Auto Generated Transcript
I’m going to invite you to Second Corinthians Chapter 11. Right, the tail end of second Corinthians, Chapter 11 today. And we’re going to enter into, I think, probably the the most famous passage in all of the second Corinthians. In fact, most people memorize a verse out of this section we’re going to look at today in verse nine about their own relationship with the Lord. So this is probably out of all Corinthians, the most talked about passage in second Corinthians that we’re going to get into, as well as a little bit of theology in regards to eternity. It’s specifically heaven in light of your life. As it relates to that, where are you going to spend eternity? We’ll talk a little bit about that. But I want to start here and I want you to know in starting here, I have a disdain for myself in the beginning where where I’m about to begin. But I don’t know if you’ve ever been in those group settings where people are like, man, to get everybody involved and engage, we need to have an icebreaker, right? And then someone comes up with this idea of icebreakers. I find when you get in big groups, some people like icebreakers, some people don’t like icebreakers. If you had to divide the room like I would belong to the group that doesn’t like icebreakers.
I would rather just let’s just talk. We don’t have to engage in the silliness. But but there’s one icebreaker above all, icebreakers. If I could just ban forever. It’s it’s the question. It’s like when you start to hear the question stated, do you think whoever was in charge of making the icebreaker just put nothing into this? Right. And the question is this. If you had if you had I hate myself for saying this. If you had if you had one spiritual power. Right, what would it be or not? Spiritual power. Excuse me, one superpower. What would it be and why break up into groups and discuss it? I just I hear that, I think. Did you put no thought to the why does that have to be the end of all? Why do we have to enter Fantasyland to engage this group? Well, can we just talk about why we’re here or something else related to that? Maybe our families. I don’t care. But just not this question. That is the one question. When I think about it, I’m like, Oh, yeah, but. But I did put a little bit more thought to it today. Like, normally I’m completely rebellious about it, but but I thought. Man one One superpower, if you could have all power, what would it be? And then as I started thinking about it, I decided to reject the question again because I realized, man, half, half of of humanity already has a greater superpower than any superpower that we could give anyway, which is the power to create life out of all.
I just started thinking, man, Superman can’t do that. Spider-man can’t do that. Iron Man can’t do that. But women can do that, right? That is that isn’t so half of our human race. You know, that’s a that’s a pretty powerful gift. And then as I started thinking about that a little bit more, I realize I know who the greatest superhero is in all of superheroes. They have the greatest superpower. It’s it’s Helen Parr. And I know you guys are thinking, who in the world is Helen Parr? It’s because you know her by a different name. She’s Elastigirl. And Elastigirl, to my knowledge, is the only super hero I know that’s pro created life. If you’re familiar with The Incredibles, I got four kids, so I know The Incredibles. Right. And she has super power making her the the greatest superhero to ever exist. She can she can stretch and procreate. She made three other superheroes with that. But it’s funny when you when you look at superheroes and by the way, I’m getting.
Somewhere with this.
So so let me just land the plane here in a minute. When you think of superheroes, one of the things that’s still interesting about them and all the superhero marvelous that you’ve been exposed to over the last decade, maybe longer now, I don’t know. Years start to just go faster and faster as you get older. But super power doesn’t necessitate that life is going to be better. Right. It’s great to have strength to help yourself in a situation. But but the moment that heart becomes corrupt, that power is.
Evil. Right. And so that you find now with these people and all the superhero world, they have these superpowers, but there’s always these villains that their heart is corrupted and they’re even more destructive now. And it’s not it’s not that it’s solved anything. In fact, it’s just it’s just it could, in a sense, made it worse. Right, because.
It’s his failures. It’s his sin. I mean, you remember the apostle Paul before he came to Christ. He was persecuting God’s people. He was there for the first stoning of Stephen and supported it. And so the Apostle Paul encountering Jesus, what he brought to Jesus was nothing but his sinful nature. And in fact, Paul tells us as much in verse, verse 30, he says, If I must boast.
I will boast of the things that show my.
And you remember, we’ve gone through this together that as Paul started in Chapter ten of Second Corinthians, he starts to engage these corrupted leaders that have gone into the Church of Corinth. And these leaders were all about putting Paul down, poisoning the church against the Apostle Paul, and talking about how great they were and listing their.
Accolades for what made them so great.
And then when it becomes Paul’s turn to talk about why they should listen to him rather than these false teachers, what Paul says is, That’s fine. You want me to brag about what makes me great, then? Fine, let me brag. I want to brag about my my weakness. Anything got out of all of the Christians that have ever lived. If there’s someone that can list a series of accolades that what makes them great, it’s it’s going to be the apostle Paul. But what Paul does here in bragging about his weaknesses not only contrary to what we’ve seen accomplished in his own life, it’s counterintuitive to really every culture in society. I mean, who leads with their weakness? No one does, especially in the Greco-Roman society. I think what leadership was about during this day was about looking attractive. It was about overpowering the circumstance. It was about dominating the situation.
But, Paul. Pulse starts not about bragging in himself. He begins with his weakness. And then.
He. And then he doubles down on it. And verse 31, he goes, The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was blessed forever, knows that I’m not lying, as if to say that he expects the people would question the seriously poor. Out of all the people you’re going to talk about your your weakness and impulse. I know you need to understand my heart here, that my heart wants you to know this. And before the Lord, I’m not making this up. This is this is not a facade of humility.
I’m not lying about this.
And Paul in doing so, his ultimate desires.
To direct his attention.
To the Lord. And so in verse 32, it doesn’t just double down. He triples down. He says this Damascus, the governor under King Artis, it was guarding the city of Damascus in.
Order to to seize me.
But I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall.
And escaped his hands. Paul, who was esteemed in his society.
He hung out with the elites of his day. He was he received the greatest of educations that any Jew would receive under the hand of Gamaliel. And yet you see in this passage, Paul, saying, you think I’m great, and Paul gives this picture of himself being lowered as if he’s some sort of criminal, like some sort of fish just flopping in a basket leading to his death. That’s the picture of me. You want to know what I’m about? People came after me and I had to beg others to help me, to lower me down outside of the city in hopes that I would not be murdered.
And Paul describes the humblest of situations to illustrate. Who he is. And I think what Paul is teaching us here. Well, Paul wants us to understand that what he is in Christ is not something unattainable. He’s not some superpower human doing the things that he’s done for the Lord. All he really is is. It’s just a surrendered human being to Christ. And Paul is.
Saying this not so that we elevate him on a pedestal and.
Think about how great Paul is, but to recognize that he’s just a person, too. And just as as Paul has stepped out for the.
Lord, so our.
Are we able to do the same?
What Paul is saying to to this church and specifically maybe we could say to our church, is that as long as we surrender to Christ, our greatest days are still ahead of us. And what God can do through his people that are fully committed to him.
Paul is acknowledging he’s a weak man that couldn’t rescue himself from a situation. And he had to run.
Maybe even like a wimp in this in this moment.
But in and giving his life for the Lord what he also found. This is point number two in your notes. God’s power is life giving. I would even say because Paul was willing to acknowledge his weakness. Under that situation, was he only able to discover that God’s power is life giving?
And this is what Paul is doing in this passage now. As a year to the end of second Corinthians 11, you start to start beginning in Chapter 12. Paul now is going to contrast the the identity that he carries apart from Christ and now what He receives because of Christ. And to look at the power of who God is that rests in us rather than to figure it out ourselves. And so he starts and chapter 12, verse one, he says this I must go on boasting, though there is nothing to be gained by it. I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up into the third heaven. Let me just say this. Paul is pretending in this moment to act like he doesn’t know who this person was caught up into the third heaven. But the Apostle Paul reveals in verse six and seventh that this is actually him that he’s talking about. But he’s starting very modestly in this statement. And the reason he’s starting modestly is because during Paul’s day, these false religious teachers would come around and they would they would proclaim this divine authority over people because they had these special revelations and visions that made them more unique than anyone else in the church or wherever they would be worshipping.
And so, Paul, he’s following suit and saying, You want to know what makes me great? Fine, we’ll talk about this. But this is not worthy to brag about. And he uses it as if it’s some sort of mystery that he was caught up to the third heaven. He eventually tells us he was, but he starts off modestly, and then he says, whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know. God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise, whether in the body or out of the body. I do not know, God knows. And He heard things that cannot be told which man may not utter. Let me say about verse four, just just to throw out there, if you ever read about people that talk about dying and going to some afterlife and then write some bestseller to describe that for you, Paul says in verse four that he doesn’t even want to utter the things that he saw. Right? So if the Apostle Paul is going to approach it that way, it just gives you a thought to relate to to people that talk about the afterlife. And verse five, on behalf of this man, I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not.
Boast except of my weakness. And Paul’s acknowledging here in these verses. While he was weak. God lifted him up into the third heaven.
And this is this is important for us is to understand the light of eternity, to talk about this passage. We may be wondering as we gear a dive into this for a minute, what does this have to do with with weakness, essentially? But when Paul starts to talk about heaven, I think this is important for us to stop and just engage this passage for a minute, because eventually one day you’re all going to die. Every one of us, we are mortal. We will. Unless your superpower is not dying, you will. You will die. Right. And I think it’s important to have some confidence when we face death to know what’s it going to be like and where in the world am I going and how am I going to get there? Right. Those are just some basic essential questions that if Jesus has come in pursuit of your life and he’s offering you an eternity with him, it’s probably important to ask those those types of questions What is it like? Where can we go? And how in the world can I can I get there? Right. And Paul, he really starts to to lay this out for us when he begins to talk about being being taken up to the third heaven. And in terms of when we die, what happens to us.
Important to answer and and we see this term used here third heaven and some people may take this this this term and use it to suggest. Wait a minute, wait a minute. How how many heavens are there? And when I go, how do I know I’m going to get to the best one, right? Are there really three. Heavens and am I just going to hang out in the lower one. Am I good enough to make it to the say or the third one? How does this how does this work in our lives? Well, let me just say second Corinthians, chapter five, verse eight, which we’ve already studied together, but second Corinthians, chapter five, verse eight says this To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The point of eternity is not for you to continue to prove to God that you’re worthy to be in His presence. In fact, the point of life is not about you proving to God that you are worthy in His presence. That’s the entire point of what Paul is making for us, is that we’re not here to prove anything to God. We already know that we’re sinful before God.
And so therefore, to try to make God love you is an impossibility as being sinful, coming before a holy God that cannot happen. But God in his great love extended His grace to you anyway, that while you are sinners, Christ, Christ died for you. So the point of eternity is not proving to God anything. There’s not these layers of heaven that you go on to try to justify yourself before God, as if He would finally accept you to this this third level of Heaven. The Bible says second Corinthians chapter five, verse eight. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The whole point of your existence is for relationship with God and what God desires for your life is to be with Him. Eternity is all about being in God’s presence. If you would turn to God and repentance of your sin and embrace what Jesus has done for you on the cross, a God gives us a choice as to how we will position ourselves in light of who He is. We surrender our lives to Him and accept what Jesus has done for us. Or will we go on living as if we are God and kings of our own world?
If we turn to Jesus. If we accept his kingdom. His forgiveness. We accept his presence. To be absent from the body is to be present.
With the Lord and Philippians. Chapter one, verse 21.
Paul says it like this For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul knew he would go straight to the presence of of Jesus. So then if the point of eternity is about being directly in the presence of God, not moving on to prove anything, the question is then. Then why does it talk about three? Heavens. Or what is Paul mentioned here? The third heaven. And what is it like if first be straight in the presence of God?
I’ll say again in verse four, Paul doesn’t get in the details of exactly what.
Eternity is like. But. But just discussing the third heaven becomes important for us. And I think for for some.
May have have confused them.
When you study Jewish theology. The Jews had this tendency of layering what they.
Refer to as the heaven.
Some Jews taught a theology as many as seven layers.
Of the heavens.
But when they were when they were talking about the heavens, they were referencing all of God’s creation that is beyond us. Not that when you die, you have these layers of heaven, but beyond in God’s creation. In fact, in your notes, you’ll you’ll see that they’re the way that the Jews divided the heavens. Most traditionally was in three categories. The first layer of heavens they referred to as the place where the clouds and the birds flew. They would look out to the sky and refer to those as the heavens. And it was anything beyond from the the sky above them to the place where God’s will. They would refer to that as the heavens. And in Jewish theology, the first layer was the heavens, where the birds flew and where were the clouds moved across the sky. And then they would refer to and you have some references here if you want to look that up, they would refer to the the second layer of the heavens. And that was where the the stars and the planets were that hung on the sky at the night. You could see those. In fact, in Jewish literature, they would often relate those stars to angelic beings. If you read in Revelation, it talks about in Chapter 12 how the angels, the stars fell from heaven. And so as humanity would look out into the skies, they would refer to the place of the stars as the second heavens, but never, never a place that we would ultimately live in eternity. And then there.
Was the third heaven. The celestial presence of God.
When the Jews would think about dying. Some didn’t believe in an afterlife. But the ones.
Who did, when they would think about the presence of the Lord, it would be in terms of of before God in the celestial kingdom.
And this is what Paul’s saying. I was caught up. But just, you know, I’m not just floating in the clouds. I’m not just hanging in the stars. That’s not what I’m describing here. This is what Paul sang to us, but rather what he is saying to us is he’s gone straight to the presence of God where where we as people are, are created to belong. And so the question is, how?
How do you know? How do you know you would end up there? I mean, Paul wants us to understand the beauty of God’s presence here in contrasting to his weakness, how God was still gracious to him and gave him this opportunity to have this kind of experience with the Lord, and in order to encourage us that we we could have the same before God. How do we know that we would end up there? How do how do how do we know that what I’m talking about with heaven is. Is it really just three layers?
Well, you’ll notice in the same passage when.
When Paul talks about the third heaven.
He then he then refers to the third heaven by another word in verse three.
Paradise. Listen to this. He these are interchangeable words. And I want you to see this. And you read verse two and three again. He says, I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know. God knows. And I know that this man was caught up to into paradise. He’s using this this word third heaven and paradise interchangeably for a reason. He’s talking to a mixed audience and Jewish culture. The way that they would talk about the celestial kingdom was the third heaven in Greek culture. The way that they would often picture heaven was was paradise. This word paradise is actually a Persian word that was borrowed by Greek culture in order to paint a picture of what eternity could be like. And so when Paul is talking to this mixed audience of both Jew and Gentile, he’s referring to eternity in ways that they understand in their own upbringing. The Third Heaven. You know what it’s like we call that that paradise. And the Jews weren’t unfamiliar with the word paradise. In fact, Jesus.
Used this word paradise.
The word paradise in in Persian identity represented a garden. In fact, more specifically, it represented the garden of the wealthy, or even a Kings Garden like a menagerie and Persian days, the a person that had a lot of wealth, what they would include in.
The place that they lived would be a garden.
Of that just showed their luxury of life. And and when you would walk into that garden, it was as if to.
Communicate that you had no need, you lacked nothing.
You had wealth, and you would invite friends to this garden to hang out. So you had fellowship and the garden supplied life and food. And so you were a person that was thought to have all that you would need for human flourishing. You were blessed in that sort of circumstance, by earthly means. And so that that idea of that garden came to reflect what eternity could be like, this ultimate Eden, this place of paradise. And this is what what Paul is saying to us. He was caught up into.
Paradise, this perfect Eden presence with God. Now. Why is this important? Well, as I already hinted, Jesus also taught a theology on this. In fact. When Jesus was hanging on the cross. If you remember the story, Jesus was crucified between two thieves.
And we don’t really know what those two thieves were guilty of.
Thief in Jesus’s day was kind of like a drunk, a.
Drunk, a junk drawer word. And maybe they were a drunk. Who knows? But a drunk junk drawer word that that could just cover all sorts.
Things. It could be something to someone could be referred to as a thief because they stole a human life like they killed somebody. So it was a generic word that just encompassed all that someone could really do that.
Would be wrong.
And so whatever it was, it was warranting being crucified. And so most likely it wasn’t just stealing a couple of bucks or whatever it was, it led to these two individuals being crucified. And we know one of.
Those thieves cursed Jesus. But the other thief, in moments just before Jesus died, said something altogether different. In fact, in Luke 23, it says this, and the thief said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom? And then Jesus gave him this promise. He said to him, Truly, I say to you today you will be with me in paradise. And having just studied paradise, we know exactly what that is. It’s the third heaven. It’s the celestial kingdom. It’s straight into the presence of God, he says to the thief. Today. Right now. You’re not going to go on to eternity and try to prove yourself to me. You’re going to turn eternity and you’re going to be exactly where you’re made to be, which is, in my presence, paradise. It’s important to just put this passage of Scripture in your back pocket when you dialogue with people over about the the extent of God’s grace in this world because of what Paul says here, the third heaven is paradise. And the thief went to paradise. And this is what makes it so profound. Here you have for the first time in his life, someone expressing expressing a saving faith in Jesus.
Remember me and your kingdom, meaning he’s turning from all other kingdoms in this world, and he’s putting his trust in Jesus and his kingdom and what He came to accomplish. Which is so ironic, because this man is now looking at his king who was being crucified, about to die and trusting in him.
He’s trusting in him and wanting to belong to that kingdom. And Jesus promises he’ll be with him in paradise.
And here we have the most extreme example of how the how far God’s salvation will go, how far his his grace can run for us. Really, if God can redeem this thief, there is there is no one on the planet that God can’t reach. I mean, you think about the situation the thief is in. His hands are nailed to the cross. He he could never be baptized. He can never lift a finger to do a good work. All he was left to do in these moments was simply die.
And yet God rescued him. Why? The cause is not about the power of the thief. But about the power of the one who came on behalf of the thief to give his life for him.
And this is why Paul chooses to use this illustration. He’s saying, If I’m going to boast, I want to boast to my weakness that the power of Christ will be made known to you. It’s Christ to who has this power, and that is where we need to rest, because it’s not by my strength that this takes place. Our lives are not transformed by our goodness. Our lives are changed by by his goodness.
Therefore, point number three in your notes. Therefore surrender. To live. Therefore surrender. To live. You could ask the question if. If we’re elevating our weakness. Then what do we have to impress God? And that is precisely Paul’s point. We’re not here to impress God with ourselves. We’re here to be impressed with God. We’re not here to boast of our glory. We’re here to boast in his glory. And so in verse seven he goes on and he says, like this he says, sort of Keep me. So to keep me from being conceited. Because of the surpassing greatness of revelation. A thorn was given me in the flesh. A messenger of Satan to harass me. To keep me from becoming conceited. Three times. I pleaded with the Lord about this that it should leave me. What Paul is saying is sometimes when you see God’s favor in your life, for example, when you get, I don’t know, lift it up to paradise like Paul was in this moment. Paul saying, Our tendency is to lose sight of the grace of God and His glory and start boasting in our own. And to keep Paul from becoming conceited. What he says in this passage is that God gave gave him a thorn.
So we’re all susceptible as people to think we’re better than others or more special than someone else. How we like to as people. If we mess up, we like to blame our circumstance. But if others mess up, we like to blame their character. And if you ever want to see how that plays out, just watch every politician to ever exist. I mean, we we as people. Well, it’s the circumstance that did this right, but at others messed up. Well, it’s because they’re an awful human being. We blame circumstance and tear down to other people’s character. But but the reality is trouble is the truest test. Of a person’s spiritual character. When adversity strikes us. The superficial veneer of our peace and happiness can get stripped away. And it reveals what’s really in our hearts. How we live for self and our own self-made glory. And when. When people read this passage of Scripture. Just to want to get to know a little bit more about what Paul’s saying here in verse, verse seven and eight, they ask the question, Well, what? What was Paul’s thought? Because I know what mine are. I know what sets me off.
I know where I get frustrated, what’s.
What’s Paul’s thoughts and reality is I know we like to blame circumstances or sometimes other people for why we do what we do. But the reality is you’re still in charge of you. You’re still in charge of you.
And and what Paul helps us see in this passage, scripture, he says, this messenger of Satan sent to harass us. You know, theologians have.
Debated this for years. They’ve looked this and they thought, what’s Paul’s thorn? You know, where is his weakness really expressed in this? How does God show how much he’s he he needs the Lord in his life through this this thorn.
People have debated it. And most people will either say it’s a physical ailment or some.
Sort of sickness that Paul has developed over the years. And that’s probably what his his thorn is. But I say.
On that. I don’t think that that’s true.
I can only speculate, just like anyone else, as to what Paul’s thorn might be. But the reason I say that’s baloney is because when you read in chapter 11, verse 23, and on Paul, just describe.
For us every difficult thing he’s gone through in life.
And he talks about being beat and shipwrecked and all the hardships. And when he lists those things, he never says to us, Oh, and by the way, I’m really sick, right? Or or by the way, I’ve got this physical ailment as well that makes it difficult to get around. And he never lists those things. He never talks about it, never mentions it. And so that’s why people have just speculated. But but I think if you stay in the context of what he’s described in Chapter 11 and Chapter 12, you can find what Paul specifically means by his thorn in the flesh.
Here, because he.
Says it was a thorn was given to me in the flesh. And then he says, a messenger of Satan. The word messenger is also translated as angel in scripture, angel and messenger, the same thing. And if you read in Chapter 11, it tells you Satan is an angel of light. And he sent his messengers out to to go towards the Apostle Paul, right? To go after the Apostle Paul. And so I think in Chapter 11, Paul’s already identified for us what this thorn is. It is a a messenger that was sent out by Satan, who was an angel or a messenger of light. So I think what Paul is saying to us, if you want to know what his thorn is that keeps him humble, it’s people. It’s people that everyone in this room is very you’re very godly when you’re by yourself. Right. You are the most perfect person you know, when you left and to your own devices. But but when when you get around people, then you start to realize how weak you are. Sometimes people bring the greatest things out of you, right? Like it’s it is fun to celebrate wonderful things of people. People do some great things.
But also our hearts are corrupt. And honestly, sometimes relationships can bring the worst out of you. And Paul is saying my weakness for myself, it’s really exposed. When I meet those challenges, I find out how quickly I want to revert to the flesh and I want to react rather than act in faith.
Before the Lord. And God has allowed me to go through those things.
They keep me humble. Relationships are some of the greatest sanctifies.
In life that will teach you more about your walk with God and anything if you don’t believe me. I mean, watch Elastigirl and her children or watch you with yours. Right? There is these things in life called teenagers. That becomes some of the most humbling thing that you can go.
Parents to to realize, I can’t control this. And then when this does not always happen the way that I want. I can’t control me anymore. I need Jesus. I am in a place of weakness. And Paul is saying in his own walk with the Lord, he.
He discovers this place of weakness through the storm. Now, I may be completely wrong, but probably not all right.
But whatever it is that Paul goes through.
It continues to be a reminder for him of what got him started on this journey with the Lord and what continues to keep him on this journey with the Lord. It’s not his impressive power. It’s recognizing just how desperate he is for for Christ. And then he goes on and says. For my grace. See if. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you. By the way, this is the verse most people memorize. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you. From my power is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore, I will boast all the more.
Gladly of my weakness of the power of Christ may rest up on me. Now, one of the things I love about this is one it’s a great truth to hold on to. God’s grace is sufficient for me in my weakness. I mean, God’s communicating to us so many wonderful things here. He knows where we are. He knows what we need. He wants to walk with us through. He loves us and wants to continue to conform in us. His image, I mean, all of that being expressed to your beautiful truth. And one of the things I also love about this is this this is a passage that’s not only should be believed in our lives, but experienced experience through our living with Christ. It’s an experiential verse that as as you accept this truth and live in light of it, you continue to discover that.
Yes, while I.
I oftentimes will veer off course and try to rely on my own strength time and time again, I’m reminded. That God’s grace is all that any? I don’t need to impress people with me, and I certainly don’t need to impress God. What I really need is to be surrendered to him. His grace is sufficient for you. Sufficient for battling against your sin, against temptation, for enduring suffering and disappointment and pain, and to be obedient to him, to serve him effectively, to worship the Lord. His grace is sufficient for you. And then He goes on and says, Therefore. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness so that the power of Christ may rest upon me for the sake of Christ. Then I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Did you see the theme where the pole hashes over and over here, verse one, verse five, verse nine, verse ten. I’m weak, weak, weak, weak, weak, weak, weak, weak. You know what we don’t like to talk about as people? We don’t like to talk about that word. We are weak. We get uncomfortable with that. It’s a doctrine of Christianity that we we we like to ignore in our weakness. We find our depravity.
We discover the theology of original sin. We don’t we don’t like to talk about weakness, what we like to talk about. And sometimes maybe even why we show up to a religious service is because we want someone to help me figure out how to be the best. Me, right. Just point me in the right direction. Give me a couple of tips and I’ll show you how to make me a better me. I’ll show you what makes me so great. So just give me some warm and fuzzies over some nice ideas and I’ll get out here and live those practical thoughts and and you make me just a little bit better at what it is that I’m doing and I’ve become a better version of me. And I want you to know that’s religious teaching. That’s not the gospel. And that is certainly what what Paul is not saying. Paul is not saying just give me the right advice for improving my life so I can keep being great, help me live my best life. Now, that’s not that’s not what Paul’s saying here at at whole. We don’t like.
To talk about our weakness because it causes us to reflect on our on our faults, on our sin, when we when we mess up what makes us so weak. And in fact, I would even say over the last few centuries, our culture has been trained through the great enlightenment to have a disdain for for Christianity’s theology on depravity and original sin.
I would say the Enlightenment has been brought by like Francis Bacon and, and Descartes and, and Rousseau have come along and said, you know what, humanity, we’re not really that bad. In fact, we’ve just been oppressed. If you just knock our chains off, what will ultimately really come out of human beings is good things. So just remove those bad things and let those good things and we’ll be good, in fact. Jean-jacques Rousseau and the Enlightenment. He’s he says it like this. People in their natural state are basically good. This is what the Enlightenment told us. Don’t ignore the idea of human depravity. Christianity is wrong, right? He says people in their natural state are basically good. And then he goes on, says this. But but this natural innocence, however, is corrupted by the evils of society. And which I got to say, in regards to philosophy, this is one of the dumbest statements. And the reason for this is if he’s saying, look, humans are good, but that society is this.
Bad thing, if we could just get rid of the constructs.
Of society, human beings would be good. But he never answers the question Who in God’s name made the society right? Like, where do you think you come from? It just all of a sudden appeared out of nowhere. It was it was human beings that created the society, for Pete’s sake. That is the demonstration of who we are. What are you talking about? It does not make any sense at all that he would even make this kind of statement because he’s identifying by acknowledging society, the people that corrupted it. It’s a revelation of what comes out of us. In fact, just recently in the 1960s, Randall Gerald, one of our writer, who I don’t even think claimed to be Christian, he said this Most of us know now that Rousseau was wrong. That man, when you knock his chains off, sets up death camps. Soon we will know everything the 18th century didn’t know and nothing it did. And it will be hard to live with us. I mean, he’s saying, look, we just got out of the last century. You know what the last century us was. It was it was the bloodiest century in all of human history. And it was it was the century where people walked away from God more than any other century. World War One. World War Two. We got all sorts of violence that that filled the last century. Did the Enlightenment really help? And then there was a Christian author that came along in light of all this, and he said this. He wrote an original sin in his book. He said, Wait a minute.
Modern culture says it has left behind Christianity’s repulsive doctrine of original sin. But it also says it has left Rousseau’s naive naivete about human nature behind. So where the blank are? There was there was a curse word there. I just bleeped it out for you. But where are we? Right.
If human beings we thought were good and all of a sudden we gave them freedom and found out we’re not.
And then we want to reject original sin. What hope does that give? Blaise Pascal, philosopher and I need to close here. He says this Nothing jolts us more rudely than this doctrine of original sin. And yet. But for this mystery. The most inconsequential and comprehensible of all. We remain incomprehensible to our selves. It is wild. The depravity that rests. In my heart and yours. And if we’re honest with it. It’s a recognition of how much. We need the Lord. Not by proving ourselves to him that we’re acceptable. But by accepting him because of what he has done for us on the cross. It is a freeing thing to know before a biblical god. I can be completely honest with my brokenness. God gives me a place to confront my own weaknesses. And still be loved. And still be transformed. And then, rather than resting on my power. Rest on the power of Christ. That works through me. This is what the Apostle Paul knew about his own life. If you ask the apostle Paul, how did you get to do so many great things for Christ in this world? He would say. You would be foolish to assume it was because of me.
I am only where I am because of him. Do you remember the kind of man he was on the Damascus road? His heart was full of anger and hatred. But when God exposed him. And he was laid completely bare before the Lord. And his life utterly surrendered to Christ. God and his strength radically transformed the Apostle Paul, and he continued to live in light of that. Someone comes to you and asks. Why are you so important? Why do you have value? If your answer isn’t Jesus alone. You don’t understand this passage. Because apart from Christ, at best, all we have is a facade of good living. But Jesus is the one who delivers and fulfills. Until we’re willing to surrender our lives. We’re not ready to follow Christ. But if you’re willing to go all in. Jesus can do incredible things through your life as you journey with him. That journey is not about inviting God into your life, but rather letting go of yours and embracing His. We’re not here to improve you. We’re here so that you can die to you and lift him.