Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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2 Corinthians 7-9

November 11th, 2012 by Vic

2 Corinthians 7-9

“Abounding grace and generosity”

November 11, 2012

 

The majority of the philanthropists in the world were generous people before they ever became wealthy (a few inherited their wealth).  Riches do not make you generous.  For the Christian, generosity is a natural response to the grace gift we have received.  We’ve had a heart transplant.  We act like our Father who so loved the world that He gave.

 

Let me remind you of the context of this letter.  The young Corinthian church was trying to grow, but had no instruction manual.  They were trying to Christianize their former pagan worship practices.  Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to show them a better way.  Paul came down of them pretty hard.  The letter was not well received.  Paul sent Timothy to smooth things out.

 

Now about a year later Paul is writing 2 Corinthians.  Paul had told them to set some money aside every week for the poor in Jerusalem.  He was planning to take an offering to Jerusalem from the mission churches.  Paul had sent Titus to remind them of the offering and also to confirm Paul’s love for them.  Paul had heard nothing from the Corinthians or Titus, so he started to write 2 Corinthians.  Then Titus returned.  7:13 assures us that Titus had brought a very positive report.

 

While Titus had been in Corinth, Paul had apparently been waiting and visiting the churches in Macedonia (Berea and Philippi).  When he heard the good report from Corinth, he immediately wanted to share the good news he learned from the Macedonian churches.  So chapter 8 begins with a report of the revival in Macedonia, these Christians were giving a fantastic offering for the Jerusalem church.  Chapter 9 ends with a super thanksgiving to God.

These 3 chapters reveal the heart of a mature Christian who is troubled and comforted.  He was troubled concerning the Corinthians but happy with the Macedonian churches.  When your heart is troubled and anxious do you want to have ‘hilarious’ joy?  Do you want to see how all the pieces of your life fit together?  Read through these chapters with me and pay attention to what causes what.  Notice what it tells you about God.  Notice how you find comfort.  Notice that sorrow can lead to blessing or death.

 

7:2-4  Who are the people you hold close to your heart?  Paul says, “I want to be one of your friends.”  You may have misunderstood my first letter.  Think about it.  I have not tried to hurt anyone.  I did not entice you to sin (like some of your so-called friends).  I have not defrauded or taken advantage of anyone (like the false teachers).  Can you find a place in your heart for me?

 

Paul assures them that they have a place in his heart.  He is proud of them.  He talks a lot about them.  He is encouraged when he remembers what God is doing in their lives.  So he can have a joyful heart in the midst of great stress and trouble.  His joy is super abundant because they are in his heart.  Does this sound like your relationship with your kids?  With all those people you hold in your heart you can rejoice when they rejoice and weep when they weep.

 

7:5-7  When you can’t sleep because you have been misunderstood, when you are being unfairly harassed, when you have been drawn into some stupid arguments, when you spend all night creating various scenarios in your mind, when you are depressed, what do you do?  You don’t feel like doing anything.  You don’t seem to have the strength to do anything “But God” who comforts the downcast comforted us.

 

How does God comfort us?  By sending a friend, not an authority or a professional, He just sends a friend.  Does the friend have a manual on positive thinking?  Or a 10-step plan?  He may not even realize how God is using him.  Titus just tells Paul what God has been doing in his life.  He tells Paul that the Corinthians had been a real encouragement to him.  They were really concerned about Paul too and they regretted that they had caused him sorrow.

 

God used Titus to comfort Paul and Paul testifies that his joy became greater than ever.  His joy was greater because of Titus and the Corinthians.  Joy has to do with relationships.  Joy to the world the Lord has come to have a relationship with man.

 

7:8-13  Paul reflects back on the sorrow he had and the sorrow the Corinthians had and concludes, “We are encouraged (13).”  We have been comforted.  There are 2 kinds of sorrow.  Godly sorrow leads to blessing and comfort.  Worldly sorrow leads only to regret and death.

 

A couple Bible stories remind us that crying, weeping, and regret do not indicate godly sorrow.  In 1 Samuel 24 we read about Saul.  He led his army out to kill David.  He went into a cave and took a nap.  David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.  After David shouted to him what had happened Saul wept loudly (16).  He confessed his sin (17).  He blessed David (19).  Why didn’t David believe him and return to Jerusalem with Saul?  1 Samuel 26 tells us that Saul took 3,000 men and was again trying to find and kill David.  This time while Saul was sleeping, David stole a jug of water and the spear that were near Saul’s head (12).  Again Saul confessed his sin (21), but it was not a godly sorrow that leads to salvation and reconciliation.

 

We can confess and weep and still not be repentant.  Godly sorrow produces a desire for reconciliation and restored relationships which lead to joy and abundant life.

 

Another story is in 2 Samuel 12.  The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin with Bathsheba.  Nathan told David the story of a rich man and a poor man.  The rich man had large herds and flocks.  The poor man had one little lamb that was a family pet (3).  When the rich man wanted to prepare a banquet for a friend, he took the poor man’s lamb to butcher for the meal.  When David heard the story he burned with anger (5).  Nathan said, “You are the man.”  It is sometimes easier for us to identify and confess someone else’s sin.  David could see the sin in the rich man, but thought he had gotten away with his own sin.  You confess the sliver in someone else’s eye and you have a plank in your own eye.

 

You come to church, sing praise, read your Bible and feel pretty good.  But has it changed you?  James says, “Faith without works is dead.”

 

When Judas realized he had sinned, he was “seized with remorse” and repented to himself (Matthew 27:3).  It was a worldly sorrow unto death.  He did not seek reconciliation.

 

Paul says it is godly sorrow that trumps regret and remorse and produced in the Corinthian church (11):  earnestness, a desire to be a good example, indignation, alarm, longing, concern, and fairness.  These attitudes come from godly sorrow.  The Corinthians have proved themselves to be innocent of wrong motives by demonstrating godly sorrow.

 

Paul says, “I did not write to you just for the benefit of the one person who was sinning openly, but for all of you to learn to examine yourselves and your motives (12).”  Paul was encouraged and comforted because his words had benefitted the church.

 

 

8:1  Titus has just returned and told Paul the good things that were happening in the Corinthian church.  Now Paul wants to share what is happening in some of the other churches.  With a thankful heart Paul shows us what giving beyond the tithes and offerings looks like.

 

Your giving could inspire someone else to be generous.  One courageous man inspires the courage of others.

 

8:2  Their situation was not conducive to being generous.  The circumstances were not conducive for the widow, who had little and gave all she had.  The Macedonian churches found an abundance of joy in extreme poverty!  Extreme joy in extreme poverty?

 

8:3  They gave enthusiastically.  It was their desire to give.  There was no coercion.  They had to beg Paul to let them give.

 

8:4-5  They gave of themselves.  The value of any gift depends on how much the giver gives of himself in the gift.  David said, “I will not give to God anything that costs me nothing.”

 

8:6-7  Put your money where your mouth is.  The Corinthians had good intentions and had started well.

 

8:8-9  Not only are the Macedonians a good example, but Jesus is our example.  Follow in His steps.  Considering the example of Jesus and the nature of our God, it is impossible for a Christian not to be a giving person.

 

8:10-14  Paul gives us some advice.  Last year they had made a promise to help the saints in Jerusalem.  He complements them because they were the first to be eagerly willing to give.  Now he advises them to do what the Lord had encouraged them to do.  If the Lord is talking to you today about some commitment you have made in the past, then do something about it.  Don’t be the same when you leave today as when you came.  Don’t listen to a lying spirit as Ahab did.  Don’t listen to positive thinkers as Ahab did (2 Chronicles 18).  Listen to God’s Word.

 

Give what you can today and God will talk to others about helping you tomorrow when you have a need (14).  God has a way of helping all his children so none has excess and none has need (Exodus 16:18).  When God sent the manna in the OT, the plan was that needs would be met.  Nobody got fat and nobody starved because “as it is written, He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack (15).”  God has a unique way of treating us all the same in different ways.

 

Our tithe is the Lord’s and we give it on the basis of obedience.  But our offerings are in addition to the tithe.  We give our offerings not on the basis of obedience, but on the basis of love and stewardship.  We give when we realize how much God gave.  We give when we realize our responsibility as stewards.  We do good as we have opportunity.

 

9:1-5  Paul is sending some respected Christians to meet with the Corinthians and get the offering ready.  He writes this so that the money issue can be taken care of before he arrives with other representatives from the Macedonian churches.  He did not want the offering to be the focus when he came to visit.  Giving is part of worship, but he did not want a big show or a big deal.

 

9:6-11 Nature teaches us that you reap in the measure that you sow (6).  Your attitude and relationship with God determines the value of your gift.  God loves the hilarious giver (7).  God does not need your money.  He just wants you to have a generous heart.  If you are not a Christian there is no eternal benefit for giving your money to a charity.  But if you are a Christian you will receive immediate benefits for being generous (8) and also eternal benefits.  There is no limit to the grace that God gives (9).  God knows how to increase your store of seed.  He gives you seed so you can produce the fruit of righteousness.  He makes you rich so you can be generous.  He did not make you rich to make your life easier.  You have been blessed so you can be a blessing.  As you sow righteousness with a generous heart many will be giving God thanks.  That’s the plan.

 

Remember Paul said in Romans 1:21, if we fail to give God thanks we begin a moral spiral down from foolishness to sin to perversion to depression and death.  It is extremely important to give thanksgiving to God.

 

This offering that is being received will not only supply the needs of the saints in Jerusalem but it will also precipitate an overflow in many expressions of thanksgiving to God (12).  Others will praise God for your obedience that is confirming your confession of the gospel of Christ.  They will praise God for your generosity in sharing with the needy (13).  Many will be praying for you and giving thanks for the grace God has given you.  You are being a grace dispenser and you will be in the hearts of many.  To give is not to lose, but to sow seeds.

 

Be faithful with what you have received.  James says (1:22), “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  We can deceive ourselves into thinking we have done something of value by just listening to a sermon, taking notes, or giving in the offering.  James illustrates his warning by writing if we just listen to God’s word and do not change we are like the man who looks in the mirror and sees he has a dirty face, but does nothing about it.

 

Sometimes we know we need to change, but the job is so overwhelming.  It is like cleaning a garage full of stuff.  We know we should clean it up, but where do we start?

 

The woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8 had a multitude of problems.  She started by touching the edge of Jesus’ garment.  She did what she could do.  There were no manuals for cleansing yourself so you can hold your children, or healing yourself so you could worship in the Temple.  There was no government assistance.   There were no women’s rights.  She did what she could.

 

God convicts us of our sin.  We say we’ll change.  Then we don’t.  Confess your sin and go to the garage.  What is the 1st thing we need to clean out?  Put feet to your doing.  Be a doer of the word.  There is a lot to do, so do something.

 

Paul concludes that all of us together can give thanksgiving from a generous heart to our Father in heaven.  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.  God has been super generous with us.  He is not threatening to take the gift back.  He is not requiring us to follow some complicated instruction manual.  He has even included the batteries with the gift.  We have received everything we need for abundant life and godliness.

 

God so love the world that He gave His Son.  God loves you.  What are you going to do about it this week?  What are you going to do about it today?  It is more blessed to be generous than to be stingy.

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