The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Sometimes God Changes Our Plans
2 Corinthians 1:15-20 (p. 803) October 2, 2016
This is a really tough section of scripture to understand if we don’t have some background. The Apostle Paul had made a commitment to come visit the Corinthians, but then he changes his plans and doesn’t…His detractors accuse him of being untrustworthy…fickle…“If we can’t trust him with something like this…how can we trust his message about God?!!!”
But here’s the background…Here’s the situation that changed his plans…or at least the timing of his plans to visit.
There is an individual who is part of the Church that has chosen to have an adulterous relationship with his father’s wife. They’ve become a “couple” and it seems that they still associate with all their Corinth Christian friends…They continue to share life with the church…I’m betting even meeting on the first day of the week with them and taking the emblems of the Lord’s supper.
And the Church and it’s leadership instead of dealing with this sin and the division it’s causing…decides to ignore it…in fact more than just ignore it…They begin to brag about how accepting they are…how super tolerant they are…Listen to what Paul the Apostle writes:
1 CORINTHIANS 5:1-2; 6-13 (p. 795)
Paul’s goal isn’t to just kick this guy out…His goal is repentance and hopefully restoration and forgiveness in the future.
Tolerantly watching someone standing on the train tracks while the train bares down on them isn’t the most loving thing you can do…And Paul paints a very clear picture that there is a difference between our old lives before Christ and our new lives “in” Christ.
One of the greatest lies of the evil one is you can believe in Jesus and not be different from the world…and still go to heaven. That you can give Jesus your life…and keep it at the same time…It’s a leaven that still affects the Church to this day.
And it’s in the midst of this situation that Paul had planned to visit Corinth…and Paul isn’t afraid to deal with this sin or this sinful situation…but if he comes to them now…it will involve a season of rebuke…He would make their comfort zone really uncomfortable…His plans were to visit them on his way to Macedonia and then also on his way back…but he didn’t because:
I. MINISTRY INVOLVES GOD’S TIMING NOT OURS
It seems Paul visited on his way to Macedonia and that visit involved him dealing with division in the church, worship services that had people meeting as cliques and getting drunk…it involved this sexual sin and an apathetic tolerance of it by it’s leaders and people…Paul tried to mend matters, but instead this visit nearly broke his heart…Listen to what he says about doing it again
2 CORINTHIANS 2:1-4 (p. 803)
Ministry always involves people…and people are messy…the hardest part of ministry is we can’t fix people…no matter how much God loves them or we love them…they can still choose to do destructive and unhealthy things….inside the church…and outside of it. “We all like sheep go astray.” How long we stay astray or if we return to the Great Shepherd depends upon God’s grace and each of our response to it.
Ministry involves trusting God’s timing when it doesn’t fit ours…This part of ministry absolutely broke Paul’s heart…and it absolutely breaks mine. “I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with may tears not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” (2 Cor. 2:4)
There are three truths we see here concerning God’s timing…
1. We need to communicate our broken hearts to those we love.
Paul does…He speaks the truth with love. He shares with those he loves what their actions are doing…but he also shares how much he loves them…and that’s why it hurts so bad. His words don’t come from angry judgement…They come from wounded brokenness.
[I’ll never ever forget my father walking into my room with tears…handing me a loaded 357 pistol and saying, “Why don’t you just go shoot your mother son. Your rebellion of your life is killing your mother…This way would be quicker.]
Anger is an easy emotion to tap into….We can use it to control and frighten those who’ve hurt us…Grief is harder…it makes us vulnerable…Paul and each of us know about anger…but in this circumstance he chooses to communicate his broken heart.
Let me also share concerning God’s timing…
2. The expectations we have for believers and non believers shouldn’t be the same.
I’m not sure why when we become believers…disciples of Jesus, that many of us then begin to judge lost people…hurting people, with the same standard we would use for “Spirit filled” Christians. This doesn’t mean we condone sinful behavior or say it’s OK. But why would people living in the world, outside of Christ be any other way? Can we have relationships with lost people that allow the light of Christ to shine in their darkness? If not, then we will never be what Jesus transformed us to be.
But if someone claims to be a believer and they continually live like the world, make an ongoing sin, whether it’s sexual immorality, or gossip, their lifestyle…expectations are different if they don’t change…change your location and your relationship. The hope is always repentance and godliness…but if you allow this leaven continually in your life, you will become like them. Be kind, but don’t be buddies! Paul wrote earlier to these same folks.
1 CORINTHIANS 5:9-11 (p. 795)
[As Bob Russell said, “If you put on a pair of white gloves and decide to play in the mud…you’ll always get muddy gloves, you’ll never get glovey mud!]
When Paul says we are not to be yoked together with unbelievers and we are to have nothing to do with believers who continually live in sin…He’s saying…protect your holiness…guard your heart…“Do not be misled…bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33)
At Corinth sin from the outside influenced the church…but the most destructive sin came from apathetic “so called” believers that condoned sin and maliciously attacks a leader who was broken hearted for his spiritual children…Paul wasn’t fickle…He was waiting for God to work…God always deals with sin…it’s never hidden before his eyes.
The third thing I’d recommend concerning God’s timing is:
3. Team up.
In verse 18 Paul says “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us…(not me, but us!) by me, Silas and Timothy.
Make sure you have a Silas and Timothy in your life…True friends you are mentoring and sharing life with. Make sure your focus is on others for Christ and not your small group…and with your Silas and Timothy or Peter, James and John you can survive almost anything and boldly witness the good news in the midst of sin and rebellion…3 mirrors reflecting the glory of Jesus is better than one.
Let me end today with this truth:
II. GOD MAY CHANGE OUR PLANS…BUT HIS NEVER DO
God’s plan will always be the salvation of mankind….that means His desire is for your son, daughter, friend, co-worker, neighbor and people around the world to come to Jesus.
According to scripture it was His plan even before creation:
1 PETER 1:18-20 (p. 850)
And God doesn’t desire for anyone to be lost…He’s working through His Holy Spirit and us as His messengers until Jesus returns to accomplish that plan.
2 PETER 3:15-18 (p. 854)
This is exactly what Paul meant when he writes…God might change my plans…but His will always be “Yes, in Christ.” He is the “Amen” spoken to you by us. The word Amen means “So be it.”
The most important question I can end with is: Are you and I living lives with the plan of God as our goal?
Ignorant and unstable people distorted Pauls’ message and attacked his life…to their own destruction. Peter warns some believers will be misled by this error and fall from their secure position…His challenge: “Keep growing in grace. Keep growing in the knowledge of Christ.”
You’ll never influence your family for Christ if you’re arguing about the minister’s changing plans. But isn’t that what Satan does in the life of many believers? Instead of our focus being that Jesus is the “Yes” of salvation and the “Amen” of God’s unchanging plan…something happens that we don’t like or makes us unhappy…and our energies become focused on these non-essentials. This scared Paul, it scared Peter and it scares me, because once this happens, restoring Jesus as the priority can only happen through a Holy Spirit revival…and scripture says:
HEBREWS 6:4-8 (p. 840)
The writer introduces this section about falling away with “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.” (Heb. 5:11)
They didn’t want to understand because they’d traded the good news of Christ for arguments about traditions and religious acts…But that would never happen with believers today, right?!!
As one of my amazing professors in school said, “God has provided Jesus as the lifeboat…but you can still choose to get out of it and try to swim on your own…and where do you go for rescue if you’ve done that?”