Staying Focused Despite the Distractions

A family was driving through the back country roads enjoying a fun day out and Dad was driving while looking for a particular county park to picnic at.  As he drove down the county roads they became more and windier and narrow and as they drove down one of these back roads, he saw a sign that read, “Naturist site ahead.”  Now, Dad had a problem, for the lane was too narrow to turn around; he didn’t want his children to see things they shouldn’t see.  Unable to turn around and unable to back up in reverse, the car carried on forward.  Then suddenly it happened!  Out of nowhere appeared 4 adults on bikes, ALL NAKED.  Before Dad could call out, “Don’t look, kids,” one of his young children beat him to it and called out, “Dad, look!  Those people aren’t wearing cycle helmets!”

Now that’s what I call being focused!

Scripture Study:  2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Despite all the distractions those kids in the backseat of the car were, they focused on one thing!

In this chapter in 2 Corinthians, Paul stayed focused despite the distractions!

Those distractions came in the form of the Apostle’s opponents.

One of the themes found in this second letter to the church at Corinth is the apostle Paul having to defend his apostleship.  Since Paul left this Church in Corinth to go on his third missionary journey other people had come onto the church.  These others came into the Church with their own agenda (false ideas).  They were mixing the old way (Judaism) with the new way (the Gospel of Christ).  So they were altering the message of the gospel from FAITH alone in Jesus to FAITH in Jesus plus works.  Those works taught that a person had to adhere to certain Jewish laws, rituals, and customs if they wanted to be truly SAVED.

Now as soon as you ADD anything to the gospel, it is no longer the gospel!

The emphasis changes from Christ alone, to Christ PLUS…

  • The book of Mormon
  • The teachings of the Watchtower Organization
  • A need for our own good works
  • To man-made rituals and religious ceremonies.

The GOSPEL is complete in itself!  It cannot be improved.

That’s why it is the Gospel (‘Good News’), because it doesn’t rest on us, it depends on Christ.

And when we mess up and fail time after time, Jesus never did and never will!  So we are always accepted in Him and have all that we’ll ever need in Him alone.

Defending the MESSAGE/GOSPEL

The Apostle Paul defends his message/gospel:  We are SAVED by GRACE through FAITH in Jesus Christ alone!  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

And in defending his message, he will need to defend his authority, his apostleship.

I Follow Christ’s Example (vs. 1):

“By humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you…”

The apostle Paul was from Christ, and therefore acted like Jesus.  But his critics (false teachers), and we all have critics, loved to boast in men. [i.e. 1 Corinthians 1:21]

And then in 1 Corinthians 3:21…

[21] “So then, no more boasting about human leaders!  All things are yours, [22] whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas…”

The Church at Corinth had been “swept off its feet” by the personality and charm of false teachers.

These preacher/teachers were teaching that Paul was weak and unimpressive.  But they had the real power!

Notice Paul’s response to these accusations:  “By the humility and gentleness of Christ.”

He tells them that he’s not weak, but meek (gentle).

Only once in the Bible does Jesus describe Himself.

It’s not a claim such as “I am the…etc.”, but an actual description of His inward character.  The encyclopedia has devoted over 20,000 words to describe the person of Christ, yet Jesus used just TWO WORDS:

“GENTLE AND HUMBLE”

Paul, like his master, demonstrated an attitude of meekness (gentleness). 

MEEKNESS means “strength under control” (The Examiner – meekness-strength under control – March 26, 2017).

It’s kind of like a wild stallion that has been broken and now tamed.  It still has as much power as when wild, but now that power is bottled up for the master’s use.

The apostle Paul was never weak!

Paul had risked his life for this Church!  But he was meek (gentle), and he didn’t lord it over the people, he served the Church.

The imposters wanted to dominate, to be seen and recognized as important.  They were what I might call, “Power-house preachers.”  But that in itself didn’t mean displaying the power of God.

So what is the challenge for all of us at this point?

To be MEEK like Jesus, to control our power for a greater blessing of others.

I Use Spiritual Weapons (vs. 3-6)

Deception has always been featured strongly in warfare.  And the purpose is simple.  It’s to gain an advantage so that you can take more ground.

Now the apostle Paul didn’t use carnal (fleshly, worldly) WEAPONS.  He didn’t rely on a ‘strong personality’ or on ‘manipulating’ people.  Instead of relying on human wisdom, human abilities or physical ability, Paul used the WEAPONS of Christian character and the truth of God’s Word.  If you want to show that a stick is crooked, just place it next to a straight stick.

Paul warns them that when he returns, he will smash their clever arguments, smash their false doctrine, and bring to God anyone led astray by false teachers.

NOTICE verse  5:

It’s not performance but obedience that God wants from us.

So the apostle will turn back people’s hearts and minds and place in OBEDIENCE.  And just a note here:  Paul was out to build up and not tear down (vs. 8).

BUILDING UP IS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY…

Tearing down, destroying, is a sign of immaturity.

I remember when my children were little, crawling around on the floor when I would sit down with them with their building blocks, building a tower in front of their eyes.  Then, as I pretended not to be watching, they would crawl over to the tower and knock them down, giggling as they watched them fall and then we would play the game all over again.  But over the months the game changes.  Instead of destroying, knocking the tower of blocks over, they wanted to help me build one.  And why the change?  Because Building Up, creating was a sign of their maturity.  Tearing down, destroying, was a sign of their immaturity.

The Sign of A Healthy Leader In Their Concern to Build Up

Anyone can tear down, anyone can find fault, anyone can become a critic.

But it takes effort and character to build up people and churches.

I Don’t Judge by Appearance (vs. 7-11)

Don’t be fooled by appearance.  Appearances can often be deceptive!

Have you ever wondered what the apostle Paul looked like, what he was really like, in person?  I certainly have!  I think of him as a cross between Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise– a tough, no-nonsense type of guy!  In my research, I have found it remarkable that only one description I could find of Paul in history and it wasn’t in the Bible.  It was in debatable writing called, “Acts of Paul and Thecia.”  (the work is not inspired, so it may/may not be a true description of him).  [See footnote [t].]

“A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.  For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel”

You get the impression the apostle Paul wasn’t a looker.  His physical appearance wasn’t too impressive.  And that idea is backed up in this chapter, verse 10:

2 Corinthians 10:10 (NIV)

[10]  For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”

To paraphrase:  “His letters pack a punch but he isn’t much to look at and his preaching is boring!”

Paul knew this is what his critics were saying and so he picks up on this and plays on it in verse one:

I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!

The apostle Paul didn’t judge by outward appearance.  The opponents of Paul did!

They said he doesn’t have the physical presence of a Peter or the eloquent speaking skills of an Apollos.  He hasn’t the dynamism we have when we preach, he is just ordinary!

God is never impressed with outward appearance.  But sadly, so often we are!  We need to constantly be looking deeper at people!

A classic example that comes to mind is 1 Samuel chapter 16.  When David, the skinny runt of the family, was chosen by God to be king over his bulky battle-scarred brothers!

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I Let God Do the Commending (vs. 12-18)

‘Check-A-Trade’ is an organization and a resource for local trades in the area i.e. builders, roofers, etc.  And whoever uses their services can give feedback on the ‘Check-A-Trade’ website.  The idea being your customers are the ones who commend you to other people looking for a reliable and good tradesperson, rather than you choosing them because of their advertising and good publicity.

That principle of being COMMENDED by another is what the apostle Paul has in mind here.

The critics and opponents of Paul were part of their own mutual appreciation society who thought highly of each other.  But all they do, says the apostle, is “boast” about themselves.

The word “boasting” is used 12 times in this letter (2nd Corinthians) to the church, which is far more than any of Paul’s other letters,  And it literally means “to glory in.”

While his critics “glory in” their wisdom, accomplishments, and judgments, Paul says in verse 13, that he will only “glory in” the tasks that God has given him.

The apostle Paul goes on to subtly remind the readers and his critics the ultimate goal of the Church…

Not to sit around admiring one another’s assets but rather to see the kingdom of God expand!

Paul reminds us that a Christ-focused ministry is about the gospel going forth into new territories and not about “reworking” something already established.

He put himself out to start a Church in Corinth and now he wants that Church to help in sharing the gospel message in the region beyond (vs. 16).

Missionaries David Livingstone, Robert Moffat, and the Apostle Paul

They all had one thing in common:  A Desire to Share the Gospel to Those Who Had Never Heard!

This was their burden!!

What’s yours?

Verse 18:

As far as commendations are concerned, the only pat on the back the apostle Paul was looking for was from God.  Paul was never impressed by what people thought of him.  He only ever wanted ‘The Father’s approval’.

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOORNOTES

Footnote [i] :  New World Encyclopedia.- Physical description of the apostle Paul.

Images/Photos Used:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV); The Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

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