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).

 

 

 

“UNCHECKMATED”

A Famous Chess Game
A Famous Chess Game

 A Defeat in Progress–

The Fausts’  famous painting hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Faust is seated at a table engaged in a competitive game of chess.  And at first glance, looks like Faust is losing.

His opponent in the chess game is Satan.  The devil sits there grinning smugly, thinking the VICTORY is in hand.  He is pointing at the chessboard with an evil, gloating look on his face.

As you look at the painting, you can almost hear the devil shouting:

“Checkmate!  Games over!  I win!”

An international famous chess player was admiring the painting when all of a sudden, he lunged forward exclaiming:

“Wait a minute!  Look! Faust has another move and that move will give him VICTORY.”

THE TEXT from Acts 26:16-18: “Another Move!”

[16]  But arise and stand upon your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you.  [17] Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you–  [18] To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.  (Amplified Bible)

JESUS HAS GIVEN US PURPOSE:

I remember years ago, when I was asked to give an account of how and when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before a small group.  How inadequate I first felt.  It wasn’t that I feared standing in front of people to speak, but I thought my story wasn’t….exciting enough.  I hadn’t been driving down a road, when a lightning bolt struck the pavement in front of the car; pulling to the shoulder; hearing the audible voice of God saying,  “Mel, I have a specific purpose and objectives in mind for you.”

But in saying that, when we accept JESUS out of obedience…for He chose you, you didn’t choose Him; you accepted the calling… out of obedience.  The obedience doesn’t stop there at conversion.  It’s ongoing!

The Apostle Paul’s Testimony in Acts 26–

We find Paul stating his God-given purpose through his testimony to the whole Jewish Legal council.  Also, to three of the highest political officials in Palestine:  FELIX, FESTUS, and AGRIPPA.  All three hear the GOSPEL MESSAGE because Paul was arrested and imprisoned on false charges.

PAUL’S TESTIMONY:

He was blinded by an arrogant sense of his own importance.

Thought he was on a mission for God.

Though he was defending God…he had gone on the offensive; to wipe out as many Christians as possible.

He was chasing them down everywhere, arresting them, sentencing them to prison, even torturing them if needed.

If they (the Christians) refused to renounce their faith, like Stephen, Paul saw to it that they died as a heretic.  Saul, as he was known to the world, quickly became infamous among the Way (what believers were known as before the term “Christians” was applied).  Would Paul’s INFAMY put him in CHECKMATE after his obedience to God’s calling?

BUT SOMEONE SAW PAUL’S POTENTIAL–  JESUS!

Paul’s testimony– that JESUS turned on the lights for him–blinding him on the Road to Damascus.  Now, his eyesight was “20/20” regarding spiritual matters.

3 OBJECTIVES TO CONSIDER:

THE FIRST OBJECTIVE we are to meet is to accomplish the purpose; to move out of a “checkmated” position. 

JESUS has given each one of us in the church assembly, the BODY OF CHRIST this command:  GO AND TELL!  (verse 17)–

“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles”

“I AM SENDING YOU”:

God has placed you and I to penetrate our community with the good news.

We are a sent people–

In fact, the smaller number in attendance at the church I attend, with various age differences, different occupations–we are all given the same responsibility; penetrate the world, our community, with the Gospel.

None of us live at the church, though you may complain you feel like at times.  Most of us don’t work at the church; we live and work among the people outside the church walls.  That’s just where God wants us to be.  He wants us living out there, moving about, meeting people, being involved in their lives and shining God’s Light around our own lives.  Does that sound just to “poetic” for you to grasp and understand?

THE “CHURCH” IS MORE THAN A LIGHTHOUSE:

As some of you know, I sang in a men’s Gospel trio in Southern California in the late 70’s.  One of my favorite Gospel Hymns to sing out in the community was, The Lighthouse.  The lyrics refer to Jesus as the Lighthouse, and that is certainly true.  But since we are Christ’s Ambassadors, we are to represent the “Lighthouse.”  The last verse of the song contains a powerful thought:

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Everybody that lives about us

Says tear that Lighthouse down.

The big ships don’t sail  this way anymore

There’s no use of it standing round

Then my mind goes back to that stormy night

When just in time I saw  the light

Yes, the light from that old Lighthouse

That stands up there on the hill.

Please understand, this idea is often a mistake in the body of Christ–the Christian Assembly.  We sometimes believe that the CHURCH BUILDING is our Lighthouse and not the Light living inside of us.

It is time for the church to start  “wiggling”–MOVING OUT!

I came across a story this past week, of an E.M.T. (emergency medical technician):

Bill Stelianessis was called to a nursing home for a routine transport.  While there, he encountered four residents enjoying the warm day, relaxing in lounge chairs, all staring up at the sky.  When he looked up to see what they were looking at, he saw a flock of large birds flying by.  Then one resident spoke up:  “Margaret,” she teased, “for goodness sake, wiggle or something.  Those buzzards are getting closer!”

We are going to have to move folks.  We are supposed to be “living lighthouses”–guiding, directing, and warning others.  We do not ask people to come here to the “building”, for most won’t come.  We are to go where they are, and show them the LIGHT.

Moving Lighthouses
Moving Lighthouses

A SECOND OBJECTIVE–ANOTHER MOVE we are to meet, to accomplish the purpose of Jesus has given us– “…to open eyes…” (verse 18).

God wants spiritually blinded eyes to be opened:  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said,  ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’  made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”  (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIV).

It is God who created LIGHT in the beginning.  HE SPOKE.  IT HAPPENED!

He has a method in mind.  It’s you and me.  We are PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT in communicating the TRUTH–God’s Word.

Our Responsibility–

To LIVE and SPEAK words of truth, so that when people’s eyes are opened, there is something to believe.

Holy spirit never opens the eyes of the heart until there is GOSPEL TRUTH in the mind to believe.  We do not SAVE people, and I think most of us already know that.  But on the other hand, Scripture indicates His only plan includes our communication–God doesn’t do it without us.

3042052_b6efc7004cTHE THIRD OBJECTIVE TO CONSIDER IS “TURN THEM” INTO VICTORY (Verse 19):

“To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness…

I remember when I was living in darkness…the “darkness of sin.”   Before being saved, I use to think life couldn’t be any better.  And those who did…I thought they were more than a bit “nutty.”  I thought that DARKNESS was light and LIGHT was darkness.

Are We Hiding the Light in a Paper Sack?

TWO CLASSMATES from Washington State University were discussing their frustrations of dorm life.  High up on their list was the difficulty of keeping others from eating ice cream stored in the dorm’s refrigerator.

“I’ve solved that one,” one of them said.  “I just wrap my ice cream in a brown paper bag and label it ‘TOFU’.”

It’s possible that the devil has done the same thing.  Wrapped up the light (THE TRUTH) in a brown paper bag and called it “TOFU”–as a result, no one is going near it!

SATAN’S POWER OVER PEOPLE:

His power is simply based on DECEPTION.  He does so by working hard to keep people away from the TRUTH.  So he bends and twists the TRUTH (God’s Word), keeping people at bay and off-balanced.  He did that with us…unsuccessfully.

I certainly remember why and how he FAILED.  It was because of one small, unattractive looking pastor, living out the truth every time he came to the place where I was employed.  Because eventually, after his repeated visits, the opportunity arose… to SHARE the Gospel TRUTH with my wife and I in the living room of our home.

Paul’s Example to Us All.

Paul wasn’t concerned about his own condition, as much as he was about the condition of those who stood before him.  While he was standing in chains, he was more concerned about the spiritual chains around the necks of Festus and Agrippa.

WE ARE CHOSEN AND ENTRUSTED WITH A MISSION:

Encouragement Presented.  BE A MOVING LIGHTHOUSE!

Those of us who were called–called out of the tunnel of darkness, into His marvelous Light are entrusted with a MISSION:

To remove whatever obstacles that prevent others from rejoicing in the brilliance of God’s unconditional acceptance.  We are to GUIDE, DIRECT, SHOW THE LIGHT.

Are the people living in the DARKNESS simply because you are not sharing your light?  Have we become CHECKMATED?

WE STILL HAVE A MOVE ON THE “CHESSBOARD”:

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and]  do superabundantly far over and above all that we [dare] to ask or think  [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–  To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen (so be it) – (Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP).

I see VICTORY in these two verses and the victory is in bringing others to Christ Jesus–letting the Holy Spirit do the convincing while we verbalize the “good news”!.