Author: Karen deBlieck

Read 2 Corinthians 10

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 10:17 (NIV) “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Generally speaking, most of us disapprove of boasting. We don’t like boasters because they seem either bent on putting us down by exalting themselves or, on the other hand, too hungry for our approval. In both cases it’s a pain. doubly obnoxious is the person who boasts about his spirituality — he’s not only better than you on the human plane, but he’s also achieved superior approval on the heavenly plane. Such arrogance!

Paul talks about boasting in verses 12-18. The context: boasting about ministry. He refers to those who “measure themselves by themselves” and “compare themselves with themselves: (v.12) and declares he won’t even “dare to classify or compare ourselves with these who commend themselves.” It’s not that Paul is opposed to a proper boast once in a while (see 11:16) — it’s just that he refuses to boast apart from track record. For example, he says  he “will not boast beyond proper limits”, that is, he won’t say, “I’ve done a great work for God” in a general way. Rather, he will say, “I have done a great work for God among the Corinthians”. Or, as he says in verse 13, he “will confine [his] boasting to the field God has assigned to [him]”, and here is where track record comes in — “a field that reaches even to you”. In other words, he will boast to those who know his record, and those who know his record know that his bottom-line boast is “in the Lord”.

Something just as obnoxious as unsupported boasting is false humility. Why? Because we know intuitively that a self-detracting response to commendation is just a call for more commendation. What you want to hear when you commend someone is, “Yes, thank you. I’m pleased myself”, or something along that line.

And when it comes to God’s work, how about saying, “Praise the Lord! He has done great things!” And then thank God for including you in the process.

Read 2 Corinthians 9

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 9:6 “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

Before he became president of the USA. Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University. I read recently of an occasion when he spoke to a group of parents.

“I get many letters form you parents about your children. You want to know why we people up here in Princeton can’t make more out of them and do more for them. Let me tell you the reason we can’t. It may shock you just a Little, but I am not trying to be rude. the reason is that they are your sons, reared in your homes, blood of your blood, bone of your bone. They have absorbed the ideals of your homes. You have formed and fashioned them. They are your sons. In those malleable, moldable years of their lives you have forever left your imprint upon them.”

The Bible says, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Doing this isn’t easy, nor does it happen by itself. It takes commitment, sacrifice, and a lot of love. Lay the love on thick, and your children will draw on its depth for the rest of their lives. Love thinly, on the other hand, and they will have shallow reserves for the rest of their lives. It’s all a case of how you sow.

The same principle holds true in every area of life. If you want a lot of tomatoes you plant a lot of tomatoes. If you want God’s best for your life, you give your best for all of your life. You commit, you pay the price, you follow through. After all, the stakes are high. We are living for eternity — and we’re going to walk into a Kingdom someday. There we will become “the planting of the Lord”. How fruitful will that tree be? You can be sure it will bear just as much fruit as we’ve planted while we lived our moment in space and time. Now is the time to be generous. In everything.

Read 2 Corinthians 8

Key Verse: Corinthians 8:12 “For if there is a first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”

I think most of us have heard or read about ministries that “never ask for money”. Usually this observation is made with a muted condemnation of any ministry that does ask for money. The implied message is: if God approves of a ministry, He’ll supply the need without fundraising. That sounds impressive. But for most ministries, God expects us to labour in fundraising. Paul is a case in point.

Chapter 8 is all about fundraising. As you read it carefully, you see Paul doing his utmost to stimulate generosity in the Corinthian church. He refers to the Macedonian churches who gave generously in spite of their “extreme poverty” (v.2). He talks of their eagerness to participate in “the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (v.4 NIV). He then urges the Corinthians to do the same (v.6) and commends them for their excellence “in everything” (v.7a) — (Paul seems to have forgotten, for the moment, their lack of excellence in morality). He follows this with a comment that their generosity will be a “test” of “the sincerity of [their] love” (v.8) — and says he’ll “compare it with the earnestness of others” (how would you respond to this kind of pressure from your pastor?).

The urgency of Paul’s appeal reflects a great concern on his part for the ongoing health of the financially poorer congregations. In a sense, you might say Paul’s intensity reflects his sense of “ownership” — he’s committed, and appeals not for himself, but for “the saint”. Maybe this is exactly the kind of pressure we should invite rather than resist. It’s a challenge to our will.

That’s why we need a “willing mind”, one that is committed first to the kingdom of Heaven. A mind that will choose to give “according to what one has”.

Read 2 Corinthians 7

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

One day, while pastoring in Jerusalem, I was visited in my office e by a young man with a stricken conscience. He had done something very wrong and, in our Sunday evening service that week, had become very convinced of the wrongness of his action. As he spoke to me, his face was etched with sorrow, his eyes brimmed with tears and as we prayed his body shook with sobs. When he left he said, “Thank you, pastor , for praying with me about that sin. I wish I’d never done what I did, but I believe God has forgiven me. I’ll never do it again.” To my knowledge, he never did.

In Paul’s terms, the young man had experienced “godly sorrow”. Or, as some of my evangelical friends might put it, “conviction of sin”. Perhaps a psychologist might call it guilt.  But what gave it value was its product: repentance. The young man turned away from his sin and never did it again. And, by the way, was much happier (or “healthier”) as a result. His repentance strengthened his life.

Contrast this to the person who does wrong, feels guilty, but does nothing about it. His conscience may be stricken, but he continues to sin. What happens? Eventually, his action erodes his conscience. It chips away at that inner voice until that voice is silent. His conscience has become “seared”. Tenderness of heart gives away to scar tissue.

All of us have the potential to kill our conscience. No, we won’t doing it with one shotgun blast, but we do it by degree, little by little, until our moral sense is dead. And, in Biblical terms, when our conscience dies, our spirit dies. If we refuse to listen, we are choosing spiritual death. We may have no regrets today, but there will come a day of great regret. So why not choose life today. Repent and live!