2 Corinthians

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 8

bibleRead 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A reborn spirit is a giving spirit.  The spirit of Jesus gave everything he had to the point of death.  Therefore, with the spirit of Jesus living in us as a new creation, we are aligned with and we manifest his sacrificial love in our own lives.  Christian giving can be reduced to doctrine and it is indeed a requirement for a Christian to give.  However, the giving heart and the Christian life need more than doctrine.

Just as the law was merely an instrument used to teach Paul that he was a sinner because he could never follow the commandments, so is the doctrine of the gospel to us.  Rebuke the religious spirit that reduces the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to simple dos and don’ts.  Jesus shows us the way but only by the power of the Holy Spirit in us can we ever manage to follow the way laid out for us.  Christian, you give because God gave everything to you.  He gave his son, for you.  Christian, you give because in Jesus you have an eye for need.  You seek out need and you desire to see a need fulfilled.  You have been abundantly blessed and you rejoice in the blessing of others.  Christian, you give because what you own or possess is not your own.  No matter how hard you have worked for it.  Ultimately, your possessions are investments.  They are anointed and Holy loans.  God has given you what you have so that you can reinvest in the kingdom of God.  Not the kingdom of you.  Christian, you give what you have with confidence that God knows your heart.  He knows how much and how little you have.  He knows how much is easy and how much hurts.  He knows how much you promised to give and how much you are recalculating and reassessing not to give.  Christian, remember that you are working with God.  Not against him.  You are working toward a beautiful investment and profit for you and the eternal kingdom of our living God and to the name of Jesus.  Remember that when you pray in confidence that the sovereignty of God over your unpredictable future is good, so is His sovereign goodness over your finite and often limited amount of money and things.

 

Tithing: Constructive Giving

coins

For many people, tithe is simply loose change in a straw basket passed passively from church member to church member, from pew to pew. Giving when faced with the presence of “The Basket,” often stems from guilt, habit or obligation. This type of tithing is not constructive and therefore not tithing at all.

Tithing must be targeted to a purpose, a need. Tithing revolves around God, is from God and thus should always be directed by God. Tithing is not simply something that God said to do, so we follow suit. We followers of  Christ are “called” to tithe. Thus, tithing should look different to different people.   For one person, perhaps tithing should be centered primarily on the financial needs of a church. For a different person, perhaps tithing should be focused primarily on the needs of orphans or poor children in less developed parts of the world. Tithing depends entirely on how God is calling you to reinvest what he has invested in you.

God wants everything we do to highlight what he has already done for us. He wants all of our activities to increase our faith in him so that we become more aware of his presence. Tithing is no different. It should start with searching out the heart. It should lead to prayer which should lead to more prayer and then on to what God has called you to do with your money. The final step in tithing is to invest his money with a full dedication and commitment to wait, trust and watch God heal others with what he first gave you. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul mentions that he was asked by James, Peter and John to continue to remember giving to the poor in Jerusalem.

Galatians 2:9-10

James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

The request is not as important as Paul’s response. He stated that this act of giving or tithing was something that he personally had already been moved to do. Paul had clearly sought God for guidance concerning his money and in turn was led to supply aid to the poor in Jerusalem. He then proceeded to organize an expansive relief effort in the Gentile churches, like the church in Corinth, to raise money and assist the church in Jerusalem during the severe famine they were experiencing. This call to tithe led to incredible testimonies Paul saw in the Gentile churches.

2 Corinthians:8-15 

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Tithing is not and must not be reduced to simply an act of giving your money to something else. Tithing requires faith. It requires a dialogue with God and a commitment to follow his guidance on where to reinvest his resources.

 

Communion: The Sacrifice

communion-bread-and-wine

For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the provision of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

The death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are at the heart of communion. While the Christian life must be marked by joy in the new life found in Jesus Christ, at the foundation of the Christian spirit is constantly awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that a Christian life should be overwhelmed by grief concerning the sacrifice. Absolutely not. To know his sacrifice is to know his resurrection, and to know his resurrection is the ultimate joy. However, in order to experience the life-giving power of the empty tomb, one must also confront the weight of the sacrifice that preceded it.

As Jesus sat at the table about to break the bread and pour the wine, once again, he found himself completely alone in the understanding of what he was about to do. For three years, Jesus repeatedly alluded to, and in some instances stated outright, the price he was going to pay on the cross. However, he alone understood the weight of his mission. On the night he broke the bread during the last supper, Jesus was staring directly at the cross, again isolated in the knowledge of what was soon to occur. Jesus could foresee the fists. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the spit. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the verbal abuse. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the crown of thorns. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the nails. The Apostles could not.

Jesus could foresee the dehydration, the asphyxiation, the loneliness. The Apostles could not.

The practice of communion is not simply the reflection on the death of a good friend. The practice of communion recognizes suffering that we will never understand. To practice communion is to reflect on the sacrifice of God for children who have defiantly refused to sacrifice anything in return.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In communion we reflect on the fact that Jesus had no reason to sacrifice what he did aside from his desire to see us reunited with the Father in the same way he has always been. In communion we acknowledge that we have done nothing to deserve what we have, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given more than we ever could have imagined. We are fulfilled and satisfied in ways that only God has foreseen. Communion is a celebration of new life; it is only a celebration because at one point it was the greatest loss the world had ever known.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 2-3

Read 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18bible

The human heart longs for beauty.  We seek it every day of our lives, and we recognize it when we see or experience it.  It is no coincidence that we are taken aback by the beauties in nature or in the human spirit.  While many differences separate us, we all find a commonality in this search for and discovery of beauty.  Found in the message of Christ is the epitome of beauty.  At the heart of the Gospel is the story of a God who has never given up on his children. Due to his desire to witness his love for them manifested and recreated in their relationships with each other, he even sacrificed his own Son to accomplish his objective.  The message of the Gospel is radical and incomprehensible love.  It is heart wrenching self-sacrifice for the undeserving and unfaithful.  It is intimacy, healing and peace.  This Gospel in its essence unaided, unaltered and uncompromised is beautiful and sweet to the one who finds it.  Every human being is seeking this message in the deep recesses of the heart.  But our every attempt to fulfill our desires through worldly means fails, leaving us rethinking our plans to fill this void.  Like a hole in a leaky roof, this void in the human heart can only be filled by something its precise shape and size.  The void is the result of our rejection of the Father’s love, and therefore the only thing that can heal that void is precisely that, the Father’s love.  Other solutions will temporarily mend the wound, but over time weaknesses will cause the gradual deterioration of the heart.

The message and life of Christ is “a sweet fragrance”: however, this fragrance is a delicate one.  In the control of our sinful tendencies, the sweet aroma of the Gospel can quickly become the stench of something we would rather avoid.  The aroma of the Gospel is only preserved through the Word of God, handed down to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The aroma of the Gospel, represented in the lives of those who profess faith in it, will only be sweet if the Holy Spirit has transformed those lives as well.  Anything short of this will result in sinful men speaking to sinful men as sinful men, incapable of spreading a message that was not from men to begin with.   Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak for himself, allowing Him to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, will unleash that beautiful aroma that we all crave.