. Our lives are to be characterized by Christ-likeness. We are to live in purity and sinlessness, so much so that we stand out as children of God, rather than children of the devil (Vs 10). One of the ways we express our Christ-likeness is through our love for one another. John reminds them: “This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (Vs 11 NLT). Our love for one another is proof or evidence that we are in Christ and have His Spirit living within us. “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead” (Vs 14 NLT). What kind of love are we talking about? Is it a sentimental, Hallmark Card kind of love expressed only in words? No. John makes it clear that the kind of love he is talking about is the kind of love that Christ showed to us. “We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters” (Vs 16 NLT).

You see, real love is tangible. It is measurable. The proof is in the pudding as the old saying goes. In fact, the original phrase was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It meant that the true value or quality of something can only be judged when it is put to use. In other words, results are what counts. Isn’t that what John is saying? “Let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (Vs 18 NLT). What are the results of our so-called love for one another? Is the abiding love of Christ in us showing up in abiding love for others? Do we love as He loved?

“And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us” (Vs 23 NLT).

Father, You have expressed Your love for me by sending Your own Son to die in my place for my sins. You continue to show Your love to me every day by continuing to shower me with Your grace and mercy when what I really deserve is Your wrath and justice. Yet I find it hard to love others. I can mouth the words and claim to love them, but so often fail to back it up with actions. Your Son showed His love by dying for me. The first step in learning to love others more is for me to learn to die to myself. To give up my rights, my will, and my own comfort for the good of others. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 John chapter 2

Walk the Talk

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did. – Vs 6 NLT

Our confession should be backed up with action. What we say we believe should show up in how we behave. John was really clear on this. But this was not some new kind of teaching. He was just expanding on the very words of Jesus found in the Great Commission: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT). Jesus Himself taught that His disciples would be marked by a life of obedience to His commands. Obedience to His commands would mean that every one of His disciples would live a different kind of life. So John is simply teaching what Jesus taught when he says, “And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments. If someone says, ‘I belong to God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth. But those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in him” (1 John 2:3-5 NLT). Our obedience to His commands is proof that we belong to God. It is how we know whether or not we really belong to Him. It is the evidence of our new relationship. Because without a relationship with Christ we would not even have a desire or an inclination to obey His commands.

John says that we should live as Jesus did. What does He mean by that? For one thing, it means that we are to live in submission to the Father. Also, we are to live in complete dependence upon the Father and in absolute obedience to His desires. Jesus did. Jesus also lived a life of sacrificial service to mankind. So should we. But the temptation is to live with the spotlight focused on us and our needs and desires. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He came to give Himself away, not to have others give to Him. In doing so, He was doing the will of the Father. One of the greatest evidences that we have an abiding relationship with God is the love that we show for one another. John says, “Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble” (Vs 10 NLT). Jesus Himself said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT).

We are to love and live as Jesus did. Our walk should match our talk. How we behave should line up with what we say we believe. We are to love one another. We are to live in obedience to God. We are NOT to love the world or the things of this world. Our lives are to be characterized by Christ-likeness. We are to follow His example. We are to live as He lived. We are to love as He loved. We are to give as He gave. We are to do as He did. We are to walk the talk.

Father, may my life be increasingly more marked by Christ-likeness. May obedience to His commands be what motivates me and marks me as one of Your children. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 John chapter 1

So you say?

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” – Vs 6 NASB

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” – Vs 8 NASB

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” – Vs 10 NASB

Three times in the opening of this little letter, John uses this little phrase, “if we say.” And all three seem to have to do with saying or claiming something that is not really true. I say I have fellowship with God, but I still live in darkness (sin). I say I have no sin, but the reality is I do and I’m everyone knows it but me. I say I have never sinned, but by claiming that I contradict the word of God and make Him out to be a liar. Saying it doesn’t make it so. Words really are cheap. What I say really doesn’t matter if it isn’t backed up by truth and lived out in reality. I can say I believe in God, love God, worship God, and fear and respect God, but if it doesn’t show up in my daily life, it is nothing but lip-service and empty words.

John seems to be calling us to live it, not say it. Do it, not just claim it. He says, “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another” (Vs 7 NASB). In other words, if we live lives that are in obedience to God and in daily fellowship with God, then it will be evident in the way we live with one another. We won’t have to say it, because others will see it. It will be visible proof that the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin. John goes on to address this issue of sin. He says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (Vs 9 NASB). All we have to do is agree with God about the fact that we are sinners who sin. Confess it. Admit it. Fess up to it. To do so reveals that we have the truth of God’s word in us. To deny it just shows that we never really heard the truth. And one important point here is that we realize that to NOT confess is to say that we have no sin. When we refuse to confess, it is as if we are telling God that we have no sin to confess. We might as well just come out and say so. That’s John’s third point. Lack of confession is basically saying to God that we have not sinned. Every time we sin and refuse to confess it, we are telling God He is a liar, because God says we all sin. On top of that, His Holy Spirit personally convicts us of sin on a daily basis. His Word convicts us of sin. When that happens and we choose to ignore the sin in our lives and not confess it, we make Him out to be a liar. We are telling God that He is wrong.

So what do you say? Do you walk in the Light? Do you confess? Are your actions more powerful than your words? Do your actions speak louder than your words? John says, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (Vs 5 NASB). Are you living in that Light? If so, it will be evident to all those around you, no matter what you say.

Father, may our actions speak louder than our words. May we be a people who are known by how we live in the Light, not just what we have to say about it. When we fail to live in the Light, may we be willing to confess it and accept your forgiveness. Not deny it and claim to have never done it. Words are cheap. Your grace was not. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Jude

Glory to God!

“And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy. All glory to him, who alone is God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to him, in the beginning, now, and forevermore. Amen. – Vs 24-25 NLT

Jude may be a short letter, but it is long enough to be a little bit depressing. In it, Jude, the brother of James, is attempting to defend the faith against false teaching that was popping up in the churches of his day. This was a dangerous time for the church. Gnostic teaching, which basically glorified the spiritual and diminished the material, was encouraging believers to cultivate their “spiritual” lives, while at the same time doing whatever they wanted to do with their bodies – because it really didn’t matter. So the result was an increasing amount of immorality. The bottom line was that Christians were being tempted to believe one way and act another. So Jude felt a responsibility to address these issues. He warns them of “certain persons who have crept in unnoticed” (Vs 4 NASB). He describes these false teachers as “dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are shameless in the way they care only about themselves. They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much but producing nothing. They are like trees without fruit at harvesttime. They are not only dead but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the dirty foam of their shameful deeds. They are wandering stars, heading for everlasting gloom and darkness” (Vs 12-13 NLT).

Hidden reefs – destructive, but out of sight where you can’t see them

Waterless clouds – promising, but never deliver on their promise

Fruitless trees – seemingly healthy, but as good as dead because they have nothing to offer

Wild waves – directionless, dangerous, and destructive

Wandering stars – you can’t count on them to be there, so you can’t navigate your life by them

These “teachers” were not just a nuisance, they were a danger and Jude warns his readers to watch out for them. These same kinds of individuals exist in and around the church today. They write books, produce TV shows, pastor churches, fill up the Internet with their thoughts, and even write blogs. But we must be careful. Jude calls them as “people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts. These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit! (Vs 18-19 MSG). Sounds a lot like today doesn’t it? Which means we have to be just as careful in 21st-Century America. So what are we supposed to do?

Jude says to “continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins” (Vs 20-23 NLT). Grow spiritually. Pray fervently. Live righteously. Show mercy constantly. Rescue the wavering. Stay pure! Then he gives us his incredible benediction. Remember that it is God who is able to keep you from stumbling. He is the one who will protect you and keep you strong until the end. Rely on Him. Lean on Him. Give Him the glory He deserves. He is in control even when things appear to be completely out of control. He is our hope, our help, and our security in the storm.

Father, to You be all the glory, majesty, dominion and authority. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Corinthians chapter 13

Examine Your Faith

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test. – Vs 5 NLT

Paul ends his letter to the Corinthians with a challenge. He tells them that he is going to be coming to see them again, but prior to his visit he challenges them to test themselves. He wants them to examine themselves to see if their faith is real or not. In the Greek, the word yourselves is placed first for emphasis: “yourselves, examine.” They are to take a corporate look at their collective faith. He wants them to “examine” themselves to prove the worth or genuineness of their faith. The word he uses for faith is pistis and in this context it denotes profession. The Corinthians were professing a belief in Christ, but was their life matching that profession? If the life of the congregation is not in conformity with the truths of the gospel, it negates any claim to standing firm in the faith. Paul reminded Timothy, “ I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NASB). The church holds up the truth of the gospel by the manner in which we live it out. We prove the gospel true with our lives. When we profess one thing and do another, we undermine the foundation of the life-transforming claims of the gospel message. That is why Paul was challenging the Corinthians to examine themselves. He knew that true profession results in true life change and a life characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). When those things are lacking within the community of Christ, there is cause to do some serious self-examination regarding our profession.

Paul even uses a little bit of sarcasm to get his point across. He says, “If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you…” He questions whether they even have the capacity to recognize Christ’s presence among them. Paul is not really asking if Jesus is indwelling the individual. That is ultimately where he is headed. but what he seems to be saying is that the condition of their fellowship was such that it was almost impossible for them to recognize Christ as being active right in the midst of them. They had reached a point where they were failing to recognize the authority of Paul and the activity of God in the middle of their fellowship. They were questioning Paul’s apostleship, ignoring God’s activity in their lives, and were out of touch with genuine evidence of the Spirit’s work in their community. Don’t we run the same risk? We can reach a point where we are no longer able to recognize God’s activity among us as His people.

As the people of God we should be experiencing and expecting the power of God to be at work in our midst. If it is not, then we must do some serious examination of what it is we say we believe. We must examine ourselves to see if our faith is really genuine. If we do not see God’s activity in and around us, Paul says we fail the test. Our profession is not real. Fruitlessness is the sign of a dead faith.

Paul’s prayer was that they would do what is right (Vs 8), that they be made complete (Vs 9), be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace, so that God of love and peace would be with them (Vs 11). Paul’s desire was that they examine themselves. He wanted them to wrestle with the reality of whether or not their profession of having saving faith was real. And this was not just to be an individual examination, but a group effort. As a congregation, they were to take a up-close and personal look at each others’ lives to see whether they were exhibiting the fruit of a genuine faith in Christ. For the church to uphold the truth, it must live out the truth. It must stand on the truth. It must prove the viability and reliability of the truth through daily life together. So that the world may know that the gospel really does work.

Father, give us the strength and the guts to examine ourselves to see if our faith is real. Help us to be honest and examine whether or not what we say we believe is what we really do believe – as individuals and as the body of Christ. May we be willing to ask why we do not see Christ more active among us. The problem is not with Him, but with us. Reveal to us the true nature of our confession so we can experience the true nature of the gospel. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Corinthians chapter 12

His Grace Is Enough

“My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. – Vs 9 NET

God’s grace is enough. It is His gracious favor that He gives to me – not based on merit, but on His love for me. Grace is God giving me what I could never earn any other way. In this case, Paul is talking about the power He gives me in spite of my weakness. This isn’t just any old power, it is His power in me. It is the power of God available in my weak human flesh. I love this definition of grace:

“It is the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtue.”

Paul is talking about the strengthening part of God’s grace. He knew his strength came from God, not himself. That is why he could say, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me” (NLT). Paul knew that the key to tapping into God’s strength was admitting his own weakness. But that’s hard for some of us to do. We want to think of ourselves as strong, intelligent, capable, qualified, gifted, talented, and worthy to be honored and praised. And so we spend way too much time trying to convince others of our strengths. We try to live life in our own power. We work harder. We do more. We strive to impress. We crave recognition and desire to be noticed for all our hard work and effort. But all the while God is simply asking us to admit our weakness so that He can provide us with His strength. The word used for God’s power in this verse is the Greek word dunamis. Sound familiar? It is the word from which we get dynamite, dynamic, and dynamo. This isn’t just some kind of 5-hour energy drink that gives us a boost to make it through the day. This is the indwelling power of God that makes it possible to do incredible feats of spiritual strength that would be otherwise impossible for us. Think about all the things Paul endured. He gives us a partial list in verse 10: “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (NLT). How did Paul handle all that he went through? By the power of God. That is why he says he is content or “takes pleasure” in his weakness. Listen to how The Message paraphrases verse 10:

“Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size–abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

He just let Christ take over. He allowed Christ to do what only Christ could do. You see, our strength is God’s rival. But our weakness is His servant. To put it another way, man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Man’s security is Satan’s opportunity. Our weaknesses are really a blessing. But we need to acknowledge them, even boast about them. Then ask God to step into them and do what only He can do. Utilize His power in us and through us. So He gets all the glory.

Father, forgive me for trying to ignore my weaknesses and for thinking that I have enough strength in and of myself to accomplish Your work. How arrogant and prideful I can be. But You faithfully continue to reveal to me my abundant weaknesses – through my own failures, through circumstances, by allowing me to come to an end of my resources and by letting me grow tired and weak from all my own self-effort. But You have also shown me Your power – time and time again. Your way is always better. Your power is always greater. Help me to boast about my own weaknesses even more, so that I can experience Your power even more. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Corinthians chapter 11

Taking Pride In Weakness

“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. – Vs 30 NLT

This is a common theme of Paul’s: his weakness. Even though he felt compelled to defend his apostleship because of libellous attacks from false apostles; and could brag about his credentials as good Jew, a descendant of Abraham, and a servant of Christ who had suffered repeatedly in his service to Christ, he knew his real strength was found in his own weakness. He goes on to describe it this way in chapter 12: “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). Paul knew the only thing he had to “brag” or boast about was his weakness. Listen to what he says in chapter 13 of this same letter: “Although he [Christ] died on the cross in weakness, he now lives by the mighty power of God. We, too, are weak, but we live in him and have God’s power – the power we use in dealing with you” (2 Corinthians 13:4 NLT). Paul was content with being weak, because he knew that his life and ministry was based on God’s power, not his own. Our strength comes in acknowledging our own weakness and need for God’s power.

God’s way of doing things is radically different than the world’s way of doing things. In fact, in his previous letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminded them that, “God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT).

Paul was having to defend his credentials and his credibility as an apostle, and he was not comfortable having to do so. He didn’t like having to “boast” about himself, because he knew that anything he had done was due to the power of God within him. But circumstances were calling for himself to go on the defensive in order to protect the flock in Corinth. Paul was intensely concerned for their spiritual well-being. He told them, “Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:29 NLT). Paul was being forced to defend himself against attacks in order to get the Corinthian believers to acknowledge his role as their shepherd. But he was not comfortable with the situation. Paul was not one to boast. In fact, he once told Timothy, “This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I was the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15 NLT). Paul knew who he really was. He knew his weaknesses. And he knew where his strength came from. He also knew where his strength came from. And that was the one thing he was willing to boast about.

Father, give me an increasing awareness of my own weakness. Thank You that you expose me to my own weakness each and every day. I am becoming increasingly aware that I do not have what it takes to live the life You have called me to live. I can’t do it in my own strength. I can’t even conquer the sin in my own life without Your help. What do I have to boast about? Nothing, without You! So help me to boast about my weakness, because that is when I best realize that I need You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org