2nd Corinthians 1:12-2:4

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And I’m going to invite you to the book of Corinthians. We’re in the book of Corinthians chapter 2, verse 1. If you haven’t grabbed one of these little booklets that we have, this is taking you through the book of 2 Corinthians that we’re going through together. And so you can grab one on the welcome counter when you leave, but it just, in beautiful form, just writes out the book of 2 Corinthians as we’re going to be going through this series together. And we’re still in chapter 1. We’re going to pick up in verse 12 today. But as we start to engage this book, well, I want to remind us one of the things that makes this book such a great book to go through, this is one of the forgotten books of the New Testament. Not a lot of people like to read this book because it deals with the Apostle Paul and it’s very personal to his ministry.

And so people look at Apostle Paul and think, “He’s an apostle. Who in the world is like him? This book is personal.” And so they kind of just brush it aside. And then in addition to that, when we read New Testament books, we like to understand what’s happening in the backdrop of every book that’s written. It brings it to life as you’re reading the pages, because when the writers wrote the New Testament, they’re addressing issues in the first century, and as we understand those issues, we better understand the book. 2 Corinthians, there’s a little bit of challenge in understanding the full story that’s happening there. But what we do know is that they’re attacking the Apostle Paul. Here’s a church Paul established; they’re attacking him. He writes a very personal letter. This is the most personal letter Paul wrote in all of the New Testament.

And because of that, this is the book that I get excited to read. Because when I think about Paul on his missionary journeys and living for the Lord, the challenges he faced, there’s a lot that you can draw from that in learning how to live your life in light of the circumstances that you face. And so today that’s what we’re going to talk about. As we look further into chapter 1, starting in verse 12, is how do we to critics? When you decide to live your life for the Lord, not everyone’s going to agree with you and responding to that and choosing how you’re going to respond to that is important. Now to be a little light on critics for a moment, I’ve heard someone say, “If I had the opportunity to give someone a kick to the hind end for all the trouble, they caused me, the person most responsible for causing the most trouble in my life, if I could just kick him in the rear end, I wouldn’t sit down for two weeks.”

So, I know in life … If you didn’t catch that, we’re talking about yourself there, okay. But I’ll change that joke for second service. But I know in life, we are responsible for a lot of the things that affect us in a bad way, but still we’re going to face adversity. And especially when you follow after the Lord there’s some challenges, there’s some challenges with that. And Paul walks us through how to respond. I’m going to give you the big answer to the question is we need to determine now who the kind of person that we are going to be because of who Jesus is for us, right?

That’s really Paul’s answer that he breaks out for us, is I’m going to predetermine the type of person I am going to be because of who Jesus is for me, or who Jesus is in general, for that matter. It’s important to find your soul predetermined and settled there because adversity is going to come. And when I think about the early church, in Rome there was probably as many gods as people and every region or town seemed to have a specific god that they liked to worship. And so if you’re in Rome, you worshiped a god or sometimes a plethora of gods. And when you would travel to other towns, those towns might worship some gods distinct to them. So it was kind of expected that as you worshiped your god, if you went into another town in order to pay your respects to the people of that town, that you would also bow down to the deities of that town in reverence to their god and respect to the people.

And if you didn’t choose to worship that, it was considered disrespectful to the town, to the people. And if anything bad happened, you would get blamed for it because you had frustrated the gods of that area. And then enters the Christians who really only believe in one God. There is one God, that’s it. All the rest are simply idols that are manmade images that people bow down to. And so there is only one God. And so when Christians would go to a town, they would still only bow down to their one God, which was considered offensive to the people of Rome. And if anything bad happened, guess who gets the blame? It was the Christians. In fact, Nero, emperor in Rome, at one point, there was a fire in Rome, and who does Nero turn his aggression towards? The Christians.

He ends up torturing Christians, burning Christians alive, setting his gardens on fire at night with Christians to illuminate his little paradise that he had established. The Christians were persecuted. In order to endure at persecution, it’s been stated that the blood of the martyrs was the seed. They had this deep rooted belief that do whatever you wanted to them physically, it was not the end of their life. They had this predetermined idea of how they were going to respond to the pressures around them because of who Jesus was and the hope that it gave them in their life. And the same’s true for us today. And you go back in America in 1950s, 1960s, if you weren’t part of a church, you were considered an anomaly, right? That’s how people, you received your respect in a community. And now it’s shifted from that to as we progressed in the ’90s and early 2000s, maybe there’s a sense of morality you learned in a church, and so there was a little bit of respect in the idea of at least learning morality, even though people may not follow after Jesus or belong to a church.

And now today pursuing Jesus, it can cost you and how you respond to that matters. And the Apostle Paul in this text, because of the pressure he is facing in following after Jesus, even among people that he would refer to as brothers and sisters in Christ, we saw last week in chapter 1 that he referred to the church in Corinth, as saints in the Lord, that they belonged to Christ. And yet from this church are the very people who are attacking him.

How do you respond? 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 12. Paul starts this way. “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience.” Paul is saying, regardless of how people choose to act towards me, I’m not going to allow their actions to force me to react. I’m going to walk in this with integrity. I’m not going to let them drag me in the mud. If I’ve heard it said, if Satan can’t make you sin, he’s going to make you busy. My wife reminded me of that of this past week. He will distract you from the great things he wants to do in you. And the way that Satan will do that is he’ll put this outward pressure on you to get your eyes off the attention of what Jesus is doing in your life, and therefore wants to do through your life.

And Paul’s saying, I’m not going to buy into that. And this is the first blank in your notes, is to keep a clear conscience. That we’re going to determine in our lives, regardless of how other people might respond, that I want to walk in this world with integrity, this idea of conscience, with knowledge or this understanding the way I want to live my life, that there is right and there is wrong, and I have already determined the path that I’m on because my pursuit is Christ in this world, regardless of how other people are going to act. I am going to walk with clear conscience, so at the end of the day, when I have to lay my head down on the pillow, I can shut my eyes and go straight to bed because I have no regrets. And the things that I pursued in my life, because I’ve done so with a clear conscience.

I’ve chosen the path of what is moral, what is right, what God calls is just and good. And so that is my pursuit. I’m going to determine the kind of person that I’m going to be. And then he says, how? How’s it work? Paul, when you think about living your life with a good conscience, and I’m trying to figure out what that should look like for me. How does that work out? And then he says this, “that we behave in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity.” How, in your notes it’s written this way, to stay pure and simple. That’s what Paul is saying here, with simplicity and godly sincerity is this idea of purity. It’s this word for refinement. It’s put under this pressure, this light, this heat, that the impurities are pushed away. That the pursuit of my life was simple. And it was pure.

I have determined that is just me in general. I think as long as I can keep it pure and simple, that’s the way I’ve already … This may not earn me any points, but for me, the rest of my life, my fashion’s going to be determined by whatever Costco has on sale when I walk through the doors. I mean, I’ve just resorted to that kind of life. I don’t care about promoting myself in any form or fashion. I don’t care what people think about what I wear, what I dress. I just want to live my life pure and simple for the glory of God. That’s what I’m going to do, and that’s what Paul is saying in this story, is this just pure and simple, that’s who he desires to be, because that’s the way Jesus declares himself to us. Pure and simple, this God of peace who has delivered himself so that we could be set free.

And then he explains when we think about a pure and simple lifestyle, and we’re still thinking, “Okay, this is how we’re to do it. Keep this clear conscience.” We don’t convolute it. It’s not complicated in what God calls us to in this world. How do we determine the steps of what would be pure and simple? And he goes on a little further and he says, “Maybe …” Oh, I lost it, Shalom. Can you give me a click? He says the rest of this verse, “not by earthly wisdom, but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. We’re not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand. And I hope you will fully understand just as you did partially understand that on the day of the Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.”

What he’s saying in this verse is, look, there’s all kinds of things trying to speak into you. You got to, as America will say, determine what your truth, what is your truth? I don’t even know what that means. I mean, I know sometimes in life there is subjective truth and there is objective truth. Like somebody might see a car down the road and think that is the greatest car to ever exist, right. And I may see it and be like, “I don’t even understand why you talk like that about vehicles.” So one person has, there’s a subjective truth where you like a certain fashion, a certain color, a certain style, maybe some of you think it’s cold in this room, or you might think it’s hot in this room. There’s subjective truth to you as an individual. But what’s more important about governing our lives is the truths that are of ancient truths that are older than life itself, truths that derive from God. Those are objective truths, things that govern what life is to be.

And Paul is saying, it’s not this earthly wisdom that mankind just invents. When I’m talking about being pure and simple, it’s what comes to us by the grace of God and supremely given to you for … He’s saying in verse 13, “Look, we’re not trying to trick you with our words. What we’re saying is what we mean. There’s no ulterior motive that we’re trying to produce in our statements and you didn’t even fully understand it,” but he says in verse 14, “Look, one day, we’re going to be before the Lord together, and we want to boast in one another what God is doing here. So this truth is significant for our lives. We want to have a clear conscience in the way we lived it, and the pure simplicity of what God declares to us. To know this truth and determined to live in light of it.”

In fact, as a church, one of the things I love about reading about the New Testament and the truths in the New Testament and how the church responds in New Testament. Do you know, there’s no way that you can go in the New Testament that says when you show up together as a group in Jesus, the bride of Christ, when we gather together, this is exactly how your worship service should look. There’s not this rigid form of how you are to gather. There are things that are important to the church that should always be important to God’s people, right? But, God gives churches, his church, the freedom universally around the world, that as they gather together to figure out what’s going to inspire us in the Lord together to keep pursuing him with all that we are, how can we get this truth communicated in the best form that impacts our lives to make a difference, not only in us personally, but the way that we live our lives.

And so as you live as a church, understand every culture that you go to, there’s a little bit of uniqueness to it. And so you can take a perspective from a church. How can we then as a church live in light of the culture that we’re in for the sake of the gospel, that the glory of God would be made known for us. And as a church, we’ve tended to hold to values, or we do hold to values that we just like to emphasize for us in living this, keeping this, our conscience clear, walking in simple and pure devotion to the Lord. We say in the region we live, we want to emphasize the idea of relationship to God, to knowing Christ.

That it’s not about religion, but about walking with Jesus, that God has pursued you for relationship to walk in light of him. And as we do that, we want to speak the truth of God in love, meaning the word of God is what transforms our life. That is the objective truth that transcends even time itself, because it’s as old as God and God has no beginning. The truth comes from him. And that is foundational for life, for us to know that truth and to hold to that truth, that the word of God is sacred to us. And not just the sacredness of the word of God is important, but how we deliver that sacred word, that we’re not here to beat one another up with it to prove that we’re right, or we’re better than anyone else, but to leverage this truth, to see people set free, that we don’t fight against people. We fight for people.

In fact, the third point is to care for every soul. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, that “he becomes all things to all people for the sake of the gospel,” that his heart is concerned where, where other hearts are, and he wants to live his life in light of the truth that others may discover that truth in Jesus that sets them free, too. Our relationship with God, lived in the truth of his word, empowered by love that we open up God’s word to learn. We open up our hearts to love, that we care through for every soul that comes through our door, that we be devoted to one another for the sake of Christ, and through that, God uses us to impact the world.

That’s what we want to be about. When we think about a clear conscience, we understand that people won’t always agree with us. And that’s okay, we don’t expect people to always agree with us because people don’t know Jesus. How could I ever expect someone in this world to walk like Jesus wants them to walk without knowing Jesus? That’s not a shocker. It’s not a surprise. And we understand the philosophy of our society apart from that. As a Christian, we wake up every day and we realize that I can be king in my world, or Jesus is King in my world, but there can’t be two kings in my world.

And as a Christian, we’re called to lay ourselves down. Romans 12, he begs us, “Brothers, by the mercies of God to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to our king, holy and acceptable, which is our only reasonable act of worship.” That’s what Romans 12:1 says. Every day a believer lays their lives down as a living sacrifice because we a greater King than us, but that’s not the way our world operates. That’s not the way our country operates. Our country says, “Well, whatever’s most important to you, that’s what you should pursue because you’re the king of your world. What’s going to make you most happy?” And that’s a theology, a way of living contrary to Jesus. And because I pursue Jesus, my following after Jesus is going to come in conflict with people of this world. And rather than fight back and spew venom when they disagree with me, there’s a different path that God calls me to walk on in life, to keep a clear conscience, to be pure and simple in the pursuit that I have in Jesus.

Not everyone’s going to understand. Paul even says this about Corinth, they didn’t fully understand. They think Paul might have ulterior motives in what he’s doing. He’s saying, “No, look. One day we’re going to be with Jesus face to face. And we want to just celebrate what God’s done in our lives together through this pure and simple devotion.”

So number one, keep a clear conscience. Number two, be consistent. Now this one’s more of a hope, because we’re not perfect, but it’s the idea of being consistent and that’s the criticism that the church gave to the Apostle Paul, because it says in verse 15, “Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first so that you might have a second experience of grace.” So Paul’s saying here, he went and he established the church of Corinth and he spent 18 months there and he promised the church, he was going to return. In fact, he told him he was going to return twice on his trip to Macedonia, on his way back to Judea. He was going to pass by them twice and he was going to visit with them twice. And he even says here in verse 15, that was my plan. He goes on and explains that. But he’s like, “I want to come to you and give you an second experience of grace.” Some people read that and they think, “What in the world does that mean? Is this like some special powers the Apostle Paul has that he can deliver this second experience of grace to people? I want to experience this second delivering of grace. What does this mean for my life?”

Well, I’ll tell you my take on it, and I’ll let you know. If you read commentaries theologians on this topic, that there’s a few ideas that no one knows for sure. But I will say, when Paul talks about this experience of grace, when he references grace in the book of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, it’s usually in connection with this idea of ministering to another people group. So what he’s saying, you can read about it in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, I think specifically 6 and 7. He talks about his trips that he is going to take. And he says, “You have delivered to them the opportunity of grace,” meaning because Paul’s going to go to Macedonia and Judea when he stops in, he’s going to talk to the church about how he’s going to go establish other churches and minister to people in need. And he is going to give them an opportunity for them to minister grace to others. So it’s this next delivering of grace, that they are going to have that place to do that.

And then in verse 16, “I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say yes, yes and no, no at the same time?” What Paul is saying is, “You’re coming to me and you’re criticizing me for not visiting you like I had intended to, like I wanted to. As if for me, the decision’s all about, you know what, I have this FOMO, this fear of missing out. I wanted to be with you guys, but on Facebook today, it seemed like there was something cooler happening down the road. So I ditched you to go for the better event I needed to get a cool selfie of something great about me today on social media,” right?

That’s kind of the criticism for Paul if he was in the 21st century, at least, they’d be saying that about him. And Paul’s saying, “Look, my decision of not coming to you or not being able to come to you, had nothing to do with trying to make the situation about me.” And Paul told us in verse 8, he had, in his previous missionary journeys, that he had despaired even of life itself, the circumstances he was in was so difficult that he didn’t even think he was going to make it. He’s going on these missionary journeys, and this is not an easy path to journey on. For us in America, I think sometimes we have a difficult time with a passage like this.

Paul said he should do it. I mean, you could be anywhere you want in America in four hours, jump on a plane, you’re there, right? What’s wrong with you, Paul? Don’t you know, you got to keep a schedule. That’s how we do it in this country. You cannot be late. If you’re not one minute early, you are late. Everything has to be on time. That’s how it operates. Well, if you go to other countries, I mean, you’ll find in other countries that just to pay your light bill in some countries, you have to wait in line for sometimes a day and you get to the end of that day and you still won’t even successful. There are things that just happen that are different than typically how we operate here in America.

And this is what Paul’s saying, “Look, my heart was completely set on this, but there are some things that happened that prevented this, and you need to understand that my heart has not let you go.” In fact, the Apostle Paul spent more time in Corinth than he did in any other church, except for one, which was Ephesus. His heart was for these people. Even though these people often maligned him, he kept a clear conscience and he was interested in what God would do with him, and he wanted to be consistent. And the reason his desire was to be this for them is because trust is an important part of developing intimacy and relationship, and it’s important to the message that you share. The credibility of your message is seen by your consistency.

And in verse 18 he says this, “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been yes and no.” So what Paul was saying is, “Look, my message is attached to the Lord.” He’s an apostle. “My message is attached to the Lord and God, while I make plans and my heart is there, God will direct my path sometimes in different ways.” Paul doesn’t always know where he is going to end up. Sometimes in jail. Sometimes people are attacking him and lashing him and shipwrecks, and he can’t always make it at the exact moment that he hopes to, but his heart is there and he will be there.

And he’s saying, the reason for this is because is he’s attaching it to everything that Christ is. And so he says this. Number one, keep a clear conscience. Number two, when it comes to your critics, be trustworthy or consistent, strive to live consistent to the message God gives you. And number three, root yourself in Christ. And I would say for us, this becomes really, this is the foundational point. Everything that I said previous to this is only possible because of who Jesus is. And so we determine who we’re going to be because of who he is.

And Jesus really gives us the marching orders for how we’re to live our life and the type of pure and simple devotion that he leads us on. But he starts like this in verse 19, he says, “For the son of God, Jesus Christ, who we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not yes and no, but in him it was always yes. For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our amen to God for his glory.” Verse 20, I think is in this section, probably the paramount, the pillar verse that all of this stands upon. And it’s significant to see the Apostle Paul, he’s saying, “Look, everything that we’re doing is attached completely to this Jesus. And this is why we’re uttering our amen here.”

And he says, “All the promises of God find their yes in him.” Meaning if you know you’re going to face pressure, persecution, challenges, criticism, by following a path in the Lord, it’s so important that you truly root yourself in Christ because all of God’s promises were fulfilled in Jesus, meaning if you ever question your faith or you want to know how secure your faith really is, or you want to know how secure Christianity is before you put your faith in that and start pursuing that, what you need to do with your life is look at Jesus. Because Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises that God gives us in him, tangible form. You can see it’s that revelation, and so Paul is saying, “Look, this is why in Jesus all of our amen comes at this point because we see what God says in the Old Testament, and we see the fulfillment of everything God promised to us in Jesus. And so the foundation of our faith,” what Paul is saying is, “What I’m declaring to you, everything is rooted in Jesus. And so therefore, if we’re going to stand in any sort of adversity in life, we have to have confidence in Jesus.” Who Jesus is matters.

There are lots of people with opinions of Jesus in this world. Muslims have a belief of Jesus, right? But that doesn’t make them Christian. What makes you a Christian is what you believe about Jesus and if that belief is true. Who is Jesus? It matters, because this is what builds the confidence of everything that we do in this world. Who Jesus is matters. I heard a story about a photographer. He was taking pictures for a magazine. He was given an assignment and they said, “Look, there’s this fire that’s just broken out and it’s raging. And we want you to go take pictures of this forest fire.” And they said, “At this local airport, there’s airplane on the runway. It’s waiting for you. Just get there to the runway, get on the airplane, take off and go take some shots for us.”

And the photographer is just determined. He says, “Okay, hey, that’s great.” He’s excited about this new adventure he gets to go on for this magazine. He gets to the airport. Sure enough, there’s the plane on the runway. He runs out on the runway, jumps in the plane, slams the door and says, “Let’s go.” And pilot takes off and they get in the air, and he’s like, he says to the pilot, “Look, I want you to pass by this fire three or four times,” and the pilot looks at him and says, “Why do you want me to pass by this fire three or four times?” He’s like, “Because I’m the photographer for this story. Of course we want to take pictures of the fire. That’s what I’m sitting here to do. If I’m not taking pictures, what are we doing?” And the pilot says, “Oh, you’re a photographer. You’re not the instructor?”

The point is, before you take that ride with the Lord, you need confidence in the Lord. Just simply embrace faith because that’s what your parents told you to do, and therefore it was a good idea and you believe in morality. And so you should do it because moral things are good things. And so Jesus is pretty good with you. And we’re talking about a king directing your life and pursuing this king can cost you. And for the early church in Rome being accused of different tragedies that would happened in Rome, like in the days of Nero when Rome was caught on fire, their faith in Jesus cost them their life. So who Jesus is matters, rooting yourself in Christ matters.

And Paul goes on and he says, “It’s not just that.” I mean, it’s great that Jesus did that for us on the cross. He’s pursued us. God gave his life for us. God became him personal to us that we could know God and have relationship with him. That’s incredible. But even more than that, he encourages in this to think about our identity in Jesus because of it. He goes on and he starts to share some thoughts for the church he says, “And this God who establishes us with you in Christ,” he’s saying to the church, “Look, I know that you are frustrated at me, but we need to think about this together as a family, that all of us have this picture in Jesus that I’m about to paint.” And then he uses these incredible words. He says this in verse 21 at the end, he says, “And he has anointed us, and who has also put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee or a down in payment.”

These three phrases that he uses here are just significant to understand. Okay, if I put my faith in Jesus, that’s great that I’ve got my faith in Jesus, but what do I get in Jesus? What kind of position does that put me in? Where is my place just because I’m following Christ? I don’t want to follow Christ and at the end of the day, I follow Jesus, and that’s it. In following Jesus, what’s the hope then that comes along with this for me and everything that is to come? And he says this. “He’s established you for this purpose. He’s anointed us.” This word anointing that Paul uses here, this is the only time in all of Paul’s letters that he uses this word anointed. This word comes from an Old Testament picture that anytime someone was used for a particular assignment that God would call him to in this world, and it was representative of Kings and priests and prophets in the Old Testament, that God would anoint them to commission them for that work that God called them on.

So they would be anointed for that purpose, prophets, priests and kings, Old Testament. But there’s one passage in the Old Testament in Isaiah 61:1-4, that it doesn’t just describe prophet, priest, and king in this anointing. But rather it describes how the Spirit of God is going to empower his people to go into this world, to set captives free and to bring healing, to broken hearts and to love the poor that feel forsaken and to minister to others. And I think this is what the Apostle Paul is drawing on, that as God calls his church in this world, to understand that everyone in Jesus has been anointed or been called to a purpose that God has set you apart by the power of his Spirit, to go into this world and to minister for his glory because of who Jesus is and what that means for us.

We’re on completely different mission than what the world says to us or about us. And rather than to distract us from any of that criticism, it’s to say, look, don’t give it credence in your life. And don’t let Satan use it as something to pull you away from something greater that God is doing in you, and through you, he has anointed you. He has set you apart. I mean, what God becomes that personal in all of history and every religion in this world, it is Jesus who has pursued, it is Jesus who set you aside. And that he has sealed us, meaning this idea of sealing is to take ownership of your life. God owns you. You belong to him. He is yours and you are his. You have been sealed.

Ephesians 4:30 says, “You have been sealed for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit.” God has put his marker on you. You belong him, and that is it. And then he says he has put his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Meaning for us, the recognition that these statements are true is that the Spirit of God has sealed you and set you apart, and this is just a down payment of the greater things that are to come in Christ, that one day you will be with Jesus face to face. And one day you will have opportunity to live in the peace of his kingdom forever.

But today the Spirit of God, the spirit of God rests with his people to live the mission for which she has anointed you to because you belong to him, not to the things of this world. The Corinthians may doubt the integrity of Paul and they may not trust him in this moment, but Paul is saying, “And I just want to remind you what my heart is about. It is for you because it for Jesus and my life is lived with that devotion and pure simplicity. That is who I’ve determined to be, regardless of how people in this world around me choose to respond.”

And then in verse 23 and 24 Paul says this, he says, “But I call God to witness against me, it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.” And Paul goes on and I don’t have it on the screen, but in verse 4, he goes on from there and he says this. He says, “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”

And that is incredible. You think here’s this church that was just a thorn in the side of the Apostle Paul. Attacked him. I mean, he has previous to this letter, he has visited the church. The church was so aggressive to him that he left, they’re negative and aggressive towards him that he left the church and he wrote them a letter. And he, just in his apostolic position, he wanted them to see the error of their ways, because to reject the direct apostle of Jesus is to reject Jesus, and he wrote them a letter and he wanted to visit the church again, but before he visited, he wanted to send someone else in his place to just see how the church was going to receive them. And he’s saying to them, “Look, my intentions were to come to you, but you guys hated me. And I’m trying to figure out what is the best way to encourage you further in the Lord, and so as I’m in this position, trying to figure out what’s best for you, that’s all my motivation has been. It’s been about what’s best for you in discovering this.”

And Paul says, “I will come to you again, but because of your tension towards me, I wanted to figure out how to best enter into your life and encourage you to Jesus.” And that’s what he is talking about in this passage. And he says, “I’m not coming in just to lord over your faith.” It’s like, when you think about being a parent in this world, you have children and you want your children, you think about your heart of your children. You want your children to mature. You could just come into the lives of your children, just dictate for them the behavior you expect from them. But in doing that, you don’t always win their hearts, or you rarely in that way win their heart. And Paul’s saying, “Look, my hope is your joy, your heart staying firm in your faith. And I’m trying to figure out the best way to do this.” And he tells us in verse 4, “Because I love you. Response in all of this isn’t because of me, it’s because of who he is and in him, my love towards you, that I’ve remained pure and sincere.”

And it’s incredible to see that in all of this pressure, Paul is facing and all the frustration they’re expressing towards him, but yet Paul’s response back is grace and love and mercy and truth. How does he do that? Can you do that? What comes out of you when people malign you? When others attack you? When you feel frustrated by a circumstance you can’t control and you think it should be different because, well, you’re the most important person in the room. Paul, just patient and loving, heart surrendered to Christ. How does he do that?

I heard a story once about a father climbing some rocks with his young son, and he’s climbing some rocks, and all of a sudden he hears his young son behind him and says, “Daddy, catch.” And he turns around and he turns around just in time for his child to be caught in the air … Here’s a picture for you. And caught in the air, he grabs kid just in time before he leaps, barely, and they fall to the ground. He looks at his son and says, “What were you thinking? Give me one good reason why you did that. You could have been seriously hurt. Why did you not wait for me? Why did you just jump, and that was it?” And the child, in just simplicity of the moment he says, “Because you’re my dad. Because you’re my dad.” And the father realized in that moment how much trust he had established with his son, that his son in those moments, as they were climbing those rocks, could live life to the fullest without even any concern or worry, because he completely trusted his father.

Guys, the same is true for us. How in life could we ever expect to jump through this adversity that we experience, unless we have complete trust in a God who is with us and a God who loves us and a God who knows exactly where you are and knows precisely what you need? And his heart is for you. And when your heart is given completely over that, and you understand what it means to be anointed and to be sealed and to have his Spirit as a guarantee for the day of redemption, it gives you the privilege and the freedom to live life to the fullest, because you have a God who is for you.

2nd Corinthians 1