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011115 - Super Spirituality - ABRIDGED
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January 15, 2015 02:06 PM PST
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II Corinthians 12:1-10, Pastor Scott Keller

This is a greatly shortened version of the sermon last Sunday that you can get through in just over 20 minutes...

Don't you wish all of Scott Keller's sermons were condensed?

011115 - Super Spirituality - II Corinthians 12a
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January 13, 2015 05:31 PM PST
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II Corinthians 12:1-, Pastor Scott Keller.

Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 12 ~ 011114

Scott Keller

For basically three chapters of God’s Holy Scripture, the Spirit-filled and inspired Apostle of Jesus, we call Paul, defends… … … himself.

As I’ve said so many times, his motivation and goal was to keep the Corinthians in correct relationship with JESUS.

For them to reject Paul in favor of new teachers with a different Gospel was to simultaneously reject the true Jesus that Paul represented and proclaimed.

If a pastor/teacher/prophet/spiritual guide came to you and disparaged me to the point where you rejected me to follow them, I would defend myself against their false claims… for your sake, NOT mine.

As an aside, using counterfeit money as an analogy, it occurs to me, that…

A treasury training expert would constantly show you what real money looks like and then, only if necessary, he would remind you that he has the credentials to do so… He might even point out what’s wrong with false money. It is even possible that he would talk about the evil of counterfeiters in a general way, but what he would NOT do, is waste time and effort disparaging individual counterfeiters!

So many so-called ministries, make it their stock and trade – their vocation – their bread and butter disparaging the actual counterfeiters.

They are all about exposing and condemning “False teachers.” Just exactly like the “False teachers” did to Paul… makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Paul doesn’t care about the actual dipsticks disparaging him, he doesn’t single them out and disparage them…

1) He teaches the Truth, 2) when necessary, he defends himself and points out false teaching… If he can show the teaching is false, he doesn’t need to talk about the teachers. We need to teach the Truth and when necessary we can attack lies, BUT we rarely, if ever need to attack the liars.

Last Sunday, I read a huge section of Scripture, and as much as I would like to read again – we don’t have the time or patience. So, if you missed it, I am sorry, because I think it is really important to HEAR it all in the flow of context, but we must move forward.

Those are the actual words I wrote… but I was compelled to say that we do have the time and we do have the patience… So once again for the flow of God’s word let me read to you this big passage – I will shorten it slightly from last week…

Just sit back, but don’t relax… close your eyes, contemplate the words – let God speak to you this morning.

In II Corinthians chapter 11, verse 22, through chapter 12, verse 10… God through the Apostle Paul says…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:22–12:10 WEAKNESS ~ 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ?—
I speak as if insane—
I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25Three times I was beaten with rods,
once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28Apart from such external things,
there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
29Who is weak without my being weak?
Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
1Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know,
or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know how such a man—
whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—
4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
5On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.
6For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth;
but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh,
a messenger of Satan to torment me—
to keep me from exalting myself!
8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

SLIDE: VERSES WE DID NOT READ ~

That was a lot… What I read is in yellow, BUT this is probably what I should have read… it would have been even better and made the whole thing a lot easier to grasp if you heard the whole nearly four-chapter section first, but we will do our best… we’ll muddle through.

SLIDE: SUPER SPIRITUAL charlatans ~

The false teachers were claiming to be 1super Jews, Paul played the game and proved he was a better Jew. They claimed to be 2“Servants of Christ,” Paul proved that he was more so. They claimed to have 3suffered for the Gospel, Paul proved he had suffered far more than all of them…

Now, in chapter 12, we see that the false teachers were appealing to their greater spirituality as another way of building themselves up and tearing Paul down. They were claiming a superior spirituality and supernatural power… People have always craved and still crave the supernatural.

The usurpers claimed they had “Visions and revelations of the Lord.”

Paul showed that, he more than equal in that area as well. But, he also demonstrated something more than that – something important for us to grasp, that unfortunately, many people don’t.

As often happens, most people get engrossed in the flash and excitement of a thing and miss the subtle Truth also there.

It is easy to focus on the “Third Heaven” and what he might have seen and heard there or delve into the “Thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” and what that might have been, but there is more important stuff, so stay tuned for that…

SLIDE: UNPAKING AS A FAMILY ~

This is a difficult passage to unpack and so bear with me as we look at many different elements and then try to put it all together… So stay tuned, but also stay alert! We don’t want to accidently throw out a box with something important still in it…

Paul used a single event in his life that illustrated both a supernatural VISION, and a natural result leading to a REVELATION of the Lord.

SLIDE: PAUL OR SOMEONE ELSE? ~

Sometimes people get confused and wonder if Paul was actually talking about himself or someone else with his third person account and all his objectifying, “I know a man…” and “Such a man,” language.

It is an absolute certainty that he’s talking about his own experience as is made clear in verses 7 through 9, but even more so in the plain reality that if the “Visions and revelations of the Lord,” happened to someone else, then instead of making Paul’s point, it would actually strengthen the point of Paul’s opposition!

If it were another minister who is unnamed and therefore unknown, it would only serve as proof that Paul was NOT as spiritually powerful as others were… truly less than what the false teachers claimed they were.

It would be like Paul saying, “You think you are more in tune with the supernatural – well let me tell you about some dude I once knew a very long time ago who thought he went to heaven!”

It was just a way people boasted… humbly.

It made others aware of his experience, but without seeming like he was bragging. As I have said before, Paul was very uncomfortable in this role.

He also revealed the net result of the experience and that’s the area where we will see this other point so many overlook.

Paul had many supernatural events in his life to choose from but he specifically mentions this particular event and specifies that it took place 14 years ago.

SLIDE: the three-fold reason ~

The effect of that is three-fold…

First, it set a specific and therefore verifiable event. It isn’t some nebulous, disputable, mumbo-jumbo experience.

It also shows that Paul had been at this Apostle business for quite some time. More than 14 years anyway (it had actually been much longer).

Probably most important though, is the implication that Paul lived with, and ministered to, the Corinthians for a year and a half, without ever mentioning such a remarkable supernatural occurrence.

Paul wasn’t interested in telling ghost stories about his spiritual greatness or retelling with ever-increasing hyperbole his metaphysical meetings with Jesus.

So many preachers do that today… they constantly recount miraculous stories and spiritual encounters and supernatural wonders rather than teach God’s Word.

It’s exciting, but it is not satisfying. You cannot show me a person deeply involved in the exciting supernatural realm who doesn’t crave more.

The person who truly knows God’s Word, doesn’t need a fix in order to remain steadfast.

Paul was interested in teaching people the Gospel Truth that could set them free from sin and death!

SLIDE: TREE SAW - IT IS JUST PLAIN DUMB! ~

So starting in verse one we see that Paul again pulls back with a parenthetical comment to show the foolishness of this line of discussion.

Foolish – and shouldn’t have been required, BUT unfortunately it was required.

Paul boasts for three chapters, but lest anyone today think that boasting is therefore okay, he flatly states that it is “Not profitable.”

What he means is that it is a stupid thing to do and he’s only doing it out of love for the Corinthians. Let us be careful NOT to boast, except in what the Lord has done. Your personal testimony is about what Jesus did, NOT about what you did…

SLIDE: VISIONS & REVELATIONS TELESCOPE ~

“Visions and revelations of the Lord.” This is what the false teachers were claiming…

It is precisely what false preachers, teachers, prophets, miracle workers, claim today.

Do NOT be misled by such claims… people who have actually connected with the Lord, don’t brag about it.

If a pilot tells you how great he is – he’s NOT. A great pilot doesn’t talk about it – he shows it.

I knew a couple. One was terminally ill and had exhausted every medical and homeopathic possibility.

This person had been prayed for by several pastors… they were on several prayer chains and they had travelled extensively all over the country to be prayed for by faith healers and mega-church leaders.

This person told me how exhausted they were and how they just wanted to die in peace, but that their family would see that as both selfish and as a lack of faith.

The feeling was that if they could just get the right person to lay hands on them, then God would heal their body.

Even after this person died and was embalmed the family assembled some super-spiritual Christians and attempted to raise them from the dead.

It wasn’t about God or His will and it wasn’t about the dying person… it was about the family dealing with the situation in a way that they could feel better… not a comfort for the suffering person or a glory to God, but a way to feel like they had done everything they could… staying busy, focused on healing, instead of dealing with reality.

Does god heal people? Of course, Acts 28:8, “The father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him.”

Does God raise people from the dead? Of course, Acts 20:9&10, “There was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill… and (he) fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for (he is alive).”

If it is God who heals and raises from the dead, does it matter who prays?

The entire point of last week and really of this week as well, is that God’s strength is proven in, and through, our weakness – our imperfection, our inability.

If I can work diligently enough to track down the person with the Midas touch then who gets the credit?

If some great and powerful Wizard of Blank… Faith healer so-and-so, Prophet Blah, Blah, Bishop Humpty-dumpty, Apostle Zippity-do-dah or Miracle worker Umpty-fratz, prays for you and you are healed… was it because God is good or because you sought out and were touched by the right human being?

People today, just like the Corinthians 2,000 years ago, still flock to so-called prophets and healers – people with supposedly greater spiritual gifts – people who see, “Visions and revelations of the Lord.”

You might say, what’s the harm? Personally, I am completely unaware of any person who claims to have an extraordinary spirituality who also teaches sound doctrine. That’s the harm.

The “Name it and claim it,” prosperity Gospel is no true Gospel at all. If you understand that, I don’t need to list and disparage the immensely popular ministers teaching that false Gospel.

Paul chooses this particular experience to show the obvious and the subtle…

He could have chosen from many other experiences like the whole reason he lived with the Corinthians in the first place.

Things weren’t going so well a few years earlier when he got to Corinth and it is recorded in Acts 18:9–11, 9And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

But, Paul used this particular experience for two reasons… First, the obvious, “You false teachers want to talk about spiritual credentials… I’ll show you spiritual credentials.” Have you been to heaven recently?

SLIDE: STAIRCASE INTO HEAVEN ~

Paul shares that he had an experience in Christ – not in himself, in Paul’s strength or IN anyone else’s strength or other angelic/demonic power, but iN relation to Christ Jesus…

To emphasize that fact. Paul was taken into heaven… He was ἁρπάζω (häȑ-pä-dzō). He was “Caught up.” ἁρπάζω is the word used for the concept of the rapture… I’ve heard people complain that the word “Rapture” doesn’t actually occur in the Bible.

That’s true, because the word that does occur is ἁρπάζω, which translated into Latin, is the participle raptus from the verb rapiō from which we get the word and concept of the Rapture.

SLIDE: HARPY EAGLE ~

A person is enraptured or a bird of prey is a raptor (actually a Harpy Eagle is a raptor so both Greek and Latin) or the saints are Raptured are all derived from raptus… meaning to seize, capture, take by force.

Paul was taken by God and there was nothing anyone could do about it – likewise on the day of the Rapture Almighty God will snatch you to Himself and nothing in heaven, on earth or in hell can stop Him.

Anyway, Raptured to the third heaven. A Jewish way of saying the heaven where God lives… The first heaven is our earthly atmosphere where the clouds reside, the second heaven is outer space where the sun, moon and stars reside and the third heaven is beyond the universe in the supernatural plane where God and the Heavenly Host reside.

SLIDE: MOUNTAIN MEADOW GARDEN ~

In verse four he calls it “Paradise.” Greek παράδεισος from Hebrew פַּרְדֵּס meaning garden. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told the criminal that he would be in Paradise with Him and in Revelation 2:7, Jesus said, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”

Checking out the accommodations in Heaven… that’s some experience… Paul then he follows that up with a dialogue between him and Jesus.

Ending in the Risen Lord telling him, “Look Paul, My Grace is sufficient to accomplish what I want in your life both on earth and for eternity.”

That’s pretty cool – fairly amazing… Paul has definitely made his point.

That’s what is obvious… here’s what’s subtle…

Paul enters into heaven where he sees and hears some incredible things… BUT here’s the deal… those things are only for Paul.

It is between God and Paul. It is NOT something to be shared and certainly NOT something to be used for more personal power and prestige.

Most people think that a Top Secret security clearance is the highest… Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Well it’s not true, there’s a clearance above Top Secret that I held… I knew stuff that I couldn’t even tell other guys in my squadron.

I couldn’t tell anyone… Well neither could Paul. He had an even higher security clearance and couldn’t tell anyone about what he saw and heard!

People who love to tell you all about the details of their vision, probably had their vision due to “An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” “More of gravy than of grave…”

A real vision isn’t to be bandied about like some tall tale or fishing story… same thing.

SLIDE: THE PLEASURE OF THORNS ~

Paul then tells us beginning in verse 7, that as a direct consequence of this remarkable trip to heaven he was given “A thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment” him.

Specifically, this “Messenger of Satan” that tormented Paul was to keep him from becoming prideful, arrogant, as he said, “To keep me from exalting myself!”

People love to speculate on the thorn and by doing so miss what I think is the real point the Holy Spirit through Paul was trying to make here.

There’s the “Thorn,” there’s the “Flesh,” there’s the “Messenger” – really angel, and there’s “Satan.”

But all the emphasis of that passage is on the TORMENT. Torment is the focus, not the “Thorn,” “Flesh,” “Messenger” or “Satan.”

It hurt deeply – Paul felt tormented by Satan… It is κολαφίζω (kŏ-lä-fēdz-ō). It actually means to hit or beat with a fist – it is to be punched in the face.

Paul felt like he was repeatedly punched in the face and in my opinion it was due to his personal lack of perfection.

Whatever the “Thorn,” the point is it was used by Satan to torment Paul… to beat Paul down, to discourage and defeat him.

Paul desperately wanted to live up to his road trip to heaven – but he was never worthy…

He begged Jesus to fix him.

And here is the point… Jesus said NO!

Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

The false prophets wanted to talk about “Visions and Revelations,” but someone who actually had “Visions” couldn’t talk about what he had seen… and someone who had actual “Revelations” often got the answer they didn’t want to hear.

Some people use these verses to focus on the exciting, super-spiritual, emotionally charged supernatural, but the point is the exact opposite.

Will God show you things? Yes He will. Will God reveal things to you? Yes, He will, but it will always be His grace extended to you IN SPITE of your greatness, NOT because of it.

Paul grew up and matured when his prayer changed from, “Make me great” – to “Oh God, use me to proclaim your greatness.”

Thorns are the very things that can sharpen our focus on God’s necessary power and grace…

As the great Apostle said, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

010415 - Through our Weakness - II Corinthians 11c
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January 08, 2015 07:45 AM PST
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II Corinthians 11:16-33, Pastor Scott Keller

Scott Keller at Alêtheia Christian Fellowship ~ II Corinthians 11c-12 ~ 010414

SLIDE: THE RUINED CITY OF CORINTH ~

We left off in our study of II Corinthians in the middle of what is called the “Fool’s Discourse.”

The things you need to remember (or be aware of if you’re just joining us) is that Paul personally established the Christian Community at Corinth. Not, just the city, which was vibrant, wealthy and cosmopolitan, but the suburbs and outlying towns all around the Isthmus of Corinth connecting the Peloponnesian Peninsula to Greece.

He had lived with the Corinthians for a year and a half, then after his departure, other, self-described Christian ministers had arrived and were teaching the fledgling Christians a somewhat different Christianity – that at the end of the day – was no Christianity at all because it misrepresented Jesus and therefore the salvation He brings.

In order to seal their claim on the hearts and minds of the Corinthians, these interlopers, boasted about themselves and ridiculed Paul.

So the Apostle Paul was forced to defend himself in order to save true Christianity among the Corinthians. Paul was very uncomfortable with this chore, as we will see, but he forged ahead, NOT because he feared losing control of the Corinthians…

He did it because he was afraid that the Corinthians, in losing him, would also lose Christ.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:16-21 ~ WOLF-SHEEP ~
16Again I say,
let no one think me foolish;
but if you do,
receive me even as foolish,
so that I also may boast a little.
17What I am saying,
I am not saying as the Lord would,
but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.
18Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.
19For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.

20For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.

21To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.
But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—
I speak in foolishness—
I am just as bold myself.

Three times in those verses, Paul pulled back with parenthetical remarks to show his discomfort in talking about himself in this way…

Verse 16, “But if you do, receive me even as foolish…” Verse 17, “What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness…”
And verse 21, “I speak in foolishness…”

In verses 18 through 20, Paul plainly spells out why he’s engaging in this distasteful boasting…

Because the Corinthians; are tolerating and even gladly accepting ministers, who are foolish boasters, who enslave them, who devour them, who take advantage of them, who exalt themselves and who hit them in the face!

Sarcastically, Paul says that to his “Shame” he has “Been weak by comparison.”

But now, Paul will be, “Just as bold” as they are and play the game… But please remember… he does this only in order to protect the Corinthians he loves, from the corrupting influence of the false ministers.

Going forward we have a long section of Scripture, but we need to take it all in, in order to see the flow in context…

For today, we are going to be just like a first century church and HEAR the Word of God read aloud. From, II Corinthians chapter 11, verse 22, through chapter 12, verse 13…

Of course, as always you can follow along in your Bibles, but for this first shot at these verses I would like you close your eyes and let the Word flow… Put yourself there in Corinth hearing these words with their ears… You know the basic situation; let Paul’s defense impact you as it did them 20 centuries ago.

The Apostle Paul says…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:22–12:13 WEAKNESS ~ 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ?—
I speak as if insane—
I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25Three times I was beaten with rods,
once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28Apart from such external things,
there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
29Who is weak without my being weak?
Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
1Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know,
or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know how such a man—
whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—
4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
5On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.
6For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth;
but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh,
a messenger of Satan to torment me—
to keep me from exalting myself!
8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
11I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me.
Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 12The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.
13For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches,
except that I myself did not become a burden to you?
Forgive me this wrong!

Paul’s defense…

The overarching thrust was that Paul was qualified to be considered a true Apostle of a Savior, who, Himself, came in humble weakness.

Jesus, was a non-citizen, non-Judean Jew from an irrelevant town in a backwater province who did not have a powerful family, an Ivy League education or a trust fund. He was by all appearances a human man unable to stop His own torture, crucifixion and death. That’s weakness.

The reality of His bodily Resurrection was proof beyond question that God’s power was at work.

The Resurrection would have meant nothing, if there had not first been actual death in weakness.

The Resurrection would have meant nothing, if it had not been exactly what it was… Everything about it was perfect in order to demonstrate that is was God orchestrating, enabling and completing the work.

Jesus was not just dead, He was dead beyond any question – the swoon theory is one of the dumbest theories in the history of dumb theories. Anyone enduring what Jesus endured over His final 18 hours of human life would be dead.

He was buried in a tomb for three days – three days…

When He did awaken He had a body that was corporeal, tangible, subject to tactile inspection… He could walk and talk and he could eat and drink…

But, He could also change His outward form, His physical person, looks, voice, perhaps height and weight – beard or no beard…

Additionally, He could suddenly appear and disappear wherever and whenever He chose, moving through time, space and matter at will.

He appeared to more than 500 witnesses and finally, after 40 days of such visitations He bodily, in the sight of many of His disciples, family and friends, ascended into Heaven complete with two angels.

Jesus, as just a man, was far too weak to do any of that. So since He actually did do it all, it proved God was well pleased with His only Son.

Paul was nothing but a weak human man, therefore all the amazing work of the Gospel spread through his efforts was God’s doing.

His weakness was proof that he belonged to and was approved by Almighty God.

That’s precisely what we need to concentrate on for ourselves here and now.

We need to see God’s power perfected and proved through our weakness.

I said the other day that I did everything wrong that a person could possibly do wrong in starting Alêtheia. The fact that it worked in spite of my weakness proves that it was God’s venture and not mine.

Another example, Mariah was pregnant about 20 years ago and she was prayed for by our pastor at the time… General good health and progress.

The pastor gave a prophetic-type utterance to her… He said, “You will see God’s power.”

She was scared because she knew that to see God do something probably meant that something was going to be bad enough for Him to act. At the time neither of us had any idea what it might be…

I won’t go into all the details, but the pregnancy didn’t go well – there were abruptions and other problems and Mariah was on strict bed rest except for weekly checkups. At one of those appointments, our doctor, despite a lot of effort, could not find the baby’s heartbeat. It appeared that the baby was dead...

We were praying up a storm on our way over for an ultrasound and when they took a look, they not only found a heartbeat again, but they could find no evidence whatsoever of any problem.

I asked, “Is she healed?” The physician said, “No, there would be scar tissue… there is no sign that anything was ever wrong.”

SLIDE: KATIE BUG LIPS ~

Katie was born on time, happy and completely healthy and one of the most amazing people I have ever known.

God’s power was manifested in our human weakness.

There was nothing I could do – nothing Mariah could do – nothing the doctor could do – but NOTHING is what God does. Nothing is too difficult for God to do…

That is Paul’s entire point.

Of course, he goes into some detail and we might as well follow his story…

SLIDE: EASTERN MED, TARSUS & DAMASCUS ~

First, Paul addressed his background as a Jew. Jewish heritage was something about which the false teachers applauded themselves and disparaged Paul. They were no doubt “Real Jews” from Jerusalem – Paul was not. RDP.

Because Christianity came out of Judaism – Jesus and all of His Apostles and all of the first Christians converts were Jews… In fact, if you remember, it actually came as quite a shock to the Jews that non-Jews could even be Christians. (Acts 10&11).

So, fledgling, non-Jewish Christians, like those in Corinth, gave great deference to teachers with Jewish roots. You study, Tae Kwon Do and a Grand Master from Korea shows up…

Paul was a Roman citizen, born and bred in the Roman province of Cilicia. We can imagine that Jews born and bred in Jerusalem would have disparaged Paul on that account. He wasn’t as Jewish as they were…

While, it is true that Paul was born and raised in the vibrant city of Tarsus, capital of Cilicia at the end of the Bay of Iskenderun near the modern Turkish – Syrian border.

It is also true that Paul was a full-blooded Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin, named after the hero of that tribe, King Saul.

He was sent to Jerusalem at an early age and was educated as a Rabbi by Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel, the founder of the Pharisaic School.

He was, to his later dismay, a Jewish leader trusted by the High Council to root out heresy.

Paul was fluent in Greek and Aramaic, but also in Hebrew which was very unusual in those days and proved his rabbinic credentials (Acts 22:2).

Paul was actually more qualified as a Jewish teacher than his opponents.

While leading a small army in search of heretics – Jews who had converted to Christianity – Paul found something very different…

Paul was personally converted on the road to Damascus and commissioned as an Apostle by the risen Lord Jesus… Himself.

Paul served the cause of Christ, preaching the Gospel in hostile territory, enduring tremendous hardship.

Five times he was whipped – 39 lashes upon his back… the 40 lashes minus one, was a Jewish punishment for violating Jewish custom given in lieu of banishment.

He was beaten with rods three times… that is a Roman punishment for troublemakers. It was not authorized against a Roman citizen such as Paul, but beatings to restore order were often carried out before citizenship could be verified.

Think of riot police beating American citizens… where it would be police brutality if there was no cause, in a riot to protect life, it is legal and appropriate.

Paul was even stoned – with large rocks and boulders – and left for dead by Jews in what is now central Turkey.

Travel in those days was harrowing to say the least.

Many of the ships were barely seaworthy and there were no weather reports or radar to see problems beforehand. Think of the ferries capsizing all the time around the world today.

Paul was shipwrecked three times – one of those times he spent all night in the ocean tossed around by waves while evidently clinging to a piece of debris.

I feel comfortable assuming Paul did not swim… Those three shipwrecks don’t include a future one where Paul ended up spending the winter on Malta.

There were nefarious characters everywhere and there were wild animals as well as all manner of natural disasters and inclement weather to deal with on his journeys.

Paul was put through the ringer over and over and that’s just the physical part.

He was deeply concerned for the budding Christian faith and the constant efforts, ultimately by Satan, to destroy it.

The way Paul put it, “Who is weak without my being weak?”

The pressure of ministry is intense and it is only the strength of the Lord that sustained Paul or any minister since.

In verse 30, he states that his boasting as an Apostle is boasting in his human struggle as a minister.

Sure he was beaten and imprisoned and shipwrecked… sure he was bloodied, bruised and degraded…

That didn’t mean he wasn’t Jesus’ Apostle… it meant that he was Jesus’ Apostle.

The Lord carried him through all those trials and tribulations and that confirms the Message Paul preached!

His human weakness proved the divine nature of his work – God worked through IMPERFECT PAUL… He wants to work through IMPERFECT YOU.

We’re always running around trying to be more perfect, when the truth is God is interested in using us now!

More Bible studies, more programs, more isolation, more worship to make us feel like we are serving God.

All the Charismatic out-of-this-world worship experiences and all the academically challenging Bible studies in the world are not going to make God like you better.

We do those things so that we will like ourselves better.

That’s what I was trying to say before Christmas. We have been given a gift from God – it is the treasure entrusted to us by Jesus.

It is Emmanuel – God with us – for the purpose of Jesus – salvation.

We fret and fuss about our personal goodness – we inspect and evaluate the goodness of other people…

We become shackled by all the guilt and doubt and worry and frustration and irritation and condemnation and anger and despair… to the point of INACTION.

We are frozen by fear, like statues in the park collecting bird droppings.

God wants you to live – to live abundantly… NOT, live in the abundance of the material world, BUT, to live in the abundance of the recognition that you are His beloved child!

Quit being distracted – of course, pray about your issues, do your best to fix them, BUT then MOVE!

Move forward trusting in the GRACE of God which – trust me – “Is sufficient for you”!

Get busy about the Master’s business – let Jesus use you for His purposes… because He will use YOU – yes YOU, right NOW. It may not be how you plan – you may not see it or understand it, BUT if you will just open yourself to Him and move – God will use you for His purposes… TODAY!

If you trust Him then you will keep working as a vessel for Him and before you realize what happened you will be more mature as a Christian and as you keep moving before you realize what happened you will be standing before your Lord.

You will have finished your race and you will be home.

The alternative is to spend your Christian life focused on your own failure and the failure of everyone around you – the failure of the American government – the failure of the culture – the failure of the world and ultimately you will understand it all somewhere deep down inside you. Perhaps a dark secret place you are not consciously aware of… the failure of God.

It can be scary – to leave behind the morose, self-flagellating and the mean-spirited judgmentalism of Christianity as we know it…

What many people forget is that the Apostle Paul knew what was in store for him before he started.

Jesus commanded Ananias, a Christian leader in Damascus, to go to Paul in Damascus in Acts 9:15&16, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”

Paul lived it out each day and yet he continued with new vigor… that is true faith and that kind of faith is real and it is only enabled by the Lord Himself.

Paul already alluded to it in chapter 4, verse 8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.”

In every way and in every place and at every time Paul, is a battered mortal man and yet, rather than being destroyed, GOD more than suffices to liberate him.

Afflicted is the participle of the verbal form of our old friend θλῖψις (thlēps-ēs).

If you remember, θλῖψις means extreme pressure. It is to compress or squeeze. Figuratively it is the pressures of life, both external and internal – the things that press you down.

Paul was pressured at every turn and in every way, “But not crushed.” He was confined in an extremely tight place, restricted with hardly any breathing room, yet there WAS breathing room. Pressed into the smallest space where he could barely move, but God always granted him enough space that he was NOT crushed.

Paul’s troubles prove that his Message is a divine message from God, rather than a message from a great and powerful man.

That’s what it means that God’s strength is perfected in weakness – God uses us – in our weakness and imperfection – to prove it must be His power at work through us.

Paul, himself, is nothing special, but Jesus chose to use him as His Apostle giving him the Message He wanted proclaimed.

SLIDE: DAMASCUS TODAY ~

Paul then launches into his misadventures in Damascus.

Aretas IV was king of the Nabateans for nearly 50 years taking the throne in 9 B.C. his son succeeded him in 40 A.D.

SLIDE: PETRA TODAY ~

By Paul’s time the Nabataeans were considered Arabs and had their capital at Petra. They essentially supplanted, but also intermingled with Arameans (descended from Seth’s son Aram, home of Isaac and Jacob’s wives). Moabites and Ammonites (Lot and his 2 daughters).

Aretas’ daughter was married to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, the guy who sent Jesus back to Pontius Pilate. But in about 27 A.D. Antipas divorced her in favor of his ½ niece and full sister-in-law, Herodias, formerly the wife his brother, Herod Philip (Matt. 14:3–4). This was the sin John the Baptist was pointing out when Herodias manipulated her daughter Salome to manipulate Antipas to behead John.

When Jesus was brought before Antipas, He refused to speak. We sometimes forget that only a short time before, Antipas had beheaded Jesus’ cousin John.

King Aretas was furious about the mistreatment of his daughter and tensions grew between the Nabateans and the Jews until open war broke out between them in 36 A.D. Aretas quickly defeated Antipas.

But, the emperor Tiberius intervened on behalf of Antipas by sending the Roman legion based in Syria, to defend Jewish lands.

In case you were wondering about Petra and the Nabateans… in 106 A.D. the Roman Emperor Trajan formally conquered and annexed the Nabatean Kingdom. As a backwater Roman province Petra feel into disuse.

The Ethnarch of Damascus was the ruler of the city under King Aretas. His plan to seize Paul was thwarted in an ignoble way.

Being let down in a basket was not heroic or awe inspiring – it was weakness, but again, it showed God’s power.

I wanted to read through to chapter 12, verse 13, to give the context, but for your sake I will save the deeper investigation of those verses for next time.

For today… God is NOT nearly as interested in your personal development through what amounts to self-help as He is in you, LIVING out loud as a joyful and triumphant Christian filled with gratitude for His grace.

God is far more interested in you allowing Him to use you right now IN your weakness – so that His strength will be recognized.

You are not waiting for anything except your own fear and trepidation which is a lack of trust in Him who will work through you…

122814 - Christmas is Over - Topical
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January 05, 2015 07:08 AM PST
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Deuteronomy 28:47, John 14:15, John 15:12 & I Corinthians 16:13&14, Pastor Scott Keller.

This is a record sermon... At less than 14 minutes, it must be the shortest sermon ever preached at Aletheia Christian Fellowship. It is a post-Christmas topical sermonette.

After Christmas, Jesus put away childish things and served His Father…

We must now do the same…

We saw last week that failure to serve God – to obey Jesus – to grow in the Spirit – was due to a lack of, “Joy and a grateful heart, for the abundance of all things…” (Deuteronomy 28:47).

Fundamentally, a failure to properly serve is due to a bad attitude.

A failure to properly assess reality.

It is to look at things with the world’s eyes.

It is to see need – to see want, rather than to realize the Creator of all things holds you in His hands…

The only correct attitude for a child of God is, “Joy and a grateful heart for the abundance of all things.”

When we get that right – we live the VICTORIOUS LIFE because we are MORE than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us! Through Him who loved us (Philippians 4:13 & Romans 8:37). That’s the perspective and attitude that guards your heart and shows the true God to the world!

Because we understand and have appropriated the gift of God sent on that very first Christmas… We are filled to overflowing with Joy and Gratitude.

It is in that spirit, and with that attitude, that we can truly obey the Lord Jesus Christ as He said…

In John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

And what is it specifically that Jesus commands His disciples? John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

Jesus’ love motivated Him to lay down His life for you… that’s the love we are talking about. A love that puts others first…

1 Corinthians 16:13&14 says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

Four present imperatives followed by the overarching command to actively love others.

A better translation would be “Stay alert, keep standing firm in the one true faith, continue to behave like men, remain strong and in everything you must love.”

That’s what we are to do now… pack up the Christmas decorations and get back to work on behalf of Jesus just as Jesus got to work on our behalf.

Time is short and opportunities are not endless so we must stay alert.

There is only one faith and we must keep standing firm, in that faith, unmoved by political correctness or satanic sentimentality.

As Christians we all must always act like men… What that means is we all need to be mature and sober-minded, as well as resolute and courageous.

We must remain strong. We know that in our flesh, we are weak, but our strength comes from Him who is strength itself and who supplies our every need.

Finally, we must continually cover everything with God’s love poured out into our heart… Pray earnestly and without ceasing that God will fill your heart to overflowing with His pure Agapê.

Let’s get busy in this New Year to be more intentional as Christians, more available as vessels and more genuine as family.

Endless hope and relentless joy that is what was brought to us… let us go out and show that to the world this year…

122114 - The True Christmas Gift - Romans 8
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December 31, 2014 12:18 PM PST
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This is one of our few topical sermons. It was delivered by Pastor Scott Keller for Christmas, and that is the theme, but it is a very different kind of Christmas message. No yule log or tinsel here.

Alêtheia ~ Christmas ~ 122114

SLIDE: WELCOME FRIENDS ~ CHRISTMAS ~

SLIDE: SHEPHERD AT NIGHT ~

Today I want to talk about a very important topic for Christmastime… it is something that will relate to our Christmas Eve Service and it will also better prepare us for our continuation in II Corinthians.

Hopefully you will see the connections over the next few weeks.

SLIDE: Woman frustrated and unhappy ~

In chapter eight of Paul’s amazing letter to the Romans he talks about a reality that every Christian has recognized…

We are not perfect.

Our lack of perfection causes us all kinds of problems. They range from anger to guilt, frustration to despair and from passively hiding out by ourselves to actively taking it out on others.

Our imperfection focuses us INTERNALLY on our own inadequacy and then as a backlash, it focuses us EXTERNALLY on the imperfection of everything and everyone around us…
You wonder why you’re mean or why you’re depressed… well there you go.

We are filled with a deep seated hopelessness because things are NOT right and we express that with a variety of unproductive ideas.

“If I can’t ever get it right, maybe I shouldn’t try.”
“If God loved me, He would fix me.”
“If I keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over, maybe I am not saved at all.”
“If God is real, why do I feel so alone?”
“If I could get away from – or change – all the people who keep messing me up; I could be, if not perfect, certainly much better.”
“If we could just get back to being a Christian nation; pass an anti-gay, anti-abortion or anti-pornography law, then I could succeed.”
“If everyone would just start thinking exactly like me; then there would be no problems!”

UNPRODUCTIVE ideas inevitably lead to UNPRODUCTIVE, even COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE doctrines and philosophies as well as strategies and procedures.

All Christians have wrestled with the problem of sin to some degree… That’s actually a good thing IF, and only IF, it produces a greater conformity to Christ that is real and a better relationship with Him that is genuine.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of this struggling with sin produces the opposite.

Let’s get that right today…

Let’s let God fix that problem for us all, right here, right now.

How about that? How about all of us leaving here today with the JOY of the Lord to offer as a gift to the world at Christmastime?

Let’s all actively allow the Holy Spirit to renew our mind this morning so that we can actually grow in Christ and be His light to the world.

SLIDE: GIFTWRAPPED GOD ~

God came as a helpless baby and that’s what we celebrate this week… BUT, He also ascended to Heaven and so He is no longer on this earth in physical form.

That’s where we come in… enter the Christians stage RIGHT. We have been reconciled to 1Father God as His very own children.

We have been reborn as disciples of the 2Word of God and we are filled with the 3Breath of God to be the physical Jesus Christ on earth today.

What Christmas is, at its core, is Emmanuel – God with us. God came and made His abode – made his home – with mankind.

Jesus completed His earthly work 2,000 years ago and ever since that time… Emmanuel is STILL alive and well and living on planet earth…

Because Emmanuel, my friends, God with us… is US!

Through the power of the Holy Spirit the Christian community is supposed to physically share the reality of God among mankind.

We ARE the Light of the World, as ambassadors of, as conduits for, the Light THAT BRINGS LIFE… We are more than just representatives of God…
By Belonging to the Father, following the Son and being filled with the Spirit – we are the presence of God that He chooses to show to the world.

How are we doing with that?

Right away, many begin thinking, “He’s talking about more personal evangelism, giving more to missions, doing a building expansion to reach more folks… maybe more advertising.”

No! I’m talking about you and me at a core place where we can be bright lights shining in the darkness.

Addiction counseling usually doesn’t work because it addresses the symptoms and so rarely fixes the core issue.

The same here. The church universal has tried it all for 2,000 years and mostly failed in spectacular fashion. We need to quit doing more stuff and let God fix our core.

It is paramount that we here in this room, and all the Christians in similar rooms today, throw off the shackles – the shackles that Jesus shattered once and for all. The shackles that we painstakingly repair and repeatedly place back upon ourselves.

We must break free of the lies of Satan in order to fulfill our purpose as the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth ministering to the lost all around us.

Barrowing from the song… Sin – what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Well maybe… maybe we can put it into perspective.

SLIDE: CROSSWING LANDING ~

We saw last summer that God disciplines His children, BUT ONLY, for the purpose of correcting our course – ALWAYS for the goal of repentance and restoration.

God ALWAYS disciplines us, in order to strengthen our love for Him and for others, NEVER to damage or destroy us – NEVER to beat us down causing hopelessness, anguish and despair.

Those things are the result of guilt and they are the goal of Satan because ultimately they lead to negative emotions, hatred, divorce and murder.

Romans chapter eight begins with, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

What does that mean? What does it have to do with Christmas?

For seven full chapters in Romans the Apostle Paul laid out the reality that every person is a sinner and no matter how well a person performs they will NEVER be justified before our PERFECT GOD.

The only possible way a person can be justified before God is IF God creates a way – IF God SAVES…

Psalm 3:8 states, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” That is confirmed in Revelation 19:1, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.”

The name Jesus itself, means SALVATION. Emmanuel is “God with us,” but for the PURPOSE of Salvation.

That was Jesus’ purpose 2,000 years ago in coming to earth and it is His purpose through you and me today… Salvation.

Only God can save and He has saved.

Continuing in Romans, Paul sees a real problem – it is the problem we have all seen and it is the problem we are talking about today…

SLIDE: MAN IN UTTER DESPAIR ~

How can we be Jesus Christ on earth demonstrating God dwelling among mankind for the purpose of saving mankind, when we are so completely fouled up?

I am going to use first person pronouns and I would like you to take these statements as your own where they apply to you…

I’m a mess and I continue to make messes – I am weak and fearful and controlling and easily frustrated and I am ready to give up on the whole thing!

As the great Apostle Paul said himself… “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).

I get so frustrated with myself and I project my frustration onto other people and ultimately onto God Himself.

I am irritated, legalistic, harsh, unhappy, judgmental, worried, disillusioned, depressed, self-focused, mean spirited and overall just downright disgusted…

And my self-focus always affects my view of others… In a distortion of reality, I see myself either as better than others, worse than others, or waffling between BOTH!

I am a typical neurotic Christian and that is the Jesus… the God… the SALVATION that I present to the world.

No wonder non-Christians want no part of it!

We must get this straightened out or we cannot be God with us offering His salvation to the world.

SLIDE: THE FAKE CHRISTMAS ~

Without that, Christmas means nothing, except Santa Clause, tawdry decorations and consumerism run amok.

The only rational reason to celebrate the Birth of Jesus is that it was the event that preceded the event that enabled universal salvation for all who accept…

SLIDE: JESUS CRUCIFIED, IT IS FINISHED ~

That is Jesus Christ crucified. It was what was accomplished on a rugged cross thirty-some years later. It was His sacrificial death that brought others life.

Through that, Sin is defeated, destroyed, rendered futile, shattered… buried and gone… sin is annihilated… there is no sin because Jesus paid the price and death was conquered proven by His bodily Resurrection.

After ascending into heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to infill every Christian… every Christian who has been reborn as a new creation in Christ… is filled with God’s Holy Breath. Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” It is just a fact – Christ in YOU right NOW… Yet…

Where is this perfect life without sin and the consequences of sin?

What does it all mean? What am I doing wrong?
When we continue further into Romans chapter eight, we find a theme…

SLIDE: THE Holy Spirit ~

Paul uses the word Spirit, 21 times in Romans chapter eight alone. In one chapter the word spirit πνεῦμα (pnü-mä), is used 21 times.

The principle point is that as Christians we are filled with the Holy Spirit as a “PLEDGE.” From the TOTALITY of Almighty God to you. It is the Greek, ἀρραβών (äȑ-ȑä-bōn), transliterated from Hebrew עֵרָבֹון (ĕȑ-ȑä-vōn) meaning a deposit of part to guarantee the whole (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

It is NOT a vow, pledge, promise or commitment that can be broken…

It is a token of what is certain to be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit deposit is like getting an engagement ring from Jesus…

Some may cancel a deal, BUT Jesus is good to His Word! Pun intended.

To back out of the deal after giving your word accompanied by your PLEDGE was to you lose your credibility – to prove your character was deficient all along – to show that you are fickle and untrustworthy.

Almighty God gives Christians the Holy Spirit and it is a “PLEDGE” along with His PROMISE…

There is no way in heaven, or on earth, that God is going to back out of the deal.

It is as certain as God is God that He will fulfill His promise which is eternal life in Him.

Ephesians 1:13&14, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

It is for His glory that you are saved.

Do you seriously believe that you will irritate God enough that he will disown you as His child? That you can upset Jesus enough that He will write you a certificate of divorce?

I grant you, that is certainly our experience in this life… friends and loved ones so easily pushed to the point where they reject you – abandon you – disown you – divorce you… even try to destroy you.

But, friends, God is NOT like that – He is NOT like us – God is NOT a human being!

God’s love is pure and perfect and based upon His character, NOT upon our performance.

Conversely, can you possibly be so arrogant that you think your performance will earn God’s favor? So full of yourself that you actually believe that you are GOOD?!?!?

Look, my friends, the scale we use is all wrong.

SLIDE: PLANET EARTH SCALE ~

The Christian with the very worst performance – someone has to be the weakest link and he is right here. The Christian who is the superstar, golden-haired boy, makes-everything-seem-easy, best performer of all time with a great heart is here. That makes sense.

Non-Christians, regardless of their intentions and performance, are not even on the scale.

SLIDE: NOW WITH A RULER ~

Not a linear scale but 12,000 miles between the worst and the best Christians is a lot… 12,000 miles is where some of our satellites orbit. I mean a 12,000 mile scale is impressive.

SLIDE: CURIOSITY – EARTH FROM MARS ~

This is a photo of earth taken by the Mars Rover Curiosity. The Red planet is our closest neighbor going away from the sun (Venus is a little closer in the other direction).

Can you see yourself?

Mars is close – it is only 3, to a maximum of 22, light minutes from us depending on our relative orbital positions. The average 12 ½ light-minutes.

At our closest we can reach the planet in about six months with current technology. In space terms… Mars is very close.

And as close as it is this is what earth looks like from the Martian surface. On this scale how much difference do you see between the best and worst Christians?

SLIDE: OUR SOLAR SYSTEM ~

Poor Pluto, NOT a planet anymore, so our “Planetary Solar System” extends to the orbit of Neptune now and makes our localized planetary solar system about 9 billion miles across – that’s more than 800 light-minutes. Mars about 12, our planetary solar system 800.

SLIDE: THE MILKY WAY GALAXY ~

Our entire solar system is so tiny it cannot even be seen in this rendering of our Milky Way Galaxy. It is not even big enough to be one of the specks of light… it might as well be invisible – it might as well not even exist. It doesn’t exist, from this perspective.

And my friends… The Milky Way Galaxy is only one of over a hundred billion galaxies spread out over our vast universe. NOT even a blip on a universal scale.

God spoke all of that into existence – He holds it all in the palm of His hand… Realistically – let’s be real for just a moment, what are you going to give Him?

SLIDE: REALLY DUDE RE-GIFTED ~

At the same time – IF he chose to love you and save you and fill you with His Spirit – what are you going to do that would alienate Him from you?

Can you see the reality that no one is IMPRESSING God? Can you then likewise understand that your personal failures are not ruining God’s day?

We take ourselves way too seriously and God not even close to seriously enough. It is called EGO.

Can you recognize that the God the Father isn’t going to boot you out of His family because you are imperfect? Can you grasp that Jesus is not going to divorce you because you repeatedly fail? Can you see that the Holy Spirit is not going to desert you because you are weak?

It isn’t about you obeying the Law or about you having perfect doctrine or about you working tirelessly or about you praying harder or about you beating yourself up or alienating others with your holier-than-thou attitude.

If God wanted grumpy, stern, mean-spirited, self-righteous people he didn’t have to send Jesus – He already had the Pharisees!

It is about you being imperfect and God reaching down at unbelievable personal cost to save you from your imperfection.

That is the Glory of God.

The Glory of God that will be proclaimed by all for eternity is that He saved us in spite of our worth, NOT because of it!

There is a doctrine of demons that is as old as time… it is the doctrine that caused Satan to fall. It is the doctrine that deceived Eve and it is the doctrine that permeates everything in the human experience.

The doctrine of demons is the doctrine that: I am more, than I really am.

The doctrine of pride. So many Christians are taught that they are special and wonderfully made in God’s own image. They are taught that God loves them so much that He would have still sent Jesus even if they were the only one to accept. They are taught that they bless God’s heart and that they please Him with their obedience.

Christians are taught these things and then begin to distort reality… they begin to think that because of all that – they are great.

Friends, all of that is true, despite our frailty, so who is great… us or God? Us for continuing to fall into the miry clay or Him for lifting us up out of the miry clay to be His friends?

I am NOT a Christian because I’m so smart, or so good, or so worthy… I am a Christian because God Saved me…

SLIDE: PRAYING HANDS IN GOLD ~

Now filled with the Holy Spirit it is my greatest desire to be His friend – to be conformed to Him – to act like a member of His family – to obey Him because I trust in Him and to bring glory to Him forever.

But, back to the topic for the day… I have this problem… I don’t do what I want, but instead, I do the very thing I hate… and it makes me miserable and then it makes me angry and then it makes me sad.

Romans 8:15&16, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”

It is past tense… we are the actual children of Almighty God already adopted into His family and then in verse 23… “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

It is finished and yet we my friends, you and I, have not caught up to the reality in time. It is a betrothal and while we eagerly await the actual wedding day we see that we are committed to Christ, but not completely His – NOT yet.

We still live in our childhood home, we still bear the last name of our parents we still live that life even though the marriage is set.

We groan within ourselves because we are NOT yet what we want to be.

So what shall we do? We shall wait patiently with all the hope in the world that one day soon everything will be made right by our husband the Lord Jesus Christ… as the passage continues…

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

Of course we are NOT perfect – we are human still even though we are betrothed.

Even though the wedding date is set and soon we will be MRS. JESUS CHRIST, we are NOT there yet and so we wait.

We wait eagerly and at times it seems as though it will never happen, as though the wedding will be cancelled as though we need to do more to make it happen…

What we NEED to do is eagerly wait with the patience born of hope – because that hope is grounded in TRUST. Do you TRUST God with your eternity or NOT?

Hope in He who is able! (Romans 16:25).

We NEED to pray for help and we NEED to do our best – striving to live up to His love because we love Him… and then, my dear friends, then, we NEED to prove our trust… we NEED to live!

SLIDE: JUMPING FOR JOY ~

To live boldly for Christ – without hypocrisy – freely admitting our imperfection and fully trusting in the grace of God to save us anyway.

Do you know the word JOY is used over 200 times in the Bible? The word gratitude or thankfulness is used about the same…

When God brought the Children to the Promised Land He announced blessings from Mount Gerizim and He announced curses from Mount Ebal…

If the Jews obeyed they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed they would be cursed. After 12 verses full of curses, God announced the consequences of disobedience for 32 more verses in Deuteronomy chapter 28.

Then in verse 47, He says something amazing... He said their downfall would be, “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things.”

It is a life full of Joy and Thanksgiving, a life of gratitude and exuberance because we are His kids! It is the VICTORIOUS LIFE because we are MORE than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us! Through Him who loved us (Philippians 4:13 & Romans 8:37). That’s the perspective and attitude that guards your heart and shows the true God to the world!

At this Christmas season show the world that we are OVERCOMERS in Christ – that’s Christmas.

Don’t mope around in despair or bitterness or disillusionment. Don’t fly around in anger or frustration or antagonism. Regular humans do that – we are God’s kids!

And if we act like we are the richest most blessed people in the universe – because we are – then maybe, just maybe, a regular human might want the gift we have to offer… Jesus Christ – the Word of God who came as a baby, but left as the destroyer of anxiety, hopelessness, SIN & DEATH.

121414 - Money, Money, Money - II Corinthians 11b
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December 30, 2014 01:33 PM PST
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II Corinthians 11:7-15, Pastor Scott Keller

Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 11b ~ 121414

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:1-6 ~ BEAR WITH ME ~
Paul asked the Corinthians and in a very real sense, you and me, to BEAR with him.

It is a rhetorical tactic, and he will use many of them over the next chapter and a half, to build up, himself and his ministry, without seeming to be as petty as those he is trying to depose.

Paul gets the IRONY, trust me. He knows the false teachers have denigrated him while simultaneously building themselves up. Essentially, Paul must do the same thing to them, but without actually BEING like them.

The difference is that the false Apostles do it because they love themselves and want the Corinthians to love them also. Paul will do it because he actually loves the Corinthians and wants the Corinthians to love God.

He’s not trying to enhance his position for himself – he’s trying to keep the Corinthian Christians grounded in Christ.

One of the biggest issues they had back then is STILL one the biggest issues today… MONEY.

SLIDE: STACK OF MONEY ~
As Paul continues his defense, the sub-topic turns to MONEY, but more than MONEY itself, it is what MONEY does.

I know a business man who brings parties together in a financial arrangement. He says that it is remarkable to see how kind and generous everyone is during the initial negotiation. All participants are reasonable and respectful and willing to compromise… right up until the money becomes real… until the bankers get involves and money starts moving. Then everything changes and the parties get stingy, callous and even hateful.

There is a saying that “Money changes people.” Some of my friends and I have been around extremely wealthy people and we think it is more like money enables people to be who they really were all along (once you’ve got enough money, you truly don’t care what others think), but however you want to think about it, money has an influence far beyond the money itself.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:7-15 ~ NO CHARGE ~ 7Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?
8I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you;
9and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.

10As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.

11Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.
13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

Paul lived among the Corinthians for a year and a half, preaching the Gospel to them and establishing their Christian community by INTRODUCING them to Jesus.

While there, he refused to take any financial support from them, even though they were very wealthy, relative to others.

Over that 18 months, Paul had been 1somewhat poor at times, he had 2worked for a while, he had 3taken wages from other churches and when his 4associates arrived from Macedonia they supported him. Paul was 5funded by Christians who were, in comparison to the Corinthians, impoverished.

Several issues are related to these facts and so, for a variety of reasons, many of the Corinthians did not need to be pushed very hard to get real irritated at Paul and his behavior in the area of finances.

As Americans, we usually get irritated when a minister asks for money… for them it was the opposite.

SLIDE: BABY ~ REALLY DUDE? ~
First, it just made no sense to them – Paul was taking money from other Christians who were poor in order to preach to the Corinthians who were both rich and willing to pay

It didn’t fit – it was off – it was like going to the courthouse to get a new Passport and walking out 5 minutes later with the thing in hand! Like going to the “Blue Building,” which is brown now and walking out two minutes later with new license plates – it just wasn’t natural.

SLIDE: HOMELESS ~ WHAT DO YOU SEE? ~
Second, as wealthy, cosmopolitan, socialites, they were embarrassed to have their “Apostle” be a poorer, working-class dude with dirt under his fingernails.

Wealthy churches may put up with a ragamuffin preacher for a while. Primarily, for its novelty, but they won’t put up with it for very long.

It becomes a three-fold indictment against them…

1) It is a condemnation against them that their pastor is working-class, they are not properly supporting him.

A bivocational pastor, by definition, is not adequately supported by his church. Either the church can’t or won’t.

2) It condemns them by making them feel uncomfortable with their wealth. What does it say when your spiritual leader is poor for Christ and you aren’t?

Rich people get uncomfortable hanging out around poor people.

3) It also condemns them among their peers as an indictment against their judgment in staying with such an obviously UNSUCCESSFUL pastor as their spiritual leader and mentor.

SLIDE: GOD’S GRACE ½ OFF SALE ~
Third, we tend to value things based upon their cost. Often I look at a type of merchandize that I don’t know much about and I assume the more expensive model is better.

I look at earrings for my wife and I assume the cheapest set is junk and the most expensive is the best.

My dad was an instructor pilot and an evaluator in the military and at the airline. After he retired he became one of only two FAA flight examiners in NW Montana.

While the other guy charged a hefty fee for his services, my dad would give a guy a checkride and waive his payment. Anyone with even half a brain should have known that he was the very best qualified guy they were going to get around here and that he had magnanimously given them a great and valuable gift.

In reality though, few of them even thanked him. Since it didn’t cost anything, it must not be a big deal. It was free – that must be what it was worth.

Cost and value don’t always correlate even in our economy, but they do not correlate at all in God’s economy when it comes to salvation.

Salvation is completely free and yet it cost more than the value of the entire universe and all that it contains. It cost Jesus.

It is not free because it has no value – it is the most valuable thing by far! It is free because no one can pay the price.

It has to be free or no one would ever be saved – no one has the resources to buy it… Bill Gates with a net worth of 82 billion dollars cannot buy salvation. The righteous deeds of Carl Lutz saving 62,000 Jews from the Nazis in WW II doesn’t come close to being good enough.

You can’t have a ½ off sale for God’s grace – it is still too much for anyone to buy… God could do a 99% discount and STILL no one could be saved!

It must be free of charge!

Paul always presented the free gift of salvation as it should be presented… completely free of charge.

Paul wanted people to fully understand that God’s grace cannot be purchased at any human price.

You can’t buy God and you can’t buy his true ministers. No true minister of Christ should ever charge anyone, no matter how wealthy they are, for the Gospel. I didn’t stutter, I’ll say it again to make sure we understand one another, No true minister of Christ should ever charge anyone, no matter how wealthy they are, for the Gospel.

We will come back to this point, but here I want to emphasize that the Corinthians had a problem with Paul’s practice because they erroneously assumed that a ministry that COST nothing, was WORTH nothing.

Friends… NOTHING… could be further from the Truth.

SLIDE: CONTROLLED BY MONEY… CHAINS ~
Forth, every person on planet earth desires to be IN CONTROL.

I’m talking about being in control of one’s circumstances and we use a wide variety of means to achieve control.

Some are overt, A-type, blowhards, some are passive-aggressive manipulators, some use money to buy control.

Wealthy people like the Corinthians frequently use the scheme of gaining control through the power of the purse.

Most of you know that I make it my business NOT to know what anyone gives to Alêtheia.

But do you know the reason?

It isn’t about the taint of money getting on the holy pastor-dude, it isn’t about keeping someone from being embarrassed that I know how little they give.

The reason I don’t know what anyone gives is because…

I don’t even want a hint of being controlled in any way, shape or form, by someone’s financial gift to the church.

I will tell you in case you do not know, that I am one of the most unusual pastors you’re likely to ever meet.

I have had money, I have rubbed shoulders with many extremely wealthy people.

I gave up literally millions of dollars in wages and benefits to start this church.

I have personally given up more financially for this ministry to go forward than the sum total of what everyone has ever given to Alêtheia to date.

I promise you, no one’s gift to this ministry will impress me, or get me to change who I am in Christ, or who I am as a minister. If money motivated me, there wouldn’t be an Alêtheia.

I don’t say any of that to diminish your generous giving or to elevate myself, I say it as proof that money does not impress me.

When I started this church, 11 years ago next month, I did everything wrong that a person could do wrong… ask anyone who knows about church planting.

This church should have never gotten off the ground, yet it flourished. That was God.

Conversely, in my own arrogant and naïve mind, I thought it would be much more successful – grow much faster than it did. That was God.

What I know for certain is that this church is NOT my church – it is God’s church. It will stand or fall because of His desire, NOT because of me or anyone else for that matter. That’s why money means nothing to me… it isn’t mine. Giving generously is your offering to God for His purposes and that is where your reward rests – not in impressing or in controlling a peon like me.

Over the years, I have had only a few instances where someone made me aware of what they gave.

In every case, it was a wealthy person who obviously wanted me to be impressed with their benevolence.

It is a form of control and it will not work on me and each of those wealthy people left our church – perhaps because their money didn’t buy them here what they wanted. Our Apostle Paul would have none of it either and that angered the wealthy Corinthians.

If Paul wouldn’t take their money, then he wasn’t beholding to them in any way… He could say and do whatever he wanted because he had no fear that they wouldn’t pay him.

You can't control what you don't own.

SLIDE: REJECTED $$$, IS unrequited love ~
Fifth, they were insulted.

Have you ever tried to give someone something nice – something you thought that they would really appreciate; a generous gift, a nice compliment, an offer of friendship or a sum of money… and they outright refused?

They said “No thanks.” Your kind offer was rejected! How did that make you feel?

Pretty easy to stir up some animosity in reminding the Corinthians how rude and insulting Paul had been in rejecting their money.

Pretty easy to get such people to abandon Paul in favor of ministers who politely, gladly and thankfully accepted the offer along with the strings attached.

SLIDE: NEED DIRECTIONS? –GOD. AH, NO ~
Paul’s practice of not taking money from those to whom he was introducing the Gospel vividly portrayed one of the greatest hindrances to true Christianity.

To this very day, many who profess to be Christian… and all who don’t… despise the notion that they cannot earn even the tiniest bit of God’s favor.

The Gospel was free because no one could pay even a micro-fraction of the cost as we saw. That irks people.

We humans are far too proud to accept charity without finding some way to feel entitled to said charity.

The entitlement mentality of welfare recipients is a perfect example. Those folks are being generously, magnanimously helped, without any contribution on their part, out of the benevolence of the taxpayer.

Instead of being grateful, they rationalize that they are owed it, and really, truth be told, they deserve a whole lot more than they are getting!

People don’t like charity because they don’t want to be helpless recipients of someone else’s kind compassion… They don’t want to rely on other’s generosity and they don’t want to admit they have done nothing to deserve the help.

So we all say, I don’t need or want any help – I can do it for myself! That is our American, independent, “I am strong,” mantra… even though it is never actually true.

The primary reason humans turn to legalism is to feel as though they deserve God’s love, at least to some small degree.

Extreme Arminianism (the idea that if you are not careful you will lose your salvation) is wrong for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that it makes ME responsible for MAINTAINING my own salvation and IF I am ultimately saved, I deserved to be saved, because I persevered.

It makes Christianity about me and it therefore diminishes Christ’s completed work on the Cross.

It is a blasphemy.

Offering the Gospel free of charge illustrates the reality that it can only be had as a gift of extreme charity from God… that takes a humble spirit.

SLIDE: DUDE COMMITTED TO THE PATH ~
Those are some of the reasons it was so easy for the false Apostles to turn many of the Corinthian Christians against Paul in the area of money.

Paul said in verse 10, “As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.” Paul is saying as an oath, “As God is my witness, so help me,” Paul is saying, “I will not change the way I do things.”

Why? Because it was the right way for Paul to minister as an Apostle and there were many reasons for that including the two he mentioned here, 1loving the Corinthians and 2creating a difference between himself and the false apostles.

First, he loved them enough to let them squirm and come to grips with the things we’ve just talked about – their human objections.

Their pride and their inability to see the difference between God’s economy and their social, cultural and economic baggage.

Second, he differentiated himself from the false apostles basically daring them to take no money either. He knew they wouldn’t take him up on it because they were only in it for the money.

Paul was in it because Jesus had called him.

In many places Paul confirms that ministers should be paid and in other places it seems as if he doesn’t.

These verses help us understand. Paul preached the Gospel to the Corinthians without charge because other churches paid his wages.

Paul never took money to offer the Gospel, but once people were Christians, he allowed them to partner with him and Jesus Christ in ministering to others.

Never think that your offering here at Alêtheia is an offering to me… or a payment for me presenting the Gospel to you.

Your offering is presented to God and as such is you partnering with Alêtheia to spread the Gospel free of charge to any who need that free Gospel.

People who enter these doors for a service or who contact me for counseling or who encounter me in a variety of ways, like all those Tres Dias weekends, receive from Alêtheia – from you and me - the free Gospel.

Alêtheia has never charged anyone outside of our church for any bit of the Gospel and we never will… It is a free Gospel.

We Christian family members here, through our offering, make that possible. In a very real sense you all are like the Macedonians supporting Paul to preach the Gospel to the Corinthians.

At the same time, Paul never stopped ministering to the Macedonians – he continued to teach, protect and encourage them as well. He could do that because as maturing Christians they understood what they were “Paying for.”

You can’t buy God and you can’t buy his true ministers.

SLIDE: JOSEPH SMITH WITH THE TWO ~
Paul calls them like he sees them. Those guys who have stirred up resentment against Paul to build support for themselves seem like good guys, but they are master manipulators.

He said, “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Satan is the source behind every attack on the Gospel of Christ.

For those who don’t know, this is a painting of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and his encounter with God, on the right, and Jesus at God’s right hand.

Notice the family resemblance?

Whatever the earthly means of altering the true Gospel message, the ultimate power behind it, is Satan the father of lies who masquerades as an angel of light in order to deceive… that, in order, “To steal and kill and destroy.” But, Jesus came to bring “Life” (John 10:10).

SLIDE: GOATS AND SHEEP ~
The finishing touch is that everyone will receive their reward one day – we can let go of our pettiness and be forgiving, gentle and loving to others – even our enemies because it truly will all work out in the end. Everyone is either a sheep or a goat.

What do we take away from these verses?

There is a spiritual war being waged all around us and if NOT for the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit we would all be destroyed.

Our job is to recognize the true Gospel and guard it in our heart and in our family and in the church so that we can present it to the world.

How?

Do Not put your trust in money or the things it can secure. Lose your worldly view of money.

Do NOT allow social, political, cultural, economic or any secular societal constructs overrule God’s Truth. Lose your worldly view of truth.

Do NOT become wise in your own estimation, but in all things trust the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-7 et al.). Lose your worldly view of wisdom.

What do I mean? There is a danger in dismissing or ignoring Satan, but there is also a danger in seeing Satan behind every bush.

Seek God and His salvation – realize that it is in the extremes where human folly takes over and harmony in the Body of Christ is destroyed.

Overthinking is as dangerous as not thinking at all. We can delve down deep into the minutia of ideas and doctrines, but we must always come back to the simple faith.

We can dissect verses, phrases and individual words of Scripture, but we must expand back out to the flow of the whole context!

Do you see what I am saying? The more you move from the generalities of the fundamental elements of Salvation and the foundational Truth of God the more you rely upon your own intelligence and the more you isolate yourself from others.

SLIDE: Spaghetti ROADWAY ~
Such a road is narrow and so it seems right, but the broad way to destruction is actually billions of narrow roads all leading to the same destination.

The true narrow road leading to life is Jesus Himself – stay on that path. Press in to Him.

120714 - Pure - II Corinthians 11a
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December 23, 2014 09:40 AM PST
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II Corinthians 11:1-6, Pastor Scott Keller

Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 11a ~ 120714

SLIDE: II Corinthians 10 ~ ATHEISM IS TEMP ~

Paul started a new section of his letter in chapter 10, by defending himself. We saw that it wasn’t himself and his own interests, Paul was actually defending, but his authority granted by Jesus for teaching the one true Gospel.

It wasn’t Paul’s ego at stake – it was the purity of Christianity at stake!

People today make a big deal out of the idea that we all have our own path to our creator, higher power, or whatever divine, supernatural happiness awaits.

IF Jesus, His Apostles, or any of the early church fathers… IF any of them thought that there were multiple paths leading to a good life after death they would not have been so adamant about the purity of the Gospel and the narrowness of Christianity.

SLIDE: WAY ><> TRUTH <>< LIFE ~ JOHN 14:6 ~

A person can say that they think that there are many ways to God, but according to the Bible – according to Jesus Himself – they are simply wrong. It is mere human opinion… Jesus emphatically said, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” “I AM,” Ἐγώ εἰμι – I AM that which I AM – I ETERNALLY EXIST as ἡ ὁδὸς – the Way, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια – and the Truth, καὶ ἡ ζωή – and the Life… οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα – no one approaches toward the Father, εἰ μὴ διʼ ἐμοῦ – IF NOT through the active agency of Me (John 14:6).

SLIDE: PLAIN CROSS OF LIGHT ~

As the Apostle Peter said of Jesus…
“There is salvation in no one else;
for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men
by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

So Paul will continue his defense, using the word fool or foolish 8 times over the next chapter and a half in what is called, “The fool’s discourse.” Please remember, he is actually defending God and His True Gospel Message in Christ Jesus, rather than himself and his own interests and agenda.

SLIDE: 2 Corinthians 11:1&2 ~ BEAR WITH ME ~ 1I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. 2For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

Paul’s jealousy for the Corinthians was the same type of jealousy God has for His children and a father has for his daughter – it is a jealousy born of true love that desires the very best for them.

In his earlier letter to them he said in, 1 Corinthians 4:14&15, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”

SLIDE: THE GREEN EYE OF ENVY ~

It was jealousy – ζηλόω (dzā-lŏ-ō) the verb to be zealous. To have great zeal and in this case rightly translated as Jealousy because it is zeal for another.

Human jealousy is a selfish love. It is love for one’s self, because it is a fear that another will steal your love interest away from you… YOU will lose their love…

Godly jealousy is a selfless love. It is love for the one you love, because it is a fear that your loved one will be stolen away to destruction… THEY will lose youR LOVE.

In this case, Paul’s loved one, was his daughter-in-Christ, the whole Corinthian congregation. His fear was they would lose him and in so doing lose their Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

SLIDE: BRIDE & HER FATHER ~

Paul’s analogy is of the Jewish marriage where a daughter was betrothed to her fiancé by her father. The father was certifying that his daughter not only was a pure virgin, but that he would keep her as such for the year-long engagement.

It was the father’s responsibility to ensure that on the actual wedding day his daughter was pure. She would have no other suitors for her attention.

If the new husband declared her impure and the father could prove otherwise the husband had to pay the father a huge fine and could never divorce the daughter.

If the daughter was not pure she was executed and the father was publically shamed… Aren’t you thrilled you weren’t a girl back then?

Paul preached to the Corinthians and they accepted the 1true Jesus and were filled with the 2Holy Spirit through the 3true Gospel. They were reborn, fresh, pure, and virginal. Paul had become their spiritual father and betrothed them to the Lord.

It was therefore Paul’s duty – his jealous desire for his daughter’s benefit, to ensure she stayed pure and reserved only for the groom until the actual wedding day. The day when Jesus returned for His whole bride to include the Corinthian Christians.

Paul desperately wanted to present his daughter pure and unadulterated to the Lord on that final day… Because he loved her and was jealous for her best interest.

SLIDE: II CORINTHIANS 11:3&4 ~ DECEIVED ~ 3But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.

Here’s the fear – the worry Paul had as a father… His precious daughter was being led astray.

Paul equates the Corinthian’s situation with that of Eve in the Garden of Eden.

I’ll remind you of the story from the NET Bible. The NASB is a little weak in the Old Testament translation, Genesis 3:1-7: The serpent said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’ ”

The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it.

Satan led her to rebel against God by disparaging His honesty (“Surely you will not die) and His loving concern for her best interests (God knows that when you eat).

Satan essentially appealed to what she most desired in her heart. Evidently, she wanted to be more than she was, more knowledgeable and so more powerful – more INDEPENDENT and she wanted that now.

I’m sure Satan convinced her that God would be fine with it because that’s what she wanted to believe.

Her sin was of course disobedience. But it was because of a fundamental lack of trust in the goodness of God. She didn’t want to wait for God to give her special knowledge at His discretion. She wanted to receive at her discretion.

Eve was betrothed – engaged – set aside and married to Adam and together they were betrothed to God. She was created for Adam and for God, but she chose another.

Eve entertained evil instead of staying faithful to God and her husband. Her children have done that ever since. We were all created for God and yet we all choose our heart’s desire His.

SLIDE: SINGLE MINDED DEVOTION ~

Paul is worried that the Corinthians would be led astray from the SIMPLICITY & PURITY of their original devotion to Christ in the same way Eve was led astray.

Simplicity & Purity is NOT a hendiadys so it is two separated words that are, however, very closely related… in fact the meaning of the two words overlap. They could each be translated, “sincerity.”

That’s the real intent – “Simplicity” does NOT mean simplistic as in easy or basic, but simple as in unencumbered with anything that distracts. It is single-minded, undivided and focused.

That combined with a sincere purity of heart renders the devotion of the newly saved.

I have seen many adults saved and at that moment they are devoted to Jesus Christ without any concern for anything else – they are riveted by His presence and overjoyed by His grace.

5 minutes later the distractions of the world begin to creep in…

Newly saved people kneeling at the altar praising the Lord with their whole being – people who would walk through fire to reach Jesus begin thinking, “Man my knees are starting to hurt.”

The distractions of this life exert their influence and our devotion to Christ wanes.

Paul wanted every Christian to rekindle that devotion throughout their life and while reality must be dealt with and the euphoric emotion cannot be sustained nothing should ever supplant our complete devotion to our Lord.

We are taught to guard our hearts and we see not only the connection with our attitude, but the actual process of staying true to Christ in…

SLIDE: LITTLE GIRL PRAYING WITH TRUST ~
Philippians 4:6&7 ~
“Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
7And the peace of God,
which surpasses all comprehension,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

No matter what life throws at you my dear friends… no matter what it is… DO NOT BE ANXIOUS, do not be worried, concerned or troubled by anything. That’s what “Be anxious for nothing” means!

You can fret and fuss if you want to, but the Bible warns you not to…

In every situation regardless of what it is – in everything bring it to the Lord. Bring your issue, your problem, your confusion, your pain, your frustration, your EVERYTHING to the ONLY one who can actually help.

With thanksgiving in your heart bring it to the very throne-room of Almighty God in the power of the Holy Spirit through the gateway which is Jesus Himself… Pray! Pray! Pray! “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17&18). With child-like faith in Him and His goodness TRUST…

When you refuse to freak out about the things of this life and instead with a grateful attitude present it all to God then…

He gives you what you ask for? He fixes everything for you. He makes it all turn out the way you want it?

No, none of that… His peace, “The peace of ALMIGHTY God, which surpasses all HUMAN comprehension OR UNDERSTANDING…

Will what?

“Will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The key to remaining in the “Simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”, is to bring everything to the Lord in prayer BEFORE it distracts you… BEFORE you try to FIX it yourself.

IF Eve would have brought her concerns about her role and her lack of special knowledge to the Lord He might not have given her what she wanted, but she would have had her heart guarded against evil.

The Serpent only tells us what we want our human heart wants to hear… Bring everything to the Lord, no matter how insignificant it might seem, so that His peace, will change and guard your heart.

That’s why bad doctrine, wrong theology, and a different Gospel takes root – it only does so in the fertile heart of human desire.

Truly seek God and His Truth… Jesus said, “KEEP AskING, and it will be given to you; KEEP seekING, and you will find; KEEP knockING, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

SLIDE: MEGACHURCH JOEL OSTEEN ~

The deceivers in Corinth used the same tactics as their father, that Serpent of old. They led the Corinthians to rebel against the Lord by disparaging Paul’s honesty and his loving concern for their best interests.

Satan was a master of disguise in the Garden – according to Ezekiel, he was the symbol of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless in beauty (Ezekiel 28:12).

“Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Masquerading as a friend he enticed Eve to sin… “It will be okay, just a little further, don’t be afraid, God loves you, He won’t mind…” “Surely, you will not die”.

In verse four Paul just lays it down… You Corinthians are willing to exchange devotion to Christ for devotion to something similar, IF it is wrapped in seemingly better paper.

The implication matches the facts… the Corinthians desired something that Paul and his Gospel didn’t give them… they wanted more and they didn’t want to wait to get it.

Their attitude showed a lack of trust for Paul and ultimately for the Christianity they first accepted from him.

Corinth, if you remember, was one of the most vibrant wealthy cosmopolitan cities in the world at that time. The citizens were sophisticated and affluent.

While they had gladly accepted Paul and through him the Gospel of Christ, they were quickly taken in by the NEXT NEW THING – other ministers who had more pizazz and flair.

Ministers who seemed more successful, who were better speakers, who were able to play the game and make everyone feel special.

Ministers who were movers and shakers, celebrities who got everyone excited and attracted large crowds.

Ministers who FIT their social and cultural expectations especially when it came to money.

It didn’t matter if their teaching was just a LITTLE off. It was entertaining and made the listeners feel special and, as we’ll see next week, it made the Corinthians feel empowered.

So what IF there were a few deviations here and there as long as was innovative, fresh, hip and cool… as long as the ministers created a fun atmosphere and told the people what tickled their ears.

What Paul is trying to explain is a little deviation from the Truth is always a lie.

SLIDE: II CORINTHIANS 11:5&6 ~ UNSKILLED??? ~ 5For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. 6But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.

Another exegetical issue here… I tell you this stuff because I respect you, your intelligence and your right to know.

Almost all Pastors would pass over such information. My position is I will let you determine if you want to understand the information by giving it to you, rather than determining that for you by withholding it.

The Apostles that Paul talks about in verse five are either the actual Apostles of Jesus like, John, Peter, Matthew, etc. or the false apostles in Corinth.

There are good arguments for both, but I’m inclined to go with the first, i.e. the actual Apostles. I think it is confirmed in the next chapter and makes the most sense.

The opposing view flows better with the grammar.

It doesn’t much matter, because the gist is essentially the same… Paul is saying that his commission as an Apostle was received personally from Jesus as so he cannot possibly be inferior to anyone with the same claim – no matter who it is.

Another implied charge against Paul was that he was not a polished and professional rhetorician.

Paul was a skilled speaker, he understood rhetoric and logic and he was an expert in Jewish Law as well as the best theologian perhaps ever…

But Paul was not a professional orator like Julius Caesar or Cicero who had been extensively trained in all the subtle nuance of the high class public speaking of elite politicians and lawyers.

Paul had no problem whatsoever conceding that point because it was a stupid point…

Once again, it was a point of style over substance, who cares how well a message is delivered IF it is a LIE!?!?

Conversely, who cares how UN-polished the speaker is IF his words are the very words of God?

Paul admits that there are better speakers, but he insists that his “UNSKILLED SPEECH” clearly relates the knowledge from heaven.

The content is what is vital and through the content of Paul’s speech the Corinthians were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Proof beyond question that his knowledge is everything it should be and more.

Do not be led astray by the devil appealing to your heart’s desire.

Bring everything to the Lord in thankful prayer trusting in Him and His grace to you.

Every fear, every doubt, every perplexing thought and confusing situation… every mistake, every selfish manipulation, every prideful word and self-protecting action…

Bring it to the Lord and let His peace protect you from straying…

Keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. Press in to the embrace of Jesus and desire His Truth spoken by His ministers, rather than what seems better on the surface.

113014 - Comparisons - II Corinthians 10b
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December 21, 2014 07:10 AM PST
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II Corinthians 10:7-18, Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 10b ~ 113014

SLIDE: II Corinthians 10:1-6 ~ LION & CUB ~

Paul started this final section of II Corinthians by emphatically and personally begging them to come alongside him in one accord.

He said the basis for his plea was the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

It is πραΰτητος καὶ ἐπιεικείας, a hendiadys (two words, functioning as one) to intensify and amplify the tender, patient, indulgence of Jesus.

Last week I used the analogy, that combined, the words are like a grand old lion INDULGENTLY allowing the lion cubs to crawl all over him, tug at his mane and bite his tail.

It is in this “Meekness and gentleness of Christ,” that the apostle Paul wants to deal with the Corinthians. Yet, IF necessary, Paul would come boldly wielding the weapon of Almighty God… The “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

SLIDE: THE SHORT SWORD μάχαιρα

The μάχαιρα (mä-ĉī-ȑä). the sharp, double-edged, short sword specifically designed as a siege weapon “Divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”

When the Word of Truth lays siege to every Satan-inspired, man-made fortification raised to keep it out…

SLIDE: FIRST THREE RESULTS ~

1) It destroys fleshly speculations and…

2) It destroys every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, all the man-made ideas, imaginings and constructs, and…

3) It takes every human thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and… That’s the true meaning of this frequently quoted verse – the Word of God – the Truth with a capital “T” – takes every human thought as a prisoner of war and makes it bow down in submission to Jesus Christ.

SLIDE: ATHEISM IS A TEMPORARY CONDITION ~

Philippians 2:10&11, “At the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

You’re not sure if the Bible teaches that Jesus is God? Paul is actually quoting Isaiah 45:22&23, where YAHWEH, Almighty God, I AM, that which I AM, says, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the Word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.”

“Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” in Philippians is synonymous with (or the same as), “every tongue will swear allegiance (to God),” in Isaiah and they both mean, “Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” in II Corinthians.

According to Romans 14:11&12, where Paul quotes that same Old Testament passage again, it means, “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”

That’s you and me and every person who has ever lived… we will all bow down and be judged as to whether our thoughts were captive to obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ in this present life or if they were captive to obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ… TOO LATE.

Everyone will bow and confess, which means everyone will have their thoughts “Taken captive to the obedience of Christ.” Whether it does you any good, or not, depends upon when you submit.

If you submit too late – it will be too late… that’s what too late means. There are no “Do overs” because there will already be ample evidence that you had no desire to submit to God. If, on-the-other-hand, you DO submit to the Lordship of Jesus in this life then you will be judged by Christ as to the extent of that surrender.

SLIDE: HEBREWS + 4 & 5 = 100% ~

As I said last week, the Truth is so perfectly righteous it is actually a revealer of reality that extends to our hidden motives and desires… There doesn’t need to be any “Do overs” because the heart is plainly revealed to all by the Sword of Truth.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God (the TRUTH) is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Truth also then…

4) Punishes all disobedience and…

5) Completes or perfects ALL obedience.

But it is the “The meekness and gentleness of Christ” that gives us Truth in the first place.

It is “The meekness and gentleness of Christ,”
that makes Truth a two-edged sword… Allowing people to be who they choose to be and then acting as a perfect revealer of the reality. It penetrates to the core of your heart just as light penetrates into the dark and so EVERYONE is WITHOUT excuse.

Accept the Lordship of Jesus now while there is meekness and gentleness, before it is too late! You can do that right now… we don’t know what our physical future will be, but we know that we will face God sooner than we think… that I promise.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 10:7-11, VICIOUS DOG ~ 7You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame, 9for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” 11Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present.

I sincerely doubt anyone here has ever heard anyone preach on this section of Scripture… until today…

Ammianus Marcellinus was a pagan born about the time of the Nicene Council in 325 A.D. He was a Roman soldier and wrote a detailed history of the Empire.

He saw the wrangling of Christians over, what to him, were inconsequential details and so wrote in about 375 A.D., “No wild beasts are so cruel… as the Christians… in their dealings with each other.”

What Marcellinus didn’t understand was that true Christians were trying to save Christianity from the onslaught of false Christians.

Paul will now defend himself and it seems dumb, but at stake is Paul’s apostolic authority and therefore the purity of the Gospel he preached as the true Gospel from Jesus Christ… There is a huge difference between fighting for God’s interests and fighting for our own. The first is a duty that cannot be shirked and the second is a vile sin that denigrates the name of the Lord we bear.

First, we encounter an exegetical issue in the opening of verse 7.

SLIDE: THE VERSES, THREE WAYS TO SEE ~

The NASB, has it, 7a“You are looking at things as they are outwardly.” The NIV agrees, 7a“You are judging by appearances.” Both of those translations take the verb as indicative… a simple statement of fact.

The KJV takes the verb as a question, 7a“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” Every Greek scholar agrees that the KJV is wrong in this instance… It is definitely not posed as a question.

The ESV has, 7a“Look at what is before your eyes.” The NLT agrees with, 7a“Look at the obvious facts.” They both take the verb as imperative and so render the phrase as a command… “LOOK at what is staring you in the face!”

The first view, where Paul is telling them that they are looking at spiritual things with fleshly eyes… judging by external appearance, rather than by eternal substance, arose because of similar ideas in the Bible and even in this letter. It is a truism and was easy to automatically recognize.

After looking a bit more closely to the context and Greek construction the view favored by almost all scholars today is the command view.

Paul wasn’t saying, “You are looking at what is plain and obvious,” he was saying, “LOOK at what is plain and obvious!”

When we understand it that way we see that his overall argument here is very similar to what he’s been saying all along in this letter.

Essentially, “You Corinthians are Christians because I preached the Gospel to you… obviously, therefore, I AM a Christian!”

More than that, obviously, I AM a Christian ambassador sent by Christ to build His church. You are proof of that!

SLIDE: HANDS IN PRAYER MODE ~

In the middle of this section Paul steps back and says in verse 9, “I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters.”

He then restates the charge made against him that he first voiced in verse 1, that he is meek when present, but bold when far away.

His point is that he is not trying to be meek in one place and bold in another, but is always going to be what is required for the given situation. It just so happens that it has worked out that way so far…

His meekness and gentleness, or, his boldness and authority, are situational, NOT geographical, it is to do with necessity, NOT proximity.

At the same time, it was never Paul’s intention to unduly persuade people with flowery speech, flattery, eloquent argument, entertaining stories or threats that “Terrify.”

Paul wanted the Truth, to be the Truth, and for all people to accept it on that basis… accept it for themselves from their heart, NOT because they were coerced, cajoled or otherwise convinced to accept.

It isn’t to say that Paul wasn’t passionate, that he didn’t use great example, analogies, stories, and arguments and it wasn’t to say that Paul pulled punches in delivering the negative aspects of the Truth.

It’s just that Paul knew that true acceptance wasn’t based upon HUMAN methodologies… He knew that getting people to accept the Truth was NOT his job.

His job, my job and your job is to do our best to present the Truth in an appropriate fashion for our situation and audience and then TRUST God with the results.

In this instance Paul must defend his apostolic authority because the content of Christianity is at stake… not just for the Corinthians but for all Christians generation after generation down to this very day.

That’s the point of our Wednesday night group. We see how a tiny deviation then, results in an absolute chasm 2,000 years down the road.

Paul must ensure the Corinthians continue to hold onto the true Gospel of Christ he first delivered to them. They won’t IF they allow themselves to be bewitched by false Christians.

One of the first and most vital steps in manipulating someone is to wean them away from other relationships.

That’s what was happening in Corinth – the false Christians were using every tactic at their disposal to build distrust of Paul and his ministry.

It is the same today. Someone doesn’t want you attending a particular church and they begin planting seeds of doubt about the pastor and the people and the Bible they use, the manner of worship, the way they take the offering…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 10:12-18 ~ Boasting ~ 12For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 13But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 14For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; 15not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, 16so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. 17But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. 18For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.

This section is about a practice that was common at the time and, people being people, it is still common today… It is the phenomenon of distorted comparison.

One teacher, philosopher or, in this case, minister compares his most favorable attributes with another person’s least favorable attributes in order to get the people to reject the other and accept him.

It is a form of Gossip… at its core gossip is about comparing the negative aspects of others with ourselves. That’s why we do it all the time in our insatiable desire to elevate ourselves.

In addition to making myself comparatively better than the person I’m gossiping about… the Gossip itself is not about information, it is about power. As Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” IF I have juicy information you don’t know, I now have power to be acknowledged, listened to and even appreciated.

In both ways, I build myself up at someone else’s expense.

Unfortunately, it works, even though in reality it simply proved that you are so insecure you need to destroy others to feel okay with yourself.

Paul’s opponents were constantly comparing themselves with each other and with Paul in order to build themselves up.

As a form of gossip it works very effectively especially in Christian circles.

People begin to tear down a minister and IF the pastor fights back he proves his opponents point… IF the minister does nothing there is only one narrative out there and people tend to believe what’s accessible.

Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit found a way to defend himself and the True Gospel of Jesus Christ…

It was to defend God and His Message rather than himself and his interests.

He refused to lower himself to their level, but he also refused to remain silent and allow his opponents to destroy the church.

He boasted, not in himself and his attributes, but in the Lord Jesus Christ who ministered through him.

He begins with the reality that Jesus sent him to Corinth to found the Christian faith in that area… which they did together! Paul physically preached, God supernaturally touched.

The Corinthian Christians were living proof of what the Lord did through Paul.

Paul was very keen on fulfilling his commission from Jesus which was to establish Christianity where it did not yet exist.

He would work diligently at that and he would boast about God’s power through him in accomplishing that work.

SLIDE: MAP OF THE MED & PAUL’S INFLUENCE ~

Three months from the writing of this letter Paul visited Corinth again and spent the winter there.

At that time – a few months into their future – Paul wrote his letter to the Romans…

Romans 15:15-25 ~ 15I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—19by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum (former Yugoslavia), I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” 22This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. 23But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there.

Paul did go to Jerusalem in the spring of 58, once there he was arrested spending two years in custody in Caesarea and another two years of confinement in Rome.

That’s the end of our certain knowledge about Paul. What we can be fairly sure of from reliable ancient sources is that he was set free in the spring of 62 and not rearrested until 67. His second Roman imprisonment ended in his execution by beheading in the spring of 68.

That leaves five years for Paul to continue spreading the Gospel. There is good reason to believe that he went to Spain and it is actually possible that he made it as far as England.

The black circle is Paul’s certain sphere of influence and the red circles are possible.

SLIDE: PHARISEE ~

Paul’s opponents were primarily Jews and some Gentile converts with a strong connection to Judaism.

They were used to judging externals – Jesus railed against them for that and they hated Him, NOT because He was better than them, BUT because, to them, He was so much worse.

Jesus did not conform to their idea of Godliness… a Godliness based upon the outward appearance of things.

Paul blasts his opponents in Corinth for the same thing. They were judging what was external and fleshly…

They compared the things human beings readily see while neglecting to notice God’s role behind those things and the way God evaluates them.

That is true and that is why so many translations go with a statement of that fact, but Paul turns it and says… If you want to judge externals, THEN LOOK at the evidence!

SLIDE: SATAN LIES ~

Comparing yourself to others is a fool’s errand.

It is always a lie in one way or another – that shows the father is Satan and that is why Satan loves gossip and the whole comparing yourself with others business so much…

The Bible confirms this point and gives us advice in two tiny phrases in Proverbs 20:19, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

1) You will compare your every-day-ordinary to their highlight reel. Ultimately resulting in a bitterness towards God for your lack of blessing.

2) You will compare your deep seated insecurities to their projected persona. Leading you to assume everyone else has got it more “Together” than you.

3) Sometimes it will go the other way and you will compare your best attributes to someone else’s worst attributes – like we have here. Leading to pride and a critical, judgmental, condemning spirit.

If you must compare… Compare yourself to Christ and then THANKFULLY fall on his grace.

Compare yourself to the “yourself” of the past and if you have grown, thank God for his work in your life. If you have not, thank God He has given you a further opportunity – you still have another chance to grow.

Pray earnestly that you will see the world and people through the eyes of Christ… that you will see the positive work that God has wrought through a person, rather than the negative aspects of their own humanness.

No person is perfect, no minister without fault and no ministry 100% correct… It is that fact that directs our attention to Jesus rather than man and his institutions.

The goal is NOT to be perfect and it is NOT even to be better than others… the goal is to appropriate Jesus and actively surrender to Him in order to be exactly what He wants…

Worry about that… worry about praying fervently, doing your very best and then trusting God with all the rest.

112314 - It is a War Out There - II Corinthians 10a
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December 16, 2014 07:19 AM PST
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II Corinthians 10:1-6, Pastor Scott Keller

SLIDE: SPARE CHANGE FOR GOD ~

Last week we finished the two-chapter section on financial giving and even though we spent two Sundays on it, I still zipped through those verses faster than normal.

So, I want to hit a couple of key ideas in chapter nine before we move on…

II Corinthians 9:6&7 says, 6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The first thing is that the context of this “Sowing” and “Reaping” does not mean the more money you give, the more money you will get back.

What God is saying, is the more generously the Corinthians gave the bigger the blessing to others and the bigger the Glory to God and therefore, the more they themselves would be blessed since their desire SHOULD be tied to both of those things.

For us, the more generously we give financially here, the more resources this particular Gospel proclaiming enterprise (Alêtheia) has, and so the bigger the reach with said Gospel. That blesses others, brings glory to God and therefore, SHOULD, bless us.

It has an exponential effect as well. It is like our economy… every dollar you spend enriches someone else to spend that same dollar and on and on it goes making a much bigger total impact than one dollar.

Simplistically, at the point where that dollar is saved, it is taken out of the economy and the ripple effect stops.

The effect of Giving to God is multiplied because it entails more than the money… it entails acknowledging God and serving others… it entails being obedient and the joy that doing good brings… it entails eternal aspects for which no price could be calculated.
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The next point, is our mood is largely driven by our expectations… If I expect my team to easily win a game – I will be much happier if they do, than if they lose. If, on-the-other-hand, I expect them to lose and they do, I will not be nearly as grumpy.

Financial giving to the church is no different.

If you plan to give X amount and that’s what you actually give, you’re okay with it… you EXPECTED that…

If, for some reason, you give far more than you had originally planned, you may be grumpy about it. Especially if you feel coerced.

God is saying… plan out what you will give and make provision to do just that.

Don’t worry about what I want you to give or what the congregation expects or even needs and don’t even put much stock in what you think is right…

Wrestle with God and His Holy Word… Allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind in the area of giving and see what God wants you to give.

Get your mind wrapped around what you will give and then get it established in your heart.

Now, you will be able to give it, joyfully, happily and cheerfully. According to the Bible, God loves that!

Chapter 9, verses 8 through 15, are an elaboration on those two points…

Be intentional about seeking God and what He wants you to give… Actually, get that figured out and make provision for it. Then “Cheerfully” give whatever amount it is and don’t look back.

Trust that God will use it as you INTENDED it to be used even IF it doesn’t seem that way.

So many Christians are careful with their giving and that is good to a point… but once you give, let it go and know that God will judge your heart, not the result… results are His business.

When you give to this church realize that we will never agree 100% of the time on how best to use the offering. You need to trust God and trust the leaders He has put in place here. Trust God and your Elders.

Because if you cannot trust this church with your financial giving you certainly should not trust us with your spiritual edification.

SLIDE: THE MISUSE OF SCRIPTURE ~

Many of you have heard verses used as proof texts, individual proclamations or personal mantras…

In other words… verses used out-of-context and erroneously.

Since we’re talking about money, Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you.” Some use that verse to assuage their conscience concerning the poor and suffering around them.

In Matthew, Mark and John, Jesus says those words. Since even Jesus acknowledged that the poor are ubiquitous, we may as well get used to it.

In all three places, Jesus was essentially quoting Himself, as recorded in Deuteronomy 15:11, “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you (this is God speaking), therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’”

The entire point is that because the poor will always be with you… you need to ALWAYS make provision in your finances to help them! God is saying, when you make your budget, ALWAYS have a category for helping the poor.

Jesus used the verse because Mary had anointed Him with very expensive perfume and the disciples, especially Judas, were outraged at the waste, saying the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Jesus’ point was, YES, BUT, in this case, what Mary did was a beautiful thing, because she is anointing Me for my death. He was saying that in that special circumstance it was NOT a waste, BUT an appropriate use of the expensive perfume. (Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Matthew 26:9-11 Mark 14:4-9, John 12:4-8).

I could go on and on about all the misused verses scattered in the Bible, but we need go no further than our passage today.

How many have heard, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.”
~ Or ~
“Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Let’s find out if those quotes mean what you think they mean…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 10:1-6 MEEKNESS AND ~ Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

I don’t know how obvious it is, but Paul completely shifts gears here.

This letter can be broken down into three major parts and in chapter 10 verse 1, Paul abruptly starts the third and final section.

He emphatically states, “Now then, with all that we have discussed for 9 chapters, I, Paul, personally, myself, URGE you…”

Urge is our old friend, παρακαλέω (pä-ȑä-kä-lĕ-ō) meaning that Paul is calling them to come alongside of him. He is saying, “I beg you to get in step with me so we are in one accord.”

The basis for Paul’s beseeching them is the tender love of Jesus.

The meekness and gentleness of Christ is a hendiadys greatly amplifying the merciful, patient, forbearance of Jesus.

It is πραΰτητος καὶ ἐπιεικείας, first, πραΰτης (pȑä-ü-tās) is the Fruit of the Spirit element generally translated as Gentleness. It means composure, the quality of strength that accommodates another person’s weakness.

God has all the power, and yet He actually brings Himself down to our level to make Himself approachable. He makes us feel comfortable and safe in His presence even though He could destroy the universe and everything in it with a word.

That composure is combined with ἐπιείκεια (ĕpē-ā-kā-ä) meaning forbearance… a patient allowance accommodating someone you don’t have to accommodate. It is to be gracious.

You’re very busy doing something important, when a small child excitedly interrupts to tell you about their day. You stop what you’re doing, kneel down to their level and kindly, attentively, listen.

Combined, it is like a grand old lion, monarch of the pride, INDULGENTLY allowing the lion cubs to crawl all over him, tug at his mane and bite his tail.

It is in this “Meekness and gentleness of Christ,” that the apostle Paul wants to deal with the Corinthians. Everyone at Corinth should not only want Paul to act in that way, but as Christians they should all be acting in that way. Because it is not a weakness, but a strength from God. We should all act that way, if we are to be like Christ.

SLIDE: DON’T QUESTION MY AUTHORITY ~

The charge had been leveled against Paul that he was a wimpy weakling and not at all impressive in person, but when he was far away, he wrote letters as if he were a man of standing and power.

Paul is saying that he desperately wanted to be tender and loving, meek and mild, gentle and kind with them.

Because, Paul, like any good parent, wanted his kids to do what was right on their own, so he didn’t have to be bold toward them.

Yet, IF bold is what was required, Paul could be bolder than they could imagine.

But NOT in the way most people would assume.

SLIDE: COP AND HIS HUMAN ~

Power, in our understanding, has to do with one’s position, personality and or physical capability.

A cop has power because of his or her positional authority granted by society. They wear a BADGE.

Most cops have an aggressive, take-charge, domineering temperament and so there is also power in the force of their personality.

Many cops are physically robust… physically intimidating (or their dog is) and all cops are physically armed with an array of weapons… from tear gas and Tasers to batons and firearms. That’s physical power.

Whatever power Paul possessed as a man, positional authority as an Apostle sent by the church. Force of personality as a definite “A” type guy and or his physical presence as a fairly tough dude…

NONE of that mattered… none of that was what Paul was talking about as the power he could bring to bear IF necessary.

Paul dismissed any and all power he had as a man and relied completely on the power he had as a conduit for the power of Almighty God!

SLIDE: WRATH OF GOD

Paul wasn’t saying, if you want to take me on, I’ll take you on… Paul was saying if you want to take me on, you’re taking on God.

Just as we are all to allow the Holy Spirit to minister tender grace to other people THROUGH us… not us ministering, but us yielding, to the Holy Spirit as conduits of His divine ministry.

So also, it is never supposed to be our power and authority correcting, combating and even destroying opposition to God… it must be the Holy Spirit through us as conduits for His power and authority. The Muslim God is so weak he must rely on radical followers to violently institute his desire… Never in Christianity is it supposed to be that way. As Tertullian said 18 centuries ago, “Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading.” Because, “It is certainly no part of religion to compel religion.”

In power struggles it is always one faction against another and it boils down to who has more earthly power.

Whether we are talking about marital discord, church politics or the war against ISIS, it is about human worldly power.

One side contends against the other, warring, assessing and evaluating, based upon the physical evidence.

Paul is saying that it would be a mistake to oppose him based on the physical evidence.

There is something else going on that his opponents are missing… Almighty God… The Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit is taking a side, in the war and it is the side that Paul happens to represent!

Who in their right mind would want to fight against God? Unfortunately for us, there are a lot of people who are not in their right mind.

SLIDE: DIGGING DEEPER IN A SHALLOW…

Let’s read verses 2 through 6 again… 2I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Now, I hope you can see that those sound bite verses, those proof texts, those out-of-context Scriptures, are actually about the MINISTRY OF THE TRUTH, not our personal life.

Paul said that as a Minister of Christ’s Gospel he walked IN the flesh, but he did NOT walk ACCORDING to the flesh.

Paul wasn’t in this thing for some personal gain, selfish motivation, or a foolish power struggle… Paul was a man sure enough, but a man dedicated to God’s Will, not his own.

Paul was serving as a soldier in a lifetime war under the direction of Jesus.

His war was NOT physical and so neither were his weapons.

The weapons Paul employed were “Divinely powerful.” They were God’s weapons because it was God’s war.

What were these weapons of God’s that the Apostle Paul would employ against those Corinthians who opposed him???

To better understand the weapons one must first understand the enemy.

Those opposed to Paul in Corinth were people of all stations and stripes. There were the actual interlopers – missionaries calling themselves Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Teachers… who were disrupting the Corinthians through DIFFERENT doctrines and there were the Corinthians who supported and defended them.

There were also people who were living in unrepentant intentional sin and those who tolerated that…

What everyone in Corinth who opposed Paul had in common, was that to one degree or another, they all were embracing a LIE.

It was falsehood that was the enemy and who is the Father of Lies?

The enemy was, and is, all that opposes the TRUTH of the Lord Jesus Christ – The enemy is the spirit of Antichrist; the corruption of the Gospel.

SLIDE: DOUBLE-EDGED SHORT SWORD μάχαιρα

The weapon that defeats a lie is the Truth.

God’s weapon that Paul wields in this war is The Word of God, the Truth, the μάχαιρα (mä-ĉī-ȑä, giving us the word Machete). It was the Greek and Roman sharp, double-edged, short sword. In Ephesians 6:17, it is the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
In Revelation 1:16, it comes out of the mouth of Jesus… Nothing can stand against God’s Truth, even though it seems as if it does.

If you remember, Paul already said in, 2 Corinthians 2:15&16, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”

Truth is a weapon forged in the heart of Almighty God and it is Jesus personified, nothing stands against that. One either accepts, and is transformed, or one rejects, and stays on course with Satan to an eternity without God.

The God weapon of Truth is specifically designed as a siege weapon “Divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”

When man can cross seas and mountains as General George Patton said, “Fixed fortifications are a monument to man’s stupidity.” What Patton knew, Paul knew equally well even 2,000 years ago.

Fortresses are no match for a motivated siege force.
Much of the Third Mithridatic War between Mithridates the Sixth, King of Pontus and the Roman general Pompey, took place in and around Paul’s hometown of Tarsus in the province of Cilicia.

About 75 years before Paul was born, Pompey laid siege to over a hundred rock fortresses along the Cilician coast demolishing them all. Paul grew up with the evidence of failed fortifications all around him.

The enemy of God builds fortifications to defend itself against the Truth, but the Truth penetrates as any good siege does destroying the fortresses.

When the Word of Truth lays siege to every Satan-inspired, man-made fortification raised to keep it out…
It 1) destroys speculations and
2) every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and
3) it takes every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and
4) it punishes all disobedience and
5) it completes obedience.

It is “The meekness and gentleness of Christ” that gives us Truth in the first place.

God could leave us alone or never have created us at all – so Love offers Truth…

“The meekness and gentleness of Christ,”
also makes Truth a two-edged sword… Truth is simply Truth – it does not demand that one accepts it, but either way it penetrates into the defensive fortress just as light penetrates into the dark and so EVERYONE is WITHOUT excuse.

For us, realize that like Paul, we are ministers of God’s Truth. We must exist in the world, live in this life, walk in the flesh, BUT we must NOT exist according to the world, live according to this life or walk according to the flesh.

We must understand our war, our enemy and our weapon even when the enemy is us.

Allow the Truth to penetrate the fortress of your own defense mechanisms and grow in Christ.

So yes, we can apply these verses to ourselves… allowing the Word of God to tear down our defenses.

Allow the Gospel to destroy our human speculations that are contrary to the knowledge of God.

Allow the Truth to take every thought captive to obedience – because the Truth will punish every disobedience and enable every obedience.

We can do that when we understand that the passage is for us to go and speak the Truth to others in meek gentleness and when necessary speak the Truth bluntly and boldly.

That’s what Paul was saying… Please allow the Truth to correct your attitude and resulting behavior so I don’t have to come boldly.

111614 - Money Matters - II Corinthians 8&9
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December 15, 2014 03:13 PM PST
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II Corinthians 8:10 through 9:15, Pastor Scott Keller

Today is the second Sunday in a row that I get to talk to you about my least favorite topic in the Bible… As I said last week, no one could ever reasonably accuse me of orchestrating today’s subject matter.

While I don’t like the issue and it makes me feel uncomfortable, God evidently wants us to discuss it because He’s got two full chapters of it right here in in the middle of II Corinthians.

To recap last week, we found that the basis for giving is the recognition that Almighty God has unilaterally, selflessly and magnanimously ALREADY given everything He could possible give to you.

There is no greater sacrifice God could have possibly made to save you from an eternity WITHOUT Him.

There is a saying, generally misused by the “Prosperity Gospel” types, “You can’t outgive God.” Well that’s true, because God has ALREADY given you eternal life with Him through Jesus. How are you going to match that?

If we really get that, as the Macedonians did, then we will, like them, also be Cheerfully generous givers.

The Macedonians saw God in their very difficult circumstances and they trusted Him with their future and so they insisted on giving and they gave until it actually hurt. They gave, “Beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.” They begged Paul, “With much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.”

NOT because they were trying to earn God’s favor, BUT because they HAD God’s favor!

Cheerfully generous Christians get it.

They had “Abounded” in receiving generosity in the form of Spiritual Truth and now it was time that they “Abounded” in giving generously in the form of monetary support.

That was Paul’s message to the Corinthians and we know they did step up to the plate because a few months later Paul wrote from Corinth his letter to the Romans. Romans 15:26&27, “For Macedonia and Achaia (that’s the Province of Corinth) have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.”

The Corinthians had received eternal life because someone shared the Gospel with them… that someone would have never existed if not for the faithfulness of the Jerusalem church.

The Christians in Jerusalem were impoverished physically, but they had the wealth of the Gospel which they freely shared with the Gentiles though men like Paul.

The Christians in Corinth were made SPIRITUALLY rich by that generosity and it was only appropriate that they would generously share their material wealth.

I said last week that this church we call Alêtheia Christian Fellowship, is a Gospel proclaiming enterprise from top to bottom, from first to last.

What this church does not have is any money… nor any way to make money. It is technically IMPOVERISHED because it is a TRUTH preaching operation, as I say, a Gospel proclaiming enterprise, not a money making enterprise. It is NOT designed to MAKE money.

That’s what the offering is all about… all of us giving in a cheerfully generous way in order for this Gospel proclaiming enterprise to continue doing just that.

Some churches are not adequately supported and so they change into a money making enterprise in order to survive.

We will never do that here… we will either make it on what we cheerfully generously give or we will close down the ministry and Alêtheia Christian Fellowship will cease to exist.

If this particular church gives generously in spiritual wealth it is appropriate for you to give generously in material wealth.

I have now had a few people say that they did not realize that we receive no outside money. There is no other source, no grant, no benefactor, no denominational support… We are on our own friends… Everything we have and everything we do is paid for by all of us together, by what we place in the offering plate each Sunday.

So again, as I said last week, this really is your church and I really am your pastor and you really do make all of that happen through your cheerfully generous GIVING.

What is it worth to you?
IF you are stingy in giving or if you give generously, but begrudgingly, I will tell you right now… you don’t get what the Macedonians got and what the Corinthians would soon understand.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 8:10-15, HAND W/ CENTS ~ 10I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

God is a big fan of making actions match up with intentions.

We intend to do a lot of great things… maybe I intend to read my Bible more… well, that is a long way from actually, reading my Bible more.

The Corinthians intended to give and even began to make strides in that direction…

According to God, that was nice, but what MATTERED was completing the intention in reality.

The next point, was that even though the Macedonians had given beyond their ability and Jesus had given everything, it was not incumbent on the Corinthians to match that.

It didn’t matter what others had done, it didn’t matter what Paul wanted or what the Jerusalem Christians needed, or really even what the Corinthians thought appropriate…

It was all about what God desired… then as now, it only matters what God thinks cheerfully generous giving looks like for you… right now.

What it must never be is something coerced, especially when it is beyond your ability, and it must never be to ease someone else’s poverty, at the expense of your poverty.

There is a sense of voluntary giving to lift others while they are afflicted and the implication that it may very well be reciprocated one day.

More than that though there was a sense of simultaneous reciprocity. One may have no money or means of making money, but one can contribute SOMETHING to the common good.

SLIDE: DUDE IN THE CHAIR ~

We learn elsewhere that people who are able to work but refuse to work are not to be helped.

In this sense, everyone is able to work in some way.

Even the person laid up, bedridden, can pray… and if not that, they can at least become a rallying point for faith in others.

Everyone can contribute to others and everyone should do so out of love for God and love for one another.

Work to benefit others.
Tertullian said more than 18 centuries ago, “He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies.”

What this was not was welfare as we know it today. This was, in this case, FINANCIAL help for those who were truly needy in FINANCIAL matters to enable them to CONTINUE to be givers – giving in a different form – giving the Gospel of Christ.

Some give the Gospel, some give hospitality and some give hope… there are many ways a person can give generously… But someone who refuses to give what they can, are ONLY in need, because they are selfish.

Some people might say that our government does well when it gives to the poor and disadvantaged.

That issue can be debated around your dinner table, but I will point out one glaring difference.

SLIDE: ROBIN HOOD STEALING FROM THE RICH ~

Paul was not taking money from the Corinthians to give to the Jerusalem Christians by force. He didn’t have a gun, he wasn’t mugging them… he wasn’t an early Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Paul wouldn’t even command them… He simply encouraged them to help as God gave them the grace to help realizing that they had been the recipients of the greatest gift of all.

It’s like the analogy of the two hamburgers. Sam has two burgers and sue has none. There is a huge difference between Sam taking compassion on Sue and giving her one of his hamburgers voluntarily and me stepping in, taking one of Sam’s hamburgers away from him by force, and giving it to Sue.

In the first Sam has demonstrated care, concern and generosity… Sue is grateful to Sam and their relationship is enhanced. In the second, Sam is grumpy and Sue is entitled and the both resent me.

If they are children, and I’m their parent, and I’m the one providing the hamburgers in the first place, then I step in and force Sam to give Sue a hamburger.

But why? It is to teach them to share with each other voluntarily.

Are you a child? Is the government or the church your parent? Did the government or the church create your wealth in the first place?

What does God say? Paul talks about an equality and supports the idea by citing Exodus 16, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

SLIDE: MANNA FROM HEAVEN ~

The Jews had been delivered from Egyptian captivity and crossed through the Red Sea and were now wandering the desert.

They would continue to camp out for the next 40 years due to their lack of trust in God. There’s not a lot of food in the desert, so God miraculously fed the people with Manna from Heaven.

Each morning the people would go gather the Manna getting a double-portion on Friday so they had Saturday off to watch college football.

No matter how hard anyone worked, when the Manna was measured it supernaturally amounted to two quarts per, person per day.

Some Jews were enterprising and tried to save a portion to create a stockpile, but by the next day whatever was not used was ruined.

This is an example of the government (in this case God as president or parent) ensuring complete equality among the people. A mandated redistribution of FOOD.

If all we had was the Old Testament, I would be inclined to agree with our government redistributing wealth. Although, unlike God, they don’t actually create it…

Anyhow we don’t only have the Old Testament, we have the New Testament.
The New Covenant is NOT about the Law and dictated activity by those in authority… the New Covenant is about the heart and one’s own conscience dictating activity.

In a very real sense, God is now saying I will treat you like adults… Where God once said, “THOU SHALT, PERIOD!” He now says, “Let your conscience be your guide.” I will judge your heart.

SLIDE: GOD PROVIDES ~

The encouragement is that you have received everything from the Lord… Your very existence and your future destination are solely because of His generosity directed specifically at you.

Unlike the government, God did create your wealth. He gave you everything you have from the opportunity, to the strength, to make money.

It isn’t about how much of your money you will give God. It is about, how much of God’s money will you keep for yourself!

In addition, you and I will give an accounting to the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema Judgment as to what we did with the TREASURE He entrusted to us during our earthly life.

What did you do with the Gospel? What did you do with your life? What did you do with your resources, material and FINANCIAL?

If we are completely honest there is a thread of communism here…

SLIDE: FAMILY SHARING CHRISTMAS ~

But the communism of Christianity is not a Socialism forced by government, it is a completely voluntary, cooperative sharing, based on love.

Conservative Americans rail against the ideas of Communism and Socialism, yet we have a brand of it in our homes.

I don’t know about you, but in our home we practice a form of Communism. My wife and I along with our children have all played roles in our family over the last couple of decades, but regardless of ability, we share so that no one goes without.

Our kids made very little money when they were still wearing diapers, but we fed them anyway.

It is a Communism of community based upon mutual love and respect, but also based upon duty and propriety.

We all gave what we could to the cooperative and we all shared in the collective resources.

The reason Communism on a scale larger than an individual family doesn’t work (and it really doesn’t work even in families very well) is because we are fallen and depraved… we are selfish.

Some are selfish in wanting more than their equal share.

Others are selfish in wanting their share, but not doing their part to contribute.

People are NOT noble enough for Communism to work effectively and that is why governments step in and force the issue.

God is no longer forcing the issue with His children. God is simply saying, “Look at my example.” “You are my offspring… my children… my family… this is how we do things in our family.”

“We selflessly serve others and do not worry about fairness, because in the grand scheme of things you are so far ahead… no matter how much you give you’ll never be on the short end of the stick.”

You have been generously given eternal life with Almighty God as your friend… what could you possibly give to put a dent in that?

God has now given us Jesus and He has given us the Holy Spirit and He is saying. “I will judge your HEART.”

SLIDE: TEN SILVER DOLLARS ~

I hear so much in Christian circles about Tithing.

The Tithe was mandated by God in the Old Testament and was a compulsory giving of one’s first 10% of gross income.

Many Christians say we are to Tithe today… IF you pay attention, you have never heard me say, “It is time for the Tithe.”

Tithing has no more to do with Christianity than worshipping on the Sabbath, not eating pork and wearing tassels does.

The Old Covenant was legalism… Laws, rules, regulations, black & white, do & don’t. Just like with the Manna, God ENFORCED the rules.

The New Covenant is about relationship…

Principles for living. We know Who God is through the Old Testament and through the life of Jesus and His teaching in the New Testament.

We are, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed to Jesus, which is to say, conformed to God.

God is selflessly generous and we are to be the same.

IF anyone thinks the tithe is binding on Christians you better get circumcised and meticulously obey the other 613 Old Testament Laws as well.

Our standard as Christians is to selflessly LOVE and we do that by selflessly giving GENEROUSLY in everything. That includes our personal finances.

Here’s a question to ponder… Is New Testament generosity, less than the Old Testament 10% of your income… or more?

When Mariah and I were first married and first getting on board with life as Christians we began regularly attending church.

I figured it was sort of like going out to a movie and so I would generously throw a $20 in the plate when it went by me.

God started dealing with me on the issue of supporting my church and the ministry to me and the ministry to others that it provided. Others, who did not, or could not, give financially.

In those days, I had some of my best God conversations in the sauna at the Bigfork Athletic Club.

I was almost always alone in there so I would talk to God out loud – only later realizing people could hear me in the locker room.

Anyway, God helped me see that IF the Old Testament mandate was 10% and the New Testament asked me to be generous… I couldn’t really give less than that. So, I agreed to 10% plus a little extra here and there, to start.

I’m just telling you my personal story… this is how it went for me… Well, I wasn’t real happy about that realization, so I remember saying to God, “Okay Lord, 10% plus, but is that net or gross income?”

God thunderously yells at me on occasion, more often that I’d like to admit… He said, “Stop quibbling, be generous!”

Okay, okay, I’ll immediately start giving my church 10% plus of my gross income.

Well, we hadn’t budgeted for that, so in short order we are in financial distress…

I remember getting really grumpy at God. “Look God, I’m being this super-Christian, giving (what I thought at the time was) generously in the extreme, and I’m in financial ruin!”

I couldn’t believe that I was being so faithful and God was being so faithless…

I was back in the sauna complaining to God. I told Him I could no longer give. I had responsibilities – I had to take care of my family and pay my bills. I was at the end of my financial rope… “I didn’t get any help from You Lord, so I will discontinue giving next Sunday.”

Then all of a sudden it struck me. It is called God conviction…

I was financially strapped because I had selfishly used my income for my pleasure… Big televisions, new cars, a nice boat, top quality Gore-Tex hunting gear etc. without any real provision for God’s interests.

I was in financial distress because I mismanaged by money in the first place.

I repented for that and for blaming God for my money woes… I committed to Him that I would sell what was necessary in order to continue giving generously to Him first and then enjoy whatever was left over.

I went to work that afternoon… at the time I was a Corporate Pilot… and when my boss showed up he offhandedly said, “Oh incidentally, I got this $2,000 bonus check for you and I have raised your pay $500 per month.”

I am in no way saying that IF you give financially, God will increase your income… The “Prosperity Gospel” is a distortion of Scripture and therefore, is a lie from Satan.

What I will tell you, is that IF you give generously with all you possess, including your finances, God will return your faithfulness with His.

One way or another, whether seen in this life or not, you really cannot outgive God.

It is about giving what God wants you to give because you love Him and you trust Him and because of Him, you truly care about others.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 8:16-24, COUNTING $$$ ~ 16But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. 17For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord. 18We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; 19and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, 20taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. 23As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 24Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.

Paul was very concerned about propriety and not giving even the appearance of evil.

Paul, like me, wanted to stay as far away from the money as possible.

It is very important for you to know that I do not collect the offering, I do not count it or handle it in any way… that is what your Deacons and Jeri Miller do.

With rare exceptions I have no idea what you give individually and that is completely intentional.

At one point I was the biggest giver by far in a small church. I was hospitalized and the pastor visited me. I could not shake the feeling that he was there more because of my money than my life.

IF anyone ever feels like I treat you in a certain way because of what you give or don’t give, you are completely mistaken – trust me.

I don’t know and I don’t want to know and on those rare occasions when someone slips and I find out I promise you it never effects my attitude or behavior towards anyone.

That’s why Paul put others in charge of the money and why I follow his example.

With all of that said, chapter 9, is self-explanatory…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 9:1-5, UNPREPARED ~ 1For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to speak of you—will be put to shame by this confidence. 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.

Saying that it is superfluous and then covering the issue anyway is a rhetorical device to make a point without seeming harsh.

Paul wants everything done when he arrives, so that he doesn’t have to deal with money matters… So he can direct all his attention to ministry and fellowship.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 9:6-15, Thanks be to ~
6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” 10Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 14while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Give… that’s the bottom line. Give generously and you will be rewarded and God will be glorified.

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