Clues in the Treasure Hunt
Scripture Reading: 2 Cor. 4:1-18
by Robert J. Young
Reading: 2 Cor. 4:1-18
Have you noticed the interconnectedness of life? Some days it seems everything we do either is affected or affects everything else. In study of chapter 2, we noticed the connection between identity and choices. In today's text, Paul continues to focus on his identity, perhaps as a response to those questioning the authenticity of his apostleship. He continues to describe his ministry with its varying shapes, choices, decisions, and changes.
This ministry he introduced in chapter 3--a ministry of the new covenant, a ministry of life, newness, challenge, refreshment. He will continue that description in chapter 5 as he describes the ministry of reconciliation.
Paul describes here the character and work of a true minister of Christ. By extension this is a description of true Christian, of true church of Christ, of members of the body, of those who share in Christ, who participate in Christ.
How aware are we that what we have is from God? That our work is from God? That God is the one designing our place in this world. How often are we tempted to run ahead of God? Do we attempt to define our role by human wisdom and human power? If so, this text is for us. The origin of our life in Christ is from God. God reaches into every aspect of our life. Consciousness of him must permeate our lives--at every level at all times.
And what is the nature of this work, our ministry, our service, our activity? Is it not the transformation of lives? God is desiring that his human creation become like him. We must not settle for less. Transforming lives is done by God's power on God's timetable. Our transformation so gloriously described in 3:18 comes from the Lord. We seek not mere justification or righteousness, but sanctification, holiness.
We will never be certain of the success of our lives until we know the source of our lives. Our courage comes from Christ-consciousness. We must not miss that all this is from God, this is the reason we do not become discouraged. He is our confidence, our competence, our courage.
I. BIBLE STUDY
A. The Identity of Christians
Look around you. Look at us. Look at the church, here, in other places. Who are we?
Christians are positive in their methods, motives, message, and manner of life. Notice Paul's detail as these ideas are interwoven.
Summary: The message of the crucified yet living Messiah is communicated best through a crucified yet living messenger. Gal. 2:20. Our great need is not to gain nor to share more information, nor to speak more loudly or with more authority. Our great need is to enhance our service by increasing our service. Mt. 20:28. Often churches and Christians become ineffective because they grow out of the felt need to serve others. Arguments about preferences or greatness or self-centered analyses of what will best serve us are inconsistent with the servant identity Paul
describes. Such is an ongoing challenge. Mt. 20:28; Lk. 22:24-27; 22:28ff.
The result of the message applied in our own lives is service. The heart of the message is Jesus Christ. 4:5-6. Accepting Christ as savior will bring justification, accepting him as Lord will bring sanctification and changed lives.
Do we know who we are? Do we know our identity?
B. The Identity of those without Christ
Look at the world. Look at your neighbors, friends, coworkers. Look at the busy masses. Who are they?
C. The identity of Christ
Look at the Christ. Look closely. Look beyond the traditions, beyond Christmas and Easter. Look personally, see clearly.
Here are three essentials, from which grows Paul's major point in this text.
D. From these truths: consider the gospel of Christ
II. APPLICATION TIME
Because this is true, our actions/works are controlled by our identity
Contrast of our world--affliction vs. comfort--is continued in the contrast of the Christian dichotomy, tension between two poles.
When we come face to face with Christ, when we believe, when we see the treasure for what it is, and the plan God intends for that treasure to be a blessing to our world, we will speak, we will not lose heart.
This matter of looking at things unseen is the Hebrew writer's definition of faith. The unseen is the eternally real, the source of stability. Affliction is momentary. Overwhelming futility may overpower us if we look only on the outward, if we trust only physical, visible things. As the outer person is lost, so is heart. Paul learned a valuable lesson, reflected in Phil. 4:11-13.
I genuinely hope that lesson is yours. That you know who you are, in contrast to those everywhere about us, that you know who Christ is, that you see the gospel for the treasure it is, and that as a result your identity and your actions match. Logic-living, code-conduct, preaching-practice, belief-behavior. What we see is not what we get--if we are God's. We can see what others cannot see. We can anticipate, hope. We can see the glory that outweighs all else.
Our focus is on another world, and another place. Because: 4:7.
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