"Be Of Good Courage & Walk By Faith": 2 Corinthians 4:16-6:2
The Apostle Paul’s ministry consisted mostly of travelling to places where Christ had not been preached, preaching about Jesus, and seeking to help those who responded to the gospel message establish a thriving church that would continue to make Jesus known after he left. But his care and concern for these churches didn’t stop when he left a city. We see in the Bible that he continued to correspond with and offer counsel to the churches he’d helped start, and believers in these places continued to care for & support his ministry as well. Paul’s heart was not just to have a bunch of people respond to a gospel invitation, or lead the early church in baptisms. We know from Colossians 1 he wanted to see every believer grow up into a mature, thriving follower of Jesus Christ, completely surrendered to him. And one of the great pressures of his ministry was that when he left a church, that when times got tough the Christians there would not stand firm. That was a pressure that weighed on him, as we learn later on in this book of 2 Corinthians. In several of his letters, we encounter the apostle’s heart for Christ’s sheep, especially when they faced suffering and persecution on account of faithfulness to Christ. The church at Corinth was no different. This was a church that endured more than their fair share of hardship, controversy, and difficult times. As Paul attempted to help lead these people through the challenges they faced from afar, we see in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that he pointed them back to some ultimate realities that ought to frame they way they approached their lives even in tough times. And I want to walk through these with you today. 1. We Were Made For Eternity. In chapter 4:16-5:5, God reminds us that the way things are right now is not how they will always be. Even in the midst of hardship all around us, Christians of all people have a reason to hope. Our outer self may be wasting away, but inwardly God is making us new creations with each passing day. We may be experiencing affliction now, but one day our current problems will pale in comparison to the glory we will experience in God’s presence. Our lives may look like a tent that was been left out in the elements, weather-beaten by sun & wind, rain & cold, but we tough it out a little while longer because we know soon God will hand us the keys to home he’s prepared just for us in heaven. Chapter 5, verses 2 &4 use the word groan to describe how our bodies and souls express their longing for the day of our full redemption through Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul used that same word in the same way when in Romans 8, he said that creation itself is groaning with pains of childbirth, waiting for God to make all things new. The groans of childbirth are a great illustration of the suffering mixed with hopeful expectation that often characterizes our Christian experience. I can’t claim to know much about the pain of childbirth, but I did was present in the room next to my wife as she gave birth to our daughters. And I saw how difficult and painful the process was for her. And yet she was filled with hopeful excitement. She groaned in pain, but she knew the pain was purposeful because each contraction meant that a new life was a little closer to coming. There was rejoicing in the pain. In the same way, the groanings of this life have a purpose. Each new challenge is a reminder that a new day is coming, a day that God is preparing us for through our present struggles. And just so we are sure that God will deliver on the eternal promises He has made for us, the bible says in verse 5 that He’s backed it up with a guarantee. He’s placed his Holy Spirit in us. The word “guarantee” means a down payment. If I make a down payment on a purchase, it’s a promise that I will deliver the balance of that payment at a later time. When God saves us by stirring our hearts to repentance and faith in His son, He places His Spirit in our hearts to remind us that every promise He makes to us in this Bible is one that He plans to deliver on in His time. When we sense the pull of the Holy Spirit to follow God, or the conviction of the Holy Spirit when we’ve sinned, or His still, small voice providing us guidance in our moment of need, it’s a reminder that God has not left us on our own and this world is not all there is. He will not forsake us, but in fact there’s coming a day when He will return to deliver upon every promise He’s ever made. In the meantime, we can fix our eyes on eternity and walk by faith. 2. We Are Called to Live By Faith. In verses 6-10, Paul reminds the church that the Christian life does not consist of what can be seen with physical eyes. As Paul says in verse 7, “We live by faith, not by sight.” Sure, we’d all prefer a struggle-free life, but such a life wouldn’t require faith & trust in God. If our gaze is reoriented to the things above, rather than just the things below, we will not be driven by fear; instead, we can be of good courage. We will see our circumstances differently, like Joseph did after being reunited with his brothers in Egypt after being sold into slavery. Because Joseph’s perspective on his life and situation was oriented around the sovereign plan and goodness of God, he was able to see that though others may have meant to harm him, God’s intentions were always good for him and for his family. That kind of perspective only comes through faith in God. I love Paul’s candor in verse 8: we’d rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. In other words, you know what, I’m kind of tired of dealing with all the junk life throws at me and it would just be easier if God would call me home right now. Maybe we’ve felt that way too. But notice what faith does in verse 9. It accepts it’s present circumstances and determines to honor God in every situation: “whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” In other words, in good times or bad, I’m going to do what is pleasing to God. Whether God seems close or far away, I’m going to continue to seek Him. Whether everyone is with me or I feel like I’m all alone, as for me and my house, we’re going to serve the Lord. Verse 10 is not a reference to being saved by our works, but it’s addressed to those who have already been saved by faith in Christ. What it is saying is that those who walk by faith understand that one day we will be at home with God, standing in His presence, and at that moment we want to be able to say we walked by faith and lived a life that was pleasing to the Lord in every way. 3. We Have A Calling to Fulfill. As Paul continued in 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2, he called these Christians to rise above the hardships they faced to fulfill the mission God had given them. To not just focus inwardly on their own problems, and their own eternal destiny, and their own walk of faith, but to look outwardly to share the good news with others. See, those who have placed their hope in Christ don’t have anything to fear when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, because the punishment for our sin already been paid. But what about those who have not believed? What will their fate be? Paul says the fear of someone having to experience God’s judgment against their sin ought to lead us to persuade others. In fact, he goes so far as to say that the great love and forgiveness we’ve received in Christ ought to compel or control us to live differently. We ought no longer to live for ourselves but for Jesus who suffered, died, and rose for us. The picture in verses 15-17 is one of a total worldview change. We aren’t living our own lives anymore. In fact, we’ve died to self and risen to new life in Jesus. We are literally new creations in Christ. And one consequence of that is just as we look at our lives and eternity differently, we look at others differently too. Verse 16 says we no longer look at others “according to the flesh.” I think this means that we stop seeing people as the world sees them and start looking at them as God sees them. We don’t just see and value people based on their appearance, or their vocation, or how much money that have, or where they live or what they drive, or who their family is, or even whether WE like them or not. Instead, we being to see people as God sees them. As individuals who are made in His image and have inherent worth, even if they offer nothing or “value” by the world’s way of accounting. We see people as souls who are headed for an eternity in heaven or hell, and like Jesus, we become burdened for those lost souls who are wandering through this life like sheep without a shepherd. And we realize that we have a calling, in verses 18-20 to help people be reconciled to God. To help them understand that even though our choice to ignore God’s authority and live lives our own way has made us rebels and enemies of God, that in his great love and mercy God has made a way to repair and restore the brokenness we have created between us and Him. God has made it possible for us to be forgiven from sin and so that we can stand before the judgment seat of Christ with no sense of fear or dread, but only thanksgiving and worship because there is a Savior came and spread out His arms at the cross to bridge the divide between God and man. How does this happen? Well, verse 21 tells us: “For our sake Gad made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus, who knew no sin, came and suffered and bled and died on a cross not because of any wrong he had done, but in order that he might die the death meant for us. And He allowed the Father to place the punishment of our sin on him so that God might declare us “not guilty” of sin, and count us to be as righteous and holy as His own son. The word reconciled is an accounting term. We still use it. When we reconcile our checkbook, we are making sure that what we think we have in our account agrees with what the bank says is in our account. The problem with our sin is we create a debt we can never pay. But when Jesus gave His life at the cross, God declare our account paid in full, so that we could be reconciled to right relationship with him. Here’s the question before you today: Have you been reconciled to God? Do you know that if you were to stand before the judgment seat of Christ soon that your account would be found to be in good standing? If not, chapter 6:2 offers a game plan: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” There is no better time than right now to be saved. Why not be reconciled to God today? Right now, wherever you are at, you can call on him and say Lord, I admit that whatever I have done with this life you’ve given me, I’m not prepared to stand before you in eternity. And so I confess my sin to you, knowing that I have not always lived a life that pleases you in all things. And even though I don’t deserve, I stake my hope on the work that Jesus did for me at the cross. And I want to be reconciled to you today. I want to be made new and no longer life for myself, but for Jesus who have himself for me. If you know Christ, I want to encourage you today to live as if you were made for eternity. As you endure the groanings of the present, may you do it with the reminder that this is not how things will always be. I want to encourage you to walk by faith. Make it your aim to please God in every area of your life, so that you’ll have no regrets or reservations when he calls you home. And remember your mission, you have a calling to fulfill. You’re ambassador for Christ, entrusted with the task of leading others to be reconciled to God. How and with whom can you share that message of reconciliation this week? Don’t delay, because for that person or opportunity God has laid on your heart, there may not be time. Now may the acceptable time; now may be the day of salvation.