September 20 - 26
Promises for Ministry
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Cor. 1:19, 20; 3:17; 5:17; 7:1; 9:6; 12:8, 9.
MEMORY TEXT: : "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians of the power and motivation found in God's promises to give us hope.
"NO MATTER WHAT, I'LL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU. " In 1989 an 8.2 earthquake in Armenia killed more than 30,000 people. When a father found his son' s school flattened, he remembered a promise he had once made to his son, "No matter what, I'll always be there for you." So he began to dig through the rubble. Other parents, along with the fire chief and the police, tried to pull him off. But to each he asked, "Are you going to help me now?" No one did. He dug alone for twelve hours, twenty-four hours, thirty-six hours. In the thirty-eighth hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son's voice. "Armand!" he screamed. In response, he heard, "It's me, Dad! I told the other kids not to worry. I told 'em that ... you'd save me and when you saved me, they'd be saved. You promised . . . . You did it, Dad!"Adapted from Mark V. Hansen, "Are You Going to Help Me?" in Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, 1993), pp. 273, 274.
"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not 'Yes and No'; but in him it is always 'Yes.' For in him every one of God's promises is a 'Yes.' For this reason it is through him that we say the 'Amen,' to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 1:19, 20, NRSV).
Who is the center of all God's promises? 2 Cor. 1:19, 20.
Paul hears the absolute, divine "Yes!" ringing out in a fascinating setting. His opponents have accused him of speaking out of both sides of his mouthpromising to come to Corinth on the one hand and withdrawing that promise on the other. Paul wants to be sure that, whatever their views of his travel plans, the Corinthians understand the gospel. God's word of hope in Christ is not doubtful but certain, not deceitful but truthful.
How are we to respond to God's promise in Christ? 2 Cor. 1:20.
The gospel is God's invitation to which we are requested to respond. The divine "Yes!" calls forth the human "Amen!" To us is given the joyous privilege of declaring the "Amen!" in word and life to God's gracious provisions.
What attitude toward God's promises do we see among the heroes of faith? Heb. 11:32-34.
"We are pilgrims and strangers on this earth, looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The path in which we travel is narrow, and calls for the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice, but God has not left us without help. He has filled His Word with wonderful promises, to strengthen and cheer His children. In these promises He draws back the veil from eternity, and gives us glimpses of the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that awaits the overcomer. "Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, August 22, 1906.
|Recall a time when one of God's promises strengthened and cheered you. What glimpses of glory did this promise help you to see?|
"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17, NKJV).
Paul promises that the Spirit's presence brings "liberty." "Liberty" for what? 2 Cor. 3:12-18.
Paul shares this promise as he contrasts the old-covenant ministry with his own, new-covenant ministry, which is an expression of God's eternal covenant of grace. He writes that many of his fellow citizens experience the presence of a "veil" as they read the Old Testament. This "veil" keeps them from understanding the gospel. But "when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed" (2 Cor. 3:16, NRSV; compare Exod. 34:34). Since Paul has contrasted the misuse of the law in the old covenant with the role of the Spirit in the new covenant, he emphasizes the promise "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17, NRSV).
New-covenant life and ministry are all about receiving and appreciating the Spirit's presence. Gone is any attempt to live by a checklist of "dos" and "don'ts." The life of a new-covenant Christian is marked instead by freedom-freedom to share life, not with a checklist, but with the Spirit; freedom to view the glory of the Lord; freedom to be transformed into His image (verse 18). This thought stays with Paul, for his last wish in the letter is that "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14, NIV).
How would your Christian experience change if you claimed the promise of 2 Corinthians 3:17? In what specific ways would it affect your witness?
|"How much joy we might bring into our life here below if we would but make these promises our own. As we talk of the mansions that Christ is preparing for us, we shall forget the petty annoyances that we meet day by day. It is our privilege to sing the songs of Zion now, to turn our eyes to the light, to bring hope into our hearts and into the hearts of others. God desires us to gather up His promises, that we may be strengthened and refreshed. Let us take our eyes off the curse, and fix them on the grace so abundantly provided. "Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, August 22, 1906.|
"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Cor. 5:17, NRSV).
Have we taken as seriously as we should God's "new creation" work? 2 Cor. 5:17.
Arthur Custance calls Christians "a new kind of species." For him, the new-birth miracle "is not a symbolic rebirth, like that achieved by ritual in some pagan religions of antiquity and even of today. It is a fundamental change in human nature, so great a change that it amounts to a genuine form of speciation . . . . We indeed remain in the world, but we are no longer of the world."Quoted in David C. Needham, Alive for the First Time (Sisters, Ore.: Questar Publishers, 1995), p. 63.
Review these additional promises describing God's creative work in our lives: John 3:3, 7; Rom. 5:8-10; Eph. 2: 10; 1 John 3:1, 2. Which means the most to you? Why?
"The important thing is to become united to Christ, to believe in Christ as a personal Saviour, to live by faith in the Son of God. The question to ask the soul is, 'Am I a partaker of the divine nature, represented as being born again? Has a new moral taste been created?' If not, the soul is in deadly peril. He who is born of God is a new man. 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.' The old imperious Will is gone. The pride is cleansed from the soul. Selfishness is uprooted. The quick, passionate temper no longer masters the man; for Jesus Christ has brought the thoughts into captivity to Himself "Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, Sept. 26, 1892.
|Can you say the following about your experience? If not, what can
you do to change it?
"Every promise in the book is mine,
Every chapter, every verse, every line;
All are blessings of His love divine,
Every promise in the book is mine."
Let There Be Praise
"Remember that the person who plants few seeds will have a small crop; the one who plants many seeds will have a large crop" (2 Cor. 9:6, TEV).
Second Corinthians 8 and 9 is the strongest and longest offering appeal in Scripture. You will remember that Paul is gathering funds for "the collection," which was to relieve the needs of the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Paul believed this project would make real the reconciliation he preached. He encouraged the Corinthians to be generous by repeating the above principle of sowing.
How is this principle as true in the spiritual field as it is in the agricultural field?
"Liberality both in spiritual and in temporal things is taught in the lesson of seed sowing. The Lord says, 'Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters.' Isa. 32:20. 'This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.' 2 Cor. 9:6. To sow beside all waters means a continual imparting of God's gifts. It means giving wherever the cause of God or the needs of humanity demand our aid. This will not tend to poverty. 'He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.' The sower multiplies his seed by casting it away. So it is with those who are faithful in distributing God's gifts. By imparting they increase their blessings. God has promised them a sufficiency that they may continue to give. 'Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.' Luke 6:38 . . . . As we distribute God's temporal blessings, the evidence of our love and sympathy awakens in the receiver gratitude and thanksgiving to God."Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 85, 86.
Think of a time when you contributed more money or time and energy than you thought you had to spare. How did God refill your resources?
|"One may spend freely and yet grow richer; another is tight-fisted, yet ends in poverty. A generous person enjoys prosperity, and one who refreshes others will be refreshed" (Prov. 11: 24, 25, REB).|
"Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Cor. 12:8, 9, NRSV).
In what setting does Paul receive the Lord's assurance that His grace is enough? 2 Cor. 12:1-10.
In the conclusion of 2 Corinthians, Paul defends his ministry against his opponents' accusations. In a "fool's speech," he compares his own credentials to those his opponents offer. They are Hebrews. So is he (2 Cor. 11:22). They are "ministers of Christ." So is he. But he has a longer and more impressive list of ministry accomplishments and hardships (2 Cor. 11:23-29). He ends this section of foolish boasting with the humiliating story of his escape from Damascus--in a basket.
He moves on to suggest for comparison his own matchless visionary experience in which he "heard things that are not to be told" (2 Cor. 12:4, NRSV). As with the previous section, he ends this one with a story that, far from glorifying his credentials, displays his weakness. Three times he prayed for God to remove his "thorn in the flesh." But three times, God refused. Instead, He gave a most personal and profound answer, which we also may claim: "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness' " (2 Cor. 12:8, 9, NRSV).
In what area or weakness of your life do you need to apply this personal, penetrating word from the Lord? (2 Cor. 12:8, 9). How and when will you make such applications in your life and service?
|"Closely to study our emotions and give way to our feelings is to
entertain doubt and entangle ourselves in perplexity. We are to look away
from self to Jesus. . . .
"When temptations assail you, when care, perplexity, and darkness seem to surround your soul, look to the place where you last saw the light. Rest in Christ's love, and under His Protecting care. When sin struggles for the mastery in the heart, when guilt oppresses the soul and burdens the conscience, when unbelief clouds the mind, remember that Christ's grace is sufficient to subdue sin and banish the darkness. Entering into communion with the Saviour, we enter the region of peace."The Ministry of Healing, pp. 249, 250.
FURTHER STUDY: Look up the word promise in a concordance and add to the passages we have examined in these lessons.
"Comfort, encouragement, and support have been provided for every condition of life. Let us rejoice in the love of God. Let us praise Him who has made promises so royal. Let these promises keep our hearts in perfect peace. Jesus lives. His hand is guiding us. Constantly our hearts may be filled with the peace that passeth all understanding, even the peace that Jesus gives: Let us make the promises of God's Word our own. In times of test and trial these promises will be to us glad springs of heavenly comfort. "Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, August 22, 1906.
"He whose heart is fixed to serve God will find opportunity to witness for Him. Difficulties will be powerless to hinder him who is determined to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. In the strength gained by prayer and a study of the Word, he will seek virtue and forsake vice. Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith, who endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, the believer will willingly brave contempt and derision. And help and grace sufficient for every circumstance are promised by Him whose word is truth. His everlasting arms encircle the soul that turns to Him for aid. In His care we may rest safely, saying, 'What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.' To all who put their trust in Him, God will fulfill His promise."The Acts of the Apostles, p. 467.
SUMMARY: In facing the joys and trials brought his way by the Corinthian church, Paul demonstrated an important strategy for Christian living--claiming and clinging to God's promises.
Russian Soldier Becomes Soldier for Christ
J. H. Zachary
Far from home and serving in the Russian army, Igor Pashkin had a lot of time to think. His lifelong acceptance of atheism wrestled with the concept of God. Gradually he became convinced that life is the work of a super intelligence. But who or what was it? He sought an answer in the Russian Orthodox Church, but he had no personal relationship with God.
Igor returned to his home in Omsk and enrolled in the university to study English. When he learned that an Australian pastor was conducting evangelistic meetings in the city, he decided to go. It would be a good chance to improve his English.
He enjoyed listening to the English speaker. When he spoke on the prophecy of Daniel 2, Igor recognized the empires that rose and fell--Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome. This prophecy offered compelling evidence that the Bible is true. From that time on Igor attended the meetings for another reason: to learn more about the Bible.
When the pastor invited listeners to follow Jesus in baptism, Igor stepped forward. That night he told his wife of his decision to be a Christian. He expected her to rejoice with him, but instead, she became angry. "I'll not be a Christian! You must choose," she demanded. "It is me or God." Igor chose God.
Living for God may make life better, but it does not make life easier. His wife left him; the university refused to excuse him from classes on Saturday; and Igor refused to break the Sabbath, even if it meant he would be expelled. He asked God to intervene, and rejoiced when the university changed its position.
Igor longs to share the joy of his new faith with others, and has dedicated his life to missionary work. He preached to inmates in a youth correction facility and led three young men to Jesus. He and a friend held a two-week evangelistic series in a village nearby. On opening night 300 people attended. Following the series, 20 persons were baptized. Recently he translated for The Quiet Hour evangelistic teams who are planting churches in unentered cities of Russia. Between translating assignments, Igor preaches the gospel to all who Will listen.
|Igor Pashkin (left); James Zachary is director of evangelism for The Quiet Hour in Redlands, California.|
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