Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: A serious discussion on how both THORNS and THEOLOGY help us to more fully understand God’s power and providence at work in each of our lives...

Irritated But Illuminated

Scripture Text: II Corinthians 12:7 – 10

Introduction: If there was a mind reading device that would allow me to lend you access to my thoughts, I’m not sure that I would even let my parents touch it because if they read my mind they would probably be repulsed because of the thought processes that have the potential of developing there. I’m mentioning my parents because I’d like to believe that they would love me regardless of my circumstances, but sometimes my own thoughts scare even me. It’s not so much physical or ascetic things that I find myself wrestling with; my battles take place almost entirely on the battlefield of my mind. My mind is critical in this affair simply because if I allow the enemy to take over my mind, it won’t be soon after that my body will follow. That’s why I have to be careful about the sites I peruse on the Internet and be careful about the things I watch on television because it sets up residence to some carnal and confusing things within the periscope of my own mind simply because human beings have the proclivity and the propensity to perform those things that have been on their minds. Whether the thought function is positive or negative, it won’t be long before my actions follow suit. If you think about exercising for an extended amount of time, [sooner or later] you’ll find yourself in some form of exercise. If you think about cheating on your wife or your husband or your significant other but don’t use the weapons of your warfare that are mighty through God to pull down that stronghold [and]…

II Corinthians 10:5 – …casting down arguments [imaginations] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…

Then, there is a possibility that you will be more susceptible to do what you know you have no business doing even though you’ve seen it coming. Why is that? It’s simply because your mind is a powerful tool that either develops you or detracts from you. [And] That’s why the devil does NOT want your mind on anything that has to do with Christendom or Christianity; that’s why the devil wishes to assault our children’s minds with amplified images of prosperity and vanity. That’s why he stirs up confusion within the congregation and strife among the saints, because if we ever got to a point where God received the faithfulness of our focus, the power and the presence of God would make the devil’s endeavors a disaster. We find a prime example of this preaching presentation with the apostle Paul, who discovers the sheer energy and essence of God in a place called “the third heaven”. Now, to my recollection, I’ve never been to the third heaven, but I have experienced an earth moving invocation of the presence of God. [And] I recognize that when I’ve been in the presence of the Lord, it’s something about His presence that intoxicates you to the place where you forget where you are and how long it took for you to get there. Don’t believe me? Just ask Peter, for when he received “a private showing” of the Master’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, he lost what Bobby Brown called “all stamina and stutter” and forgot that while he was in worship mode on top of the mountain, there was a work mandate at the bottom of the mountain. When you get into God’s presence, shackles fall off of your feet; in other words, your feet feel a little lighter when you’re in His presence. In His presence, not only do shackles fall off your feet, but shame falls from your face, because I remember reading in

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find GRACE to help in time of need.

So, Paul gains access to the third heaven, but we discover that he’s not able to repeat what he sees. He doesn’t go into detail, so that subsequently gives me a reason to speculate about why he doesn’t speak on the subject except to introduce us to where he’s been. Maybe he’s not able to put it into words because the grandeur of the experience filled his heart with gladness to the extent that it muted his mouth. [And] I believe that’s a plausible speculation, because I’ve been in some very gratifying experiences that were so inexplicable [so difficult to explain] that I was unable to adequately describe where I’d been and what I’d experienced. [But] Paul does let us in on a little secret; when he comes off of the euphoric high of that experience in the third heaven, he leaves the experience and runs straight into irritation. It’s amazing when you enter into worship and experience the mind blowing, earth shattering, cataclysmic [almost orgasmic] presence of the Lord and then find yourself dealing with something that just irritates the “hell” out of you. It’s difficult enough to simply gain access to the third heaven for Paul; this is the only time he mentions it in the entire New Testament [and he is credited with writing more than two – thirds of it], so I think that I would be credible in saying that if he had been to this “third heaven” another time, he probably would’ve mentioned it. [But] Just as Paul is mute about his “third heaven experience”, at this point of the text he also is silent about this irritation that he calls “the thorn in his flesh.” He just gives us four small things about it: first off, THE THORN CAUSES PAUL TO REFLECT ON WORSHIP.

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