2 Corinthians

Integrity

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There are a number of things in life that are completely out of our control. We can’t control when calamity will strike. We can’t control the timing of every event. We can’t control the weather and the forces of nature. And we can’t control the actions of others. Though this is true, we can take heart. Believers know that God is in control of the things we are not. But he does leave at least one thing well within our control, and that is our integrity. We are responsible for our behavior, our character, and our actions. In essence, we are in control of our overall conduct. The apostle Paul’s conduct was impeccable. Though others tried to “bad-mouth” him, turn others against him, and undermine his ministry, those who he spent time with knew who he really was. In this, Paul was willing to boast. It says in second Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 12: 

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.”

Paul acknowledged that he was not able to achieve this completely on his own. It was through God’s grace that he was able to maintain integrity with those he came in contact with. Even still, it was ultimately his choice. Knowing the God he served, and knowing the truth of the gospel, Paul was able to testify with a clear conscience that his actions and motives were conducted in holiness and with sincerity that are from God. We are also in control of our conduct. We can choose to act in holiness and with sincerity toward others as well. It may help to remember that it may take years to build a good reputation. But it can take only a moment to destroy it. The Bible encourages us to have a good reputation and to be in peace with everyone. But our conduct must be genuine because people can tell who we really are by the fruit we produce. So I encourage you to be mindful of your integrity and your reputation. Like trust, it is difficult to gain, and easy to lose. 

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Do you have a clear conscience when it comes to your integrity? Do you portray yourself as holy and sincere in public but live a life contrary to that when alone? If others knew what was really in your heart; if they knew your true intentions and thoughts, would you lose their trust? If so, I encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to help your heart align with your perceived reputation. If you don’t, you are sure to be found out. The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of our hearts, our mouths speak. It says that our true selves will be revealed by the kind of fruit we produce. We cannot carry on our charade for long because our hearts will ultimately betray us. Instead, let us be like Paul. Let us be confident that our conduct is holy and sincere, accomplished not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.

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.