2 Corinthians 13

Test Yourself.

2 Corinthians 13

Examine yourself to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. – 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT

There comes the time in every believer’s life when they must examine themselves and determine whether what they say they believe is making a difference in the way they live their lives. In this passage, Paul is not calling into question his readers’ salvation, but their sanctification. Did their lives demonstrate that they were in the faith? Did their behavior give evidence or having been justified by God? Paul wanted them to do what was right. For twelve chapters, Paul seemed to take their salvation for granted, speaking to them as believers and never questioning the validity of their position in Christ. So it doesn’t make sense that he would suddenly become suspect of their saving relationship with Christ. Instead, he is asking them to take stock of their salvation and examine the fruit of their lives. Were their actions in keeping with their faith? The NSRV translation of verse five reads this way: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith.” One of the key evidences of sanctification is obedience. Paul wanted them to take a long, hard look at their lives and be brutally honest about their own fruitfulness. He wanted them to see that the problem was not with Paul and his apostolic authority, but with them. They were disobedient and rebellious, refusing to accept Paul’s correction or submit to his authority in their lives. So Paul plead with them to “do the right thing before we come” (2 Corinthians 13:7b NLT). He wanted them to see the error of their way and repent before he had to come and deal with their rebellion first-hand. If forced to, he would wield his apostolic authority when he arrived, but preferred that they would do a serious self-examination and correct their behavior before he arrived. Paul’s prayer was that they would become mature and do the right thing.

One of the things that had set Paul off was that there were some in the Corinthian church who were demanding that Paul give them proof that he was speaking on behalf of Christ. So Paul turned the tables and demanded that they give proof of their own sanctification. He told them to examine themselves and give proof that they were living in obedience to Christ by doing the right thing. Rather than test Paul, they needed to spend some time testing themselves. He was not the problem, they were. “The logic of Paul’s argument is compelling: If the Corinthians wanted proof of whether Paul’s ministry was from Christ, they must look at themselves, not him, because Paul had ministered the gospel to them” (Bibliotheca Sacra 154:614,April-June 1997: 181). They were in Christ, now they must act like it. They had been justified and made right with God by Christ, now their lives must reflect that right standing by doing the right thing. Paul was calling them to Christian maturity. He wanted them to grow up in their faith. Rather than questioning their salvation, Paul is calling them to sanctification. He closes his letter with these words: “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. then the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT). When all was said and done, Paul simply wanted to see the Corinthians living obedient, godly lives. Their willing submission to his God-given authority would be ample proof of both his divine calling and their own sanctification.

Father, what a great reminder that I must examine my own life on a regular basis to see if the fruit of my own sanctification is evident. Too often, I am content to rest in the assurance of my salvation, and then fail to see that salvation producing true life change. Never let me grow content with where I am. Keep me striving after godliness, not to earn favor in Your sight, but because I expect life transformation to take place each and every day of my life. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 12

Power In Weakness.

2 Corinthians 12

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT

Paul continued to defend his credibility and the validity of his ministry and message. Yet he did so reluctantly. Bragging and boasting about himself didn’t come easy to Paul. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a lot to brag about. It was just that he knew that his ministry wasn’t about him, and by boasting about his own accomplishments, he was inadvertently taking credit for what God had done through him. So even Paul’s attempt to promote himself ended up focusing on his weaknesses instead of his strengths. Paul had every right to boast about his accomplishments, and everything he said would have been true. But he said, “I won’t do it., because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message” (2 Corinthians 12:6 NLT). In other words, Paul wanted his life to speak for itself. And for Paul, even the trials and tribulations of life were proof of his apostleship and his calling by God. He even viewed his “thorn in the flesh” as evidence of God’s handiwork in his life. We have no idea what this infirmity or affliction was. Paul doesn’t tell us. It could have physical or spiritual in nature. But we know that Paul prayed three different times that God would remove whatever it was from his life. Paul’s perspective on this problem was that, as bad as it was, God was using it to keep him from becoming proud. This thorn in the flesh was actually driving Paul closer and making him more dependent upon God. The loving Father’s response to Paul’s request that He remove this affliction forms the core of Paul’s outlook on life. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT).

Paul saw God’s grace even in his weaknesses and the daily struggles of life. Success or an absence of trouble was not how Paul measured the effectiveness of his life. He had come to view weakness as a blessing, not a curse. “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT). Recognition and acceptance of our weakness allows us to take our expectations off of ourselves and place our hope in God. For Paul, it would have been foolish to brag about himself or boast in his own accomplishments. God was working in him and through him – in spite of him. His weaknesses had become God’s proving ground. Which is why he could say, “I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). What a radically different perspective that is. Paul saw weakness as an opportunity to see God’s power on display. He was constantly amazed that the God of the universe would use someone as powerless and impotent as him to accomplish His mission on this earth. The very fact that Paul was undergoing persecution, rejection, pain and suffering were ample evidence to him that God was at work in his life. His ministry was growing, even while he was suffering. His influence was increasing, even while his strength was diminishing.

Somehow, we have come to believe that the life of a Christian should be trouble-free and easy-going. We expect our path to be clear and our skies to be sunny. So when a little bit of trouble comes our way, we are shocked and surprised. We become angry and upset. We question God and wonder why He is punishing us in this way. But Paul would encourage us to see our circumstances differently. He would tell us to view our perceived troubles as opportunities to watch God work. He would beg us to embrace our weakness and impotence and turn to God for help. And then we would understand that our weaknesses really do make us strong, because our strength would be coming from the Lord. Paul was proud of his weakness. He was even willing to boast about it. It was at his greatest point of need that Paul was able to witness the great power of God. His insufficiency became the opportunity to witness God’s power and sovereignty in his life.

Father, may I continue to learn to embrace my weakness and Your power. Pride is such a powerful force in my life. I want to be self-sufficient. I want to be strong. I want to be able to handle all the problems and difficulties of life on my own. So You allow trials and troubles to expose my insufficiency and reveal my powerlessness. Then I have to turn to You. And when I do, You always show up. I gain strength as I watch You work in ways that are beyond my own capacities. Thank You for this reminder that Your power works best in my weakness. As long as I think I have what it takes to make it in this world, I will never enjoy the power available to me through You. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

No Comparison.

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. – 2 Corinthians 11:30 NLT

Over the last two to three weeks, I have had two of my cars break down and require major, unexpected repairs. My father had to be admitted to the hospital on two separate occasions during that same time period. While he was there, the AC at his house went out requiring the replacement of the outside condenser unit. At the same time, the dishwasher and garbage disposal at my home both decided to call it quits. Then one of the cars I had just gotten out of the shop broke down on me as I was heading from the hospital back up to the church to teach a Bible study. It was the transmission this time. To say the least, it was not a fun few weeks. But as all this was taking place and I was reading through the letters of Paul, the thought dawned on me that I would have a hard time comparing war stories with the apostle Paul. If I tried to compare my difficulties with his, it would be like toddler trying to take on Mike Tyson. Talk about a mismatch.

In reading through 2nd Corinthians, we’ve reached an interesting place in the letter where we find Paul literally bragging about himself. It’s a somewhat awkward read and seems a bit unexpected from someone of Paul’s spiritual caliber. But there’s a method to Paul’s madness. He isn’t really bragging, but simply trying to make a point. There are those in Corinth who have questioned his authority as an apostle and his credibility as a teacher. A group of self-proclaimed apostles have shown up who are trying to discredit Paul, in order to elevate themselves in the minds of the people. As a result, they boast about their human achievements, wearing their curriculum vitae on their chest like a badge of honor. So Paul decides to fight fire with fire. He admits that he feels like a fool doing it, but if these men want to get into a battle based on comparative worth and worth, Paul is more than willing to oblige them. These people were putting high stock in their “Jewishness.” They were Hebrews and wanted everyone to know it. They believed their ethnicity gave them a leg up and made them more “Christian” than the Gentiles. But Paul assures his readers that he too is a Hebrew and an Israelite. He too is a card-carrying member chosen race and a descendant of Abraham. He is also a servant of Christ, just as they claim to be. In fact, he argues that he is a harder working servant of Christ and then he proceeds to give ample proof of his claim. What comes next is Paul’s laundry list of trials, troubles, difficulties and circumstantial setbacks. He had been imprisoned, beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, gone without food and water, and nearly froze to death. On top of all that, Paul had the constant pressing responsibility for the spiritual well-being of all the churches he had helped start.

Paul was not some fly-by-night, headline-grabbing, attention-seeking, self-serving and self-proclaimed spokesman for God. He was the divinely appointed messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He had been called and commissioned by Jesus Christ Himself. But if they wanted to get into a war of one-up-man-ship, Paul was more than willing to oblige them. He admits that his boasting “is not from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 11:17 NLT), but he is doing it to validate his message and defend his authority as a spokesman for God. But one of the interesting things about Paul’s boasting is that he only boasted about his weaknesses, humiliations and sufferings. He wasn’t bragging about his intellectual prowess or oratorial skills. Paul boasted that he had suffered as a result of his ministry. He was not a success in the eyes of many because his life didn’t seem to have the trappings of success. Paul made it clear that if he was going to boast at all, it would be about all those things that reveal his own weakness and his need for God’s strength. Paul didn’t pat himself on the back for having accomplished great things for God. He simply listed all the things that had happened to him as he faithfully served God. The very fact that Paul was still at it, in spite of all that happened, was more than enough proof of God’s sustaining power and Paul’s divine authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. God was at work in the midst of all the troubles. He was using Paul in spite of his weakness and countless obstacles. That was all the proof Paul needed. And it was all the proof he was going to give. Paul’s life was like that of Christ Himself. He suffered willingly and obediently. He sacrificed his comfort for the cause of the Gospel. He had learned to rely on God’s strength instead of his own. His life was marked by weakness and apparent failure, yet God was at work in him and through him. The Christian life is not a contest or cause for comparison. Our lives should reflect Christ and reveal the power of God at work in and around us. We should be able to boast about what God is doing in our lives. Our greatest testimony is a life of complete reliance on God. Nothing else compares.

Father, I want to continue to learn to boast about those things that reveal my weakness and Your strength. Don’t allow me to become too full of myself and in love with my own accomplishments. I am nothing without You. But I can do all things because of You. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Gullible, Tolerant, and Undiscerning.

2 Corinthians 11:1-15

You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you believed. – 2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT

We live in the age of tolerance. The clear lines of distinction are becoming increasingly blurred. Right and wrong are subjective opinions, not objective realities. Truth is left up to the individual. Rules are restrictive and confining. Morals are old-fashioned and puritanistic. Everyone with access to the Internet has a ready-made platform for disseminating their version of the truth and demanding that their views be accepted, regardless of how indefensible or even reprehensible they may be. The general population is easily persuaded, and willingly duped into believing just about anything. This is a difficult age in which to live as a believer. Our views about Christ and the exclusive nature of the gospel message are deemed intolerant and inexcusable for this “enlightened” age in which we live. We are constantly being pressured to accept any and all opinions regarding everything from faith to the definition of the family. We are demanded to place human rights over what we believe the Bible teaches to be right. Even within the realm of Christianity, there are those who would have us accept their version of the gospel. They want to cherry-pick the Word of God and build a system of belief based on a few isolated passages that seem to support their own opinion. And if we speak out against them, we are labeled as unloving and intolerant.

Paul faced similar circumstances in the early days of the church. It had not taken long for Christianity to spread and for others to seize upon its growing popularity. Teachers and so-called “experts” were popping up everywhere, most of them teaching a version of the truth that contradicted what Paul had been teaching. They questioned his authority and tried to undermine his influence among the Corinthian believers. These men were persuasive, eloquent, and tended to teach a version of the “truth” that was more palatable and user-friendly. Paul, who had a vested interest in the spiritual well-being of the Corinthian church, had to watch from a distance as these “super apostles” wreaked havoc among the gullible and unsuspecting believers in Corinth. As far as Paul was concerned, the Christians in Corinth were eagerly and happily tolerating just about anything anyone wanted to teach them. Their ability to discern right from wrong and truth from fiction was negligible. He saw happening in Corinth exactly what he had warned Timothy about. “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT).

Paul made it painfully clear – these people were false apostles and “deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13 NLT). He compared them to Satan himself, who entraps people by disguising himself as an angel of light. These people were disguising themselves as servants of righteousness, but were really teaching unrighteousness, because their gospel was different from that which Christ came to bring. They had taken the message regarding Jesus and altered it to fit their own agenda. They sounded good. Their message was persuasive. Their content made sense. But it was false and, ultimately, dangerous. That’s why Paul warned Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT). The Word of God is to be our criteria for truth. And not just certain portions of the Word of God. ALL Scripture is inspired by God. We must take the Bible as a whole and not divide it into convenient parts that support our presuppositions or opinions. It is not up to us to define truth, then use the Scriptures to validate it. Our opinions must be influenced by the Word of God and not the other way around. Otherwise, we will end up as easy prey for those who would deceive and mislead us, telling us what we long to hear, while neglecting to tell us the truth that God has provided for us in His Word.

Father, protect us from our own gullibility and pride. We tend to listen for what we want to hear, rather than for what we need to hear. We prefer our version of the truth over Yours. We can be easily swayed to accept falsehood if it sounds plausible and pleasant. But You have called us to live according to Your Word and in keeping with Your truth. Make us students of Your Word and faithful defenders of Your truth, even if it brings us suffering and rejection. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 10

On the Offensive.

2 Corinthians 10

We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT

Paul was under attack. There were those in Corinth who were questioning the legitimacy of his apostleship and causing others in the church to reject his authority. For Paul, this meant war. Not because he was prideful and in need of their praise and respect. He wasn’t upset because people were talking about him or even because they disliked him. It was all about his God-given authority and the integrity of the Gospel. Paul had been commissioned by Jesus Christ Himself as he lay by the side of the road to Damascus, having lost his sight due to the glory of the risen Lord. Jesus had told Paul that day, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized.  Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:14-16 NLT).

Ever since that day, Paul had been on a mission to fulfill his commission. The church in Corinth existed because Paul had obeyed God’s call on his life. He had told them about the life-changing, sin-cancelling, grace-giving salvation available through Jesus Christ. Paul had told them all that he had seen and heard. He had been a faithful, unfailing spokesman for God, and now his authority was being questioned. These new believers in Christ were being led to doubt Paul’s word and to reject his teachings as authoritative. Paul could have cared less about what they thought about him as a person, but when they stopped accepting his words as coming from God, he was forced to go on the offensive. He viewed this as a battle for the spiritual lives of the believers in Corinth. “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NLT). Paul was going to do everything in his power to tear down the false teachings and human presuppositions that were wreaking havoc on the church in Corinth. They may have been well-meaning, but their efforts had been destructive. By questioning Paul’s authority, they had led others to reject the very word of God. Paul knew that his authority had been given to him by God. He had been sent to Corinth by God. Everything he had taught them had been in keeping with the message given to him by Christ Himself. Paul had never strayed outside the boundaries of his God-given authority.

Paul had had to address some fairly difficult issues in his letters to the Corinthians. He had tackled some tough topics that probably offended many in the church there. He had dealt with moral and ethical issues. He had exposed areas of sin that they would have preferred had remained hidden. In his “severe letter” written some time between 1st and 2nd Corinthians, he had evidently addressed some topics that were difficult for the Corinthians to accept. But he had done it all as part of his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. His ministry had never been a popularity contest. He wasn’t out to win friends and influence enemies. He was a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he had been faithful to his calling. He had a right and responsibility to speak honestly and boldly, proclaiming not only the Good News of Jesus Christ, but the bad news regarding sin and its impact on the lives of men. Paul didn’t just preach salvation. He proclaimed sanctification. He made it painfully clear that a new life in Christ required a new way of living. Eternal life was to have temporal ramifications. An encounter with the Savior was to result in a change in behavior. Paul preached a message of sanctification or being set apart. He called the people of Corinth to live lives of distinctiveness, modeling what it means to be transformed by the power of God. And that was a message that was no less popular then as it is today. But Paul was willing to do battle over it. If the Gospel doesn’t transform lives here and now, it has no power. If it can’t make us new creations in this life, it doesn’t have the power to provide us with eternal life. That was a message Paul was willing to fight and die for. So should we.

Father, we sometimes shy away from saying those things we fear might come across as negative or unacceptable. We play it way too safe, mincing our words and lowering our expectations out of a fear of man. Give us the boldness and faithfulness of Paul. May we recognize that we too have been commissioned by God to deliver His message to a lost and dying world. Not only are we to call the lost to salvation, but the saved to sanctification. We are to call Your people to a life of distinctiveness. We have a God-given authority and responsibility to call one another to daily life change through the power of the Holy Spirit. Help us to live up to our calling, boldly and unapologetically.  Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 9

You Give – God Gets the Glory.

2 Corinthians 9

As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT

For many in the church today, the word, giving conjures up all kinds of negative images. Some who once made going to church a regular part of their life, quit going long ago because they felt like all the church wanted was their money. And in the case of some churches, it would appear that building campaigns and fund-raising efforts have taken the place of the Gospel. Yes, there are times when churches need to grow and must depend on their congregation for the resources to make those efforts possible. But giving, while essential, was never intended to be the primary message of the church. It has always been an integral part of the believer’s experience, even during the early days of the church. But it would seem that the purpose behind giving was more practical and aimed at ministering to the needs of the growing body of Christ around the world.

Paul had no problem asking the various churches to whom he had ministered to give money toward the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. He asked boldly and he expected them to give generously. He wanted them to give willingly and not grudgingly. In fact, Paul told them “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). Giving was to be a decision between the individual believer and God. It was to be an expression of faith and a tangible picture of their love for God and for others. Giving is not a selfish or self-centered act, but something done in cooperation with God. “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:10 NLT). This is not a promise of prosperity and riches if you give. Paul is not saying that God is obligated to bless you with a financial windfall if you give. He is simply reminding his audience that it is God who gives us all that we have. Just as a farmer must depend on God to provide the seed and, ultimately, the bread, so we are dependent on God to provide us with our jobs and even the capacity to work so that we might earn a wage. God enriches us so that we might enrich others. He is generous with us so that we might be generous with others. And when we give, not only are others blessed, He gets glory. “And when we take you gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12 NLT).

Our generosity to others will cause them to glorify God. They may never know that we were the ones who contributed to their need, but they will know that God was behind it all. And when we give willingly and generously to the needs of others, it is practical proof of the reality of the Gospel in our lives. Generosity is not a natural outflow of the human heart. Because of sin, we are prone to selfishness. We tend to want to horde and are suspicious of those who might take what we see as rightfully ours. One of the first words every child learns to say is, “MIne!” Possessing comes naturally to all of us. Giving does not. Sharing is not a normal or natural trait for most children. It must be taught to and, in some cases, forced upon most children. And most of us still struggle with it as adults. But the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives should begin to change all that. The more we grow to understand the grace and mercy we have been given by God, the more we should learn to share what we have with others. Paul describes it “the overflowing grace God has given.” He has been overwhelmingly generous with us, providing us with the priceless gift of His Son. So He fully expects us to be generous with one another. All that we have, He has provided. He blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others. He gives to us so that we might give to one another. He meets our needs in order that we might learn to meet the needs of those around us. Which is why Paul tells us, “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT). Give because you can. Give because you want to. Give because God has given to you. Give because it brings glory to Him. Give because it strengthens the body and grows the Kingdom. Give because you can’t out-give God. Giving is a ministry, not an obligation. It is a privilege, not a burden. It is a gift, and we should thank God for it.

Father, I want giving to become increasingly more a part of my life. I want it to be a joy to give. I want to see it as a privilege, not a burden. I want to give in faith, knowing that it is You who meets all my needs – not me. I want to learn to trust You for all my needs as I willingly, joyfully help meet the needs of others. I want to increasingly know from experience that I can’t ever out-give You. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Men of Integrity.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift. – 2 Corinthians 8:20 NLT

Ministry has always had its critics. There will always be those who deem it their responsibility to find fault within the church and among its leadership. Paul was very familiar with this concept, having suffered all kinds of verbal and physical attacks by those who disagreed with his message and ministry. But Paul was more concerned with the reputation of the cause of Christ than his own well-being. He wanted to make sure that he never gave a reason for anyone to dispersions on the gospel or the name of Christ. He knew there were those out there who were constantly looking for even the smallest hint of impropriety, so that they could discredit Paul and the ministry.

So when it came to the collection of funds for the saints in Jerusalem, Paul knew that he had to do everything with integrity, taking extra special precautions to insure that no one could accuse him of financial mismanagement. He understood that accusations, even if false, could do lasting damage to the cause of Christ. That’s why he went out of his way to develop a plan for the collection and delivery of the financial gift for the Jerusalem church. Paul had assembled a team of three men, all well-known and respected among the various churches throughout the region. They would be coming to Corinth to retrieve the funds given by the believers there and combine them with the gifts given by the churches in Macedonia, Asia Minor and Galatia. Then this committee of three would travel together to Jerusalem to deliver the funds to the church leadership there.

Paul knew that he was handling the funds correctly. He had every confidence that what he was doing was God-honoring and morally ethical. But he also knew how important it was that others view his efforts as above-board and blameless. “We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable” (2 Corinthians 8:21 NLT). Paul was taking no chances when it came to the reputation of his ministry and the honor of Jesus Christ’s church. He was not going to give his critics or the enemies of the gospel any cause to question his integrity or cast doubt on his ministry. Isn’t it interesting that even in Paul’s day it was normal and natural for people to assume wrong-doing when money was involved? Financial mismanagement was common and expected. Paul knew that there would be those who simply assumed he was lining his pocket with the funds collected or skimming a percentage of the proceeds for his own benefit. That kind of thing went on all the time. But Paul wanted to prove that Christians weren’t like other people. He wanted to make it clear that believers handled their affairs with integrity and could be trusted to do the right thing – even when money was involved. It is so important for us to manage our affairs well – both corporately and individually. We all know well the stories of ministries and ministers who have been caught mismanaging the financial gifts given by trusting individuals. We’ve seen the news reports of greedy pastors and televangelists, growing wealthy off of the contributions of their flocks. The actions of these individuals, while few in number, have done a great deal of damage to the cause of Christ. They have caused many unbelievers to reject the message of Christ because they could no longer trust the messengers of Christ. Even believers, those who have found themselves tricked and deceived by men they once trusted, have walked away from the faith disillusioned and disappointed. The cause of Christ is too important to take risks. The name of Christ is too valuable to ever allow it to be damaged by our acts of indiscretion or failure to take the proper precautions. We are to be men and women of integrity in all that we do, because we represent the King.

Father, may we live in such a way that we never give our enemies a reason to discredit our ministry or Your Son’s name. We know that we will be attacked, but help us to live with integrity, so that there is no basis for those attacks. May we be honest, faithful, without reproach and constantly careful in how we handle every area of our lives – all for the glory of Your name and the good of the gospel. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Grace-Based Giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. – 2 Corinthians 8:2 NIV

In this section of his letter, Paul began to address a topic that has always sent chills up the spines of most believers throughout the centuries: Giving. Yes, he brought up and encouraged the need to give. But not to build facilities or expand ministry projects. No, Paul was raising money for the persecuted and impoverished believers back in Jerusalem. Everywhere he went and to every church he encountered, he encouraged them to contribute toward the needs of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. The amazing thing is that many of the individuals to whom Paul was making this request were just as poor and equally persecuted. But he asked nonetheless. And even in the midst of their own troubles and trials, these people gave richly and generously – an out-flowing of their own joy in Christ. They were glad to give, even to people they had never met living in a land they would probably never see.

And Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that the giving by the Macedonians went far beyond what he had expected. They had even begged Paul repeatedly for the privilege of sharing in the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. They had not given out of their abundance, but had shared beyond what they could even afford. And their financial giving had been accompanied by an equally fervent giving of themselves to God and to the ministry of Paul. These people were committed to the cause of Christ and the well-being of the Kingdom. For Paul, giving was simply an expression or evidence of a believer’s love. He compared it to what Christ had done for them. “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT). When Jesus willingly, sacrificially took on human flesh and came to dwell among men, it was the ultimate expression of love and generosity. He gave up His divine rights, privileges and position as God, became a man and died a criminal’s death on the cross. He gave so that we might receive. He made us rich by providing for us eternal life – a gift we could never have afforded any other way. His selfless, sacrificial example should provide every believer with more than enough motive to give graciously and gladly to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul did not ask them to “give till it hurts.” He simply asked them to be faithful and to finish what they had begun. They key was that they should give eagerly and willingly, not under compulsion or out of some sense of guilt. “Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly” (2 Corinthians 8:11-12 NLT). Paul was not interested in making the Corinthians feel guilty or encouraging them to give what they didn’t have or couldn’t afford. He was simply wanting them to share in the needs of the body of Christ globally. The concept of community and commonality was always on Paul’s mind and heart. The church was global, not just local. The abundance of a few was meant to minister to those in need. God’s provision for His people would take place through the body of Christ as believers faithfully shared with others what God had faithfully provided for them. There should be no need within the body of Christ. That had been the experience of the early church from its inception. “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need” (Acts 2:44-45 NLT). What a witness that must have been to the community around them. That kind of love and generosity was no more the norm then than it is today. This wasn’t some form of socialism, but simply a concrete expression of the love of Christ lived out in everyday life. It was a picture of the body of Christ ministering to itself selfessly and, at times, sacrificially, so that all might prosper spiritually and physically. That kind of love is contagious and gives evidence of the transformative power of the Spirit of God in the lives of the people of God.

Father, give me a heart of generosity. Let me see my abundance not as a special privilege to be spent only on my own selfish needs and desires, but as a resource to share with those around me. May the body of Christ today learn to live as a true community, giving generously and willingly to one another so that no one ever has need. May we mirror the generosity and grace of Jesus among ourselves and in front of a lost and dying world. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 7

Godly Sorrow.

2 Corinthians 7

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT

When one of my kids was just a little boy, and he would do something that resulted in my disappointment and his potential punishment, he would always respond in the same way. He would immediately say, “I’m sorry, dad!” Not once, but repeatedly – one right after the other. “I’m sorry, dad! Dad, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He seemed to believe that the more times he professed his sorrow, the more readily I would accept his apology and forego any kind of punishment. But while his apologies were always fervent, they were rarely sincere. There was one thing usually missing: Any sense of repentance. Oh, there was regret. He really was sorry. But only that he had been caught. He wasn’t sorry for what he had done. In fact, given enough time, he would usually repeat the same act again and follow it up with the same repetitive claim of sorrowful regret when found out.

Paul had had to write a “severe letter” to the church in Corinth. We are not told what the content or context of that letter entailed, but it had not been easy for Paul to write it. He had referred to this letter before by saying, “I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4 NLT). The letter to which Paul is referring is not 1 Corinthians. It is a letter he penned sometime between the writing of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. In that lost third letter, Paul had reluctantly addressed some issues going on in the Corinthian church. After it was sent, he even went through some regret, fearing what he had said would prove to be too harsh and painful. But when he finally received word that his letter had produced repentance and changed behavior, he was glad he had sent it. What Paul had wanted all along from the Corinthians is the same thing I wanted from my son: Repentance. Godly sorrow – a sorrow that is produced in the life of an individual by God – always produces repentance, and repentance results in a change in behavior. The Greek word that Paul uses here that is translated repentance, actually means “to change one’s mind.” It conveys the idea of reversing your stance on an issue and admitting the error of your way. As a result, repentance results in a change in behavior. The sorrow Paul’s letter produced in the Corinthians was godly sorrow because it “leads us away from sin and results in salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT). The salvation Paul is talking about here is not eternal salvation, but a temporal salvation or deliverance from a bad situation. This kind of sorrow comes without regret. Too often, we are only sorry for the effects our sins have produced or for the inconvenience of having been caught. But regret and repentance are not the same thing. Regret rarely produces a change in behavior because it never touches the heart. Worldly sorrow lacks repentance, and it leads to spiritual death in the form of resentment and bitterness.

It’s fairly easy to spot the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Paul described it this way: “Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right” (2 Corinthians 7:11 NLT). Their sorrow produced a change in mind, which led to a change in behavior. They wanted to set things right. Their sorrow wasn’t short-lived, but long-lasting and real. “It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have” (2 Corinthians 7:9 NLT). Ultimately, God wants to bring joy to our lives, but sometimes He must begin the process by producing in us godly sorrow. We must learn to change our minds and see things from His perspective instead of our own. We must see sin the way He does. We must agree with His assessment of our lives and confess our sin and turn from it. We must repent. Godly sorrow produces repentance and results in a transformation in our character and conduct. And that’s something we will never end up regretting.

Father, thank You for lovingly bringing me so often to a point of godly sorrow. It is not something I pursue or desire. But I need it. I need Your help in changing my mind and seeing things from Your perspective. Too often, I can learn to view my behavior as perfectly fine and justify my actions as righteous and good. But then You convict me through Your Word and reveal the truth about my heart. That sorrow then produces repentance and result in a change in my behavior. Yes, it hurts, but it’s always for my good and results in Your glory. So don’t stop. Amen.

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

2 Corinthians 6

Living Proof.

2 Corinthians 6

In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. – 2 Corinthians 6:4 NLT

Salvation is to be a holistic experience. It should impact every area of an individual’s life. And while primarily spiritual in nature, it manifests itself in the physical realm by transforming our behavior and equipping us to live radically different lives regardless of the circumstances we may encounter. It is in the physical world that our spiritual transformation becomes visible and practical. Paul could confidently claim that his salvation and his commission as a minister of God influenced every area of his life. It was because of his relationship with Jesus Christ that he could patiently endure troubles, hardships and calamities of every kind. He had endured beatings, angry mobs, imprisonment, exhaustion from hard work, sleepless nights, and gone without food for long periods of time; and yet, he continued to live a life marked by purity, understanding, patience, kindness, and love. In other words, his life revealed the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, regardless of what was happening to him or around him. It is how we handle our circumstances that gives evidence of our salvation. Our behavior, actions, and attitudes are the best proof of our inner transformation, Paul was able to say with a straight face, “We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us” (2 Corinthians 6:8 NLT). Paul’s faithfulness to God was not contingent on everything going his way or life turning out the way he expected it to. Paul had endured a great deal of pain and suffering since he had come to know Christ. His path had been anything but easy. His faithfulness to God’s call had not resulted in fame and fortune, but had brought him rejection, ridicule, heartache, physical pain, and poverty. And yet, he had joy, spiritual riches, and a sense of contentment with his lot in life.

God is in the life-changing business. He didn’t just send His Son to save us, but to redeem and renew us. God is not changing the world in which we live, but He is transforming lives of His children who live in the world. He is making us His ambassadors and representatives. He is making us salt and light. He is making us living proof of His Spirit’s presence and the resurrection power of the cross. There is a day coming when God will restore and renew His entire creation. But for right now, it is only the lives of men and women that He is reconciling. We are the beneficiaries of His love, grace, and mercy. We alone can know what it means to be made right with God and restored to a right relationship with Him. He is changing us so that we might be His change agents in this world. Paul was able to say, “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry” (2 Corinthians 6:3 NLT). He was confident in his assertion that his life was not a disconnect from or a discredit to his claim to have been changed by Christ. His actions under fire gave proof of his salvation. His ability to endure trials, troubles and hardships was evidence of the Spirit’s presence in his life.

There was a certain separation between the way Paul lived and the way the world around him lived. He lived his life differently and distinctively from the rest of the world. He had been set apart by God and lived accordingly. And yet, the Corinthians tended to want to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted salvation, but they preferred to keep their ties to the world and the pleasures this world offers. So Paul called them out. He challenged them to recognize their distinctiveness as Christ-followers and to live accordingly. He called them to live lives that gave evidence of their distinctiveness. Yes, it would be difficult. It would be risky. It would probably result in pain, rejection, and a certain degree of suffering. But God would be there in the midst of it all. Their lives would become proof of God’s transforming and sustaining power. They would become lights in the midst of the darkness. For Paul, compromise was never an option. Complacency was never a consideration. He was sold out and totally committed to the cause of Christ and it could be seen in every area of his life. His salvation had been total and complete. He was a new man – inside and out. And he lived like it. So should we.

Father, I want my inner transformation to show up in my outer man. I want my life to be living proof of Your presence in my life. You have not changed the world or my circumstances, but You are changing me and my capacity to live differently in the midst of it all. Continue to change me from the inside out. Let my new heart result in a new man. May others see Christ in me regardless of what is happening to me or around me. Amen.

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