Posts Tagged With: calling

Five Components for a Gospel Resilience

A gospel resilience sees the momentary afflictions in light of glory to come.   

We tend to despair and lose heart when it comes to our Christian faith.  Paul alluded to the afflictions, the perplexing, the persecution, and the striking down (2 Corinthians 4:8) that Christians receive due to their faith in that which is unseen and faith in the One who is now at the right hand of the throne, interceding for the saints. 

Paul writes to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

From the text, we see five components needed to maintain a gospel resilience in your walk with Christ.

Conversion

The key sentence in this passage is, “Therefore, we do not lose heart.” Notice who he includes. He does not say, “Therefore, I do not lose heart.” Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” We, our, our, us, we. Plural. More than one. Here, he refers to the church, the people of God, the bride of Christ.

The apostle Paul did not always identify with the church. In Philippians 3, we see that Paul identified with his Jewish heritage and his ascending the ladder of the Pharisees’ world. “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). He followed the covenant of circumcision, thanks to the obedience of his parents, both Hebrews. He even came from the tribe where Israel’s first king, King Saul, came from. But he was decidedly conservative when it comes to the law. Any heresy against the law of Moses had to go, and he had the zeal and permission to do so.

But something changed. Paul could then say, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” He wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and share in His sufferings! Where did this change come from? Why did he go from wanting to identify with the Pharisees, to then identifying with the very people he tried to destroy—and spend a lifetime suffering for it?

Conversion! He had been changed! He no longer wanted to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed. His mind had been renewed. He renounced the old self, the “outer man.” As he wrote the Ephesians, outside of Christ, “you were dead… but God made you alive.” You are no longer a child of mercy, but a child of grace—it is a gift, not of yourselves, not of your own works, but of His work in you.

Calling

Paul’s resilience remained through his calling from Christ. The phrase, “So we do not lose heart” is the second time we hear this, the first being in 4:1. The purpose of saying this was because this ministry he had from God was ‘received’—given by God. He did not ascend to this on His own. By God’s grace, God called him to salvation, and now God called him to service.

If Paul had decided to do this on his own, then when he grew tired of it, he would move on. When people began to afflict, persecute, and strike him down, he would see it as against him, and would be tempted to remove himself from situations where he would receive such grief. But God saw him, saved him, and sent him into His service.

When Paul (then Saul of Tarsus) encountered the risen Christ, he was led into Damascus because “for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). But the scene switched to another part of town to a follower of Christ named Ananias, whom God called to go and lay hands on him so he might receive his sight. As you may imagine, since Paul was a Christian-oppressor, he had reservations. The Lord then told him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). So he as a Jew would go to the ‘unclean’ Gentiles and preach to them the resurrection of Christ?

When God called me into the preaching ministry, I ran for about 18 months. Why? Because I worried. What about my music ministry? What if I have to leave my church? What about my students? Would I have to pack up and move to school? Where would God take me? I love these people—why should I have to leave them? My main issue was, who? Me! And He used those 18 months to bring me through much internal clarity about my motives. He brought me to a point to where I had to serve Him or I didn’t think I would make it.

When I surrendered, I felt this peace. I did not know what was in store for my family and me, but I know I had to surrender to God’s call.

Comprehension

Everywhere Paul went, he preached that which is of “first importance”—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After Ananias’ visit, it says that “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” Later, it says, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ” (9:22). He did this everywhere He went. Why?

He recognized that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection were the foundation of the Christian walk.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all of the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he also appeared to me” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Paul received this teaching, but also experienced seeing Christ. There was a comprehension to where he saw and understood that since Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity stands. If he didn’t, then Christianity falls! So him saying, “We also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14), this is not wishful thinking.

Consecration

Paul noted, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

Our outer body, that is, our flesh, is wasting away. There are two ways to think about this. One, is that our flesh in the physical sense is indeed wasting away.

But we can also look at this from a spiritual aspect. In biblical terms, the flesh is often referred to in a spiritual aspect as well. The flesh often means our sinful nature.

Paul goes on: “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Earlier, we listed off all that Paul endured for the sake of Christ. These, he calls ‘light’ and ‘momentary.’ Why? He recognized that the affliction and the tribulation and the persecution were the preparation. Consider how things are now:

  • Outer man wasting away –> inner man renewed daily
  • Light/momentary affliction –> eternal glory
  • What is seen in transient –> what is unseen is eternal

The more we rely on our ‘flesh,’ the more we rely on our outer man, the more we rely on what is seen, and the more we focus on the afflictions we face in this world, the less gospel resilience and perseverance we shall have. Yet, the more we recognize the treasure as opposed to the clay pot of ourselves, the more we focus on the unseen, this provides the perspective needed for gospel resilience.

Comfort

Paul continually brings in eternity. Our afflictions for Christ are preparing an eternal comfort in and through Christ. There are things for the believer that we cannot see. But it’s eternal and beyond anything we can compare with here.

At the beginning of this epistle, Paul begins the epistle with this beautiful passage:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Notice how prolific the word ‘comfort’ is. False teachers said, “If you’re faithful, comfort will happen in this life.” The gospel comforts those who need comforting, so they in turn will comfort others with the gospel. A gospel resilience sees the momentary afflictions in light of glory to comeWhat we seen here is temporary, so we comfort one another by that which is ‘unseen’—that which is eternal.

There’s an old hymn that I just absolutely treasure:

Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder;
Why it should be thus all the day long?
While there are others living about us
Nevermore rested, though in the wrong

Farther along, we’ll know all about it.
Farther along, we’ll understand why.
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine.
We’ll understand it all by and by. 

When death has come and taken our loved ones;
Leaving our home so lonely and drear.
Then do we wonder how others prosper
Living so wicked year after year?

Farther along, we’ll know all about it.
Farther along, we’ll understand why.
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine.
We’ll understand it all by and by.

The Spirit of God helps provide the resilience while we are here, giving us the mind of Christ and understanding the thoughts of God.  This line to the counsels of heaven, along with the revelation of His Word gives us that holy perspective.

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Christian, Are You Content in the Calling God Has Given You?

 

 

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John sets his followers (and us) straight. “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” What does he mean? Standing on its own, we see this blessed truth echoed in James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44-45:

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

When God sent that nice long rain on Wednesday, did he simply send it on the just and the good? No, everyone in the area, regardless of their spiritual belief, received that rain. When God sends the sunrise to the 7+ billion people on the planet, does he simply send it on the believers? No? Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, aborigines, Taoists, all the tribes in Africa, dignitaries and homeless—the sun rose! These are gifts from heaven.

If God has provided your health, praise Him. If God has not provided complete health right now, he may be trying to get your attention that your life is temporary. When you don’t have the riches you want, he’s showing you that you can have the spiritual riches in Christ where moth and rust do not destroy it! Do you see? Everything we receive is from heaven and intended to point in some way to the glory of God!

But John has a specific issue in mind. You see, John the Baptist had a calling on his life—a vocation to pursue. What was it? He said in John 1:23, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” That was his calling! Not to be the Christ, but to point to the Christ.

This past weekend, my family and I made a quick trip back to Kentucky to see my wife’s brother get married. What a nice time! It was an outdoor wedding framed by the beautiful Kentucky landscape. Mind you, I love weddings! I love performing them, but I also love sitting on the other side of the bride and groom.

Brandon’s best friend, Cooter, was his best man. When it came time for the toast that the best man usually provides, Cooter was choked up! Why? Because he was happy for his life-long best friend who married such an wonderful woman. He was happy because the groom was happy—and he didn’t want to take anything away from him. It wasn’t his place (nor his desire) to upstage the groom or to take Brandon’s place! He was content to stand up with Brandon on Brandon’s day!

While John’s followers were frantic (“Look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him”—an overstatement of titanic proportions), John said, “I am the best man! I am rejoicing that the bridegroom and is bringing His bride to Himself! This is why I came, and not only am I joyful but, ‘this joy of mine is now complete.’” In order for this to work, I must decrease, he must increase.

Robert Smith in his book Doctrine That Dances quoted a great line from Max Lucado: “God would rather for us to limp with humility than to strut with pride.” Pride is the downfall of everyone, Christian or non-Christian. CEOs and companies crumble, families deteriorate, marriages fall apart, hearts are crushed due to pride. And churches are split over such matters as well.

C. John Miller wrote a wonderful book entitled, “Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.” In his first chapter, he gave seven traits of what an ingrown church looks like. One of these traits is that we can be extremely sensitive to negative human opinion. These churches shrivel up at the first sign of opposition. Miller says, “A word of disapproval from a ‘pillar’ of the church is enough to rattle the ecclesiastical squirrel cage and send everyone running for cover.” He then brings the point home:

The sad truth is that one negative critic with a loud voice who speaks from within the inner circle of the ingrown church usurps the role of Christ, wielding the power to make or break programs. . . . An ingrown church has given in for so long to intimidation that its fears have obscured vital contact with the promises of God. As a result, fear casts out love for ‘a world that is falling apart,’ a world that desperately needs a community of love.[1]

What does John teach us? His aim was to remove every obstacle there was in bringing people to Christ. He is making the path straight. Valleys are made high, mountains made low, the rocks are removed, the branches and bushes are cut through… why? Again, so that whatever obstacle there is will be removed so people can come hear the gospel.

Are there obstacles that need to be removed here at ARBC?

  • Maybe certain unspoken traditions and values have crept in that need to be exposed and removed.
  • We have a number of studies here at church during the week, but not everyone can make it here on Sunday nights or during the week. What about us having small groups that can meet during the week at a place in Aurora, Castle Rock, or elsewhere like this. Take the Word out!
  • God has been blessing our attendance! And if God should keep us growing, then we will soon hit that 70-80% rule (which we have hit a couple of times in the last month or so). Would another service remove an obstacle from having people come hear the gospel—even before it gets maxed out?

When things like this come up, we can do one of two things: look at our own comfort, or look at the lostness of those who don’t know Jesus and make that path straight—remove that obstacle.


[1]C. John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 31.

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