Endless Possiblities – 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be restored, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Paul’s final words of encouragement to the Corinthians.  Look at each of the commands in verse 11.  This verse would be enough to keep us busy in our walk for a while.

The month is ended.  What will you do now?  Do you have a plan for February?

I’m going to begin preaching through the book of Luke next week.  Perhaps you’d like to join me by reading through Luke.  As you read, take a section at a time.  You get to determine the sections now.  Maybe it’s one story, or one paragraph, or one chapter.  Ask your questions.  Look for the main point of the passage.  In Luke the main point will often be found by answering this question: what do I learn about Jesus from this passage?  Make application to your own life.  This may be one simple statement.  It doesn’t have to be deep or difficult.

The blog will keep going, though we may not have devotions everyday.  Check back regularly or subscribe to the RSS feed to get updated on new posts or new comments.

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Endless Possibilities – 2 Corinthians 13:1-10

2 Corinthians 13:1-10 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

1 This is the third time I am coming to you. On the testimony of two or three witnesses every word will be confirmed. 2 I gave warning, and I give warning —as when I was present the second time, so now while I am absent—to those who sinned before and to all the rest: if I come again, I will not be lenient, 3 since you seek proof of Christ speaking in me. He is not weak toward you, but powerful among you. 4 In fact, He was crucified in weakness, but He lives by God’s power. For we also are weak in Him, yet toward you we will live with Him by God’s power.    5 Test yourselves [to see] if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test. 67 Now we pray to God that you do nothing wrong, not that we may appear to pass the test, but that you may do what is right, even though we [may appear] to fail. 8 For we are not able to do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 In fact, we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. We also pray for this: your maturity. 10 This is why I am writing these things while absent, that when I am there I will not use severity, in keeping with the authority the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down. And I hope you will recognize that we are not failing the test.

In verse 9 Paul lets the Corinthians know the partial content of his prayer for them.  He prays for their maturity, completeness.  They need to be made complete.  The word used here is the same word used in Mark 1:19 when James and John are pictured mending their nets.  The word mend is here translated perfection.  It means to make perfect something that is not so now.  It is to put something in the appropriate condition.  There is inherent in the word and assumption of brokenness.  God would make us complete.  Realize, without God acting in your life you will never be complete/mature.  You cannot fill that void in your life until you give your life to Christ and then He becomes the holy filler.

Maturity/Completeness come about over a long time as we spend time with the Lord in His word, in prayer, in worship, in fellowship and in service to Him.  As we near the end of this month I pray that we are all closer to maturity now than we were when we started the month.  Moreso, I pray that disciplines are being established in us that will continue through the rest of our lives here on this earth.

Endless Possibilities – 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

2 Corinthians 12:11-21 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

11 I have become a fool; you forced it on me. I ought to have been recommended by you, since I am in no way inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of an apostle were performed among you in all endurance—not only signs but also wonders and miracles. 13 So in what way were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I personally did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Look! I am ready to come to you this third time. I will not burden you, for I am not seeking what is yours, but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 Now granted, I have not burdened you; yet sly as I am, I took you in by deceit! 17 Did I take advantage of you by anyone I sent you? 18 I urged Titus [to come], and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Didn’t we walk in the same spirit and in the same footsteps?

19 You have thought all along that we were defending ourselves to you. [No], in the sight of God we are speaking in Christ, and everything, dear friends, is for building you up. 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I will not find you to be what I want, and I may not be found by you to be what you want; there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come my God will again humiliate me in your presence, and I will grieve for many who sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, sexual immorality, and promiscuity they practiced.

Paul again is confronting the “super-apostles” who have lied about him and accused him of improper motives and tactics.  His sarcasm is hard to miss, v. 11, 13, 16.

The main focus of this passage is to defend his own approach to them.  Paul loves the Corinthians and emphasizes to them that everything he has done has been out of a selfless love for them.  Notice the signs of love for them:

v. 12 – signs and wonders
v. 13, 14, 16 – did not burden them
v. 15 – gladly be spent for you
v. 17, 18 – refusal to take advantage of them
v. 19 – trying to build them up
v. 20-21 – willing to confront sin and immorality
v. 21 – grieving for their sin and lack of repentance

How does our love for others measure to Paul’s love for the Corinthians?  Do we take on any of the same actions, attitudes, goals to show love?  Do you think we have a correct understanding of love today or do we get fooled into thinking “Hollywood, romantic love stories” are reality?

Endless Possibilities – 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

1 It is necessary to boast; it is not helpful, but I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. 3 I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak. 5 I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses. 6 For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, 7 especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

There is so much in this passage that we should consider it carefully.  Take some extra time today to meditate on this passage.  I’ll try to clear up a couple of things and then leave the rest to God’s Spirit with you.

Exactly what that thorn was has been the subject of much speculation.  Some have postulated that Paul was going blind, or that he had some other type of handicap.  The specific problem is not named and it is not necessary for it to be done.  Whatever Paul’s thorn, we can all relate to it for we all have something in our lives that can keep us humble.  Whether it is a physical attribute, an emotional difficulty, or a spiritual hindrance, we each have our own thorn in the flesh.

Three times Paul prayed.  God always answers our prayers, this time he said “No!”  That is a difficult thing to take.  A hard word.  It is not easy for us to accept a “no” answer.  We much prefer “yes” and sometimes will settle for “wait.”  But “no” is much harder to take.  Sometimes we will even interpret “no” as “wait” so that we can continue to hope against hope that there will be a change.  But when God spoke here, the phrase Paul uses indicates a finality of speech,  that things were said and done as said.  There would be no change.

Paul may have prayed, “God, I want you to remove this thorn so I can proclaim Your grace.”  God responded,” I want the thorn to stay so that you can experience My grace.”  Paul wanted to be able to show others God’s sufficiency, God wanted Paul to live in his sufficiency.  Paul may have wanted God to remove the thorn so that he could be the example of God’s power over the thorn.  God left the thorn to show his power over the thorn.

God’s ways are not our ways.  We must learn to be content with His answers, His ways.  Don’t respond to His negative answer with bitterness.  He is good.  He is right.  Trust Him.

Endless Possibilities – 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

2 Corinthians 11:16-30 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

16 I repeat: no one should consider me a fool. But if [you do], at least accept me as a fool, so I too may boast a little. 1718 Since many boast from a human perspective, I will also boast. 19 For you gladly put up with fools since you are so smart! 20 In fact, you put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone devours you, if someone captures you, if someone dominates you, or if someone hits you in the face. 21 I say this to [our] shame: we have been weak. What I say in this matter of boasting, I don’t speak as the Lord would, but foolishly.

But in whatever anyone dares [to boast]—I am talking foolishly—I also dare:

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I.
Are they Israelites? So am I.
Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.

23 Are they servants of Christ?
I’m talking like a madman—I’m a better one:
with far more labors, many more imprisonments,
far worse beatings, near death many times.

24 Five times I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus one.

25 Three times I was beaten with rods.
Once I was stoned.
Three times I was shipwrecked.
I have spent a night and a day in the depths of the sea.

26 On frequent journeys, [I faced]
dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers,
dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles,
dangers in the city, dangers in the open country,
dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers;

27 labor and hardship,
many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst,
often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.

28 Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If boasting is necessary, I will boast about my weaknesses.31 The eternally blessed One, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, knows I am not lying. 32 In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of the Damascenes in order to arrest me, 33 so I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

Here Paul revisits a familiar argument that he has used several times in this letter.  But here he brings is to a conclusion, stating it in full.  It goes something like this:  Those who have followed me have tried to distinguish themselves by their own credentials, listing for you the reasons why they are better than me.  If that is the measure, then let me tell you, I can name more reasons why you should believe in me because I have a better background, more experience now, have suffered more and have gone through more distress than all of them put together.  But all of those things are not reason for me to brag.  That is foolishness, to think that all of my accomplishments or difficulties qualify me more than another to preach, teach, live the Christian life.  Even with all that I have been through that is not what makes me who I am.

In the same way, today, we must not be fooled into thinking that we somehow deserve or earn either eternal life or eternal merit.  All that happens in our lives is not because of who we are but because of who God is.  It is foolish to think that you are your own person, or that you have greatness that meets the measure of God.

Paul is not telling them of his trials so that they may feel sorry for him but so that he may show them the folly of the entire exercise.  His position in Christ is not because of his actions, but because of what has happened in his life by Christ.

Do you ever fall into the trap of wanting to list for others, or even yourself, your Christian accomplishments?  Do you ever sit back to rest on your laurels, not going forward in your walk with Christ because you’ve already done so much?

Endless Possibilities – 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

1 I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!

5 Now I consider myself in no way inferior to the “super-apostles.” 6 Though untrained in public speaking, I am certainly not [untrained] in knowledge. Indeed, we have always made that clear to you in everything. 7 Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by taking pay [from them] to minister to you. 9 When I was present with you and in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my needs. I have kept myself, and will keep myself, from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows I do!

12 But I will continue to do what I am doing, in order to cut off the opportunity of those who want an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in what they are boasting about. 13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light. 15 So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works.

For Paul, the most disheartening reality in Corinth was the presence of false apostles who were undermining the work of the gospel he had planted there.  As much as we want to think most people have good intentions, the reality confronted by Paul in this passage is that some people are deceitful; they are disguising or masquerading as genuine followers of Christ when in reality they are servants of Satan.  And these servants of Satan, who have “disguised themselves as servants of righteousness,” will gladly lead people away from Christ.

How do you recognize the difference between the genuine article and the disguised masquerader?  Are there any clues in this passage to help us discern truth from falsity?

Endless Possibilities – 2 Corinthians 10:7-18

2 Corinthians 10:7-18 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

7 Look at what is obvious. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should remind himself of this: just as he belongs to Christ, so do we. 8 For if I boast some more about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I am not ashamed. 9 I don’t want to seem as though I am trying to terrify you with my letters. 1011 Such a person should consider this: what we are in the words of our letters when absent, we will be in actions when present. For it is said, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable.”

12 For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but according to the measure of the area [of ministry] that God has assigned to us, [which] reaches even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we had not reached you, since we have come to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We are not bragging beyond measure about other people’s labors. But we have the hope that as your faith increases, our area [of ministry] will be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel to the regions beyond you, not boasting about what has already been done in someone else’s area [of ministry]. 17 So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. 18 For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.

For Paul, his area of ministry included the Corinthians for he was the one who was led to Corinth and first brought them the Gospel.  He met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth who were two of his first converts.  He then shared the gospel with the Jews in Corinth who would not believe and so he went to the Gentiles.  His discouragement in Corinth was eased when God told him that there were many who would believe in Corinth.  Paul stayed in Corinth for some time before leaving for Ephesus.  He was chiefly responsible for those who were Christians there, they had been his area of ministry, or his field.  Because Paul was in Corinth, that became his field.  God had led him there, and so Paul could be assured that this was God’s place for him.

His assignment was not based on the presumption of an area by Paul, but by the assignment of God.  How did he know that Corinth was assigned by God?  Because that is where he was.

He says that if he would not have reached the Corinthians they would not have been in his field, but since he did reach them, they were in his field.

Where are you?  There is your field, your area of ministry.  Look at those around you, God has placed you there for them.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everything that happens is for you, it may be that indeed you are here to give to others, for their benefit.  God places you in that job, in that home, in that school, in that class so that you may be a blessing to others.  We face the same danger today that Israelites have faced since the call of Abraham.  We can become so obsessed with looking for the ways that God will bless us that we forget to become a blessing to others.  Look around, the fields are white unto harvest. Matt. 9:37-38