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

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

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

2 Corinthians chapter 10

Fighting “Friendly” Fire

“With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ. – Vs 5 NLT

When I think of this verse, it has almost always been out of its context. In other words, I tend to fail to read it or use it within the context in which Paul first penned it under the influence of the Holy Spirit. If you read it in one of the more traditional translations you’ll see what I mean. The New American Standard Bible translates it this way: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” I read that and automatically think of it as a personal statement. This is something that I am supposed to be doing in my own life. In other words, this verse is about me taking every one of my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. I am supposed to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God in my life. While that is probably a wise and true thing to do, it is NOT what Paul meant. When he said, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (Vs 4 NASB), he wasn’t referring to “fortresses” in our own lives as believers. He wasn’t talking about doing spiritual battle with the forces of the enemy attacking us personally. No, this chapter is about war being waged within the church. Paul’s leadership is being attacked from within. There are those in the church in Corinth who are questioning his leadership. These individuals were questioning Paul’s apostolic authority and following “false” apostles. He describes them as such in the next chapter: “For such men false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13 NASB).

These men were apparently Hebrew believers (11:22) who claimed to have a spiritual superiority over Paul (10:7) and who were trying to take advantage of the rest of the believers in the church (11:20). These people were claiming that Paul had no divine influence in his life. That’s what Paul meant when he described them as, “people who think that we live by the standards of this world” (Vs 2 NIV). They were attacking Paul’s leadership, authority, divine direction, and his integrity. And he viewed it as a war. “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods” (Vs 3 NLT). Instead, “we use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds” (Vs 4 NLT). Paul knew this was a spiritual battle. He knew he had to “break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God.” He had to use spiritual weapons to “conquer their rebellious ideas.” He had a responsibility to “teach them to obey Christ” (Vs 5 NLT).

The war goes on today. Even within the church of Jesus Christ. There will always be those who question the authority of leadership. There are those who come into the church with selfish motives and destructive desires. They will either unwittingly or knowingly keep people from knowing God. They will foster rebellious ideas against leadership in the church. Paul says the way to handle these kinds of people is to battle with them in the spiritual realm. Through prayer and in the power of God. He knew he needed God’s help in destroying “fortresses” – those false arguments and reasonings people use to fortify and defend their opinions. He knew he needed God’s help in exposing their “speculations” – those ideas that are hostile to God. He knew he needed God’s power to tear down the “lofty ideas” – those barriers or walls of ideas erected by men that were keeping others from having access to the gospel.

That’s the battle and it is still going on today. This isn’t just about me fighting my own little spiritual battle inside my own life. This is about the spiritual integrity and health of the church. Paul was willing to fight for it. Not just to defend his name and reputation. Not just to protect his power base. But because the gospel was under attack. He had been given a job to do by God and he was going to do it. He was going to fight to protect the flock in Corinth and to finish what God had called him to do. “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us, and this plan includes our working there with you” (Vs 13 NLT).

Father, give me an increasing heart for the local church and the global church. It is under attack today. From within. There are those who would love to distract us and ultimately destroy us from within. Open our eyes to the spiritual warfare taking place inside the body of Christ today. Give us boldness to speak up and to tear down false ideas and destructive ideas that would prevent others from knowing the truth of Jesus Christ. Raise up more Pauls in the church today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians chapter 9

When We Give, Everyone Gets More

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. – Vs 12 NIV

Paul has been talking about giving. He is encouraging the Corinthians believers to take part in raising financial support for the church in Jerusalem where the people are undergoing financial hardship and religious persecution. He has used the Macedonion believers as examples of what it means to give. Now he continues to exhort the Corinthians to be a part of this vital ministry by reminding that this is about more than just giving money. Ultimately, this is about God’s glory. Our giving goes beyond the meeting of some other person’s financial need. That is just the beginning. First of all, when we give, we allow God to give back to us. “You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (Vs 7-8 NLT). When we give cheerfully, willingly, and generously, we give God the opportunity to give back to us. This is not the reason we give. In other words, we don’t give to get. God is not some kind of investment strategy for financial security. No, we give because it is a characteristic we have as one of His followers. We give and God gives back to us so that we might be able to give again. We meet the needs of others and he meets our needs. It is the law of sowing and reaping. “Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop” (Vs 6 MSG). We can’t out-give God. He will give us all we need to give and to live, and even more beyond that in the way of righteous living. “For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God” (Vs 10-11 NLT). The end of verse 11 tells us of someone else who benefits from our generous giving. It’s God. When we give to meet the needs of others, they are blessed and respond in thanksgiving to God. Paul says that our giving is evidence of our obedience to God. It is an outward act that shows what is going on inside us. “For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all” (Vs 12-13 NASB).

We give and others get. The ones in need get much-needed financial support. We get the blessings of God in the form of a miraculous sufficiency in everything. He gives us what we need to meet our own needs, but also to continue meeting the needs of others. He makes sure we can continue being generous and not run out of resources. So those we support get and so do we. But then the most important recipient is God, because He gets praise and glory for being the One who made it all possible. He gets the honor of being the One who gave us the heart and the capacity to give in the first place. He gets the recognition for being the One who supplies all the resources to meet the needs of His children all across the world. God gets the glory!

So why don’t we give more? I guess because we don’t believe the law of the harvest. We live as if the seed we have is all we have. We are afraid to sow it because we don’t trust that it will come back to us. There is a great deal of trust involved in this process. Those in need are having to trust God to meet their need. Those of us who are being led by God to meet that need are having to trust Him that He will meet any needs we might have as a result of our giving. But Paul reminds us that our God can be trusted. If we sow, we will reap. He will multiply our seed for sowing and increase the harvest of our righteousness. We will never run out of seed. Do you believe that? Are you willing to put it to the test? Jesus Himself said, “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving––large or small––it will be used to measure what is given back to you” (Luke 6:38 NLT).

Father, I want to be more of a giver. Forgive me for not trusting You to meet my needs if I meet the needs of others. I can’t out-give You. Give me the boldness to step out in faith and begin to live a life of generosity. So that you might receive glory. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians chapter 8

Giving Comes Naturally To Those Given To God

“Since you excel in so many ways – you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us – now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving. – Vs 7 NLT

I love The Message paraphrase of this verse: “You do so well in so many things – you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us – now, do your best in this, too.” Paul was encouraging the Corinthian believers to follow the example of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in the churches in Macedonia. “Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will” (Vs 2-3 NLT). In spite of difficult circumstances and financial tough times, these people were giving sacrificially, above and beyond even their ability to give. They had taken up a collection for the believers in Jerusalem who were also undergoing persecution and financial difficulty. They could have easily opted out and excused themselves from giving, but instead they excelled at it! So much so, that Paul used them as examples to the believers in Corinth.

The Corinthians believers excelled at a lot of things: faith, speaking, knowledge, enthusiasm, and love. But they were obviously slacking in their practice of grace giving. It would seem that they had yet to support Paul in any of his missionary endeavors. And now that he was raising money to take back to the church in Jerusalem, they had yet to contribute to that either. It would seem, that to Paul, the gracious giving of their finances to help support and encourage other believers was just as important as any other acts of faith or service they may accomplish. Look at what Paul says about them. He says, ” They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem” (Vs 4 NLT). They begged us again and again. They pleaded with Paul to take the money they had raised for the Jerusalem church. Their giving was a natural outflow of their relationship with God. “This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives” (Vs 5 MSG). Giving came naturally to them because they were given to God. They were sold out to God for His use and His will. So when God laid it on their heart to help their fellow believers by giving, they could not resist. They HAD to give.

What a convicting chapter this is. How many times have I failed to give because I didn’t think I could afford to give. Or how many times have I given, but only what I could afford to give. No sacrifice. No pain. These people weren’t giving out of their abundance, but out of their need. They were giving to others what they legitimately needed for their own existence. And they did it willingly! In doing so, they were following their Savior’s example. “You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (Vs 9 NLT). It reminds me of Paul’s words in Philippians chapter two:

“Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-9 NLT).

Jesus excelled at giving. So should we. Jesus gave all He had. So should we. Jesus gave till it hurt. So should we. Jesus gave willingly and sacrificially. So should I.

Father, forgive me for my selfishness. Thank You for this reminder to give. Not reluctantly, but willingly and sacrificially. But I know it will only happen as I give myself to You completely. Selfishness is just a reminder of my own self-centeredness. It reveals that I am not as sold out to You as I should be. If I truly belong to You, then all I have belongs to You. Then giving it away to others becomes not only easy, but enjoyable. May that be increasingly more the case in my life – with Your help. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians chapter 7

Godly Sorrow

“For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. – Vs 10 NLT

It seems Paul had written a third letter to the Corinthian believers that we no longer have. He refers to it in this chapter. Evidently Paul had addressed a difficult topic in his letter that had brought sadness to his readers, because he wrote, “I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while” (Vs 8 NLT). We’re not sure what the content of that letter was, but it was strongly worded enough so that it caused the believers in Corinth to reconsider their ways and make changes to their behavior. “Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way” (Vs 9 NLT). Paul’s words, though hurtful, were in the end helpful. They caused his fellow believers to have to take stock of their lives and repent of their ways. His words caused sorrow in their lives, but that sorrow led then to seek repentance – to turn away from sin and seek salvation.

Sometimes that is how God works in our lives. Through His Word or the words of one of His messengers, He convicts us of sin and creates in us a sorrow for our actions. But at that point we still have a choice to make. We can wallow in our sorrow and sadness, or we can choose to turn away from our sin and seek salvation. We can choose to repent. In the Greek the word repent means “a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done.” It carries the idea of guilt, but with reformation. It is to change direction through changed behavior. Repentance includes reformation and restoration. We must come to God, confess our sin, turn from it, and then He restores us. He brings us salvation by saving us from our own sinfulness.

But if all we do is experience the guilt and the sorrow, it will produce nothing. There is not benefit. Paul says that kind of sorrow only leads to death. “But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death” (Vs 10b NLT). That’s worldly sorrow. It is a sorrow without benefits. It produces nothing of value – only death. But godly sorrow brings about effective change. “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 the wrongdoer. You showed that you have done everything you could to make things right” (Vs 11 NLT). Godly sorrow produced a positive response. They reacted, not with debilitating guilt and regret, but with positive steps of repentance and reformation. They did everything they could to make things right. They went from guilt to innocence. Instead of death, they experienced renewed life.

God is speaking to us daily through His word. He convicts and challenges us. He exposes areas of our lives that need to change. We can ignore His words. We can experience guilt because of them. But He wants our sorrow to lead to salvation. He wants our remorse to lead to repentance.

Father, thank You for the convicting power of Your word. It has so often challenged me and exposed areas of my life that need to change. Thank You that it brings about a sorrow, but a sorrow that leads to repentance, not just guilt and regret. You have given me the power to turn from my sin and to seek change. I can experience a sorrow that leads to repentance and reformation. I don’t have to remain as I am, but can become increasingly more what You want me to be. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians chapter 6

Stand Out From the Crowd

“Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.” – Vs 17a NLT

We are to be different. As Christ followers, we are called to a life of distinctiveness and difference. Ours is not to be a life marked by commonality and more-of-the-sameness. No, we are to stand out from the crowd. Not in a prideful, arrogant way, or in order to draw attention to ourselves, but because we are children of light living in the middle of darkness. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has given us new life. He has given us new power through His indwelling Holy Spirit. We are new creations. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives” (Romans 6:4 NLT).

We are not the same anymore. We have been changed and are being changed with each passing day so that we have a greater and greater resemblance to Jesus Christ. “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). So instead of blending in, we should stand out. We should be distinctively different. But the sad case is, for many of us, we tend to look and act like the world around us. We have lost our distinctiveness. We have failed to be unique. How? By buying into the lie that to reach the world we must be like the world. We believe that in order to become like them to be liked by them. But Jesus warned His disciples, “The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you” (John 15:19 NLT). In His High Priestly prayer, He asked the Father, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am” (John 15:15-16 NLT). We are not of this world anymore. This world is no longer our real home. We are not to have a love affair with this world. Yet we are to live in it. And we are to make a difference while we are here. But we can’t do that if we lose our distinctiveness, if we lose our unique flavor as followers of Christ. “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world––like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16 NLT).

We are called to live distinctively different lives. We are called to uniqueness, not uniformity. We are called NOT to live like the world, but to live like Christ in the midst of it. To be salt and light. To add the distinctive flavor of Christ-likeness and the illuminating influence of our Spirit-filled lives. We are to make an impact on the world. Jesus prayed that we would: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father––that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:20-21 NLT).

Father, You have called me to a life of distinctiveness. But I struggle constantly with conformity to this world. My flesh wants to fit in rather than stand out. I fight the desire to be loved by the world. But Your Son didn’t die for me so that I could remain just like I was. He died to give me new life and a new message of hope to a lost and dying world. Help me to live a life of separateness, a life of distinctiveness. Help me to be the salt and light You have called me to be, so that the world will see the difference You can make in a man’s life and believe in Your Son who makes it all possible. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians chapter 5

WANTED: Dead of Alive

“So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. – Vs 9 NLT

Our aim is to please Him – always. Paul had one overwhelming ambition in his life – to please God with his life. He longed to be with the Lord, but was not content to wait for death and eternity to begin living a holy life, wholly pleasing to God. He was going to do it even when he was occupying this temporary dwelling called a human body. In chapter four he referred to his body as an earthen vessel or clay pot that was filled with the priceless treasure of God’s gift of salvation. Paul’s body, though having been beaten and abused time after time in his service for God, contained the Holy Spirit of God. Yet he says, “Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life” (Vs 4 NLT). Paul looked forward to eternity, but he was not so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good. He was busy serving the Lord, making it his ambition to please God with his life as long as he had life. He makes it quite clear that he would prefer to be with the Lord. “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (Vs 8 NLT). He understood that the Holy Spirit was given to us as a kind of “down-payment” or pledge to remind us of eternity. “God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit” (Vs 5 NLT). God has created us to share eternity with Him. That is our ultimate purpose. But Paul was going to take advantage of every moment of his life on this earth and ensure that he lived a life that was pleasing to God. Thinking about eternal life and the reality of having a renewed body gave Paul courage to live life for God on this earth (Vs 6). It allowed him to live by faith and not by sight (Vs 7). It gave him all the motivation he needed to live a life that was pleasing and acceptable to God.

Father, I want my life to be pleasing and acceptable to You. I want to live the life You have given me on this earth to the fullest and with my goal clearly to please You with all that I do. I understand that any ability I have to please You comes from Your Spirit within me and because of what Christ has done for me. I am a clay pot that contains the priceless treasure of salvation. That is what gives my life value and worth. That is what makes me pleasing to You. May I live my life in such a way that the truth of the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ is evident in my life each and every day.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians chapter 4

Jars of Clay

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – Vs 7 NIV

This is the verse from which this blog derives its name: Vessels of Clay. It is one of my favorite verses because it reminds me of the miracle and mystery of the Gospel message. That “this precious treasure – this light and power that now shine within us – is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own” (NLT). God has placed the priceless treasure of salvation through the death of His Son in this frail, sometime failure-prone body. Why? So that everyone around me might see that anything I do of any worth is based on His power and not mine. It fits right in with our verse from yesterday: “It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5 NLT).

We hold the light of God’s truth regarding salvation and sanctification in our earthly bodies. We are common, everyday clay pots – worth little or nothing and having no value in and of themselves. Yet God has chosen to place His own Spirit within us. He has determined to make us the receptacles of His divine power. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 2:20. “In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a utensil God can use for his purpose. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” You see, the value is NOT in the container, but in the contents of that container. It is God’s presence and power that give us worth. This is the message Paul conveyed to the believers in Colossae. “For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory” (Colossians 1:27 NLT). His presence sanctifies me, sets me apart. His presence makes me holy – I belong to Him and now exist for His use. I am a “vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 NASB).

Father, thank You choosing to make me a vessel for honor by filling my life with Your presence through the death, burial, and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ. I am amazed that you would use me, and thrilled that You do. I bring nothing to You, but You have given all to me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men