The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Worldly Wisdom vs. Godly Grace
2 Corinthians 1:12-14 (p. 803) September 25, 2016
[During the 1924 US Open Gold Championship at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, Bobby Jones was paired with Walter Hagen in the first round…on the 4th hole Jones drove his ball in the rough off the tee. As he addresses his ball to hit it, he quickly backed off…and turned to Hagin and said, “It moved…I’m going to access myself a one stroke penalty…Hagin begged him not to…officials came in and surveyed the crowd. No one had seen the ball move…so it came down to Bobby Jones’ assessment. He said, “I saw it move…and that’s enough.”
Jones fought back over the next 3 days and on the final hole he had a five foot putt to tie Willie Macfarland…Surprisingly he missed the putt and lost the open by one stroke.]
Bobby Jones won multiple majors…dozens of tournaments and important matches…but it was his integrity that propelled him to national prominence.
The word integrity has this meaning at it’s very core…you are honest no matter what.
No matter whose looking…no matter what the circumstances…Truth is more important than consequences.
General Michael Flynn said, “The truth never fears any questions.”
This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our text…This is what I’m proud of…and my conscience verifies it…We have lived with integrity in the world and in our relationships with people in the church. We haven’t been fake…we’ve been real…sincere.
This isn’t the easiest thing for any of us to do…but the Apostle Paul tells us how…He says we made this choice.
I. WE RELIED ON GOD’S GRACE NOT WORLDLY WISDOM
Worldly wisdom says, “No one else saw it move.” “No one else will know what you’re doing…after all everyone does it.”
Shut the door…cheat a little if you need to…Parse your words…Lie if you get in trouble…look out for yourself.
The world’s philosophy is “the ends justify the means…and it’s only wrong if you get caught.”
Satan the father of lies…speaks this way as his native language…Sin has consequences and he hides this truth…and he hides how hard it is to break away from it.
[While in Baton Rouge we were working at a couple named EJ and Samantha’s house…tearing out drywall, cabinets…sinks and plumbing and flooring…In one of the rooms we were trying to rip out a pergo wood floor that had been put down by gluing it with liquid nails to a concrete floor…for 4 1/2 hours we beat on that floor with sledge hammers and pry bars…removing small sections at a time…most of the time it would splinter and only a portion of the piece would come up…It was hot…humid and hard…EJ said “Man, I wish it was as easy to pry up as it was to put down.”]
Sin is like that…it’s easy to let into our lives…it’s easy, enjoyable to take that first hit, that first drink, to visit that first website..but once its set…once it begins to harden our hearts…ripping out that addiction is harder than that sweaty deconstruction in Louisiana.
James says this…“God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15)
Look at the progression…It’s enticing…just curious…interested…to being dragged to a place we don’t want to go…we thought the end would be awesome…but it’s a grave.
Sin destroys our integrity and our sincerity…we now live lie to lie and we try to pretend it’s not destroying us.
But there is hope…there is something that can rip the hold of sin from our lives…Do you know what it is?
Remember Saul before his conversion…Saul was a murderer…He was a violent man…He hated some people enough he persecuted them…He blasphemed the name of Jesus…His sin was liquid nailed to the concrete floor of his heart…He describes himself the way.
“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…when it comes to sinners…I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:13-15)
And then he met Jesus…a real encounter with the son of God. The Messiah…the Savior He met the crucified and risen Lord of all…and everything in his life changed…because of God’s grace…He says “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:14-16)
Please notice that God’s grace is enough to save anyone…even the worst…but if you really receive that grace it’s followed by a life of faith and a life of love. God’s grace isn’t something we just rely on one time to purchase us a ticket to heaven…its something we rely, on every day of our lives until we get there!
It doesn’t mean you won’t ever sin or struggle with sin again…It doesn’t mean that after the death, burial and resurrection of your baptism you won’t be entice…even dragged…but it does mean God’s Spirit of Grace…His Spirit of Holiness will remind you powerfully of who you are and why you’re here.
God’s grace and forgiveness make us his children and a Father’s forgiveness is a powerful thing:
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace , Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call “dissolute”… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. “Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa.” When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeting his son, he found eight hundred Paco’s waiting to be reunited with their father. Was Paco such a popular name? Or is a father’s forgiveness the salve for every soul?
Yes! A father’s forgiveness is the salve for every human soul…and we are all Paco’s desiring that reunion of grace.
It’s this amazing gift that makes us a family…His family.
II. EVEN WHEN WE ARE ALL NOT AT THE SAME PLACE IN OUR MATURITY
Paul says this in our test:
2 CORINTHIANS 1:13-14 (p. 803)
Paul tries to keep it simple when he writes to the Corinthians. He doesn’t try to impress them with his depth of knowledge he tries to discern where they are at in their spiritual maturity…and he tries to help them grow.
We’ll talk about this next week if God wills, and Jesus doesn’t return, but Paul had planned on making a personal visit to Corinth on his way to Macedonia and he had to change his mind…and change his plans.
And his enemies jumped on this like a dog on a piece of raw meat…They said, “He’s fickle…He’s unreliable.”
There are a couple of things I’d point out in this situation…First, from the beginning of the church, there have been minister attackers…for whatever reason they feel threatened…their power and their preferences are in danger…so they undercut the minister…they prey on our human nature too like a juicy story…they draw in immature believers…and they hurt the health of the church…listen to this description of one of those individuals in John’s 3rd letter:
3 JOHN 2-13 (p. 859)
Similar to what Paul faced at Corinth…John and others face here…Instead of decreasing so Jesus could increase…Diotrephes loved to be first, and to stay first he spread malicious nonsense…He developed a clique…and treated those who weren’t part of his circle as outsiders…and it created a cancer to the churches…and created a cancer to the churches unity and purpose.
Spiritually mature people recognize such individuals and deal honestly with the issue. Paul did at Corinth, and John does and will here. Both call attention to this issue and then…give a better choice.
Paul tells the Corinthians to “stand firm” in what they know about him and his message. John says, “Don’t imitate this evil…imitate what is good…instead of Diotrephes…imitate Demetrius.
How important is it to have people worth imitating in any church? People who get it…people who aren’t just leaders or teachers because they like the power, but love and share their lives with the family of God…it’s the difference between making disciples for Christ and selfishly dividing the body of Christ.
I’m sure “the fickle” accusers didn’t go out without a fight…I’m certain Diotrephes threw malicious grenades when John dealt with the issue…but I’m also sure Gaius and Demetrius had his back! And I’m also sure truth and goodness were easily recognizalbe…As is the case today, 2 options were presented that could be imitated. One was powerful, spiritual and from God…one wasn’t. One gave the church the opportunity to grow up and become like Jesus…and one didn’t…which we choose to follow and imitate determines whether we will become mature disciples or stay babies.
Let me end by saying:
Maturity is recognizing that the choices we make carry consequences. I had a good laugh at a story in the newspapers sometime back about a teacher who found a great way to make students pay for their crimes. Troublemakers at Riverside Brookfield High in Chicago are being forced to serve after school sentences in the Frank Sinatra Detention Club. There, for 30 minutes, they must sit still – not talking, no homework, no snoozing – and listen to Mr. Sinatra croon songs. “The kids hate it. They’re miserable,” reports teacher Bruce Janu, a Sinatra fan who devised the club as a way to make detention more fun for him, and less so for the kids. “It just got to where I couldn’t stand it,” said one senior. “It’s so boring.” Janu isn’t totally heartless, though. He lets students sing along if they want – but nobody does.
Spiritual consequences to our choices aren’t so mundane…spiritual consequences affect our peace and unity…and God’s detention room is a lot less comfortable than listening to Frank’s “I Did It My Way.”