Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Second Corinthians


2 Corinthians 4

Loyalty is a word that seems little used today. The cynic is ever with us, and loyalty seems an easy target. The Christian is commanded to be loyal to the person named Jesus, the Christ.


For most of us, loyalty to a cause is much easier than loyalty to a person. We are loyal in varying degrees - we are fans of a sports team, to being fanatics (the root word is the same) for a cause such as communism, socialism or spelling reform. Why do we have such loyalty to a cause, and renounce loyalty to a person (such as our wives?) I submit these reasons:


~ A cause, being abstract, never has human failings. Therefore, it never disappoints us. A cause is never shamed by its betrayers; a man is reflected by them.


~ A cause often satisfies the deep longing of man to "solve the problem." For the same reason we like detective stories, we look for the neat and plausible answer. Neat, plausible, and wrong. When true communism comes, we will all eat strawberries and cream.


~ Being part of a cause gives a sense of approval. We are the enlightened, crusading against the evil ones. One of my coworkers has posters of noted ecologists on her cubicle, titled "Saviors of the Planet." We have both the congeniality of the group and the pride of being righteous.


Loyalty to a cause is an adult phenomenon. Have you ever seen a child loyal to a cause? They don't know how; they only know loyalty to a person. They don't know the answers; they know the Answerer. Oswald Chambers put it this way:


"Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain of our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy."


Paul begins our passage this morning on this note.


{4:1} Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. {2} Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. {3} And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. {4} The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. {5} For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. {6} For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)




Loyalty to the person - Jesus Christ


Paul, in this passage, gives us the secret of loyalty to Jesus Christ. He does not preach himself, but preaches Jesus. Notice how he maintains that loyalty:


Renouncing secret sin. C.S. Lewis, in his classic Screwtape Letters, describes one particularly common form of secret sin. He describes, from the demon's point of view, a man living a dual life:


"... He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening; and contrariwise, to enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a "deeper", "spiritual" world within him which they cannot understand. You see the idea - the worldly friends touch him on one side and the grocer on the other, and he is the complete, balanced, complex man who sees round them all. Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction."


The Saturday sinner/Sunday saint is ever with us.


We need not go that far. We can conduct secret sin just by being quiet. One of the class tells the horror story of the Sunday School teacher who called for prayer requests - and got "please pray for me and my wife - we're getting a divorce" from a supposedly solid couple. Is this loyalty to Christ?


Not using deception. One of the great temptations is to do a wrong thing for a righteous cause. One of my pet peeves is the "preacher's story" told in the first person. The number of preachers who have that brother-in-law who solved that problem with Joshua's long day is legendary......


Another form of this is the "pet Scripture." The worst sin, of course, is the one I am never tempted to commit - but always seem to recognize in others. This works best with a short verse taken out of context - or even simply misquoted - as blanket condemnation. Since such a verse won't stand up in public - we hide it in our hearts, and thus judge our brothers unseen.


Plain preaching. Some people don't like this. After all, I might offend someone ["I came not to bring peace but rather a sword."] But note that the appeal is not to the sensibility or to the affections but rather to the conscience.


There is an aspect of "money where the mouth is" to this. By plain preaching, I make it clear where I stand. In addition, by public preaching I invite public examination of my life. This, of course, will eventually fail - if I preach my own virtue. I invite comparison to whomever I preach. And I preach the man without compare.


One of those preacher stories: attributed to Billy Graham and D.L. Moody. The great evangelist meets a drunk - who promptly recognizes him and hails him as "the man who saved me." The preacher replies something like, "you look like someone I'd save - now let Jesus save you."


Servant of others. It's hard to argue with a man while he's doing you a favor. By being the servant of others, Paul sets up an example which points to his Lord. He begs you to ask the question, "why is this man doing this?" The answer is his loyalty to his Lord.



Combat Christianity


Such a life is not without its little problems, says Paul:


{7} But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this allsurpassing power is from God and not from us. {8} We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; {9} persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. {10} We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. {11} For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. {12} So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 4:712 (NIV)


We see at the beginning one of the great principles of God's strength - and one of the prime movers for loyalty. God's strength is shown in our weakness - his treasure in our jars of clay. By letting God's power flow through us, we show the world who our Lord truly is.


The trouble with that is that it hurts. When we are hard pressed, we don't enjoy it. But as Winston Churchill once said of 1940, "These are not dark days. They are stern days, but they are not dark days." He viewed the situation not as desperate, but one in which Great Britain "had the honor to be the champion in arms of freedom." Sometimes we can't tell a good day from a bad.


Look at Paul's comparisons:

We are pressed - from the outside

but not crushed - because the inside is full of the Spirit.


We are perplexed - the outside world won't tell us the future

but not in despair - still having holy hope on the inside


We are persecuted - by the outside world

but not abandoned - by God.


Paul puts the point even to using death as an example. See it as a sequence:

Christ died, that I might live

I am dying, that you might live

...and you?


We need to die to ourselves to pass the faith along. One of the consistent pictures of the Scripture is that something must die to be reborn in new life. We pass the faith along in times of trial much more easily than in times of ease - for it is much easier to see it then. We become the seeds of the next generation of faith - and the seeds must be planted ("die") to blossom in new life.


Faith cannot be held. It can flow through us, and be a clean running river of life, but when stopped up it becomes a stagnant pool. If we are not willing to be poured out as an offering before the Lord, we will turn sour in the bottle. "To live is Christ, and to die is gain."




Testimony - the outward loyalty


Paul now works out what has been worked in:


{13} It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, {14} because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. {15} All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. {16} Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. {17} For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. {18} So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ‑‑ 2 Corinthians 4:1318 (NIV)


Testimony is one of the things most of us avoid - especially in a public speaking environment. Where do we gather the courage to testify for God? Paul gives us a hint here by quoting the Old Testament. Here's the Psalm in full:


{116:1} I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. {2} Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. {3} The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. {4} Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, save me!" {5} The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. {6} The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. {7} Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. {8} For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, {9} that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living. {10} I believed; therefore I said, "I am greatly afflicted." {11} And in my dismay I said, "All men are liars." {12} How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? {13} I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. {14} I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. {15} Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. {16} O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant ; you have freed me from my chains. {17} I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. {18} I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, {19} in the courts of the house of the LORD‑‑ in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD. ‑‑ Psalms 116 (NIV)


The Psalmist gives us three methods of public testimony - the evidence of our loyalty to God. They are


~ speaking to others. Do we tell others of the goodness of God in our lives?


~ fulfilling our vows. Do you keep your word, even when it's costly? ("If a man's principles don't cost him anything, they aren't worth much.")


~ offerings of thanksgiving. Not saying "thank you" - but putting our money where our mouths are. If a man gives money to a cause, you conclude he really believes in it. How much more for Christ?


And what gave Paul the courage to do such things? By the power of God! Just how many resurrections do you need to discover who has the power over the grave? And what greater power is there? All our sciences have produced great power - but there is no cure for death. No cure - but one.


Therefore - Paul prepares us for the conclusion. We do not lose heart. Can we really say that? We can! I call it the "Indiana Jones" principle. If you had to live a life like that, you would be panic stricken all the time; it would be terrible just to watch it. Yet we pay to see it in the movies. Why the contrast? Because we know the hero wins in the last reel.


It's the same with us. We ride the roller coaster of the freeways of life - and panic. Then we go to the amusement park - and ride the roller coaster for fun. We know the answer; we know who wins.


That produces in us (or should) great inward strength. Strength, like its feminine equivalent beauty, comes from the inside. If we focus on the eternal, and pass through the temporal. we can be very strong in Christ.


It's called hope. C.S. Lewis expressed it this way: "Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."


There it is: the high, hard calling of God. Not to the drudgery of ordinary life, not to the greatest of causes, but to the highest itself: Jesus Christ, the name above all names.. Loyalty to Him is the road that leads to Heaven - whatever the bumps along the way.

Previous     Home     Next