Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 14 June 2022:
Deuteronomy 10:12, 13 – “What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
Love and daily obedience go together.
Deuteronomy 10:15, 16 – “Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”
The meritless love God has shown you should compel you to love and obedience. Surrender to God’s love. Stop being stubborn. This requires a change of heart.
Deuteronomy 10:19 – “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
With a grateful heart, love others the way God has loved you.
Deuteronomy 10:21 – “He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.”
Is the reality of God in your life so great that He is your praise? Is Jesus what you are excited about and talking about most?
2 Corinthians 13:1 — “This is the third time I am coming to you.”
Information is not transformation. People don’t just need to hear the truth, they must be coached into truth — this is discipleship. A leader must be willing to work with people over time, not just throwing truths at them without follow-up. You must be willing to invest in genuine relationships with others, which will reorient your entire life.
2 Corinthians 13:2 — “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
Don’t believe hearsay or emotional narratives about situations. Too often accusations are accepted as truth and good people are divided over issues because they are operating on opposing ‘facts’ as if they have the real story or a superior understanding. God calls us to a much higher standard.
2 Corinthians 13:4 — “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.”
Don’t confuse humility and sacrifice with weakness. The power of God flows through the humble. The most powerful person in any room is the true servant of Jesus.
2 Corinthians 13:5 — “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
The Bible calls you to be self-aware, always comparing yourself to the standard of Jesus. Faith is revealed in obedience to Jesus. If you are disobedient to Jesus, be honest about it. Where you are not living in selflessness, where you are not taking up your cross in relationships, where you are not truly following the example of Jesus, repent. Your test is certainly not what others around you are doing. Your test is the example Jesus gave you through His life. If your excuse for disobedience is, “Well, I am not Jesus, and I live by grace,” you are really missing the point.
Are you still doing things you wouldn’t do if Jesus were in the room next to you, oblivious to the fact that, if you are truly a Christian, He is within you? Are you thinking things as if Jesus doesn’t know your thoughts?
2 Corinthians 13:7 — “But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.”
Note that Paul’s prayer is that those around him would not do wrong. Also, note that Paul’s motive in rebuking others is not to condemn them but rather to draw them closer to Jesus through obedience. His goal is reconciliation. That should be your motive and goal.
2 Corinthians 13:9 — “Your restoration is what we pray for.”
Examine your heart: If you are pointing out the sins of others without an earnest desire and intent to reconcile them or restore them in Christ, your heart is wrong and your best move is to keep quiet. If you are going to criticize someone, be willing to invest in them and coach them through the problem or issue.
2 Corinthians 13:9, 10 — “Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”
Every word that comes out of your mouth, whether positive or negative, will either build people up or tear them down. Sometimes a situation requires an encouraging word, and sometimes a situation requires a rebuke. You must have the wisdom and willingness to provide both as required, but even rebukes must be offered in a constructive way which seeks to ‘remodel’ a poor design. If you are going to deconstruct someone with your rebuke because you feel you have the blueprint, then you must be ready to do the hard work of reconstruction. Simply put, you have the responsibility of leaving people and circumstances in a better condition than when you interjected yourself. You have been given by God the responsibility, power, and authority to be a reconciler as Christ’s ambassador in a divided world full of disgruntled people. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) To be a true reconciler, you must speak the word of God, and you must speak from the right heart. If your heart is not truly focused on reconciliation out of a genuine love for offensive people, you will misspeak and will be an ineffective ambassador for Christ. True love speaks the truth in love.
2 Corinthians 13:9-11 – “Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Again, as Christians, we are called to hold each other accountable, but accountability must be done for the right reasons, at the right time, in the right way, and with the right heart. Remember, as Christ’s ambassador, you no longer have the right our authority to represent your own point of view or position. The message to the one being rebuked must be God’s message, not yours.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Today, Paul says that we should first “examine” ourselves and our integrity in Christ before we step out as His messenger of reconciliation with a rebuke. (2 Corinthians 13:5, 6) Next, Paul points out that rebukes are preceded by genuine prayer for the other person, truly desiring their faithfulness and unity in Christ. (2 Corinthians 13:7)
“…not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.” (2 Corinthians 13:7) Then, Paul points out that rebukes shouldn’t be delivered in a proud, self-righteous or boastful way, nor should the one receiving the rebuke assume the messenger is being self-righteous or hypocritical. Rather, the rebuke should be given and received constructively with a spirit of trust and mutual support.
When being rebuked by a fellow Christian, receive the rebuke openly, and “test the spirits.” (1 John 4:1) Don’t go on the defensive and start pointing out the other person’s flaws – “we may have seemed to have failed.” (2 Corinthians 13:7) Assume their goal is to help you grow in Christ, and if the shoe fits…. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but God calls us to challenge one another, from our imperfect positions, and improve one another as iron sharpens iron. We should rejoice, not resent, when another Christian has gained enough strength to challenge our weakness – “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong.” (2 Corinthians 13:9) Hopefully, when they are weak, you will have the strength to encourage them in Christ. Speak the truth in love, and have a correctable, teachable spirit — “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
“…I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” (2 Corinthians 13:10) Again, as ambassadors for Christ, we have been given the authority to rebuke, but for the sake of reconciliation (2 Corinthian 5:18-20), for building up, not tearing down. Before you offer “constructive” criticism, examine yourself, and check your true motives and intent. Make sure you are truly serving as Christ’s ambassador and not representing your own interests or opinions. And consider the impact of your words – will they be constructive or destructive? Don’t use the Bible to beat others down. The right words delivered at the wrong time or in the wrong way can be hurtful – “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (Proverbs 26:9)
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Corinthians 13:11 — “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
In his rebuke, Paul called people to rejoice through discipline and to always seek peace. Peace is agreement, friendship, unity, and love with God – of one mind with Him. There can be no peace where there is disobedience to Jesus. Those who are of one mind with Jesus will naturally have peace with one another. If you want to promote peace, you must bring people into obedience to Jesus. You cannot just accept sin.
2 Corinthians 13:11 — “Aim for restoration.”
Your goal in all relationships or encounters, particularly the challenging ones, should be to lead people closer to Jesus and peace. When you disagree with another person over an issue, don’t let the issue become a distraction from your mission; don’t lose sight of the goal, which is not winning but rather reconciling. Remember, an ambassador cannot represent themselves. If you lose the disagreement, what have you lost that God can’t restore instantly? Have an eternal perspective.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 June 22: Listen, listen, listen, and show true love by speaking the truth in love. TLS – Teach, Learn, Smile. “Your restoration is what we pray for.” Your mission on earth is to promote reconciliation — bringing everyone around you closer to Jesus. Your specific assignment given to you by God is the people God has placed in your life. Perhaps, the one that needs your influence the most is the one who is the hardest to be around due to their behavior resulting from their distance from Jesus. Be ready to suffer their offenses and to live in grace that they might surrender to the grace of Jesus. Deny yourself, take up your cross in relationships, and follow the lead of Jesus to impact those around you. Be faithful today to your calling and mission of reconciliation. Today will only come once in your lifetime.