True Confidence - 2 Corinthians 10:1-18
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Countless generations have been brought up to believe that the customer
is always right. Burger King have taken this conviction to the next level.
Listen to what they recently said to their customers…
“You have the right to have what you want, exactly when you want it. Because on the menu of life, you are ‘Today’s Special’. And tomorrow’s. And the day after that. And…well, you get the drift. Yes, that’s right. We may be King, but you my friend, are the almighty ruler.”
Music to the ears of people today. This is how most people behave in God’s world. Put themselves at the centre. They behave as if they are in charge. They like to think of themselves as almighty rulers. In the decisions of life they will decide what is right and wrong.
This is why becoming a Christian is very radical and tough. It involves a surrendering to the loving rule of Jesus. Not blind faith. Jesus provides evidence of who he is and what he demands. The Christian is someone who says, “Yes Jesus is my King and from now on I want to put his loving instructions into practice.”
This is tough to hear when our natural urges are to be in control. Why many people refuse to become genuine Christians. They may fancy the experience, they may enjoy belonging loosely to a church but authentic Christianity involves a surrendering of the will to Jesus.
The way Jesus instructs his people today is through the written word of God. Not simply the best way for people to understand who the King is but the means by which the King rules his people.
So far so good. We can just about take this on board. Individually we submit to Christ’s teaching and strive to put it into practice. We don’t like people telling us what to think and how to live but we can jut about cope if it’s a direct word from Christ in the Bible.
But what about another human being? A church leader? A pastor? A vicar? Whatever we will call them. How keen are we to listen to another human telling us what to think and how to behave?
This is the reality of the Christian life. Not individuals who have no connections but we are to take our place within local churches. We are to belong.
As part of the health of these churches Christ has appointed church leaders so that his people may be built up until they reach a position of maturity.
Some people are easier to listen to than others. Some leaders who we respect and whose advice we will accept more easily.
It’s my firm conviction that these leaders do not simply appear. They need to be trained, they need to be nurtured, they need to see good models who they can copy and they need to be prayed for by the church they have given their life to serve.
We as your church leaders are very thankful that you support us and love us and many of you do pray for us. Today I want to show you from 2 Cor 10 two things you can pray for us. Good to do because this is ultimately for your benefit.
o Pray for our character
o Pray for our techniques
First of all, pray for our character.
Very broad and general. What can you pray for? You can pray for is that we become more and more like Jesus in the way we relate to people.
Listen to what Paul says in verse 1. “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you…”
One of the difficulties is trying to understand what Paul is talking about, who he is talking to and what he means is that we only have one side of the conversation.
Listening to someone on the phone and trying to overhear what they are saying. It’s very difficult.
Difficult and yet not impossible. Not a hopeless task.
Let me fill you on a few details. Paul was responsible for establishing the church in the first place. Not all plain sailing. It was a very depraved culture and when someone becomes a Christian they bring their baggage with them.
It will be the same today if lots of people get converted. How will the church cope? Paul had left and various problems had arisen. He had tried to deal with them through letters and a painful visit.
Also in his absence new teachers had arrived from Israel who were setting themselves up as the spiritual gurus. To many eyes they were spiritual giants. Spoke well, dressed well, no doubt had American teeth, spoke of visions, a personal word from the Lord, miracles.
Paul has other conclusions.
11:4-5, “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those super-apostles. I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge.”
11:13, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workman, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.”
On the surface they appeared like spiritual superstars but in reality they were Satanic snakes. Paul saw through their veneer.
They had also launched a dirty tricks campaign against Paul. Smear his name. Distance the Corinthians from him,.
Paul writes to clear his name and expose the folly of these false apostles. But how? How should he do it? He took his model from Jesus himself who was both meek and gentle with people.
Meekness is not a common term on our lips. Basically it carries with it the idea of humbleness and quietness. Not a showman who is always trying to make the photographers point their cameras in his direction.
Doesn’t mean they are a pushover. The mouse to be walked over at will. A meek person can also be a very strong person, an individual who is absolutely convinced of his beliefs and who will act upon them.
Think of Jesus. Not a showman, not an insecure individual who was always saying look at me. Yet not a pushover. Goes into the temple, makes a whip and drives out the money changers. True meekness.
What Paul displays as he writes back to the Corinthian church. Not trying to be a showman. He is remarkably reticent in talking about his own spiritual experiences. But he was not a pushover. He was an apostle and he did have a responsibility to speak out for the greater good of God’s people.
We need this quality in our church leaders. True meekness as defined by Jesus.
o Easy to be puffed up and the pride can hit you from nowhere. Know our position.
o We need them to have characters of steel. Not always something we want.
o We don’t want the wet-fish leader who doesn’t know where they are going.
o But neither is the clear leader who will discipline popular.
o Like the visionary who will generally leave us alone.
o Not good for us. We need meek leaders. Those who are not puffed up but who have the moral courage to instruct us in what is best.
If this is what we pray for then do ask that we would also be gentle. Such an important character trait in Christian leaders.
Brilliant to be humble. To know our rightful place. Also to have that moral courage to take action. But in our dealings with people we need the gentleness of Christ. The ability to have his compassion as we say tough things.
Not the default setting. The minister who has the truth can often be overbearing, or cross or angry with people. This is not what people need. It’s not what Jesus was known for.
Consistent steely character and yet a man who was gentle with those he ministered to.
Practical example. Baptism today. We need the moral courage to stick to the truth. Doesn’t help anyone to just let them get the baby done. We need the gentleness so we can win more for Christ.
Pray for our character.
Secondly, pray for our techniques.
Look at what Paul is accused of in verse 2. “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be towards some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.”
Staggering that Paul is being accused of ministering by the standards of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much of the preaching of the travelling philosophers was all about spin and no substance. Paul was completely different. And yet here were these super-apostles claiming he was ministering in unspiritual ways.
What did they mean? Read between the lines and we discover that their ministry was characterised by visions, miracles, words from the Lord. Can just imagine them saying things like…
By contrast Paul’s ministry seemed rather dull and rather ordinary. Preaching, big groups, small groups, one-to-one. Still about speaking to people about Jesus.
They weren’t denying Paul was a Christian but not someone in the higher elite of Christian ministry.
I love how Paul responds. Verse 3, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Very clear that Christians are in a battle. Many of our old songs emphasied this.
Onward Christians soldiers marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see his banners go!
Rather different from many of the ‘Jesus you are my boyfriend’ type songs being pumped out today.
It’s true. We are in a battle. Stakes are huge!
Bill Hybels and general. When I make a mistake people’s eternities are at stake.
We are in a battle for the souls of those around us.
How should we fight? Paul says not with the weapons of the world.
What are the weapons of the world?
o Physical force. Day like today. We remember the gallant men and women who died. But we don’t celebrate violence. War is the less of two evils but it is still an evil.
o Christian ministry is not exercised through this means.
o States have the power to authorise it but it is never to be used for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.
o What about the Crusades? Not Christian. Like so frequently happens. Wicked individuals use an ideology to get their way.
o Psychological manipulation.
o Cults do this. All smiles then the freedoms start being taken away and the indoctrination begins.
o Summer camp. Lots of sleep and good food. Don’t starve the kids and keep them awake.
What are the weapons of the Christian? Doesn’t tell us here. He has told us before in 2 Cor and makes it clear in Ephesians 6.
2 Cor 4:2, “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
This word of God communicated has divine power to demolish strongholds.
Ephesians 6:17, sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
One of the weapons. The other seems to be prayer. Ephesians 6:18,, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Picture. The human being is defending itself. The fortress is up. How do you get inside? Miracles? Words from God? The word of God about God.
What does Paul use this for? Verse 5. He demolishes arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.
Doesn’t mean he quotes a bible verse and that’s all that needs to be said.
No, the Bible outlines the true picture of God, human beings and the world. Provides evidence for believing.
There is power in God’s word to capture even the hardest heart and to answer even their hardest question.
Every church leader must be convinced of this.
Temptation is to try every new latest fad and believe it will fill your church.
Or to become to discouraged, will anything change the people around me?
Yes, the word of God and prayer have divine power to capture the hardest heart.
Please do pray this for us. We will pray it for you.
We live at a spiritually low time. Temptation is to right people off, they’ll not be interested we say.
Challenge today is to trust the word of God and pray.
So let’s do that now as we pray that God would enable us to remember and believe the things we have heard this morning. Let’s pray.
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