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Faithfulness



Faithfulness

Joshua J. Masters |

To fully live a new life of purpose and meaning in Christ, we must embrace a life of faithfulness—connected to the will of the Father and directed by the power of the Spirit.






Sufficiency in Christ
Message 5 • Faithfulness
Joshua J. Masters
October 17, 2021


A. INTRODUCTION

How many people here need peace right now?
How many of us feel like the world is pressing in on us?

God’s promise is that we CAN have peace.

Last week, we talked about receiving new life—that those who belong to Christ become a new person. The old life is gone, and a new life has begun, right?.

And in that new life, we’re called to be Christ’s ambassadors to a broken world.

This was from last week’s passage:
…God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. … So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!!”
2 Corinthians 5:18b, 20 (NLT)


But to fully live this new life of purpose in Christ, we must embrace a life of faithfulness—connected to the will of the Father and directed by the power of the Spirit.

Purpose in Christ.
Will of the Father.
Directed by the Spirit.

It requires a deep, abiding connection to all three members of the Trinity.

--We cannot reflect the power of God if we’re not empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit.
--We cannot be ambassadors of God if we’re not connected in relationship to the Father.
--We cannot share the hope of Christ—if we’re not experiencing the hope of Christ.

So, we grow deeper in that relationship with God by seeking a life of faithfulness.
But what does that really mean?

We’ll explore that together as we continue our series on 2 Corinthians.

Go ahead and turn or swipe in your Bible to 2 Corinthians, Chapter 6 (pg. 932).
That’s where we left off.

After describing the incredible promises and mission God has for us,
Paul now moves on to describe OUR part.

What does it take to live a life of faithfulness?

What does our attitude need to look like?
What do our priorities need to be?

Now, some of what he writes here is very challenging and you may think, “I could never live a life of faithfulness like Paul.”

But that brings us back to the title of our series and the theme of this book, doesn’t it.

Sufficiency in Christ.
Is Christ’s sacrifice to bring us new life sufficient for us to live a life of faithfulness?

We know the answer is yes intellectually, but have we experienced it?
Are we pursuing the power of Christ in our new life?
Are we focused on the mission He’s given us IN that new life?

This morning, we’ll look at four things this passage shows about living a life of faithfulness.

So, go ahead and grab your outline or pull it up using the Brookwood App.

Here’s the first one:
B. A life of faithfulness means…
1. ALLEGIANCE to your purpose.

Are you living a mission-focused life?

God may give us different callings, but we all have the same purpose… To reconcile the lost to a loving God.
Are you committed to that purpose?

Because whatever your individual calling is; artist, teacher, builder, finance—whatever it is—your calling must funnel into the greater purpose of reaching the lost and broken.

Now, Paul continues by explaining how we remain dedicated to that purpose.

2 Corinthians 6:3:
We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God.
2 Corinthians 6:3–4a (NLT)


And when Paul uses the phrase “true ministers” That’s one word in Greek that means servants.

We show that we are true ministers, true servants in what? Everything we do.

Every word you speak,
every interaction you have,
every glance you give is as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.
How are you representing Him?

Do we have a greater allegiance to our purpose or to our comfort?

Because this culture is falling apart.
There’s more hate and division then there’s ever been because we’re further from God then we’ve ever been.

And the only hope is for Christians to faithfully live every moment as true ministers of God and servants to those who are hurting.

Last week, Perry said, “The days of complacency are over. It’s all hands on-deck.”

Now is the time.

People are always looking for an excuse to ignore the call of God and the inconsistent life of a Christian is an easy out for them.

Listen, everything you do matters.

The way you interact with someone who disagrees with you matters.
The things you post online matter.
The way you drive matters.
Your attitude matters.

Do you want to see a change in our nation?

Then…
We must stop treating Christianity like a part-time job we get to punch in and out of,
and start seeking a fulltime identity in Jesus Christ.

That means dedicating ourselves to faithfulness and to prayer as we grow closer to God.
I encourage you to join one of our Prayer Teams.

God wants to give you a life of fulfillment, joy, and peace.

That comes from becoming what you were created to be
and helping others discover that same hope.

Your allegiance can’t be to two things at the same time.

You have a purpose that is greater than yourself and every action you take either moves you closer to that calling or closer to the world.

That’s leads us to our second fill-in.

A life of faithfulness means…
2. ACTING in the Spirit.

If you try to live every moment as an ambassador of Christ in your own power, you’ll fail every time.

It’s only when our actions are directed by the Holy Spirit that we have the integrity to represent Christ (regardless of the circumstances).

Look what Paul faced. Picking up in verse 4:
In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.
2 Corinthians 6:4–5 (NLT)


We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.
2 Corinthians 6:6–7 (NLT)


We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
2 Corinthians 6:8–10 (NLT)


That’s a lot, isn’t it?

If you look closely at these verses, Paul mentions every type of struggle we could come up against in our faith:
Physical limitations,
Emotional limitations,
Spiritual attack,
External threats,
Internal battles.

But…
Every hardship can be a testimony of Christ’s victory if we allow the Spirit to direct us and transform us through it.

Let’s break that section down a little more.

(Now, those of you with a Baptists background are going to love this.
Because I have three subpoints to my main point.)

They’re not in your outline but I’ll put them up on the screen so you can write them down.

What does it look like when we’re acting in the Spirit?

We act in the Spirit with:
· Perseverance in trials (v. 4-5)
· Power from God (v. 6-7)
· Perspective of Eternity (v. 8-10)

Perseverance, Power, and Perspective.

Look at the first one back in verses 4-5.
Paul faces imprisonment, angry mobs, exhaustion, hunger, and sleepless nights.

Those are examples of persevering through trials.
Endurance is a theme that comes up again and again in the New Testament.

When we are Christ-focused and purpose-driven,
Scripture promises us the strength to not only endure suffering but thrive.

Look at Romans 5:3-4
…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
Romans 5:3-4 (ESV)

So, we act in the Spirit with PERSEVERANCE.

Then in verses 6-7 Paul explains how we do that—through the POWER of God’s Holy Spirit working in us.

Let’s put it back up on the screen.
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. [What does that list remind you of? It’s similar to the Fruit of the Spirit, Isn’t it?] We faithfully preach the truth. [Gospel focused] God’s power is working in us. [Whose power?] We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.
2 Corinthians 6:6–7 (NLT)


In other words, the best offense AND the best defense in a broken, chaotic world is displaying Christian Character.

We represent Christ better because we become more Christ-like as the Holy Spirit develops Christian character in our lives.

What’s the theological term for that? Sanctification.

That’s how we face the trials of this life and still fulfill the purpose God has given us.

And when God begins to transform you,
you’re view of the world will change
and the world’s view of you will change.

What was the third sub-point for verses 8-10?
We act in the Spirit with the perspective of eternity.


· We serve God whether people honor us or despise us,
whether they slander us or praise us.

· We are honest, but they call us impostors.
· We are ignored, even though we are well known.
· We live close to death, but we are still alive.
· We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.
· Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.
· We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others.
· We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
2 Corinthians 6:8–10 (NLT)
 

Look closely at this list. Each line looks like a paradox, doesn’t it?


But Paul is describing the difference between an eternal perspective and a worldly perspective.

--People keep trying to kill us, but we’re alive.
--We have earthly heartbreak, but our eternal perspective gives us complete joy.
--We’re poor, but we have riches to give away.
--We own nothing, but we know we have EVERYTHING.

When you have an eternal perspective—you see the world and your circumstances differently.

And when you’re living a life of faithfulness in the Spirit, your life WILL look like a paradox to others.

But it’s that paradox that draws others to Christ.

They’ll ask:
“How can he have so much joy and hope when everything is falling apart?”
“Why does she have so much peace when the rest of us are freaking out?”

And when they come to the end of their rope—when they feel like they can’t hang on any longer, who are they going to go to?

The person they’ve seen respond to life with peace and joy over and over again.
Even if they don’t know who the Spirit is.

Responding to our circumstances with perseverance and perspective through the power of the Holy Spirit is or first witness as ambassadors of Christ.

But acting in the Spirit goes beyond how we respond to our own circumstances.
It’s also how we respond to other people’s circumstances.

It means having a sincere and sacrificial love for others.

A life of faithfulness means…
3. AFFECTION and love for others.

Affection AND love—both.

In verse 6 above, Paul says we prove ourselves by our sincere love.

Who wants to guess the Greek word Paul was using for love there?

Agape—A pure, unselfish, unconditional, Christ-like love.
That’s for all people.

The ultimate goal of a believer is to be guided by a deep, sincere love for God, for the church, for unbelievers, and even our enemies (You can see a number of cross references for that in your outline).

Love is our motivation.

If you want to be an effective ambassador for Christ,
--It can’t be done with anti-government memes.
--It can’t be done with clever barbs.
--It can’t be done with the right political stance on vaccines.

**The truth is: those things more readily make you an ambassador of the Enemy.

Being an effective ambassador of Christ can only be accomplished through unselfish, unpolitical, agape love.

Yes, with healthy boundaries among non-believers.
Yes, without compromising the Gospel.
Yes, we challenge and even discipline ungodly behavior in the church.

But always motivated by a sincere, abiding, love.

That’s verse 6.
But in verse 11, Paul is speaking directly to the church.

Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love [affection] from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!
2 Corinthians 6:11–13 (NLT)


Paul is taking an emotional risk here.
He’s declaring his love and exposing how hurt he is by their abandonment of him.

Most translations use the word affection here instead of love (so it’s not confused with the agape love described in verse 6).

This Greek word is Spanchnon [SpanCH-non].
It means affection that comes from deep within you--having an open heart of compassion toward someone.

See, Paul hasn’t done anything to sever or damage their relationship.

He tells them again and again in his letters how much he loves them… even when he’s correcting them, it comes from a place of deep love.

But false teachers who are angling for power and worldly pleasure in the church have been spreading rumors that Paul is only using the Corinthians, that he’s power hungry, manipulative, abusive.

See, when you’re sincerely doing God’s work, people will spread the nastiest lies about you to maintain their own power and control.

But Paul isn’t hurt by what the false teachers say, he’s hurt by the response of his spiritual children.

Have any of you ever had a loved one turn away from you, sever ties?
Have you ever had a child, or a parent, or a brother or sister reject you—turning their backs on you while they’re turning their backs on God?

What does that feel like?
That’s the pain Paul’s experiencing.

They feel like his children because his love and affection for them comes from a deep, experiential sense of GOD’S love for him.

You cannot SINCERELY love others until you truly understand God’s love for you.

But once you grasp the love our Father has for you, it will become part of your identity and you will sacrificially love others.

You’ve heard the phrase “Hurt people hurt people?”
Well, loved people love people.

That’s how the love of Christ infiltrates the darkness of this world.

So, we must have both.
We must have a Spirit-led, agape love—a love that acts regardless of emotions.
But we should also have an affectionate compassion for the church and the lost that comes from deep within our God-given emotions.

A Faithful life require acts of love AND feelings of compassion.
It requires both choice and feelings.

The archaic definition of “affection” didn’t mean snuggling up by a fire, it meant deep feelings that had an EFFECT on someone.
Affect-tion

Do you want your life to have an affect on the lives of others?
Then you must seek a deeper understanding of God’s love for you
And love others as a reflection of His love.

So, how do we get a deeper understanding of God’s love?
We do that by making sure our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with the world.

A life of faithfulness means…
4. ALIGNMENT with God.

None of the things we’ve talked about this morning are possible if we’re not in alignment with God.

If our relationship with other people, our personal goals, or our circumstances overshadow our relationship with God, then those things become our god.

That’s why this next section of Paul’s letter so desperately warns us about our relationship with the world.

Verse 14:
Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
2 Corinthians 6:14–16a (NLT)

Earlier we said that a faithful life will seem like a paradox to the world.

But if we claim to be a believer but remain tied to earthly desires, our life isn’t a paradox but a hypocrisy.

You cannot be aligned with God and the world at the same time.
You can’t be a partner with God and the world at the same time.

We’re called to be a beacon of light to those who are in danger of shipwreck.
But you can’t tend the lighthouse if you’re on the ship!

We’re called to be ambassadors of hope to this world, not to be in union with it.

Verse 14 says, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.”
That’s what we call a dynamic or thought for thought translation.
It’s not a word for word translation.

Who has a different translation? What does it say?

The Greek reads:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
2 Corinthians 6:14a (ESV)

That’s a reference from Deuteronomy 22:10:
“Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together” (NIV).

There were two reasons.
1. The Spiritual reason was that one animal was considered clean and the other was unclean.
2. The practical reason was that their gate and pull were different, so they’d be working against each other.

Those are the same reasons we’re not suppose to be yoked to those in the world.

I know these are unpopular truths, but:
--If you’re a believer dating an unbeliever, you shouldn’t be in that relationship. (marriage note)
--If you’re starting a business as a believer, you shouldn’t partner with an unbeliever.

Why? Because believers are supposed to have a different gate, a different walk, and ultimately, you’ll only be pulling against each other.

And some of you are thinking, “But you said we’re supposed to love unbelievers and be in their lives.
Aren’t we supposed to have relationships with them as a witness?”

Absolutely.

Yes, you love people in the world.
You don’t isolate from them.
You care for them.
You have true relationships of integrity with them.
You share the hope of Christ with them.
But you are not in union with them.

How do you know the difference?
You have to ask yourselves: Are my interactions with the world in alignment with God—or are they an excuse for me to take part in the world’s pleasure?

We struggle so much in our faith because we try to stay yoked to the world—constantly pulling and struggling against the steps God has asked us to take and the steps of the world that we’re yoked to—a constant strain that causes anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and a general sense of failure…. Because our plow isn’t yielding a harvest.

But when we’re in step with God’s will, we see fruit.

Jesus said:
Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:29–30 (NLT)


Holiness means to be set-apart… and God has set you apart for a calling and purpose.

Stop fighting against it.

That’s how Paul endured all the suffering we read about earlier—not by changing the circumstances, but by being yoked to a purpose GREATER than his circumstances.

We can’t be true ambassadors unless we’re living a faithful life of allegiance to our purpose, continually acting through the Spirit, have an affection for the church, and a compassionate love for the lost.

But look at the incredible promise God makes when we invest in that….

Middle of verse 16:
As God said:
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be My people.
Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things,

and I will welcome you.
And I will be your Father,
and you will be My sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:16b–18 (NLT)


The God of creation—the One who hung the stars in the sky—not only wants to walk with you,
He wants the world to know you’re His cherished child.

He wants to fill your life with meaning, and purpose, and joy, and hope.

He wants to include you in His incredible plan to save others.

He wants to give you peace in the chaos of this world.

So how to we respond?
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness [to be set apart] because we fear God.
2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT)


Not an unhealthy fear of abuse… but a reverent understanding of His power—the same power that raised Christ from the dead and the same power He uses to raise us out of the brokenness we’ve been buried in to give us eternal life.

So, let’s pursue lives of faithfulness together.
Let’s build one another up and encourage one another.

Because the only answer for the chaos outside these doors…
the only hope to combat the negativity and hate of this world is the name of Jesus Christ…
And He’s sending you.

It’s time for us to make a difference in our community, in our workplaces, and in this nation.

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. … Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:1, 2b (NLT)

Let’s go do it.

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