Saturday, March 01, 2008
2 Corinthians 1:12-24 Handling Slung Mud With Integrity
2 Corinthians 1: 12 For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace.
13 Now we are writing you nothing other than what you can read and also understand. I hope you will understand completely—
14 as you have partially understood us—that we are your reason for pride, as you are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
15 In this confidence, I planned to come to you first, so you could have a double benefit,
16 and to go on to Macedonia with your help, then come to you again from Macedonia and be given a start by you on my journey to Judea.
17 So when I planned this, was I irresponsible? Or what I plan, do I plan in a purely human way so that I say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” simultaneously?
18 As God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes and no.”
19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—did not become “Yes and no”; on the contrary, “Yes” has come about in Him.
20 For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him. Therefore the “• Amen” is also through Him for God’s glory through us.
21 Now the One who confirms us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God;
22 He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.
23 I call on God as a witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come to Corinth.
24 Not that we have control of your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand by faith.
In recent political campaigns we have seen mudslinging done by both parties. It lowers the standards of debate. We have seen it here, and we are seeing it in the USA. Barack Obama this week was displayed in Sudanese clothing whilst on a trip overseas portrayed as a muslim.
Stephen Daniels, University of Alabama at Birmingham political scientist, contends, however, that mudslinging is not a recent tactic in political campaigns. “Abraham Lincoln was subjected to insults because of his physical appearance. Grover Cleveland’s rivals accused him of fathering an illegitimate child.” In 1836 Congressman Davy Crockett accused candidate Martin Van Buren of secretly wearing women’s clothing: “He is laced up in corsets!” Crockett exclaimed.
In fact, there is a new book called Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises by Joseph Cummins. The author writes, “The idea for this book was born shortly after the 2004 presidential election. In the contentious contest, Democratic candidate and war hero John Kerry was vilified as a coward by an organization called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, while incumbent president George W. Bush was rumoured to be such a dunce that he had to be wired to a transmitter to participate in the public debate.”
Mudslinging is not just a political problem, but also an abscess that has oozed its toxin throughout the whole of life and even infiltrated the church.
In a penetrating passage warning against mudslinging in church, Paul says, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” In addressing this passage John MacArthur says, “Words like ‘bite’ and ‘devour’ refer primarily to wild animals engaged in the fury of a deadly struggle. If we go around taking chunks out of one another we will ‘consume one another,’ as do sharks and hyenas.”
Too many churches today are engaged in the fury of a deadly struggle. Sometimes it is between the pastor and the congregation. Quite often it is over the style of worship or the kind of music. In Baptist life we have a controversy between the Charismatics and non charismatics, conservatives and liberals. There is always the possibility of a clash between generations, the role of women in the church, or any number of things, but there is never a time for mudslinging among the people of God.
When mudslinging or backbiting occurs among the people of God, when we consume one another as wild animals, we give credence to the concept of evolution. We did not evolve from animals. The hands of a loving God created us; and we should reflect His character and speak with grace and charity.
In Prov. 25:11 the Bible says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Paul wrote: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
Let the politicians sling mud, if they must, but let the church always be known for “speaking the truth in love.”
One of the smallest muscles in the human body is also the most destructive. In a moment it can cut and slash, leaving its victim in emotional shreds. That muscle is the tongue. Of it Washington Irving once said:
“A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.”
James 3:7 For every creature—animal or bird, reptile or fish—is tamed and has been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
You are not the first person to feel this sharp dagger between your shoulder blades: David felt it;
Psalm 7: Lord my God, I seek refuge in You; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me, 2 or they will tear me like a lion, ripping me apart, with no one to rescue me.3 Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice on my hands, 4 if I have done harm to one at peace with me or have plundered my adversary without cause, 5 may an enemy pursue and overtake me; may he trample me to the ground and leave my honor in the dust. Selah 6 Rise up, Lord, in Your anger; lift Yourself up against the fury of my adversaries; awake for me; You have ordained a judgment. 7 Let the assembly of peoples gather around You; take Your seat on high over it. 8 The Lord judges the peoples; vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness and my integrity.
There were three accusations made against Paul at Corinth.
a. Carnal Conduct
These guys berated Paul’s character saying he was shrewd, manipulative and insincere.
2 Cor 1:12-14 For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace. 13 Now we are writing you nothing other than what you can read and also understand. I hope you will understand completely— 14 as you have partially understood us—that we are your reason for pride, as you are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
b. Fickle Failings.
They rumoured that he just wasn’t trustworthy as he never kept his promises.
15 In this confidence, I planned to come to you first, so you could have a double benefit,
16 and to go on to Macedonia with your help, then come to you again from Macedonia and be given a start by you on my journey to Judea. 17 So when I planned this, was I irresponsible? Or what I plan, do I plan in a purely human way so that I say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” [simultaneously]?
1 Cor 16:5 5 I will come to you after I pass through Macedonia—for I will be traveling through Macedonia— 6 and perhaps I will remain with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I go. 7 I don’t want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me.
c. Dominating dictatorships.
They maligned his motives, claiming that underneath the sheepskin of servanthood he was power mad seeking to Lord it over their faith.
23 I call on God as a witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come to Corinth. 24 Not that we have control of your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand by faith.
Well what do you do when the mud is being slung?
1. KEEP YOUR INTEGRITY OF CONSCIENCE
Paul Depended On His INTEGRITY Of Conscience
David asked the Lord to judge him. So did Paul.
Our English word conscience comes from two Latin words: com, meaning "with," and scire, meaning "to know." Conscience is that inner faculty that "knows with" our spirit and approves when we do right, but accuses when we do wrong. Conscience is not the Law of God, but it points to that Law. It is the window that lets in the light; and if the window gets dirty because we disobey, then the light becomes dimmer and dimmer. Paul used the word conscience twenty-three times in his letters and spoken ministry in Acts. "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." (Acts 24:16). When a person has a clear conscience, they have integrity, not duplicity; and can be trusted.
Mark Twain once said, "when you tell the truth you don't have to remember".
1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
1Co 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
Paul is not writing with the same advice given by Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio, "Let your conscience be your guide." He is talking about a conscience that is shaped by God, and informed by God's Word.
Paul recognised that slander and false accusations are just part of life as an apostle.
For Paul, his reputation was not something he tried to salvage. He had no need. There was only one place that Paul had to feel comfortable, in his conscience. Did he feel comfortable that when all the facts were examined he had done the right thing?
A. Review The Statements:
Paul’s conscience exonerated him of moral wrongdoing.
Why were the Corinthians making these accusations against Paul? Because he had had to change his plans. He had promised to spend the winter in Corinth "if the Lord permit" (1 Cor. 16:2-8). Paul intended collecting an offering from Corinth and taking it to help the poor believers in Judea.
Much to Paul's regret and embarrassment, he had to change those plans. Instead he now planned to make two visits to Corinth, one on his way into Macedonia, and the other on his way from Macedonia. He would then add the Corinthian collection to that of the Macedonian churches and go on his way to Jerusalem. But even Plan B had to be scrapped. Why? Because his own loving heart could not endure what he describes as another "painful visit" (2 Cor. 1:23; 2:1-3). Paul had informed the church about his change in plan, but even this did not silence the opposition.
Paul’s conscience exonerated him of relational wrongdoing.
They apparently then accused him of being flickle with his word. (2 Cor. 1:17), of making plans just to please himself. They were saying, "If Paul says one thing, he really means another! He is inconsistent." Misunderstandings among God's people are often very difficult to untangle, because one misunderstanding often leads to another. Once we start to question the integrity of someone or distrust their words, the door is open to all kinds of problems, and sometimes there is a downward spiral of a loss of confidence.
Review The Statements:
Does your conscience exonerate you of moral wrongdoing?
Does your conscience exonerate you of relational wrongdoing?
If it does, then there are some things we need to do to stop from getting all churned upb by what we hear when our reputation is sullied.
B. Recognize the source.
Ephesians 6:12 "We are not fighting against human beings, but against wicked spiritual forces..." God is the enemy of the devil. If you're a parent, I can hurt you, but the better way to hurt you is to hurt your kids. If I hurt your kids that really hurts you. The devil cannot get at God, so he does the next better thing -- he hurts His kids. The Bible says in Revelations 12:10 "Satan is the accuser of the brethren." The person at work who's harassing you is not the real problem; recognize the source.
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.11 “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
C. Refuse to retaliate.
Romans 12:17 & 19 (Good News) "If someone does evil to you, don't pay him back with evil... Never take revenge... let God's wrath do it." Remember who the enemy is. The person attacking you is really just a pawn. They don't understand that they are being used by the devil. Jesus, in v.11, lists three different kinds of verbal harassment. He says there are insults -- when people try to dishonour you or discredit you or say derogatory things about you. There is persecution -- mistreatment. Then He says, they will tell lies -- deceit and deception. The world loves to find fault with Christians. If a pastor stole some money or ran off with some other man's wife would it be in the news in the morning? If the bartender down the street did it, would it be in the news? The world loves to find fault with believers. If they can't find any fault -- if you walk blamelessly, with integrity -- they'll just make something up. They will insult you. They will mistreat you. And they'll make up lies about you. They are going to attack Christians. One of the most important little things I ever read was this: “they say” “Let them say..”
2. KEEP THE INTEGRITY OF YOUR COMMISSION
Paul Defended His Integrity Of Commission.
I don’t think Paul would have been too worried about defending his integrity to these guys were it just a matter of his reputation.
Paul had already told us his sufferings had resulted in him putting to death his selfish nature : 2Cor 1:8 For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in the province of Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. 9 However, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.
He wasn’t concerned about his reputation. If the devil’s boys want to say something bad about me, they will, whether I like it or not. It isn’t going to stop them if I don’t like it, and I don’t see any future in being all tied up in knots over what other people say about me.
But for Paul there was something else at stake.
These people who were laying the slanderous charges on Paul had a motive. They wanted to replace Paul as an Apostle. They were actually false teachers who designed to bring in false ideas that would undermine the gospel.
One of our older pastors just recently gone to glory experienced just this. His youth pastor set out to undermine him with the purpose of replacing that pastor as pastor. He white-anted his ministry every way he could. And finally had him voted out from being pastor. He then turned the church extreme Pentecostal.
Something like this was going on in Corinth. Paul later addresses these false teachers at Corinth in this way: 2 Cor 11:1 I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly! 5 Now I consider myself in no way inferior to the “super-apostles.”
For Paul the true issues were gospel issues. But those are not the issues the devil wants to fight on. He is deceptive. So these guys accuse Paul of various other misdemeanours to condemn him.
But Paul understands who he is, he is an apostle, whether he likes it or not. He has the responsibility to safeguard the truth of the gospel.
Acts 20:28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men from among yourselves will rise up with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. 32 “And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
The gospel was at stake. And Paul had to urge them to defend the gospel.
Again, in Corinth, the gospel is at stake, and again Paul urges them to defend the gospel.
We need To Keep The Integrity Of Our Commission.
A. Respond Directly When The Attack Affects The Gospel
Confederate general of the American Civil War Robert E. Lee was a man of character. He wrote to his son in 1860 : "You must be frank with the world. Frankness is the child of honesty and courage...
Just say what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right...."
B. Refute The Falsehoods Directly
As we have read here in 2 Corinthians, Paul directly refutes what they had to say. He wasn’t going to get into a big long debate with them. He was going to put it in writing and just say it once and say it clearly.
Paul directly rebukes the false teachers. The letters of Paul in the Bible are in the main refutations of false teachings. The letters to the Corinthians are no different.
C. Reap the Consequences.
The Korean church was built on the blood of martyrs. When the Communists invaded one of the stories I heard was that the prominent pastor and his family were taken. The Communists dug a big hole in the ground, put the husband, his wife and three kids in the hole. They then brought the whole city around. They said, "Now pastor, renounce your faith or we're going to bury your wife and kids alive." His kids started crying, grabbing his legs, "Daddy, don't let us die!" He was getting ready to renounce his faith and his wife put her hand over his mouth and wouldn't let him speak and told the kids to be quiet, "We get to die for the glory of God."
D.Await the Reward.
It is only temporary. 2 Cor. 4:17 (Living Bible) "These troubles won't last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever!"
Paul says, we don't look at the things that are seen, we look at the things that are unseen. The things that are seen are temporary. They're not going to last. The things that are unseen are permanent. Paul had an eternal perspective and he said, "I'm going to spend 70, 80 years at the max here on earth. But I'm going to spend thousands, millions of years in eternity reaping the rewards of what I did with my life for 60, 70 years. What's more important?" He says, Look at it from an eternal perspective.
When you get an eternal perspective all of a sudden all the cars, stereos, BMW's don't matter two bits. It's all going to burn up at the judgement. What is going to last is how I used my life now for the 70, 80 years and then I get to reap the rewards for millions of years. You will spend far more time on that side of eternity than you will on this side of eternity. Make your life count.
E. Hold Your Ground.
You persevere in doing what is right. I Peter 4:19 "So those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the solemn watchword hear;
If while ye sleep He suffers, away with shame and fear;
Where’er ye meet with evil, within you or without,
Charge for the God of battles, and put the foe to rout.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict, in this His glorious day.
Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, each soldier to his post,
Close up the broken column, and shout through all the host:
Make good the loss so heavy, in those that still remain,
And prove to all around you that death itself is gain.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle, the next the victor’s song.
To those who vanquish evil a crown of life shall be;
They with the King of Glory shall reign eternally.
What is your faith costing you? In much of the world it's costing them their lives. We have
it so easy in many ways. We have air conditioned Christians. We know little of suffering. We don't have to sacrifice. We think our problems are big.
At what cost would you stay faithful to Christ? What could cause me to deny my faith?
Most of us are not worried about persecution. It's convenience.