Sunday, January 8, 2017, 2:27 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 4 (NASB).
We Have This Ministry (vv. 1-6)
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
The ministry we all have, as followers of Christ, is to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, to be witnesses for Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation, and to make disciples of Christ of people of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded us.
We, as believers in Jesus Christ, were all given salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life with God, not so we could keep it to ourselves, but so we could share the hope we have been given with others who need it. Yet, so many Christians think this is not their responsibility or their gift and so they don’t share Christ and his gospel with those who are unsaved or with those who claim to be saved but who are not. Yet, they seem to have no trouble telling people when their favorite sports team wins a game, or when they get a new car, boat, house, TV, video game and the like. Why is it we can share the things of this life with no trouble, and with great enthusiasm, and yet shy away from telling people about Jesus, who is their only hope?
Still, there are those who will go part way in sharing the gospel, but will hold back critical elements of the gospel message so as not to offend people. Yet, it isn’t because they care about those people, for if they did, they would tell them the truth. People don’t share Christ with others, or only tell part of the story, when given the opportunity, usually for selfish purposes, i.e. they want people to like them and not reject them. I get that. Our human response is to want to be liked and to not be beat up on. So, it takes courage to overcome our flesh and to follow the Spirit in obedience, and out of love for others, to share with them what we know will most likely get us hated and rejected, and possibly falsely accused and persecuted, too.
Yet, by our lifestyles and by our words we should be proclaiming Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation on a daily basis, and we should not be turning to adulterating the word of God in order to be liked by other humans. We should never compromise the Word of Truth, either, in order to make it more acceptable to human flesh, for if we do this, we are lying to people, and we are giving them a false hope. Their blood, thus, will be on our hands, because we chose to spare ourselves for this life rather than spare their lives for eternity. That is a sober thought, and yet so convicting and true.
The gospel should not be hidden from the people who in our lives, because of us, and due to our unwillingness to tell them the truth, but only because Satan has blinded their eyes to the truth, and they chose to believe the lie. And, yet, we should pray that their eyes would be open to the truth, and that they would be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they can receive forgiveness of sins and be counted among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18).
Delivered to Death (vv. 7-15)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
Amen! Although we have life in the Spirit because of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins and in being resurrected back to life, we still live in flesh bodies, i.e. we are clay (earthen) vessels. This means that we still have a propensity to respond to our circumstances with our flesh rather than in the Spirit. That is why we are given the spiritual armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us. And, that is one of the reasons we are given the Spirit of God to live within us, that he might strengthen and empower us to walk in the Spirit and no longer yield to the flesh. And, that is why Jesus and Paul both said that we must die daily to sin and self, by the Spirit, and daily take up our cross and follow Jesus in obedience.
Yet, there is a reason God chose humans to be his servants and ministers, and that is so the spiritual power given us for ministry will be shown to be of God and not of ourselves. And, I can attest to that! I can’t tell you how many times I sit down to write and have no idea even where to begin. So, I ask the Spirit of God to give me the words to say, and then they come. There are so many times, too, when what the Spirit gives me to say are not pleasing words to the flesh, but are words which will possibly get me even more rejected, and so I must rest in the strength of the Lord to speak, believing he will give me the courage to say what he has given me to say, knowing full well that the words may not be well received by many. Yet, I was not put here on this earth to draw people to myself or to have people like me, but it was to lead people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Don’t Lose Heart (vv. 16-18)
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
There are times, I admit, when I begin to lose heart. It is never easy, but sometimes it gets really hard. I feel sad, and in these times the joy of the Lord begins to leak out of me because I get focused on what is seen rather than on what is eternal. And, then God puts things back into perspective for me, and he once again fills me with his power, his strength, his courage and his joy so that I can keep going despite all opposition against me.
I am reminded here that following Jesus Christ with my life means dying to self, and being willing to accept whatever God has for me in this life, in order that I might continue sharing with others the truth of his Word, and of his gospel of salvation, so that they may be saved from their sins and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. And, that may mean being despised, forsaken, betrayed, falsely accused, and lied to. Yet, all of this is to drive me to my Lord’s breast, that I might find my joy and peace in him alone, and that he may impassion me even more so in being his servant and witness.
Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
Henry F. Lyte / Mozart/ Arr. Hubert P. Main
Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought, and hoped, and known;
Yet how rich is my condition, God and Christ are still my own!
Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue;
And, while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate, and friends disown me; show Thy face, and all is bright.
Man may trouble and distress me – ‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me, while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.
Go then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service pain is pleasure; with Thy favor loss is gain.
I have called Thee, Abba, Father, I have stayed my heart on Thee;
Storms may howl and clouds may gather; all must work for good to me.
Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith and winged by prayer;
God’s eternal days before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.