Summary: Pastors have a difficult job in many ways, contrary to the 'He only works on Sundays' mindset many in the church have. Spiritual stress is unlike stress of any other kind. Link inc. to formatted text, audio, PowerPoint.

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When the Pastor Makes a Hard Decision

2 Corinthians 7

Pastors have a difficult job in many ways, contrary to the 'He only works on Sundays' mindset many in the church have. For one thing, spiritual stress is unlike stress of any other kind, and it is why we die younger, on average. One of the hard parts of our job is making the hard decisions.

In many cases, the easy thing to do is nothing. We are tempted not to confront a sinner, not to take a hard stand, and not to make risky statements. But often the right thing to do is the hard thing to do, and thank God for His good undershepherds who are willing to do the hard Paul did.

As a background for this chapter we need to remember that there had been a man in the church in Corinth who had been guilty of gross immorality. He had had an incestuous and adulterous relationship with his own father's wife, his stepmother. The church hadn't dealt with that situation, and Paul had reprimanded them in his first epistle and had said they must deal with it. Now as Paul is writing his second letter to them, they had dealt with this man with the result that he repented and confessed his sin. The church had been accurate in dealing with him. Paul's letter had had the right kind of effect. Titus came to Paul with the report that this man had been weeping over his sin and that he felt utterly unworthy of further recognition by the church. It is to this matter that Paul is referring.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [2Cor. 7:1].

What promises is he talking about? He is referring to those at the end of chapter 6. God has said that if we will obey Him, He will be a real Father to us, we will be real sons and daughters to Him, and He can deal with us in that relationship. This does not say that if we don't come out and be separate, we will lose our salvation. It does mean that if we do not lead a clean life, God can't treat us as a Father would want to treat His child. Many of us do not know by experience what a wonderful Father we have. We don't give Him a chance to be a real Father to us.

What can we do to change that? Paul tells us, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves." How can we cleanse ourselves? We cannot cleanse our own conscience from the guilt of sin. I am unable to wash out the stain of a guilty conscience, but God has done that through the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood. After we have been cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ, our hearts still need a daily cleansing from the contamination of each day. When I receive the Word in faith and I act upon that Word, I am cleansed from all the filthiness of the flesh and spirit. This is what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17). The best bar of soap in the world is the Word of God. It will really clean us up. The Holy Spirit enables us to deal with the sin in our lives.

Paul says we are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit. All sin is filthiness in the sight of God. Then what is the difference between the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit?

The filthiness of the flesh are those sins which we commit in the body. This has to do with unholy lusts, unbridled appetites, drunkenness, gluttony, licentiousness, inordinate affection. These are the sins of the flesh. These are the dirty things. You and I need to be aware of the fact that we are living in a world today that is big on the sins of the flesh.

An illustration of this is the attitude of the world toward liquor. Most people today say that alcohol is all right. What does the Bible say about this? Proverbs says not to even look at alcohol, let alone drink it! And listen to Habakkuk 2:15: "Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!" God have mercy on you if you serve cocktails in your home and tempt your neighbor to drunkenness. The Word of God rebukes that.

Another illustration of the filthiness of the flesh is the vilest pornographic content that is imaginable now free online which glorifies the human body and sex. In this permissive society God's Word still condemns the sins of the flesh. If you as a Christian are going to indulge in them, my friend, then God cannot act toward you as your Father. Although you may actually be His son, He cannot treat you as a Father would like to treat His son.

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