Summary: How do you make changes in your life? Do you do it by comparing yourself to others around you - do you do it by comparing yourself to come external standard, or do you do it by God’s Spirit? Learn the best way to make changes that last.
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Pastor Tom Fuller
In chapter 1 of 2nd Corinthians we talked about finding God’s direction in ministry. In chapter 2 we looked at how the enemy can trip us up in that quest and how to model ourselves after the character of Jesus when dealing with others.
This week in chapter 3 we take up the subject of change – how do you know what you are doing for the Lord and in the Lord is having an effect? The bottom line to it all is this: things done in people’s lives bear witness to the Spirit’s actions – things done in the flesh will have self promotion and artificiality written all over them.
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?
Letters of recommendation were commonplace in the day Paul wrote this letter. It was how people knew you were okay. Unfortunately, the false teachers in Corinth had fabricated their own letters and had used them to worm their way in to home churches and pervert the gospel.
Paul is saying, rhetorically, we have no need to puff ourselves up or have you or anybody write us a letter of recommendation – we’ll get to why in a moment. But it brings up a good point – on the one hand it works well for Christians who have been involved in ministries elsewhere to get some kind of recommendation from that ministry – especially if it’s a trusted source.
But what can happen is that the recommendation becomes the goal, not the working of ministry. We start believing our own press clippings – looking for status instead of looking for opportunities to serve. Power becomes the focus instead of channeling the Spirit’s power out into others lives. So just be careful.
Paul says, we don’t need a letter on paper because:
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
In other words – the things God’s Spirit has done through us in your lives speaks much louder than any letter could. Instead of sound bites it’s real life. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see members of our fellowship grow in the faith.
Without mentioning names there are a number of you whom I have had the privilege sharing with, encouraging, leading to the Lord – baptizing. It’s an awesome thing to see God’s Spirit move on a life.
We shouldn’t look to what we’ve done – the building projects or ministries built or money brought in or program stats – what we should look at is what the Spirit is doing in changing lives.
Now when things are going well what happens? We see God’s Spirit move and we think “wow, I did that.” But nothing could be further from the truth.
4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Another way to translate this would be: “God has given us the ability to do what we need to do.”
Jesus said in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
The word “power” is the Greek word dunamis. It literally means the “ability” to do something. While the word “competent” in 2nd Corinthians means to “make something fit.” So God takes the power of His Spirit and makes us fit to use that power in people’s lives – that’s our competence.
Too many times we use other things to give us competence: our education, our experience, our innate abilities, our personality, what people say about us, even the tools we use. I use a computer program to help me study the Word – PC Study Bible – I recommend it, it’s great. But when I start thinking that PC Study Bible gives me the competence to teach the Word, I am mistaken.
We must always pray for the Spirit’s dumamis in whatever we are doing.
This is so central and so often ignored. We go off on our own and wonder why things don’t happen.