Performance Review – Aim to Please Him

2 Corinthians 5:6–10 (ESV)

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

This a section of a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. In these verses, Paul is laying out the basic issue all Christians have post conversion; namely, we are all still stuck in the physical world. I know there are times when I share Paul’s sentiment of rather being with Jesus in heaven than stuck in this body in the broken world we live in. What I really fail to grasp sometimes and what Paul so rightly describes here is that this time on earth matters. Paul was keenly aware of the fact that the reason he existed was to share the message of Jesus and the Kingdom with others. He had a mission. It was this mission that sustained him and motivated him to march through this life and into eternity with Jesus. He also understood that he would be rewarded for how well he completed this mission. I think sometimes the idea of the Father rewarding us for our good or poor performance on earth is more than folks want to consider. Yet in this passage and several others Paul directly tells us that we will receive in Heaven what we we deserve based on our earthly actions. It is important to understand that this is not a conversation about salvation. There is no work or action that a person can do that will warrant salvation. There is no work or action that a person can do that will remove the penalty of their sin and make them righteous enough to be accepted by God. Salvation only comes by faith in Jesus alone. So its not salvation that Paul is talking about here but it is about reward. I think as Christians we really need to capture this idea of commission or being sent out. We need to go medieval and embrace the reality that we have been commissioned by a King to be ambassadors sent out to proclaim the message of our Kingdom and demonstrate the love and service of our leader and periodically, we need to evaluate ourselves and ask how well we are doing. I know personally, I work hard to be a good worker at my job. I am keen to the objectives that are set out for me each year and strive to make sure that those objectives are met so that when my boss evaluates my performance I am found well pleasing to him. If I am willing to toil and labor to please my earthly boss how much more should I be will to toil and labor for Jesus my eternal King?

Father, thank you for your love and the grace you give all humanity to rise each day and live in the world you created. Thank you for adoption into your family and your Kingdom through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you Jesus for your love and your sacrifice and your Kingship. I pray that I would honor your sacrifice and that I perform admirably as your ambassador in this world for as long as this body constrains me to it. I offer you praise. In your name, Amen.

The Summation

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 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.

I read these verses over the weekend and they hit me like a ton of bricks. I am so grateful for statements like these and yet I often forget they are in the Bible. I don’t have a lot of insight or anything in way of application to bring to the text other than to say that this about sums it up. I am thankful for the Apostle Paul. I see him as a man who just wanted to please God. He keenly recognized and in turn articulates to us that this life in Christ isn’t so much about dwelling in the past or even dwelling in the present day, but rather this life is about looking to the future. It’s about living each day in the reality that even though the world around us may crumble and fall we are ever moving toward a reality and glory greater than anything we could have ever imagined or contemplated. And equally great is that there is transformation occurring in us daily. It’s a great thought to think that I am a little more closer to being like Jesus than I was yesterday. It’s a great thought to know that each day I am one day closer to shedding this earthly body and seeing the Father in all his eternal glory.

Father, thank you that you have left us words of encouragement in your Word. Thank you for the testimony and leadership of your servants like Paul. Father put the hope that he had in our hearts. Help us face trials and afflictions with a confidence in the promises of heaven. Thank you for your many blessings. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Relationships of Influence

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV)

2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Have you ever considered that someone would be able to tell something about you by how you have influenced others. I guess this concept is pretty strait forward but I don’t think I have truly ever given it any consideration. I know I have heard folks say, “oh, so and so is such a good influence on so and so”, or “wow that kid there is a trouble-maker don’t let your kid play with them”. Yet, I never really thought of it in the context of the Kingdom.

Looking at the verses above from 2 Corinthians we find the Apostle Paul in the midst of trying to convey to the Corinthian believers that his ministry to them is valid. He is battling against a smear campaign that was designed to discredit him as  someone who wasn’t truly in tune with the work of God. The dissenters had even asserted that because Paul had suffered and endured trials then surely God was not with him.

I really like Paul’s response to this criticism and questioning of his validity as someone doing God’s will. He challenges these folks to look at themselves and the church in Corinth and see if they have been transformed by the work has he done with them. He rightly points out that the transformation they have experienced could only be a result of the Spirit working through the ministry, service, and message he introduced to them. I love the language he uses describing those who he had influenced as “a letter from Christ” that was “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts”.

So what does it mean for us? For me it means I have to really take the relationships of influence I have more seriously. I would like to be able at the end of my days to say that everyone I was able to influence was influenced toward Jesus. The heavy thing here is that we have  vast relationships of influence to be mindful of. Spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, church family, neighbors, and more all may come under our influence at some point. My hope is that like Paul I will be able to say that I influenced them in the transformative power of the Spirit through the Gospel of Jesus.

What do you think? How do you see yourself influencing people?

Father, thank you for this day and your Word. I pray God that I would be mindful of those who I influence and I pray that by your Spirit working in and through me that they would be “a letter from Christ”. I offer you praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

What’s that Smell?

2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ

I don’t know if I am alone in this, but do you ever worry about your deodorant "”breaking”? It’s funny but I can distinctly reminder days in my life where I have realized after leaving the house to go to work that I forgot to put on deodorant and became immediately convinced that I would stink. Today’s verse is interesting in that the Apostle Paul is telling us that sometimes we will stink.

The language and imagery of the Scriptures often amazes me. I think that is what I am feeling about these verses. I get a picture in my mind’s eye of a smell working its way through a room and although the smell is unchanging and consistent the reaction to the smell is varied. It may be analogous to a perfume or cologne that someone may completely enjoy the smell of while others are completely put off by it.

These scriptures are declarative in that Paul is stating what is true in that some hearing the Gospel will understand that for them it is a message that will cause them to find hope in eternal life while in others the message will affirm their present condition and the hopelessness of eternal death.

I think the key point of application is found in verse 17 where Paul is reminding the church in Corinth that he did not come with the fragrant message of the Gospel in an arrogant or self-serving manner, but rather he came in sincerity, full of the knowledge of the seriousness of the message. I would say let it be so for us. I think we have to realize that as we proclaim Jesus not all who hear the message will receive it. There is a sadness in that. The Gospel is “death to death” for some. I think sometimes I am a little too flippant about that reality. 

Father, thank you God for your Word and your wisdom. I pray that you would help me be mindful of the spiritual condition of those around me. I pray that you would help me not be flippant about the Gospel and its implications on those who are unable to receive it. I pray that I would be like Paul, sincere and not concerned not with my own agenda but rather with the your work and your will and your Kingdom. I ask these things. In Jesus name, Amen.

Ministers of Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

There was popular song in the 1990s by the band R.E.M called “Everybody Hurts”. It was a melancholy tune that set forth the idea that in this life there is no way to escape pain and suffering. I especially like the lyric below:

‘Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don’t throw your hand. Oh, no. Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

Notice how this this lyric closely mimics today’s verses from 2 Corinthians 1. Reading these verse this morning I was struck at what the Apostle Paul was saying. I think many times I grasp the ideal that just as Jesus suffered that we must also suffer, but what I fail to grasp is just as Jesus was comforted so too shall we be comforted. What is truly interesting and what the R.E.M. song captures is that the comfort we receive when we are suffering will often come from those who have suffered before us. Notice how the Apostle Paul lays it out in verses 3-4:

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

He says the Father comforts us in our affliction, so that we may comfort those who are in any affliction. This is power stuff in that it demonstrates our position as ministers one to another. God has not abandoned to an isolated life of pain and suffering. He has put those of us in Christ into a harmonious union where we are able through our sufferings to comfort each other.

So what’s the application? For me the application is that I need to establish a correct view of the suffering I experience in my life. I need to understand that as I share in the sufferings of Christ I also share in the comfort that comes through that suffering. I need to be more attuned to my ability to minister comfort to others. I also need to be more receptive to others who are ministering comfort to me.

Brothers and sisters in Christ we have an obligation to take care of one another. We do not suffer in isolation. Let us be on the lookout for those who need ministering to and may we be the vessel through which the suffering are reminded of the comfort and peace that comes from our great God and Father through Jesus Christ.

Father, thank you for this day and this opportunity to examine your Word. Father, I pray that you would open our eyes to those suffering around us. Empower us and motivate us to be ministers of your comfort. Help us in times of suffering to endure knowing that suffering allows us to minister comfort. Thank you for many blessings. We offer you praise. In Jesus name, amen.

What is the Priority?

Matthew 8:28 (ESV)

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Most days when I wake up I either physically or mentally create a list of things I need to get done. On work days the list is usually focused on the various projects or purchases while my at home list usually includes chores and household projects that I need to tend to. Thinking about my todo lists, I can honestly say I rarely list out spiritual todos. I am always mindful that I need to spend time in the Word and prayer but rarely do I list those things down or mentally include them in the daily list. As I was working through today’s scripture it hit me that I may be approaching my days in the wrong way.

In Matthew 8:28, Jesus is teaching us about fear of man. He is reminding us that we should be more worried about how we stand with God than how we stand with man. It seems to me that He is challenging us to be more focused on our eternal existence than our physical existence. It seems that if this focus on the eternal exists in determining priority between fearing man and fearing God, then this focus should exist when figuring out what my daily priorities are also.

It would be easy to say right now, “well every thing I do I do unto the Lord, therefore my priorities are strait”, but to me it seems like a statement like this give little heed to Jesus’ command to fear God. I think we have to strive to make focused and deliberate efforts to make priority of the eternal elements of our days opposed to focusing on merely the physical and the mundane. I think we have to look at our todo list and while understanding that we do all these things we do unto the Lord we have to also understand what that means in each task. We have to ask how am I honoring God and His Kingdom in everything I do. How am I putting my spiritual existence into the forefront of my physical existence?

I’m not sure what the answers are. I think this ideal of priority is key for me. In the IT field we use logical priority often to determine which application or computing device receives the most resources in a system. I think a first step for me will be to try and understand better how eternity intersects each aspect of my physical existence. I think as I am more mindful of my eternal position I will be more likely to make it a priority.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word and the access you have granted us to approach you with this prayer. Father restore in us a fear of you that would emphasis the priority of the eternal over the physical. Remind us that this life will pass away for all of us and that we will eternally be with you. Remind us that we are not bound to only focus on this life, but that you have challenged us to focus on our eternal life.  Father thank you for your many blessings. We offer you praise. In Jesus name. Amen.