The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
A Seal of Ownership
2 Corinthians 1:21-24 (p. 803) October 9, 2016
For the Jews and all those who were under Roman rule “A Seal” would have a powerful meaning…both the Jews and the Romans had a history with seals…If a letter was sealed it was sealed with wax and then embedded with the King’s or Caesar’s crest…most of the time a ring was used to make the mark.
This seal was always used to guarantee security and to identify ownership…it usually looked something like this:
There would be no doubt about who the letter belonged to because the seal would clearly identify the owner.
Remember once again why the Apostle Paul is writing these words…it’s about his integrity…He is answering the criticisms of those who have accused him of not being trustworthy because he changed his plans about visiting him on his way back from Macedonia.
He even calls for God to be his witness in this trial over his trustworthiness… “I did not return to Corinth in order to spare you…I stake my life on this promise!”
But Paul does more than just to ask them to take him at his word…He gets “spiritual” in a big time way.
In this very uncomfortable place of being judged falsely by worldly wisdom…He simply says…“Judge me by the Holy Spirit’s seal on my life…because that’s how I’ll judge you.” We learn something really important here about what faith really looks and acts like when we’re really uncomfortable.
I. IT TAKES SOFT MATERIAL TO RECEIVE GOD’S SEAL
Paul could have said, “You bunch of ungrateful idjits (my dad’s word that combines idiot and jack). I’m an Apostle…I’ve encountered the risen Lord…I’ve studied more scripture than you’ll see in your lifetime…shut up and straighten up…Come on!
He could have said, “You all only heard about Jesus and the good news because of me, Timothy and Silas… I AM YOUR FATHAH (Darth Vader Voice).”
He had the right…but his humble heart chose a different approach.
“It is God who makes both us and you stand firm…not that we Lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your Joy.” (v. 21, 24)
You can’t seal hard wax…the Signet Ring is hard…strong…and makes a deep impression but only on wax that is soft and receptive. It will not leave its mark on stone…and the Holy Spirit will only leave the seal of God on a humble heart…receptive to His pressing…it will not seal a hard proud heart.
No wonder God’s Word warns us…“Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
The human heart reacts in one or two ways when God presses it toward repentance: softening and surrender…or rebellion and hardening…It’s why the writer to the Hebrews says:
HEBREWS 3:12-15 (p. 839)
Because you’ve heard the good news and received it at one time in your life doesn’t mean you won’t let your heart be hardened later. If you allow the Holy Spirit’s leading and pressing to stop guarding your heart…I promise you…God’s Word promises that the Evil One will help you form a callous around it.
No wonder Paul wrote to the oldest most prominent church in Ephesus and said,
EPHESIANS 5:8-16 (p. 816)
The alarm clock of the Holy Spirit is ringing in our lives, but many believers just keep hitting the snooze button!”
When Paul tells the Corinthians “We work with you for your joy” in verse 24…He’s focusing on what happens when we reject the Holy Spirit’s pressing…Satan is a joy stealer…and joy is one of the greatest characteristics of a soft moldable Spirit filled heart. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” When we’ve lost our joy, we’ve lost our strength.
Joy isn’t determined by outward circumstances, it’s determined by an inward presence…joy is present whether tears flood from your eyes or laughter from your mouth. It’s the Holy Spirit anointing…It’s his seal…it’s His guarantee.
It’s the proof that the seal isn’t a forgery.
II. THIS SEAL IS THE PROOF OF GOD’S OWNERSHIP
“He anointed us…Set His seal of ownership on us.”
Did you know it was illegal to destroy United States currency? I’m not sure why you’d want to…but it’s against the law…Do you know why?
According to Title 18, Chapter 17 of the U.S. Code, which sets out crimes related to coins and currency, anyone who “alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens” coins can face fines or prison time. The same goes for debasing – that is, decreasing the proportion of precious metals – in gold or silver coins struck or coined at an American mint.
Similarly, anyone who “mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued,” can be fined or imprisoned as well.
These laws exist in large part to prevent counterfeiters and swindlers from altering money for nefarious purposes.
Satan is a counterfeiter! Have you ever wondered why the crowd thought that Peter and the other apostles were drunk on the day of Pentecost…when they were filled with the Holy Spirit? As the crowd came together in bewilderment…each one heard their own language being spoken…”we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.” Amazed and perplexed they asked each other “What does this mean?”
Some however made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine (they’re drunk!). But Peter addresses the crowd:
ACTS 2:15-21 (p. 759)
The world has seen Satan alter the human heart by artificial means…Satan would have us become 10ft. tall and bullet proof. He would have us slur the truth of our feelings…but what he would have us put into our bodies is temporary. It’s a forgery of what God would put into our bodies.
As Satan encourages us to pour out Jack Daniels, or Columbian Red bud…or heroin…or Oxycontin….God wants to pour out His Spirit…ON ALL PEOPLE…Black, white, young, old, men, women…only then can we see the wonders of heaven and the signs on the earth. God wants to seal His people…and Satan is a counterfeiter. God offers a guarantee…Satan offers a coupon…God offers adoption as His child…and Satan offers slavery.
Satan offers something that will temporarily numb your anxiety and stress…and God offers His presence of peace to be with you always…Satan offers immediate gratification and a quick fix…God offers love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control…and eternal life.
The reason most choose the forgery is because we’d rather have the seen over the unseen…and the temporary over the eternal…and many of our friends live the same way…so we’d rather choose to please them now…than to trust God.
You see the Holy Spirit is a down payment…the Greek word that’s used here is “Arrabon.” Its earnest money that guarantees the rest will be given later.
This is what Paul has staked his life on…it’s why he continually urges the Corinthians and us to not accept Satan’s forgeries but to “stand firm by faith.”
It’s all about whether we really trust the One who gives us the down payment. You see someone will “purchase” our soul for all eternity…and most people will give up their inheritance like Esau…because they hunger for that “red stuff” right now.
Hebrews 11:1 says Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of what is unseen…and verse 6 says “Without Faith we cannot please God.”
Ephesians 2:8 says, “It is by grace you have been saved…through “Faith.”
Faith not only includes accepting the down payment of God…but also living in expectation of our inheritance…Don’t believe me? Well, listen to what Paul tells these Corinthians 3 chapters later:
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-10 (p. 805)
The best news for us all is that God’s Spirit temporarily will live in a tent…like the Tabernacle in the OT, God moves into a temporary dwelling, the body of the redeemed, born again Christian. It’s the miracle of our death, burial and resurrection…“The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead…now lives in you!” (Romans 8).
But God made us for eternity…and this tent isn’t the forever place our Spirit will live…God has an eternal body He’s planned…A house made by His hands…the Holy Spirit is the down payment on this promise. At the end of each day may we remember that the empty bones in the tent aren’t the forever story…God is nigh and God has a plan…all is well…rest in safety.
Bill Scheibler, a Vietnam Vet wrote:
I served as an airborne Ranger platoon leader (paratrooper) in the First Air Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War.
Our company was hacked up pretty badly by the enemy during one mission. When our platoon’s survivors returned to base camp, we all trudged down the muddy path to our tent. As the men took their places in their bunks, the number of empty bunks became apparent. Men put their faces in their hands and sobbed like children. Each of us wondered if our bunk would be empty at the end of the next mission.
Fortunately, there was something we could always count on to help keep our sanity…late in the evening, long after the sun had gone down, a distant bugle could be heard playing “Taps.” When that haunting, nostalgic song was played, all activity in the battalion area came to a screeching halt. Conversations would stop and men would sit back in their bunks, listening to what had to be the most poignant sound I have ever heard.
Now, years later, as I look back on the horrors of that combat, I remember that unknown bugler who played “Taps” so late every night. It seemed that, if only for a few moments, we were assured that someone was up there, sending us renewed hope through those twenty-four simple notes.
THE WORDS TO “TAPS”
Day is Done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well,
God is nigh.