Tag Archives: 2 corinthians

Our Daily Bread — A Fragrance and a Letter

 

Read: 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3

Bible in a Year: Proverbs 6-7; 2 Corinthians 2

We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ. —2 Corinthians 2:15

Every time I get close to a rosebush or a bouquet of flowers, I’m unable to resist the temptation to pull a flower toward my nose to savor the fragrance. The sweet aroma lifts up my heart and triggers good feelings within me.

Writing to the Christians in Corinth centuries ago, the apostle Paul says that because we belong to Christ, God “uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). Through His strength we can live a victorious life, exchanging our selfishness for His love and kindness and proclaiming the goodness of His salvation. When we do this, we are indeed a sweet fragrance to God.

Paul then switches to a second image, describing Christians as a “letter from Christ” (3:3). The letter of our lives is not written with ordinary ink, but by the Spirit of God. God changes us by writing His Word on our hearts for others to read.

Both word pictures encourage us to allow the beauty of Christ to be seen in us so we can point people to Him. He is the One who, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:2, “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” —Lawrence Darmani

Lord, let Your splendor fill my life, that I may draw people to You. Help me walk in the way that spreads the fragrance of Your love to others.

Our actions speak louder than our words.

INSIGHT: Paul had a strained relationship with the church in Corinth. Within this troubled church were those who undermined unity, holy living, and sound doctrine. The Corinthian church was the recipient of three visits and multiple letters from the apostle Paul. Yet despite all the problems the church was facing—doubting Paul’s authority, allowing and perhaps bragging about sin, suggesting there is no resurrection—Paul continually reassured them of both his own affection and God’s affection for them. Paul’s message is clear—for Corinth and for us. Yes, we will experience problems that need to be corrected, but our position in Christ is secure. J.R. Hudberg

Charles Stanley – The Real War

 

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The enemy’s primary strategy against the believer is deception. We learn from 2 Corinthians 11:14 that Satan often “disguises himself as an angel of light.” In fact, Jesus called him “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Thus, our best weapon is the truth, which sets us free from deception’s bondage (v. 32).

It is hard to avoid deception when you are not aware of the adversary’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). One of his oldest deceptions, which goes back to Adam and Eve, is the temptation to doubt what the Lord has said. To do so means to doubt God’s heart and character, which is similar to a soldier on the front line setting down his weapon as the enemy approaches—mistrusting God sets you up to be knocked down repeatedly by the evil one. If you listen to this voice of doubt, you give Satan a foothold. That will weaken you so that he can gear up to bring about further destruction.

Another scheme of the devil is to distract the believer. A distraction is anything that drags you away from what is most important at the moment and makes you so busy that you lose focus. Satan doesn’t use just blatantly sinful or superficial things to divert us from abiding in Christ—he will even use good things to subtly build up a wall of “noise” around you so that you gradually stop listening to God’s voice.

Ask the Lord to reveal any area in your life where you may be susceptible to deception. He will give you power to claim the truth and walk in freedom.

Our Daily Bread — Every Hardship

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. —2 Corinthians 12:9

Like many towns, Enterprise, Alabama, has a prominent monument. But the monument in Enterprise is unlike any other. The statue doesn’t recognize a leading citizen; it celebrates the work of a beetle. In the early 1900s, this boll weevil made its way from Mexico to the southern US. Within a few years it had destroyed entire crops of cotton, the primary source of revenue. In desperation, farmers started growing another crop—peanuts. Realizing they had been dependent on one crop for too long, they credited the beetle with forcing them to diversify, which led to increased prosperity.

The boll weevil is like things that come into our lives and destroy what we have worked hard to accomplish. Devastation results—sometimes financial, emotional, or physical—and it is frightening. We witness the end of life as we know it. But as the people of Enterprise learned, the loss of what is old is an opportunity to discover something new. God may use hardship to get us to give up a bad habit or learn a new virtue. He used a thorn in Paul’s flesh to teach him about grace (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

Instead of striving to preserve old habits that are no longer effective, we can view every hardship as an opportunity for God to cultivate a new virtue in us. —Julie Ackerman Link

O much-tried saint, with fainting heart,

The thorn with its abiding pain,

With all its wearing, ceaseless ache,

Can be the means of priceless gain. —Anon.

God often uses bitter experiences to make us better.

Bible in a year: Isaiah 5-6; Ephesians 1

Insight

In Paul’s letter of 2 Corinthians, he repeatedly bares his soul. In the early portions of the letter, he is forced to defend his role as an apostle, while later he shares the heartaches of all he suffered for Christ. Paul concludes by describing how a painful condition (an undefined “thorn”) is being used as God’s instrument to teach him lessons about grace (12:7-10). This is indeed a very transparent and pain-filled epistle.

Our Daily Bread — True Loyalty

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 11:23-31

If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. —2 Corinthians 11:30

By one estimate, more than 14 trillion frequent-flyer miles have been accumulated by people worldwide. It all started in the early 1980s, when airlines began the first frequent-flyer programs to encourage repeat business by rewarding customers for their loyalty. Accumulated miles could be redeemed for free travel, goods, and services, so it wasn’t long before people began planning their travel based as much on personal reward as on price or schedule.

The apostle Paul was an avid first-century traveler, but he wasn’t in it for the “frequent-sailor miles.” His goal was to reach as many people as he could with the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus. When some people in the city of Corinth questioned his authority, he wrote a letter describing the price he had paid to bring the gospel to others: “Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep” (2 Cor. 11:25). God gave Paul the grace and endurance to risk his life to tell people about Jesus with no thought of personal gain.

Whether we receive persecution or praise for our service to the Lord, may our focus always be loyalty to Him and gratitude for His sacrifice of love. —David McCasland

I am Yours, Lord, yet teach me all it means,

All it involves of love and loyalty,

Of holy service, full and glad,

In unreserved obedience to Thee! —Bennett

Our loyalty to Jesus grows from His love for us.

Bible in a year: Psalms 13-15; Acts 19:21-41

Insight

To modern-day followers of Christ, the apostle Paul is held in the highest regard for his tireless work of teaching, church-planting, and writing of biblical letters. This, however, was not the case in the first century. Even after years of faithful service, Paul had to write the letter of 2 Corinthians to defend his calling and ministry, which was being questioned by people in Corinth. Today’s reading is a part of that defense of his ministry.

Greg Laurie – Our Motive in Giving

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I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. —2 Corinthians 9:5

The story is told of Billy and Ruth Graham and an experience they had in church one Sunday. As the offering was being taken, Billy Graham reached into his pocket and meant to pull out a five-dollar bill. Instead, he pulled out a fifty-dollar bill and didn’t discover it until he already had placed it in the offering plate. He was a little horrified by what he had done and turned to his wife, Ruth, and said, “Well, at least I will get a reward in heaven for giving fifty dollars.”

“No,” Ruth said, “you are going to get a reward for five dollars because that is all you meant to give.”

Motive is everything because God looks on the heart. The Bible tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The word used for cheerful could be translated “hilarious.” This suggests a joy in giving that leaps over all restraints. Amazingly, as Paul urged the Corinthians to give, he cited the Macedonian believers who were relatively impoverished in comparison to the Corinthian believers. In speaking of them in 2 Corinthians 8:2, he said, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” (NLT). How do the terms many troubles, very poor, and rich generosity fit together in one verse? They fit when people have discovered the joy of giving. Giving is not a luxury of the rich; it is a privilege of the poor and of everyone, not just people who have disposable incomes.

Giving is a responsibility. It is an opportunity. And it is a blessing for every follower of

Jesus Christ.

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Charles Spurgeon – The cry of the heathen

CharlesSpurgeon

“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over unto Macedonia, and help us.” Acts 16:9

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

There is no fear of any one becoming improvidently liberal. You need not be frightened that anyone here will give a thousand pounds this morning. We provide ample accommodation for those who feel inclined to do so. If anyone should be overtaken with such an enormous fit of generosity, we will register and remember it. But I fear there are no people like Barnabas now. Barnabas brought all he had, and put it into the treasury. “My dear friend, do not do that; do not be so rash.” Ah! he will not do that; there is no necessity for you to advise him. But I do say again, if Christianity were truly in our hearts; if we were what we professed to be; the men of generosity whom we meet with now and hold up as very paragons and patterns would cease to be wonders, for they would be as plentiful as leaves upon the trees. We demand of no man that he should beggar himself; but we do demand of every man who makes a profession that he is a Christian, that he should give his fair proportion, and not be content with giving as much to the cause of God as his own servant. We must have it that the man who is rich must give richly. We know the widow’s mite is precious, but the widow’s mite has been an enormously great loss to us. That widow’s mite has lost Jesus Christ many a thousand pounds. It is a very good thing in itself; but people with thousands a year talk of giving a widow’s mite. What a wicked application of what never can apply to them. No; in our proportion we must serve our God.

For meditation: We are instructed to give in proportion (2 Corinthians 8:12), in pleasure (2 Corinthians 9:7) and in privacy (Matthew 6:2-4). How do you calculate how much you should be giving to God’s work each week? In prayer?

Sermon no. 189

25 April (1858)

 

Our Daily Bread — Sweet Fragrance

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 2:12-17

We are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. —2 Corinthians 2:15

Some scents are unforgettable. Recently, my husband mentioned he was running low on shaving cream. “I’ll pick some up,” I offered. “Can you get this kind?” he asked, showing me the can. “I love the smell—it’s the kind my dad always used.” I smiled, recalling the time I had been momentarily taken back to my childhood when I got a whiff of the same shampoo my mom used to wash my hair. For both Tom and me, the fragrances had brought an emotional response and pleasant memory of people we loved who were no longer around.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.”

So, what if our lives were a fragrance that attracted people to God? Second Corinthians 2:15 says that “we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Our fragrance is pleasing to God, but it also attracts others to Him or repels them. We who understand the sacrifice of Jesus have the opportunity to be the “fragrance of Christ”—a reminder of Him—to others.

The sweet scent of the likeness of Christ can be an irresistible pull toward the Savior. —Cindy Hess Kasper

Let my hands perform His bidding,

Let my feet run in His ways,

Let my eyes see Jesus only,

Let my lips speak forth His praise. —James

When we walk with God, we leave behind a sweet fragrance that can inspire others to follow.

Bible in a year: Deuteronomy 32-34; Mark 15:26-47

Insight

In today’s reading, we see a dramatic picture of Christ as victor. In the world of ancient Rome, a conquering general would be rewarded with a “triumph,” a celebrative victory parade. The conquered enemies subjugated as slaves would often follow the procession. Paul used this event familiar to his audience to represent Jesus Christ as the triumphant hero. Considering himself a slave of Christ (Phil. 1:1), Paul thought it an honor and a joy to have been conquered by the Lord he now loved and served. Often during a triumphal parade, the temple doors were thrown open and the fragrance of garlands and incense flooded the parade procession with the sweet aroma of victory. Certainly, the gospel has a sweet spiritual aroma for those who believe.

 

Our Daily Bread — Living Letters

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 3:1-11

Clearly you are an epistle of Christ . . . written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God. —2 Corinthians 3:3

In November 1963, the same day that President John F. Kennedy was shot, another leader died—Clive Staples Lewis. This Oxford scholar, who had converted from atheism to Christianity, was a prolific writer. Intellectual books, science fiction, children’s fantasies, and other works flowed from his pen with a strong Christian message. His books have been used by God in the conversion of many, including a politician and a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

Some are called to tell others about Christ through their writing, but all believers are called to be “epistles,” or letters of Christ, in the way we live. The apostle Paul tells us, “Clearly you are an epistle of Christ . . . written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor. 3:3).

Certainly Paul does not mean we are actually pieces of paper upon which God’s message has been written. But as living “letters” we can illustrate how Jesus Christ makes a difference in how we treat others and strive to live with integrity.

Few will have the influence that C. S. Lewis did, but we are all called to bring glory to the One who loves us and has redeemed us! —Dennis Fisher

Dear Lord, You have called me to be a witness for You

wherever You have placed me. Every day my life is on

display. Help me to live in such a way that others will

want to know You and the abundant life You offer.

We are Christ’s “letters of recommendation” to all who read our lives.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 20-21; James 5

Our Daily Bread — Good-Behavior Rewards

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 5:1-11

We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to [God]. —2 Corinthians 5:9

In a children’s ministry in my church, we hand out cards to the kids when we notice their good behavior. They collect the cards and receive prizes for the good choices they’ve made. We are trying to reinforce good behavior rather than focusing on bad behavior.

When one leader handed a card to 11-year-old Tyree, he responded, “No, thanks. I don’t need one; I want to behave well, and I don’t need a reward for that.” For him, doing the right thing was its own reward. He definitely has good values ingrained in him, and he wants to live them out—prize or not.

As believers in Jesus, we will receive rewards one day. Second Corinthians 5:10 says that everyone will “receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” But to get a reward should not be our motivation for right living. Neither is it to earn salvation. Living out of love for God and pleasing Him should be our heart’s desire.

When we love God, we make it our aim to please Him who first loved us (1 John 4:19) and to serve Him with pure motives (Prov. 16:2; 1 Cor. 4:5). The best reward will be to be with Him! —Anne Cetas

In all I think and say and do,

I long, O God, to honor You;

But may my highest motive be

To love the Christ who died for me. —D. DeHaan

Our desire to please God is our highest motive for obeying Him.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 34-36; Hebrews 2

Charles Stanley – Relying on Our All-Sufficient God

Charles Stanley

2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Many people would scoff at the idea of inadequacy as a way the Lord blesses believers—the feeling can be so disheartening that it seems illogical to think in terms of benefit. Yet Christians can use shortcomings as stepping stones to blessing:

1. Our inadequacy forces us to do our work in the power of the Holy Spirit. Anything that puts us on our knees and drives us to God has to be good.

2. Awareness of our limitations can relieve us of the burden of trying to do God’s will in our own strength. Without the Holy Spirit, we will be crushed by weights we cannot carry.

3. Another blessing is that such awareness “frees” the Lord to use us to the maximum of our potential. When we are lowly enough to feel our need, then God will raise us to great heights.

4. Acknowledging our shortcomings allows God to get all the glory for His work. Spiritually minded people can tell when something is of God—and when it’s not. If you are in the Spirit, the glory will rightfully go to the Lord.

5. Inadequacy can enable us to live in contentment and quietness of spirit. Either we will give God our burdens and cease striving, or we will proceed in our own strength and become overwhelmed.

Like the apostle Paul, we should not claim competence in ourselves but rather acknowledge that our adequacy is from God (2 Cor. 3:5). What area in your life are you trying to manage in your own power? Relinquish control and anticipate God’s blessings, knowing that He desires good for His children.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Will Be Different

dr_bright

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV).

A prominent businessman, elder in a prestigious church, was impatient with “narrow-minded, born-again Christians.” “I am a Christian,” he said, “but I have never been born again, and frankly I’m not interested. We emphasize more important issues in my church.”

When I read the third chapter of John with him and explained that there is only one kind of biblical Christian, the one who is “born-again,” and that no other kind of “Christian” can enter into the kingdom of God according to the words of Jesus, the light suddenly went on. With this new insight he readily received Christ as his Savior and Lord.

A caterpillar is an ugly, hairy, earthbound worm – until it weaves a cocoon about its body. Then an amazing transformation takes place. Out of that cocoon emerges a beautiful butterfly – a new creature, able to live on another plane, to soar in to the heavens. So it is with man.

John 3 records Jesus’ explanation of how one becomes a new creature. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who tried to adhere meticulously to every detail of the law, had come to Jesus for counsel.

“‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:2,3, NAS).

Puzzled, Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (John 3:4, NAS). Then Jesus explained that physical birth alone does not qualify anyone to enter the kingdom of God. Since His is a spiritual kingdom, we must experience spiritual birth.

Bible Reading: Romans 6:4-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will read John’s gospel, chapter three, meditating especially on the first eight verses, and will consider again my relationship with the Lord. If I should die today, I want to be sure I would go to heaven, and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit I want to begin living the supernatural life.

 

 

Greg Laurie – Not the End

greglaurie

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. —2 Corinthians 5:8–9

What happens when a Christian dies? The simple answer is that he or she goes immediately to heaven. There are no stopovers. There are no suspended states of animation. There is no soul sleep. No, a Christian goes straight into God’s presence. The apostle Paul wrote that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). This is clear in the Scriptures.

Those who have put their faith in Christ will go to heaven one day. There are two basic ways we will get there: through death or the Rapture. We don’t know whether we are the generation who will be caught up to heaven in the Rapture, which Revelation 20 calls the first resurrection: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power . . .” (verse 6).

Referring to this event, Paul wrote, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:53–54).

This means the believer doesn’t have to fear death. This means that a Christian never dies. The soul lives on. That will never die.

Of course, when we lose a loved one, we grieve like anyone else does. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We know where our Christian loved ones are who have preceded us to heaven. In a technical sense, someone isn’t lost if you know where he or she is. We know we will be with our loved ones in Christ once again. Death is not the end.

Charles Spurgeon – Conversion

CharlesSpurgeon

“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” James 5:19: 20

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

The poor backslider is often the most forgotten. A member of the church has disgraced his profession; the church excommunicated him, and he was accounted “a heathen man and a publican.” I know of men of good standing in the gospel ministry, who, ten years ago, fell into sin; and that is thrown in our teeth to this very day. When you speak of them you are at once informed, “Why, ten years ago they did so-and-so.” Brethren, Christian men ought to be ashamed of themselves for taking notice of such things so long afterwards. True, we may use more caution in our dealings; but to reproach a fallen brother for what he did so long ago, is contrary to the spirit of John, who went after Peter, three days after he had denied his Master with oaths and curses. Nowadays it is the fashion, if a man falls, to have nothing to do with him. Men say, “he is a bad fellow; we will not go after him.” Beloved, suppose he is the worst; is not that the reason why you should go most after him? Suppose he never was a child of God—suppose he never knew the truth, is not that the greater reason why you should go after him? I do not understand your excessive pride, that won’t let you go after the chief of sinners. The worse the case, the more is the reason why we should go. But suppose the man is a child of God, and you have cast him off—remember, he is your brother; he is one with Christ as much as you are; he is justified, he has the same righteousness that you have; and if, when he has sinned, you despise him, in that you despise him you despise his Master. Take heed! You also may be tempted, and may one day fall.

For meditation: Discipline should not be lax or non-existent (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). But it is possible to go to the other extreme and overdo it.

Sermon no. 45

7 October (1855)

Our Daily Bread — Time For A Change

Our Daily Bread

Genesis 12:1-8

There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. —Genesis 12:8

Many believers long to spend daily time with God, praying and reading His Word. Ironically, they are often distracted by a busy schedule. Frustrations mount as busyness seems to crowd out an opening in their schedule.

Oswald Chambers has wisely commented on the transforming power of even 5 minutes in the presence of the Lord. Indeed, even a short time spent in intercession and the Word still has great value: “It is not the thing on which we spend the most time that moulds us, but the thing that exerts the greatest power. Five minutes with God and His Word is worth more than all the rest of the day.” Now, it may sound like Chambers has made an overstatement. Yet powerful results can come from even a short time of prayer, because God is powerful.

Sometimes our days are filled with busy demands that crowd out time spent in listening to and responding to God. But no matter where we are, any time taken to build our own spiritual “altar” to the Lord as Abram did (Gen. 12:8) opens the door to His transforming power. If you are having trouble establishing a time with God, you could start with just 5 minutes and see where it leads. Our God longs to meet with us and show His power in our lives. —Dennis Fisher

Lord, it’s amazing to me that You, Almighty God,

would want to spend time with me! Thank You.

I stumble with my words at times but am in awe of

You. Thank You that You want to hear from me.

Talk with God—He wants to hear your heart.

Bible in a year: Ecclesiastes 1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33