2 Corinthians

Eyes Shut

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You may have heard the phrase, “seeing is believing”, implying that if we’re not able to see something with our own eyes, why should we believe it? It is human nature to subscribe to this notion because we live in a fallen world where people are subject to exaggerate, mislead, or even lie when talking about events or so-called facts. And as we grow older we become even more jaded and cynical. But when it comes to our God; when it comes to his word and his promises, believers do not have to see to believe. Paul reminds the church of Corinth in second Corinthians 5:7:

“We live by faith, not by sight.”

Here, Paul is referring to our heavenly dwelling; that we should be confident in knowing that when we are here in the body, we are away from the Lord. But he alludes to the fact that once we leave this body we will be with God in heaven. And even though we don’t see that now, we should believe because we live by faith, not by sight. As you put your trust in God here on earth, I encourage you not to judge how things are progressing, or even the final outcome of your prayer requests, by what you see with your eyes. Have faith that God is in control, even when things are at their worst. Know that God hears your prayers, know that he has your best interest at heart, and know that there is nothing too big for our God. Don’t think it, know it. And if you do, you’ll be living by faith, not by sight.

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“We live by faith, not by sight”. More often than not, that verse is easier to say than to do. But faith is what every believer must possess. As a matter of fact, that is what it means to be a believer. Faith is the first step to everything Christian. Without it, it is impossible to please God. So, every true believer lives by faith. Just like the spirit world is very real even though we don’t see it, God is at work even though we may not see it. His words and his promises are true, even though we may not feel that they are. And he is very near, even though at times it may seem that he is far away. I encourage you, in every way that you trust in the Lord, live by faith, not by sight.

Plain Truth

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I think it is a blessing and a curse that we have so many churches in America, that it seems there should be no excuse for anyone to have not heard the truth of God’s word. It is a blessing because in America, we don’t have to go very far before we are reminded of God by seeing him represented on buildings bearing his name. But it may also be a curse because not all churches are equal. Not all churches represent God in a way that truly reflects who he is. Not all churches support, and hold true to, the entire Bible. And some churches have resorted to using gimmicks, deception, or they even distort the word of God in order to grow their numbers. This can make it extremely difficult for those who are seeking salvation to hear the plain truth from the Holy scriptures. Paul made sure the Corinthians understand that the word of God speaks for itself. It doesn’t need us to distort it or to deceive people with a bait and switch. It says is second Corinthians 4, verse 2:  

“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Paul understood that the plain truth of the Bible is what we need. It doesn’t need any additional help to reach the hearts of people, because the Bible is most powerful when we let it speak for itself. Churches who try to lure people in with gimmicks or deception, churches who distort the word of God, or churches who have a different agenda than sharing the plain truth about God should be avoided. I encourage you to evaluate your church. Does it proclaim the plain truth of God’s word? This is not a time for the church to produce spiritually thin Christians. We need the plain truth of God’s word, because any other version or method is distorting what God intended for his people.

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The Bible tells us that God’s word will not return void. In other words, when the plain truth of God’s word is shared, he will use it to affect lives; he will use it to draw men unto himself. We’re making a big mistake when we think we need to revise God’s word to better appeal to our time or culture, or when church becomes a comedy act or a performance in an effort to make it more fun. We do not have to convince people to come to the Father because we’re not the ones who draw men to him. The Bible is clear that God draws men unto himself. Our job is to proclaim the truth plainly, as Paul puts it, without changing it and without compromise. Any other strategy is of the flesh.

Live For Jesus

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One of the first Christian bands I ever heard was Stryper, a heavy metal band that showed me that Christian songs can be professional, powerful and fun all at the same time. One of their songs is “Soldiers Under Command”. Every time I’d hear it, I’d feel like a man on a mission - that my mission was greater than myself. When I would hear the lyrics I’d be reminded that I should no longer live for myself, but for Christ who saved me through his death on the cross. I was ready to live for him, and in my mind, I was also ready to die for him. When I read second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 15, those same feelings of living as a soldier for Christ bubble to the surface again. It says:

"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."

In first Corinthians, Paul reminds us that our life is not our own. That we have been bought with a price. And that price was Jesus’ death on the cross. In second Corinthians, he goes as far to say that we should no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus. Do you have that mindset? Do you still hold on to your life, your desires, your plans, your happiness, your success? Or have you chosen to live for Christ? To seek out his desires, his plans, his mission for your life? I encourage you to live for Christ and focus all of your aspirations through the lens of his mission for you. After all, our life is not our own. Our lives belong to him.

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“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.” Are you living for him, or are you still living for yourself? To live for self is ultimately fruitless. You may find a level of happiness on this earth, but it is either fleeting or will end when you die. But if you live for Jesus, you will be storing up treasures in heaven, treasures that will last forever. So I encourage you, live as a soldier for Christ here on earth. He will give you purpose with an eternal focus. And when you die, you will find your treasure in heaven.

Aroma of Christ

Are you good at making first impressions? It doesn’t take very long for someone to form an opinion about you in only the first few seconds of meeting you. They judge you with their eyes by how you appear, they judge you with their ears by what you say, and some may even judge you by their nose. I’m not talking about perfumes or body order - though that could apply. No, I’m talking about the spiritual nose, and whether you give off the aroma of Christ or not. Paul explains in second Corinthians 2, verses 15 and 16:  

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?"

To God, believers should carry with them the aroma of Christ. He can smell death or life on every person depending on if they’ve accepted Jesus or not. But could that also be said of others around us in this world? Spiritually speaking, can they smell the fragrance of life or death on you? People are watching all of the time. Some watch with interest, and some watch with indifference, but it is my hope that they are able to sense something different about believers, that they may be able to sense something different about you and me, if we consider ourselves believers in Christ. If they are unbelievers, I pray that the aroma may bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ. And if they are fellow brothers and sisters, I hope the smell will be a fragrance of life.

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“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” I pray that you are one that gives off the aroma of Christ in the sight of God, but I also pray that is true in the sight of man as well. We are Christ’s ambassadors here on this earth. We should act differently than the world in public and in private. We should speak differently with words of love that encourages and challenges, and hopefully we even smell differently by giving of the aroma of Christ.

Conviction

When we sin we are to ask God for forgiveness, repent (turn away from our sin), then realign our lives in obedience to God. But at times sin can be difficult to repent from. Paul tells us that our flesh wants us to do what our Spirit doesn’t want us to do. But the very thing we don’t want to do, we keep on doing. So how do we know if we have truly repented and are not just saying that we have, all the while, biding our time for the next opportunity to sin? In second Corinthians 7:9 Paul says:

"Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us."

This is in reference to a letter Paul sent to the Corinthians. A letter that convicted them of their sin. He says that their sorrow led them to repentance. When you sin, how sorry are you about your actions? Does it lead you to repentance? Paul suggests that God intends for us to become sorrowful because of our sinful actions. Through the Holy Spirit we are convicted, and through our sorrow, we repent. So I challenge you to consider how sorry you really are when you realizeyou’ve sinned. Is it your sorrow that leads you to repentance? Or is your heart disconnected from the Spirit where true conviction takes place?

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Repentance is a tricky thing. Jesus tells the woman who was about to be stoned, to go and sin no more. But when we repent do we follow that example? If you do, then great. God wants our sorrow to lead us to true repentance. But if you still struggle with a certain area of sin, remember that you can’t free yourself on your own, it is the Holy Spirit who aids us in the fight. If your sorrow leads you to repentance – even if you have to confess over and over again, I believe God is still working his plan in you. But if you are not truly sorry and are not really brought to the point of true repentance, then I encourage you to examine your heart. Ask God to give you eyes to see your sin the way that he sees it. When that happens, I’m confident that you will find a sorrow that leads to repentance.