True Repentance.

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.

“It is good for you to be amazed, to be overawed that the Creator of the whole universe – the One who created all the galaxies should allow you to stand here in his presence. But I not only allow you, I invite you and I invite you not as one who is just an object that I created – but I invite you as a friend, I invite you into fellowship – to sit at my table as it were with Me and enjoy my friendship. I invite you as a son, a brother, a friend – my purpose is growing that friendship – so yes, stand amazed and overawed – but let that be the starting point, the underlying basis of our friendship – but let it grow from there into a full blown friendship where you can share everything with me.”

Continuing now in 2 Corinthians 7, Paul maintains his affirmation of love and concern towards them He reminds them of the delegation of Titus to them and affirms his delight at the result. Not only did the news of their reception comfort him, he is delighted that Titus had in fact, comforted them. We are taken back again to the beginning of the letter where Paul emphasized the concept of “comfort”, against the background of God being the Supreme Comforter and how we should all take a cue from that using the comfort we have received during difficult times as a basis to comfort others.

But now we come to a crucial paragraph in the whole letter from vs 8. Underlying Paul’s previous letter, which he describes as severe and which he is sort of expressing regret (I think with tongue in the cheek) that he had to send it, we have this magnificent exposition of what true repentance is. That is the repentance that Paul was seeking in them and perceived that they had shown it.

Can you see the emphasis in this section? Paul starts with the fact that repentance starts with “sorrow” vs 9. However he makes a strong point about this sorrow. You see there are two types of sorrow people experience when they are confronted with their sin. Can you see them? Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow..

I can remember sitting on the beach at Pringle Bay where I had gone to confront a brother who was involved in adultery. As I spoke to him he wept copiously, threw himself on the ground and declared his sorrow. However, as it turned out, his behaviour never changed. The sorrow he was expressing was “worldly sorrow”. In some way, I suppose he was sorry that he had been exposed and would be unable to continue as before.

True, godly sorrow comes when one realizes the full extent that your behaviour has offended God, not other people. We see that in Psalm 51:4 where David, although his sin had causes huge pain to others, is more concerned about the pain that it caused God. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done evil in your sight”.

Paul compares the two types of sorrow in their final effect. Godley sorrow leads to salvation and leaves no regret, whereas worldly sorrow brings death. I take it he is speaking here about eternal death.. Look how he shows that their sorrow was indeed godly sorrow. vs 11,12. Godly sorrow, followed by true repentance always leads to a change in behaviour, even if it is slow sometimes.

Paul has turned the purpose of his writing to a different perspective at the end of this chapter. He expresses his satisfaction that having encouraged them at the same time they had in turn encouraged Paul and Titus. How this correspondence had, in fact improved their relationship with each other. He ends the chapter with a final word of encouragement in vs 16 “I’m glad I can have complete confidence in you”.

So what did I learn and hear Jesus say from this chapter? Well, firstly I was reminded of the pivotal role repentance plays in the practice of our relationship with the Lord. Without writing an essay on it, I would say that the important feature’s of repentance are – firstly a recognition of the the enormous gulf sin causes between us and God. To remember the pain we cause Him when we sin. Then a genuine regret that comes with that as well as realizing that in Jesus lies complete forgiveness and the power to change future behaviour. This is integral to how we conduct our relationship with the Lord. It should be like breathing.

I find it abhorrent when fellow Christians walk around with long faces bemoaning their sinful state. We live a life of victory in Jesus and the remedy for our sin is at hand. We should recognize it and deal with it in the manner which God has prescribed. Then we can experience the full joy of our relationship with the Father.

It has also struck me how hard Paul has worked at winning the Corinthian church back to him and to he Lord of course. That is surely an example we need to take to heart.

Well. bless you on this cold wintery evening and share any other insights you may have had from this chapter with us on the blog comments.

The Importance of Purity

I have been thinking of “The Song Of Solomon”.

“ The song of Solomon has been placed in the center of My word as a reminder of the kind of relationship I would have with you and all those who have responded to Me. It is a reminder that I, like the bridegroom, have been wooing you into a love relationship with Me. I have taken the initiative. I have approached you and revealed My heart do you. My attitude has been to woo you into discovering the fullness of life which can only be found in Me. My word is my love letter do you – so remember it is not like a thorn branch full of prickles to make you feel uncomfortable. It is a revelation of Myself and demonstrating My desire to have a relationship with you. And as you respond My love letter will reveal My heart to you so that you may understand how you should do that so that our relationship will be perfect. So come close to me my loved one and all that of those who read this and receive my love”.

We have reached ch 7 of 2 Corinthians. In the first part, vv 3-10 Paul opens up again about the personal hardships, suffering and pain he has gone through. Why is he laying it on so thick here again?

It seems the answer is in vv 11-13. It appears that a number in the Corinthian church have built up a sort of animosity towards Paul. Probably partly due to the tone of his earlier communication with them and partly due to the actions of at least one person who has made it a task to alienate the Corinthians from Paul. Its as if Paul is using the maximum emotional pressure on these people, to get them to respond to the message he has for them. They first need to “open wide their hearts”, before they will be in a position to HEAR what Paul is wanting to say to them.

These vv are a remarkable revelation, once again of the sort of life Paul had been living for the gospel. As I considered these revelations, I found myself, on the one hand being grateful that the Lord has not called me to that sort of life and at the same time wondering if I would still be able to be as positive as Paul was after it all if I had been faced with these sorts of hardships. It helped also to put into perspective any hardships I might feel that I have experienced.

At the same time I am reminded of the many fellow believers who have been martyred over the years. Recently in a documentary on the bible that I saw, it revealed that over 50 million people had been brutally tortured and put to death by the Spanish Inquisition over a question of 4-600 years. It was a stark reminder to me of how important God’s word is and our faith, that all these people were prepared to die an excruciating death rather than recant. It made me appreciate God’s word so much more as well as the immense privilege I have to be part of His kingdom.

Now Paul, having drawn the attention of the Corinthians and hopefully persuaded them to “open their hearts”, addresses the next concern He has. Their purity. Now it is important to see that this section comes after he has spoken about the gospel, in the previous chapters. The order is most important. We cannot purify ourselves before our hearts have been changed by the gospel. In fact, once we are born again we are judicially regarded as being pure. However our status is not necessarily matched by our behaviour. Here in Corinth there were some pretty questionable practices going on, especially in the temples.

It would appear that the things that were happening were carried on by “unbelievers”. Some who had not accepted Jesus as their Saviour. What appears to have been happening is that some of the believers felt that they were now judicially pure and therefore free to participate. They were being led and influenced by the unbelievers.

Paul wants them to sit up and listen. There is no place for tasting these fruits. There is only one way for a true Christian and that is to walk the road of purity with the Holy Spirit. He really expresses this in he strongest of terms, which should remind us too that we should be careful of feeling immune to the devil’s temptation and share in things that are borderline. Many Christians have come to grief because of not realizing how important purity is in God’s kingdom. There can be no place for dabbling in something, even if it is only in the shallow water of questionable disobedience.

This is also a warning to be careful who your close friends are. It does not mean you must not be friendly with non-Christians, but a really close “bestie” type of friendship can perhaps override your standards if the other person has a strong personality. I have seen that happen on more than one occasion. Of course this passage is often used as a warning to those who are planning to get married. It is applicable, but not the main thrust of Paul’s teaching.

In closing we can look back at Paul’s life and see to what extent he was prepared to go to remain “pure”, as it were. Let us never think this subject can be buried under the banner of God’s grace. Remember the warning in Hebrews 12:14; “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. Holiness is not a deprivation, it is a joy. So have a lovely holy week each of you.

The Ministry of Reconciliation.

I have been singing, “it was finished upon that cross”.

“Do you fully understand and appreciate the full extent of what those words convey? Of that moment in time when everything changed? Up till then the whole of creation, the whole of history was building up with bated breath and as I called out those words the dam broke and my healing power, my forgiveness, my grace flooded the world in a new way and from then onwards everything was changed, made new. But, although Satan was defeated at that moment he still prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The battle is intense – look around you and you can see all the debris of the battle in the broken lives, the pain and the suffering. Do not ever underestimate the intensity of that battle – yes I am the victor, in Me you are safe. So be alert, hide yourself in me as a shield against the fiery darts and go out in that confidence, the confidence of My victory.”

As we move now into Chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians, we follow Paul’s discussion on the contrast between our present frailty and the beautiful permanence of the gospel. He reminds us, as if we need to be reminded of the sighing and groaning in our lives in this world. He uses the picture of a tent for our bodies, to emphasize the temporary nature of our life here on earth. We need to remember that this life is only temporary and we are reminded that we were sealed with the Holy Spirit the moment we were born-again to guarantee a life which is still to come, a life of real permanence.

In the meantime Paul also reminds us that, in this life we live by faith (v 7) and our aim should be to live a life which is pleasing to God. And we will all appear before the throne of grace eventually – not to be judged, Jesus has taken God’s judgement on Himself, but for the things that are due to us (v10).

I have pondered a lot on this passage, as to what Jesus is actually saying to me. I have been experiencing a number of physical challenges in the last months and have often found myself so wrapped up in my immediate feelings and emotions that I have seemed to have put my relationship with Jesus on the back burner. It is what I feel at the moment which fills my mind. Yet what Paul is saying is that everyone is living a temporary life here on earth, the sighing and groaning are common to all. I need to step past that, remind myself of the bigger picture and live by faith in a way that pleases God, from moment to moment. I can only do this with the power of His Spirit to help me.

Paul then goes on to describe his actual ministry, in this case to the Corinthians, but I dare say it has been his ministry from the beginning. Similarly it is every one of us’ ministry. Maybe for some in only a small way and for others a full-time career.

He gathers it all together with the description of the ministry being one of reconciliation. vv 18 ff. Notice though, it is a ministry in which God is doing the reconciling “through Christ“. He is reconciling the whole world to himself. The role of the minister? the role of each of us? Is to be an ambassador, appealing to the lost on Christ’s behalf.

Paul launches this section with two reasons why he is constrained to do this work. v11 “Since, then we know what it is to fear the Lord”. And in vs 14 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all , and therefore all died.”

Do you know what it really means to “fear the Lord?” And are you constrained by Christ’s love to follow Him as He asks, being an ambassador for Him?

In this section is also the kernel of the gospel again, so well put and worth taking in. vs 14b “One died for all and therefore all died. (15)And He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” vs 17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” vs 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. vs 19 “God was reconciling the world to Himself , in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them”.

Then finally the appeal to respond in Ch 6. We all would like to call out to some of our loved ones “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”. It is urgent but it is God who saves, as much as we may call out to the lost. Seeing that it is God who saves our all should equally be to Him to save.

So bless you all for another week.

Treasure in a Jar of Clay.

In my mind’s eye I surrender all I have to the Lord this morning. I give him back everything he has given me to live my life with. I surrender that back to him and I have a picture of myself kneeling naked before His cross.

“I hear you and receive all you have surrendered to Me. Stand up – I have taken you and clothed you with my cloak of holiness, of praise and of righteousness. You have received a new life – not the old life patched and repaired – a new life completely fresh in my holiness and in my loving presence. You are a new person – not a reconstructed figure from the past. I have created you for this experience to be part of My holy family, so cast off all your doubts, your cares and your insecurities and remind yourself of My love which surrounds you. And in all this, I will give you all you need to live in righteousness and godliness, but most of all I will give you Myself and my love. Let that thought govern your whole life “

As we turn now again to 2 Corinthians, let us start today by reminding ourselves of the melodic line which runs through this letter: “Paul’s suffering is the revelatory vehicle through which the knowledge of God – manifest in the cross of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. His suffering, the embodiment of Christ’s crucifixion – is the very instrument that God uses to display His resurrection power. He does this in two ways: – either rescue when it is all too much to bear – or strengthening in the midst of adversity, so that God will be glorified”.

It helps to keep this in mind as we seek to unravel all Paul’s twists and turns in His arguments and speeches.

As we come now to Ch 4 we can pick up another bracket in the text which should help us follow the main thought. The phrase is: “Therefore we do not lose heart”. vv 1 and 16. As Paul continues to defend His ministry in the light of the accusations that he could not be a true apostle because of his weakness and all the trouble he has been through.

Paul’s defence is quite clear: “But we have this treasure (ie the blessing of the gospel) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”. vs 7 God’s power becomes blindingly obvious when we are weak and our obstacles appear insurmountable. His intervention, in whatever way, is much clearer under those circumstances.

Friends, this is a principle which is just as true today as it was then. When we are “self-sufficient” and think we have everything under control, God is unable to demonstrate His supernatural power. I, myself love to have things under control, it gives me a sense of security. However God is in the business of showing me how much I actually need Him, in every part of my life. So He knocks my feet, my security out of under me, to show how false that is. Sometimes those lessons are really painful.

Now as we read this chapter we have two things contrasted. Paul’s weakness and all his troubles, on the one hand and the brilliant blessing of the perfect gospel on the other. The two should not be confused. In the middle we have a key statement which we should not miss (v13). It is Paul’s faith which gives him the right to speak with absolute confidence of the amazing work of Jesus on the cross and being raised from the dead.

Paul will not allow the Corinthians to disparage the gospel because of all the troubles he has had and his apparent weakness. Therefore (vs 16) he is determined not to lose heart but to continue his ministry to them even though there are those who oppose him.

His summary at the close of the chapter (4:16-18), is perhaps the most revealing as to how he is feeling. This sentiment, I am sure resonates among all of our readers. We are all conscious of the wasting away of age and infirmity, but the clarion call is that we should not be measured and we should not measure ourselves by that. The reality is, if you are walking with Christ, that the inward spiritual, real you is being strengthened every day and will be that part of us which will one day experience the full joy of being in the presence of God Himself and the Lamb that was slain.

So I call on you all to heed 4 :19; “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen eternal” and not lose heart, no matter how difficult things may seem or become.

God bless till next week.

Paul reveals More.

“ You have been singing, ‘On that day you will see Him’. On that day as the curtain is drawn aside – you’ll see and understand the fulness of My grace – My Grace has been surrounding you and protecting you and even as you have said, ‘Your grace is sufficient for me’ – you have never really plumbed the full depth of what that means. But on that day it will all be revealed to you and even as all your cares and worries are shed the best part of all is that My Grace will be replaced by the fullness of My Presence – that is a promise from Me which you even now cannot fully appreciate – but relax now and receive My peace and grace and enjoy every moment I give you here in preparation of that great day.”

As we go on now into this letter to the Corinthians, in Ch 2 from vs 12, (till 3:18), we see Paul continuing the defence of his ministry, in the face of severe criticism and suggestions that he was not an authentic Apostle. After some personal notes as to his travel plans, he makes the first point. We see that in vs 17 where he reminds them that he did not come to them trying to make money out of preaching the gospel. This sort of gives one a picture of what was happening at the time when there were no written scriptures available yet. Nothing’s changed as we look at the world around us today, with many trying to and succeeding, may I say to get rich from peddling the gospel.

He goes on to mention letters of recommendation. It seems that some of the travelling teachers carried letters of recommendation to authenticate their ministry, which was probably very helpful in the face of the many false teachers around. However Paul makes the point that he did not need any letter, because the people who he had ministered to were his letter. Obviously he is speaking about the real change that happens when people are genuinely converted to Christianity.

Buried in there (2: 15 ff) is the classic statement about the aroma of Christ, which I am sure you have all experienced and seen from time to time. It is a very apt description of the two ways that people respond to the gospel and the eventual outcome which follows each decision.

In 3:4 Paul once again affirms the important point that his appointment is from God and that leads him to describing his message in terms of the New Covenant as compared to the Old. There were probably quite a number of converted Jews in the congregations and Paul wants to make clear how the New Covenant is a major advance over the Old. Why don’t you read through3:6 – 3:18 and see what the three points are that Paul is making in comparing the two.

  1. Vs 7. The law, as glorious as it was, set the standard, but was unable to provide the power necessary to obey it, which the Spirit who is even more glorious does (vs 8).
  2. The law had an honourable purpose, but it was only temporary. Paul uses the example of the fading glory on Moses face (v 11).
  3. The law betokened a barrier between God and the people of Israel – both in Moses’ day as then and even today. The barrier, which is likened to the veil over Moses’ face, hides the truth and only Christ can remove that barrier. This is the work of the Spirit and is responsible for the glorious transformation that the message of the New Covenant brought then and right up to today.

This brings us right back to the beginning of our passage today. The authentic gospel always brings a dramatic change to those who embrace it and the measure of a church’s effectiveness is the many lives that are changed through its ministry.

So what has Jesus’ being saying to me this week? Firstly the reminder of the power of the gospel is so relevant and makes me excited as a minister of that very glorious gospel, which I feel God has appointed me to do even if only in a modest way.

Secondly it is also a reminder, if we need one, of the many who turn their backs on the gospel message, to whom it is the aroma of death. Knowing this as a fact means I should never take a negative reaction personally, as long as I have been careful to respect the person I am speaking to.

I suppose there is much else, but finally there is a reminder, and I’m sure this is for all of us, in 4:18. It is a timely reminder that God is busy with each one of us busy transforming us into His likeness, through His Spirit. Written between the lines is the reality of this whole letter that that transformation often happens through greater or lesser suffering and difficulty.

So keep walking with the Spirit this week friends and be ready to give an answer for the hope you have, which is demonstrated by your changed life. Even and often in the face of suffering.