Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Living in a Manner Consistent with our Love of Christ

This morning in my time alone the Lord I read the second half of 2 Corinthians 11. Paul, who wrote the letter to Christians in the city of Corinth, was deeply concerned about the new believers there. Other teachers had come in after Paul and were leading them away from the truth of Jesus Christ. And what is more, they were boasting about their credentials and skills and using this to put Paul down, to place him lower in the pecking order than themselves, so that the Corinthians would believe and submit to them.

Therefore, Paul was compelled to write to these precious souls, whom he called saints (2 Corinthians 1:1), not so much to defend himself but the message about Jesus which he had taught them. However, in order to defend the message he did have to say something about the messenger, himself, and the second half of 2 Corinthians 11 is his self-defense. But it's quite odd because he simultaneously says some things about himself and does so in such a way as to show that boasting in one's self is a kind of madness. Here's what he wrote:

"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.

"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness" (2 Corinthians 11:22-30).

Putting Paul's self-defense aside for now, the question that sprang to mind as I read this list slowly and let the realities of it sink in was this: Am I living a life that displays my passion for Christ? Or am I naming the name of Christ over my life while essentially living for myself? Most likely I will not be lashed and beaten and stoned and shipwrecked for my love for Christ, but is there any indication that I'm living the kind of radical lifestyle that really does accord with knowing Jesus?

I'm still thinking about this. My suspicion is that I'm going to answer "yes and no," but honestly I'm not satisfied with that. Jesus doesn't live a "yes and no" life for me and I don't want to live one for him. So by his grace I hope to identify the "no's," die to my way of life, and enter more fully into his "yes" for me. Indeed, God has already created good works for me that I have yet to walk in (Ephesians 2:10) and I so want to walk in them. Lord, please help me in this.

So, what about you? Where are you at with the Lord? Being honest, do you think God's job is to make your life comfortable and enjoyable and such? Or are you willing to lose every comfort, if he calls you to do so, so that you might win the superior prize of eternal joy in Christ? I invite you to contemplate these things along with me because, even though it will be hard, in the end it will be good--very good.

I want to get to the end of my life and say what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." And I want to hear those eternally joy-producing words from Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your Master" (Matthew 25:21).

Oh Lord Jesus, grant that we would know your great and lasting joy, even if it means that we have to suffer with you for a little while. 

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