Summary: Since God has not withheld anything good from us, not even His own Son - we are not to withhold from Him or one another.
Mothers’ Day, 3rd March 05
‘Since we lack nothing in Christ, how shall we live?’
Intro: I’m sure many of you will know the story of Victor Hugo’s epic tale LES MISERABLES. Well let me remind you this morning of the opening picture. Jean Valjean, our hero, is released on parole from 19 years of hard labour on a chain gang? His crime, he was caught trying to steal a loaf of bread. And he finds that the yellow ticket of leave which he must by law display condemns Him to be an outcast. No-one will help him, give him a job, or somewhere to stay…. Until the kind old bishop of Digne, takes him in and feeds him, treating him as one of his own.
Valjean, hardened and embittered by years of forced labour repays the bishop by stealing some of his silver and taking off in the night. Pretty soon Valjean is caught by the police and brought back to find that the bishop feigns astonishment. He insists that the silver was Valjeans all along and that in his hurry to leave he’d forgotten thsomething… the bishop then hands over his silver candlesticks as a parting gift. The case for the prosecution falls apart, and the police leave empty handed. While Valjean escapes the death penalty, which would have surely followed. The bishop tells Valjean, ‘I’ve bought your soul from the devil and I’ve given it to God’. This one act of kindness changes Valjean forever. It is one of the greatest pictures of redemption in European literature. And it will help us understand what Paul is saying to us here, as well as the church of Corinth in the first century.
Now there’s a lot we can take from that story, we can return to it again and again. But this morning I want us to remember one thing: The bishop did not withhold anything. He did not withhold forgiveness, he did not withhold friendship, he did not withhold his wealth. It’s a picture NOT ONLY of God’s love to us, but also of HOW he calls us to love others, holding nothing back for a rainy day!!
Over the last few weeks we’ve been reminded of our completeness in Christ, our position in the heavenly realm, where we stand spiritually…. Colossians 2:9 ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority’.
We’ve been learning that ‘since we have been raised with Christ, we must set our hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God’. And we are beginning to walk in this truth afresh, to flex spiritual muscle and sinew, in this fullness, this completeness in Christ that Paul is talking about.
Since we know this truth, since we lack nothing, how shall we live? What will our lives look like?
This is what Paul is addressing here in 2Corinthians 6. Now what’s happened here is that while Paul was away he left certain trusted leaders in charge. And in his absence some slick false teachers have come in among them and tried to undermine his work. They accuse him of being weak and insincere. They say he’s not really a true apostle, because he’s not one of the twelve. They use his past history of unbelief against him. They’ve begun to get a foothold in the hearts of some and start turning the church against not just him, but the gospel he has taught them.
NOW Paul is appealing to the church in Corinth, he’s not being defensive, not at all, he’s appealing to the church to open up their hearts, to stop withholding their affection from him (verse 12).
‘As God’s fellow-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
‘In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation. TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION! Not tomorrow, TODAY! Look he’ saying, God hasn’t held out on you…not for a moment. Stop dillydallying and jump right in, full immersion!
Why does Paul say this? What’s he getting at? Well the Corinthians had been HEDGING THEIR BETS… They had been waiting to see if there was another gospel, because of these false teachers. ‘Maybe this isn’t the complete Gospel, maybe we don’t have everything we need… perhaps we should look elsewhere for our security. Perhaps we shouldn’t completely commit ourselves to Jesus. Maybe we just need to hold ourselves back..?’ SOUND FAMILIAR?
They’d begun to withdraw from the battle, and begun to withhold their affection. This was a sure sign of the compromise that had begun to creep in and establish footholds in their camp. Self-pity?