Saturday, 04 Jan 2020, 2 Corinthians 5-7 ~ “Come back to God!”

Saturday, 04 Jan 2020

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening:  (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Reading: 2 Corinthians 5-7 (NLT)

New Bodies

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

We Are God’s Ambassadors

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

Paul’s Hardships

We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.  We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!

The Temple of the Living God

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:

“I will live in them and walk among them.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.

And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone, nor led anyone astray, nor taken advantage of anyone. I’m not saying this to condemn you. I said before that you are in our hearts, and we live or die together with you. I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.

Paul’s Joy at the Church’s Repentance

When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in the sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us. We have been greatly encouraged by this.

In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was about the way all of you welcomed him and set his mind at ease. I had told him how proud I was of you—and you didn’t disappoint me. I have always told you the truth, and now my boasting to Titus has also proved true! Now he cares for you more than ever when he remembers the way all of you obeyed him and welcomed him with such fear and deep respect. I am very happy now because I have complete confidence in you.
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Reflection:

“Come back to God!”

We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
– 2 Corinthians 5:20 –

In today’s reading, Paul explains how Christ’s love changed his viewpoint since his conversion.

  • Previously he had looked at people from a human perspective – in terms of their ethnicity, or social status, rather than their position as believers.
  • Now he recognized believers as new creations in Christ – their old life and relationships no longer exist, others had taken their place.
  • Prior to conversion they had only their old sinful nature – now they have the life-giving Holy Spirit living within them, transforming them into a temple of the living God.

All of this was made possible through God’s gracious provision of reconciliation in sending His Son to die for us. He  brought people to Himself by dealing with our sins in Christ. God is the reconciler, but people still need to respond to the offer of salvation by believing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

And now, God has committed the message of this provision to those of us who have experienced reconciliation, and our ministry is to present it to all people.We are ambassadors of Christ, and our message of reconciliation is always the same: “Come back to God!” And now is the right time.

 Questions for consideration:

  • How did your life change when you first believed in Jesus Christ? What has changed since then? Please explain.
  • How has the love of Christ changed how you view others who are different from you? Please explain.
  • Have you been an ambassador for Christ, bearing God’s message of reconciliation? Please explain.
  • What do you think “Today is the day of salvation” means? Who is that message for? Please explain.

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Prayer:

For the Unrepentant

Merciful God, you desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to you and live; and through your only Son you have revealed yourself as the God who pardons iniquity. Have mercy on the unrepentant and those who do not believe. Awaken in them, by your Word and Holy Spirit, a deep sense of their sinfulness and peril. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of your Word. Grant them to know and feel that there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved, but only the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so bring them home and number them among your children, that they may be yours for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
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Oh have you looked around
Have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away
When you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days
Are you not afraid
That it’s too late

” Back to God ” – Reba McEntire, Lauren Daigle

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Gotta keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love?
Do you feel like givin’ up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay?
Will they come home safe?
Do you lie there hoping?
You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
Oh it won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Gotta keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best
Make a wish
The only answer is

We give this world back to God
Oh, give it back
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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen



Categories: Life in Christ

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