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#23 The Gift of Correction

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                         “THE GIFT OF CORRECTION

                   (A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 10-21-07                          2 Corinthians 7:2-4

Proposition:      The gift of correction in the body of Christ, when administered and received in the spirit of Christ, advances the work of the kingdom of God in a church and its city.                                                                                                        

i.    introduction

-     MY son-in-law sent me an e mail on Friday, right in the middle of sermon preparation, that I am sure he did not know I needed for the message today from 2 Corinthians 7.

-     THE e mail was entitled, “mamma ain’t playin.”

-     AND what followed was a series of three pictures.

-     LET me show you the first one.

*     Looks like a teenager, who is not particularly happy, holding some sort of a sign.

*     Let’s take a closer look at the sign (read it).

-     Now we know why he looked so sad.

-     Maybe the experience is starting to take effect.

-     I am sure he is not going to forget this day.

-     And you may already be wondering what his motivation is to be there, holding this sign.

*     The next picture answers that question for you.

-     DR Benjamin Spock, a pediatrician, wrote a book on child raising in 1946 called “Baby and Childcare.”

-     IT was one of the biggest best sellers of all time. It has been translated into 39 languages and has sold over 50 million copies.

-     AND while there are some good things that he says in the book, such as showing children more affection and affirmation, we have been paying the price as a society for the last sixty years because of his call for permissiveness regarding discipline in the family.

-     SOME have called him the father of permissiveness.

-     NOW, I am not suggesting that you make your teenager stand on the side of the road with a placard.

-     BUT I am suggesting that we live in a culture in the Western world, and especially here in the Northwest, where there is no tolerance for discipline in any form anywhere.

-     AND the church of Jesus in America, for the most part, is skipping merrily behind the world on this subject, playing to their tune.

-     SOME churches have based their whole philosophy of ministry on avoiding all corrective passages of Scripture in order not to offend.

-     BUT we cannot build our churches or our lives apart from the whole counsel of God.

-     THERE are times to encourage, times to affirm, times to rejoice in God, times to focus on the good things God has done for us….but there are also times for correction.

-     THERE are times that God sets us out on the side of the road holding up a placard.

-     CORRECTION is a gift from God. Let me explain.

-     HEBREWS 12:4-6 says,

      “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:4-6)

-     IS God a capricious, angry father who lashes out?

-     NO! His discipline is motivated entirely by His love for us and the goal He has in mind for us.

*     Verse 10 says correction is for our good and so that we may share in God’s holiness.

-     HEBREWS 12:11 continues with the subject,

      “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

-     SO, discipline is evidence of God’s love for us and that we are His family; it is also for our good, for holiness and yields the fruit of righteousness…who wants out?

-     NOW, the apostle Paul had planted the church in Corinth. He was their father in the Lord, loved them deeply, and kept close tabs on everything going on in the church in Corinth when he was away.

-     EVEN when he was in Ephesus, some 400 miles across the Aegean Sea, they were ever on his heart.

-     AND when a member of the church in Corinth came to visit Paul in Ephesus and told him about the sad conditions in the church, he sprang into action and wrote a strong corrective letter which is what we know as 1 Corinthians.

-     IT was a stern letter of correction.

-     AT times Paul’s language is quite strong:

*     I could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to infants.

*     Because of your abuses during communion some of you are sick and some have died.

*     Rather than take your differences to the pagan courts, the simplest one among you should be able to arbitrate.

*     Hand the sinning brother over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that maybe his soul will be saved.

-     AT times his language was sarcastic,

*     You are so rich. You have become kings.

*     We are weak but you are strong. You are distinguished, but we are without honor.

-     SO, from the time he sent that first letter to them from Ephesus, until the writing of the second letter we are studying now, Paul was extremely concerned about how they received his correction.

 

 

ii.   PRODUCES COMFORT

-     WE will start today at 2 Corinthians 7:5….where Paul actually picks up a theme he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:9,

      “For to this end also I wrote [1 Corinthians], so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” (2 Corinthians 2:9)

-     PAUL is now writing the second epistle from Philippi, in Macedonia.

-     REMEMBER, he had to run for his life from Ephesus.

-     HE went north, up the coast of Asia Minor, and got deathly ill on the way. Thought he was going to die.

-     THEN stopped at Troas, all the way north on the coast of Asia Minor, and refused to stop there even though he tells us that an effective door for ministry was open to him in Troas….why?

-     HE was worried sick about what was going on in Corinth.

-     HE had heard nothing about how they had received his corrective letter.

-     HE had expected Titus to meet him in Troas.

-     TITUS had been the one who hand-delivered Paul’s first epistle to Corinth…and Paul wanted to know how it had gone over.

-     SO, since Titus didn’t show up in Troas as expected, Paul took a boat over the Aegean Sea to Macedonia (present day Greece) and ended up in Philippi, and started writing his second letter….waiting for Titus.

-     SOMEWHERE during the writing of 2 Corinthians, Titus arrived with news from Corinth….and that news is chapter 7.

-     LET’S read verse 5,

      “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” (2 Corinthians 7:5)

-     WHY is Paul so discouraged, so depressed?

-     HIS love for the Corinthians is so great and his concern re: how they handled his discipline so intense at this point that he is a wreck.

-     VERSES 6 and 7,

      “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.” (2 Corinthians 7:6-7)

-     TITUS came with terrific news for Paul.

*     The Corinthians longed to see him.

*     When they read Paul’s first letter, Titus said they mourned over their past sinful behavior.

*     And they had recaptured their zeal for Paul evidenced by their repentance.         

-     TITUS reported to Paul that Corinth had received his discipline, his correction, well…and that produced in Paul a sense of comfort.

-     THE word comfort in the Greek word is the word John uses in his Gospel to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit….the Comforter.

-     THE word means much more than sympathy.

-     COMFORT is something God does for you when you call on Him in times of distress and He literally comes alongside….and by His grace turns your sorrow into consolation, encouragement and hope.

-     THE Bible uses two metaphors for comfort to help you understand what God will do for you by His Spirit:

      “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)

      “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13)

-     GOD’S comfort usually comes from God by the Holy Spirit through:

*     His Word.

*     His manifest presence.

*     Through prophetic means.

*     Through the lives of other believers close to us….their words, their actions, their faith, their presence.

-     THIS was the case for Paul in our passage today.

-     GOD had come alongside Paul in the arrival of Titus and especially the report about how the Corinthians had responded to Paul’s correction.

-     HERE is the first point about why correction is a gift.

-     WHEN correction is well received and acted upon, it produces comfort….actually for both parties.

-     IT is true in the home. It is true in the workplace. It is true in the church.

-     PROVERBS 29:17 says,

      “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort.” (Proverbs 19:17)

-     CORRECTION is a source of comfort for all….when correction is well received.

iii.  PREVENTS LOSS

-     THE next lesson about correction is found in verses 8-10,

      “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while.” (2 Corinthians 7:8)

-     PAUL’S purpose in writing the first letter was not to upset or hurt the Corinthians.

-     HE loved them, but it was a holy love. It was not tolerant of sin. He saw the grave danger they were in and knew how things would end for them if they didn’t change.

-     LOOK at verse 9,

      “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

-     THE Corinthians could have responded in the flesh to Paul’s first letter of correction,

*     With anger.

*     With defensiveness.

*     With self-vindication.

*     With rejection.

*     And with attack.

-     PAUL was fearful that is what would happen.

-     AND the depression he was experiencing was not because of his illness, the opposition of the Judiazers, or the beatings and imprisonments he suffered.

-     HE had been depressed in Troas and Philippi at the thought that if Corinth rejected his correction, the end for them would be spiritual death....and the loss of the church and their witness in the city.

-     KING Saul is an example of worldly sorrow:

*     Sorry he got caught.

*     Sorry that he was embarrassed.

*     Sorry that he was stuck with the consequences…his life turned into a mess.

*     Sorry that he was going to lose his kingdom. He also lost the respect of most of his family.

-     THE end of this kind of worldly sorrow….even though it is accompanied sometimes with much tears and grief…is death.

-     BY stark contrast, godly sorrow, like King David exhibited when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sin, is….

*     Sorrow for grieving God.

*     Sorrow for the break in relationship with God that sin brings.

*     Sorrow for any shame brought on the Name of Christ.

*     SORROW THAT LEADS TO REPENTANCE…specifically a change in heart and direction.

-     PAUL says that godly sorrow will assure that you not suffer the loss of anything of eternal value.

*     Grace.

*     Hope.

*     Joy in the Lord.

*     And at some point the loss of salvation.

-     SO, the right response to correction:

1.   Produces comfort.

2.   Prevents loss.

iv. REVEALS EARNESTNESS

-     THERE is another lesson we learn from this passage concerning our proper response to correction does. It reveals TO YOU the earnestness of your heart for God.

-     LOOK at verses 11-13,

      “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.” (2 Corinthians 7:11-13a)

-     PAUL spells out their earnestness with some interesting words.

*     Vindication….clearing themselves instead of their previous apathy to the presence of unconfessed sin in the church.

*     Indignation….with themselves for bringing shame on the Name of the Lord in Corinth by their actions.

*     Fear….that Paul would come with the rod of judgment from the Lord.

*     Longing…to be reunited with Paul.

*     Zeal…for a holiness that would be pleasing to the Lord.

*     Avenging of wrong…seeing that justice was accomplished in the discipline of the church.

-     NOW that they have responded in this way to the correction, Paul declares them innocent….put right before God.

-     THEIR earnestness for God was established in their own eyes…based on their response to correction.

-     SO, the right response to correction:

1.   Produces comfort.

2.   Prevents loss.

3.   Reveals earnestness.

V.  RESULTS IN CONFIDENCE

-     FINALLY, the right response to correction, and this meant the world to Paul, is that it results in confidence….his and ultimately theirs.

-     LOOK at verses 13b-16,

      “For this reason we have been comforted. And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame; but as we spoke all things to you in truth, so also our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15 His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.” (2 Corinthians 7:13-16)

-     I THINK these verses speak for themselves.

-     THE tone is so different than in 1 Corinthians.

-     EVEN thought Paul had some real fears about how his correction was going to be received by them…he still spoke well of them to Titus, even boasted about them.

-     AND now, he is confident for their future because of how they responded to his correction.

v.  CONCLUSION

-     MAY I just review these points regarding correction with you as I close?

-     SO, the right response to correction:

1.   Produces comfort.

2.   Prevents loss.

3.   Reveals earnestness.

4.   Results in confidence.

-     CORINTH was not aware of it at the time…but their place in Christ and their witness in the city depended on their response to Paul’s correction.

-     NO wonder Paul was so comforted and encouraged when he heard how they had responded.

-     HOW do you respond to correction?

*     In the family?

*     At work?

*     With your friends?

*     With those responsible for your souls?

-     CAN we ask God for humble spirits today?

-     CAN we ask Him to give us a new attitude to correction…a new response?

-     A RESPONSE that…

1.   Produces comfort.

2.   Prevents loss.

3.   Reveals earnestness.

4.   Results in confidence.

 

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