Category: 2 Corinthians



2 Corinthians 6:2, “For [God] says, ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is the acceptable time! Behold now is the day of salvation.” (LITV)

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Paul here quotes from Isaiah 49:8. It would certainly be beneficial to us to refer to this verse in Isaiah, and the previous one, so that we might understand what the acceptable time means.

Isaiah 49:7-8, “The LORD, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, says to the One who is despised and rejected by the nations, to the One who is the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will stand at attention when you pass by. Princes will also bow low because of the LORD, the faithful one, the Holy One of Israel, Who has chosen You. At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as My covenant with them. Through You I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again.”

This chapter in Isaiah is a prelude, foreshadowing or prophecy of what would eventually come to pass. Israel would be in state of enmity against God and His Holy Servant Jesus Christ. Verse 7 gives us insight into this strife, which is extant on man’s part alone, but despite the presence of unbelief and outright hostility against God and God’s Holy One, God sought it fit to impart grace upon mankind.

I would ask the reader to reflect upon the sublimity of these facts, that at one of the most hostile times in history towards God and His Holy One, that God somehow, in accordance with a grace and love far surpassing that of human-kind, purposed a time of His favor through that same Holy One, Jesus Christ. As William MacDonald mentions, the “day of salvation” mentioned, as it pertains to Jesus, “refers to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

"Resurrection of Christ," by Carl Heinrich Bloch. c. 1875

“Resurrection of Christ,” by Carl Heinrich Bloch. c. 1875

Therefore, this “time of favor” can be said to be situated between the resurrection and Christ’s return. Philip E. Hughes, of the NIV Study Bible, says:

“[This is] an affirmation that is true in a general sense of all God’s saving acts in the history of His people, but that finds its particular fulfillment in this present age of grace between the two comings of Christ.” –Philip E. Hughes, NIV Study Bible

Hughes correctly points out that throughout history there have been manifest times of God’s favor. However, there is an innovative originality concerning the particular age we live in now, where this hallowed salvation is made available to all mankind. Yet, we say this in a general sense, for there is also an individualistic sense in which, by Paul’s words, is not only suggested this blessed grace or salvation, but also it serves as a warning. For we are told that it is a time of God’s favor, but one necessary condition of time is that it passes. The direct consequent, then, is that this time of “acceptability” will pass. Henceforth, we understand the urgency of Paul’s message, that ‘now is the day of salvation.’

Now-Time

The NIV Study Bible points this out when it states:

“[‘Now’] underscores the urgency of the divine invitation.” –Philip E. Hughes, NIV Study Bible

Time is somewhat of a relative term as it is used here. We should realize that time can mean, this moment, today, this week, fifty years from now, a hundred, or, indeed, eons from now. Of course, the verse applies its message for today. Paul does this in probably the full understanding that mankind, when it comes to salvation and holiness are the greatest of procrastinators. We tend to put off these things like obedience and faith because we fool ourselves into thinking that we will always have tomorrow, the next day, or the next, and so on, to come under the grace of our Lord. However, nobody is guaranteed tomorrow, nor ten minutes from now. This strikes me as a rather prideful assertion and delusional assurance, for all evidence points to the contrary. Rather than putting these things off, let us today put on the full armor of God, with its helmet of salvation, shield of faith, shoes to spread the gospel of peace, breastplate of righteousness and belt of truth. Let us put on the shining armor of right living, as the Scriptures tells us:

Romans 13:12, “The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.”

Ephesians 6:11, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:13-14, “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”

1 Thessalonians 5:8, “But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.”

Let us again consider the general and specific application regarding this “time of salvation” as it pertains to both mankind as a whole (general) and the individual (specific). We find the generality of the time of God’s favor to pertain to all man in this age between the appearances of Christ. It is in this age we are offered salvation by and through faith (in which obedience becomes an integral part) in Jesus Christ. Yet, as we have said, since it is mentioned in the context of time, it will not carry on indefinitely. Rather, this time supposes an end, so, let us run in haste and endurance that race marked out before us, while we still exist within this state or time, for we do not know the time when it will come to an abrupt end.

End

Here is our chance. Here is our opportunity. Let no man suppose that this opportunity will always be there, for if it was the case the Scriptures would not emphasize us coming to the Lord, or obeying His statues, “as long as it is still today.” The Scriptures say:

Hebrews 3:7-8, “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested Me in the wilderness.’”

Hebrews 3:13, “You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.”

Hebrews 4:7, “So God set another time for entering His rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: ‘Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts.’”

Psalm 69:13, “But I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of Your favor, in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.”

Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”

Psalm 32:6, “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to You while You may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach Him.”

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No, we must run for the goal, which is Christ Jesus, in all due haste. How I cringe when I hear Christians suggest by their words that they can always ask for forgiveness later. How I cringe when I realize I too have done this very thing. Now I am not one to put limits on the grace of the Lord, for this is beyond my scope of knowledge, but this attitude speaks loudly in a resounding tone of arrogance and disrespectful presuppositions. For it supposes God will always forgive us and that He is always willing to forgive. Frightfully enough, the Scriptures, though Jesus tells us if we seek we shall find (Matthew 7:7), Proverbs makes it clear:

Proverbs 1:24-28, “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored My advice and rejected the correction I offered. So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you. When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for Me, they will not find Me.”

Therefore, let us not suppose we are always fit to be found under the grace of the Lord our God. However, those of us who have been forgiven for our past sins let us rejoice and take a firm hold of the faith. For the Lord has granted us favor, and not by our own works, but by His grace which transcends all understanding of man.

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“For to be sure, He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s Power. Likewise, we are weak in Him, yet by God’s power we will live with Him to serve you.” -2 Corinthians 13:4

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When we read the Scriptures, we cannot help but be impressed with the lengths Christ had to descend in His humility to accomplish the goal. Though Paul offers a great compare/contrast here, there is one major difference between the weakness of Christ and the weakness of mere man. The weakness of Christ was manifest due to His perfect obedience, while the weakness of man, is often made apparent by our disobedience. The weakness of Christ, and His humility, even to the point of death, is infinitely stronger than the greatest of man’s strength! He was perfectly obedient, for Christ was well aware of His mission on earth, and that it must be completed, lest none of us become saved.
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Yet, as we realize that Christ was man, as well as a vital part of the Trinity, we see that Christ had His struggles. Not to the point of sin and disobedience, for if this were the case our faith would be meaningless, but rather, as a man, He dealt with temptation and even fear. We do not have a Lord who sits up on high, making commands from afar, with no personal understanding of the difficulty man has in overcoming sin. Instead, we have a Lord who became man, faced the very same challenges we face, and more, was crucified, and rose again victorious.

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Thereby, it gives us hope to realize our Lord did wage war against sin, temptation, and looked upon His crucifixion with trepidation. This is, of course, to put it mildly. We are told in Luke 22:44, that during His praying within the garden of Gethsemane that He sweat as blood. This, and His prayer, in which He prayed God would take the cup from Him if it was His will, are some heavy indications of the turmoil and fear Christ must have felt in that part of His nature that was man. Yet, could He have sweat blood?

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This rare medical condition is known as hematidrosis, or, hematohidrosis. Rather than some kind of obscure condition, though it’s rare, history, apart from the account of Christ, is full of examples of this occurring. In fact, Leonardo da Vinci, wrote the account of a solider who sweat blood before battle. I also recall hearing an account of a young girl who living in or near London during the blitz sweat blood out of fear. The blood vessels around the sweat glands rupture, the blood seeping into the glands, and it pushes the blood and sweat to the surface. The experience is said to be rather painful, for the skin becomes extremely tender.

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Even to the point of shedding His blood in such a fashion, Christ was obedient to the Fathers will, and though He could have stopped the crucifixion, and indeed destroyed all of Rome, He did not. To be obedient to God,  He appeared as weak, though in reality, He was strong, so that by what occurred at Calvary, we may all be saved by His strength and obedience, and that we may be clothed in it, even in our weakness, to serve God and others as Christ did. As the Father raised Christ, so too will we be raised, for like our sin was put upon Christ at Golgotha, His righteousness will be put upon even the weakest of those who come to Him in faith and persevere. To Him be all the praise and glory. Amen.
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“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” -Romans 5:10

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There were times, and are times when I act more in accordance with an enemy of God than an ally. This is of course much to my shame, but this is essentially what sin is, battling against God and those perfect decrees He has made known through all creation. Yet, through the death of Christ on the cross there is offered reconciliation even for the likes of myself. Furthermore, if that what was accomplished through His death, how much more was accomplished by His resurrection? His death was the gateway into salvation and His resurrection the completion. It could not have been accomplished unless these two things were in complete unity. As 1 Corinthians 15:17 states:

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

Thus, when we come to Christ in faith, we must believe upon Him, His death, and His resurrection. For in His death we die along with our sins, but in His life we arise as a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (see my note on, “On The Old Overtaken by What is New”) tells us:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!”

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Though we are made anew, this doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t contest with those things we allied to when we were enemies of God. In fact, those sins which enslaved our lives are more apt to be the ones we most struggle with in Christ. Yet, let us never tire of doing good, for despite our flaws, we are being renewed day by day (see my note concerning 2 Corinthians 4:16, “On Not Losing Heart Due to Sin”). This can be an esoteric truth to understand when one comes to Christ and it may serve the enemy to trip up those who are new to the faith. I once had a discourse with a messenger from Satan regarding this very thing.

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I had found myself losing battles but striving to do what was right in sight of the Lord. The enemy came to me saying, “Are you sure this is what you want? In me is true contentment, lack of struggle and gratification.” I am not proud to recount that it was a temptation for me. Did I really want to fight against the flesh, isn’t it much easier to go the way of sin, than of righteousness? I found myself warring against myself and I prayed for some sort of guidance and delivery from the argument. This temptation was apparently very effective, for I almost buckled under the weight of it. I kept warring back and forth between ease of gratification and the difficulty of conviction.

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Then the Lord began to answer me and the dark messenger. I found myself responding to the enemy, that even if I fail, even to the point of eternal condemnation, I shall rejoice that Christ has been victorious. By responding as such, the provocation subsided and I was astounded at the thought, to be honest, for like anyone I fear the fires of hell, but my fear was trumped by my love and praise. I began to realize, with the help of verses like the aforementioned one in Romans, that despite losing battles, the Lord is the one who won the war on our behalf. I consistently see new Christians struggle with this very thing, the associations of conviction and condemnation, but as this verse suggests, it’s not about the skirmishes that we may lose, but who we ally ourselves to. I began to see from a different point of view, that in conviction God doesn’t condemn, but rather uses it to produce better soldiers in His army.

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Illustration for John Milton's, "Paradise Lost," by Gustave Dore, c. 1866

The Lord is putting us through a Holy boot camp, that we may serve Him to the best of our ability, and that our abilities may keep improving and developing. If one who has given their life to Christ, still finds themselves asking if they truly belong to Him, they must transcend the worlds idea of worth through action. One should seek inside themselves what side they really are fighting for and against, without taking their lost battles into account, for as I mentioned before, Christ has already won the war. Ally yourself on he side of victory and push beyond what you may conceive as easy, for as the Lord showed me at the end of my discourse with the darkness, effort is put in serving the sinful nature, just as it is in surpassing it. May you surpass it and receive the blessings of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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"Christ Blessing," by Simone Martini. tempera on panel, c. 1317


“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” -Galatians 1:11-12

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Here Paul refutes a argument common in his day, and likewise currently, that the gospel was made up by man. Paul’s own evidence is that he did not study under any of the apostles, and in fact didn’t meet them until three years after his ministry had begun. As it states in Galatians Chapter 1, Verses 18-19:

“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles only James, the Lord’s brother.”

Cephas, which means “rock,” in this case is actually Peter. Some dispute this, but when one considers that Christ gives Peter this name in the Gospel of John, and that Paul says, “I saw none of the other apostles,” it indicates to us that he did indeed see at least one of the apostles, Peter, and stayed with him 15 days.

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The main point of the passage, however, is that Paul, who himself used to be known as Saul, was preaching a gospel without former knowledge from any source apart from Christ Himself. It was from Christ that he received his new name and the message of reconciliation.

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Michelangelo. fresco, c. 1542-1545

Yet, why all these name changes? It’s not meant to confuse, rather provide clarity and symbolism. When we come to Christ in faith, we are told we become a “new creation,” and that the old has gone (See my note on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “On The Old Overtaken By What is New”). Thus, our worldly name, and those of many people in scripture, are changed to symbolize that they indeed are a new creation. Our names too will change, according to Revelation, when we are finally removed from this tent and live in our heavenly dwelling with the Lord. Revelation 2:17 states:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known to only him who receives it.”

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The color white within scripture symbolizes, purity, righteousness, and refinement. We will be pure beings which will be represented by our new names. Furthermore, sometimes after we come to the Lord we can feel rather insignificant, that we are merely a small particular in an aggregate of believers and though we may have a relationship with the Lord, it’s nothing spectacular and may be commonplace in the vast sea of the faithful. Yet, this verse in Revelation is touching because it shows us that our individual relationship with the Lord is unique. In fact, the relationship you have, and will have, nobody else has. That’s how close of friends we are with Jesus Christ (See my note concerning John 15:15, “On Having a Friendship With The Lord”). This is an amazing thing to reflect upon and I encourage everyone to do so, and that in love, I pray your relationship with the Lord may grow deeper and infinitely more profound. Amen.

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"Christ Pantocrator," by Master of Cefalu. mosaic, greco-byzantine style. Location: Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily, Italy. c. 1150


“Looking at His disciples, He said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.'”

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If one has ears to hear, let him hear. Many verses containing the word of Christ, and indeed throughout the Bible, contain some passages that may look curious or downright scary at first glance. Furthermore, they may seem to contradict the rest of what scripture says, though with closer inspection this isn’t the case. Although this section provided me with a lot of comfort, it also alarmed me somewhat.

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It seemed to say that to follow Christ I had to be in a constant state of misery. This obviously isn’t the case. When we look at the example of Paul for instance, we find that he was content no matter what he lacked or what hardships he faced. As he says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions in difficulties.” Instead, he had a faith that produced a harvest of contentment and joy no matter what the circumstance. So what is Jesus saying here? Does it contradict the joy that Paul, the apostles, and we have? Not at all, for even Christ Himself tells us to rejoice and “leap for joy” in verse 23.

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"San Paolo," by Pompeo Batoni. oil on canvas, c. 1742

2 Corinthians 5:4 says:

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (See my Note, “On Being Swallowed up by Life”)

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Paul both groans and delights. Using these scriptures, what Christ really means in the aforementioned passage in Luke becomes clear. A Christian is not supposed to be void of laughter, or even prosperity. A Christian is warned in Romans 12:2 to, “not conform to the pattern of this world.” Though we are in the world we are not of the world, for now our eyes are focused on Christ. Our contentment rests not in the things of this world, and those activities and materials man chases after to pacify himself, but rather it rests on Christ. This being the case we ache, or groan, to be in our heavenly dwelling and away from the body and it’s meaningless desires, for we know the things of God are not momentary like those things people find “contentment” in within the world, but rather everlasting and more glorious than anything currently made up of the physical or based upon it.

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We should not find contentment or delight in mere things, for as all physicality will disappear to be renewed, so will those things based upon material. In addition, our happiness should not be dependent on man. If one constantly chases after approval of man, then he shifts more often than shadows. Such a person is deceptive to both himself and those he seeks approval from. Contentment in this is just as fleeting, for man’s support will vanish from you at anytime. The reliability of superficial friendships is a farce and often self-serving, ironically to both parties. As it is said, no one can serve two masters.

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Serve God, fix your eyes on His son and you will gain an eternal contentment and joy that is based on the everlasting, not given to decay and abandonment like the things of this world, but instead He who promises to carry you through all things. As Christians we will have heartache, hardships, and insults, but lo, how fleeting these things are, for when the physical as we know it now ceases to be, weeping will be transformed into joy, hunger to satisfaction, exclusion to inclusion, and a lack of possession into great riches within the Kingdom. To this we await and look forward to.

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“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” -2 Corinthians 4:16

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This verse is one that I personally need to repeat to myself daily. When one first comes to Christ and is covered by grace, it is often easier to accept it offers the nullification of the sins of the past than it is to understand that this very same grace covers the sins of the future. Now, I am not one who likes to consistently blame our sins on Satan directly, for to do so negates our own responsibility in sight of the Lord. Furthermore, since we are offered forgiveness in Christ, it testifies to our role in accepting and following the temptations or tricks of Satan.

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Before one comes to Christ, Satan’s deceptions center around keeping man from accepting God or coming to Him. Yet, after we are covered by grace, it seems that Satan reaches into a entirely different bag of tricks altogether. One of his favorite tools is one of condemnation for believers.

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"Lucifer in Hell," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1861 (From Dante's "Divine Comedy," Canto 34 of "Inferno")

As I have mentioned before, Satan hasn’t created anything. He merely takes God’s purpose, His great deeds, and twists, manipulates or perverts them, offering them unto man in a way God hadn’t intended. Our responsibility is apparent when we choose to follow either truth, or the lies of darkness.

As Christians, Satan may now attack us in ways that belittle Christ’s sacrifice and/or our relationship with the Lord. When we come to Jesus and are baptized in His blood, we begin to gain a conviction of sin through the Spirit and we may feel guilty or sorrowful for our disobedience in sight of God. Yet, the enemy tries to twist this conviction into condemnation, again making a mockery of what Christ accomplished on the cross.

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"The Darkness at The Crucifixion," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1866

I am no stranger to this lie, and I remain quite convinced it is a common trick used by the enemy that Christians need to be aware of and refute using scripture. This is a verse the Lord led me too early on after my conversion and one that has allowed me to overcome the stumbling block of such condemnation. This is the very same condemnation Christ took upon Himself and freed me of and it is disrespectful to the Lord to say that what He did wasn’t good enough for me, when everything about the message of reconciliation says otherwise.

Yet, let us remember that we are not given a divine “get out of jail free card,” to continue sinning. For to rely on grace as an excuse to continue sinning is to trample on the blood of Christ and take advantage of God’s Son to indulge in your own evil desires. This is disrespectful and evil as well, and I urge all Christians to not fall into that trap. The grace of God is not a pass for sin, but an opportunity to fight against it. Sin still has the ability to easily entangle, that’s why the conviction of the Spirit is so important, not to condemn, but to warn or identify that area in your life that remains a stronghold.

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Give thanks that God does not want you to take on these strongholds alone. It is important that one press on, ignore the taunts from the enemy, work on your relationship with the Lord, and pray He would mold your heart and guide you into victory. If God demanded perfection in man, then Christ wouldn’t have came. What He does demand however, is your love, faith, trust and loyalty.

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Do not lose heart if you slip and fall, for Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, just as it was for Paul. As a river’s water is renewed day by day, Christ, the River of Life, will renew your water day after day, hour after hour, and moment by moment. Though our bodies age, decay and become marred by mud, sweat and blood, the internal self is not bound to such a sentence. Rather we can develop that side of ourselves which is unseen, and gain a richer relationship and understanding of our Savior.

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Do not let conviction of sin, and even guilt, turn into condemnation, which is closely followed by despair, for this leads to death. Rather rejoice, not in your sin, but instead that the Lord by His Spirit is convicting you of it, and is therefore with you, and realize that if He couldn’t cover your sin, you wouldn’t have been granted the Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing what is to come, in the first place.

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“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

Let us not compare our Christian walk or spiritual gifts with anyone else in the Body of Christ. Romans 12:6-8 makes it abundantly clear that we differ in gifts and those godly manifestations expressed in the body. These are from God and are granted to us by His grace. This is important to realize, for even these blessed gifts by the Lord can be used by our sinful nature to feed our pride.

The enemy loves to turn our work for the Lord into something sinful. It’s not to say the work of the Lord in and of itself is sinful, of course not, but rather that we ourselves may sin in our efforts to be in complete obedience with our Lord. We may have the gift of prophecy and we may serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, or show mercy. Yet, a hidden danger might lie in wait, for instead of acknowledging the source, we may use these gifts to feed our pride. This verse suggests that Paul himself was tempted with this as he followed obediently to complete God’s great works.

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"Apostle Paul," by Rembrandt. oil on canvas, c. 1657

Yet, God in His wisdom knew that this would hinder the great work He was doing through and with Paul. This partnership would have been spoiled if the apostle would have become conceited. So, there was given to Paul a thorn in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” to torment him. What this “thorn” actually was has been debated for some time. These range from a physical malformation or defect of some sort, to a sin that tormented Paul. Regardless of what it was, we know that this “thorn” kept Paul grounded with the Lord, and he eventually found that “thorn” to be a blessing, for without it Christ’s power wouldn’t be able to “rest on him” to the degree it did.

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Outside Christ, who was perfect, even the most amazing men of God in the scriptures had grievous faults, which should give us some hope. It certainly does me. Moses for example was a murderer, had anger issues, was a stutterer, and was disobedient to the Lord. Though Moses was disciplined for this by not being able to enter the promised land, God used this faulty man to do an amazing work, as He can use us, as faulty as we are, to do great works as well.

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"Moses Striking The Egyptian (detail)," Amsterdam Hagadah, c. 1695

When we come to the Lord in faith, He is not beyond bringing hardship, weakness, persecutions, “thorns,” and difficulties in our lives so that we may not loose sight of Him. If we are too prideful in our walk with the Lord and in the gifts He bestows in us, we should not be too shocked when, in His sovereignty, brings about a hardship to “ground” us.

Although I don’t like speaking for God, I do feel comfortable saying that God doesn’t want to encourage sin in your life. So if you haven’t been granted gifts to a fullness yet, perhaps if they were given unto you, the glory would go to the self and not God.

Let us pray for the understanding at only comes from the Spirit, that we may be instructed on how to avoid becoming to proud in our obedience and the gifts God pours into us. Let us pray that we will give credit where it’s due, that is, to the source of the gifts we are presented and indeed all things. Let us forever strive not to pervert that which is Holy or shift the glory of God onto the self. May He be forever praised. Amen.

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“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” -Romans 12:3

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"The Confusion of Tongues," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

In my earlier post concerning 2 Corinthians 10:7 entitled, “On Proper Pride and Humility,” I discussed a little about the relative aspects of pride and a few ways one can avoid this particular sin in their life. Yet, I feel some added clarification is required, that we may gain a deeper understanding of this sin, in order that it might be identified. Pride has great ability at concealing itself in ones life, by defining it with more clarity, we may illuminate it.

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Pride at its very core is a lie and deceitful. To have pride in oneself, is to take those attributes one has been granted by God and embellish upon them so they become more than they are. As Paul urges, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” This in essence it what pride is, to think of oneself more highly than you should, or to think about a particular attribute more than you should.

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Therefore, if you stand in front of a mirror and suck it in and flex periodically, as I have been known to do, you are exercising that pride. Also, if you are a big, “Rock Band” fan and picture yourself in your minds eye playing in front of a crowd of screaming women, or men, this is also prideful. Do not use your mind and heart to exalt and exaggerate the self, for to do so is incredibly sinful. In addition, because you will fall short in this elaboration, this can lead to extreme depression, when one doesn’t match up to the conception offered up by the sinful mind.

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In atheism, a popular argument against God’s being, is that if He existed or exists than He is an extremely prideful being. Yet, when we take Paul’s definition, we find this not to be the case at all. God knows exactly who He is and cannot be anything different. Furthermore, because he is the thing-above-which-no-greater-can-be-thought, as defined perfectly in St. Anselm of Canterbury’s Ontological Argument, He is perfectly worthy of worship. In fact, due to God’s knowledge of exactly what He is, this is humility.

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"Sistine Chapel Ceiling (detail)," by Michelangelo. fresco, c. 1508-1512

Paul continues saying, “think of yourself in sober judgment.” This is what humility is when it is in, “accordance with the faith God has distributed.” This being the case then it negates the idea of God being a prideful, and thereby sinful deity. God cannot deceive Himself, for this would present an irreconcilable contradiction, for He would have to imagine Himself greater than He is, which is an impossibility when one applies the definition of God offered by Anselm.

This verse suggests something which may give some insight into what human nature consists of. We are told, again, to think of ourselves in sober judgment in accordance with our faith in Christ. Thereby, since faith plays such a roll in the sober judgement of self, the question arises if we can have any victory against pride away from Christ? I would argue we can’t for the world is based on the self and the flesh. This sin of pride is the very same that drove Adam and Eve from the Garden. In a world where even good actions are self serving and motivated by the self, this doesn’t seem like a complete absurdity.

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"Adam and Eve Expelled," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

To be in accordance with one’s faith, we need to realize that we are indeed imperfect and sinful. This is how Paul had such a lowly conception of himself without sinning. Paul realized how much of a sinner he was and how unworthy he was to both serve God, and be offered grace through Jesus Christ. Paul was completely humble in that he knew what he was and worked for God to serve all man and almost singlehandedly brought about the New Israel among the Gentiles.

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Remember to use discernment and do not elaborately adorn yourself with things like makeup, clothing (but please do wear clothes), jewelry, and anything that you use to magnify your being. This goes for both men and women. Yet, at the same time, we do not need to look like we just crawled out of a gutter whenever we go out in public, but we should use, “sober judgement in accordance with the faith.” Do not attempt to hide the beauty of being that goes beyond mere appearances, but be modest. God has granted you many things and because God is perfect, they are perfect. Do not magnify it by means of worldly things to either please the self or others, for this is a stumbling block to both, and sinful.

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Finally, God has distributed the Spirit to all those in the faith. I can’t address every context and every situation, for such wisdom and omniscience belongs to God alone. Pray to the Lord that He may reveal you by the Spirit of Truth, if such sin is present, and to what degree. Pray that He would help and instruct you how to walk that thin line between both pride and envy, that you may see yourself for who you are, a precious child of the Most High.

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“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.” -2 Corinthians 12:2

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It should be no secret to those who follow the Lord that there is indeed a supernatural aspect to our faith. The deeper our relationship with the Lord becomes, the more this is manifest within our lives. It does not follow the common course of things, causality and physicality, but rather surpasses it and our mystical (not in a pagan sense, indeed the word actually has its origins in Christianity) relationship with God becomes apparent.

A person who chases after these experiences alone, however, is in extreme danger of practicing that which belongs to the occult. Man should never initiate such experiences, but let them come at the Lord’s bidding and when He sees fit to make them manifest, and to what degree.

There are numerous supernatural manifestations that can occur when one is in the Lord. These range from prophecy, visions, dreams, miraculous healings, and even hearing, or speaking, directly from the Lord Himself. It should be mentioned there is a dualism concerning such things, for the occult has similar practices, but there is one major difference, one is perpetuated by man, the other by the Lord, and manifest in man or nature.

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Paul, no stranger to the miraculous, recounts the story of an unnamed man who was caught up to the third heaven. This, “Third Heaven,” doesn’t indicate that there are separate layers of paradise, but in this account, it suggests that wherever this person was taken, it transcends the upper atmosphere of the earth, the surpassing heaven, the firmament of the cosmos, and finally into that supernatural realm which is the dwelling place of God. What is therefore concluded by the mere existence of this third heaven is that it trumps all that is physical.

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Paul goes on to say that he doesn’t know if this person’s experience was in the body or independent of it. The interesting thing about this, among others, is that regardless, in Paul’s mind, it neither adds nor detracts from the reality of the experience. To Paul, either way, it doesn’t cease to be any less real.

There is a phenomenon some experience called, “waking dreams.” Though it has it’s ungodly representation in the occult, Christians too have these experiences, from God, where they neither know if they are awake or dreaming, or if they are of the body or a part from it. The question becomes if any of these categories negate the reality of the experience? My conviction is that it doesn’t necessarily follow that these encounters are any less real than the physical ground we walk on. In fact, they may represent to some degree true reality.

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As I have stressed before, the occult has similar practices. Apart from who initiates the experience, is there any way to tell one from another? I am convinced that there are some guidelines we should look to when approaching the subject.

The first is, who does it glorify? Realize the Lord does nothing arbitrarily and without purpose. For instance, He wouldn’t lift you up to the third heaven just to satisfy some personal curiosity you may have concerning it. Rather, the experience will be for not only your benefit, which is apparent by the mere personal nature of the experience, but the Lord will use it in order that you be a testimony before man. Thus, it will be to His glory.

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Second, where does it lead you? If one is led to a place of darkness apart from God, or if the experience makes you focus on the self, then one is in terrible danger. If such an experience leads one to become boastful of their own abilities to produce such a supernatural experience, than one can reasonably conclude it is not from God, and if it is not from God, than one is being deceived.

Deception wouldn’t be called such if it didn’t have the ability to put on a guise of something true and lead people astray. That’s why it is so effective. One should pray for discernment in the Spirit and protection of the Lord, that such deceptions may not lead you into believing a lie. We need to realize that the Great Deceiver never created anything himself, he only perverted those pure things that God set in place. Thus, there is a dualism about such things, the proper, and the sinful, or improper.

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If an experience produces fruits of a Godly nature, and it’s in perfect alignment with the Spirit and nature of God revealed in His scriptures, than one can induce that it’s from God.

Yet, on the antithesis, if an experience produces fruits of the self, pride and encourages sin, and leads people astray, along with not lining up with scripture, then one can deduce that it is not from God. Yet, it should be said that we need discernment in the Spirit, for the Spirit is capable of understanding the supernatural, while our minds are inept at knowing such things. Remember, such false supernatural occurrences are due to the actions of man and not the will of God.

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Finally, realize our God is not one of confusion. Chances are, He won’t let such experiences in your life, that are of Him, until you are ready. However, as we grow, use the faculties the Lord has given you, along with the weapons of righteousness, that in these supernatural manifestations, if they indeed occur, you may not be led astray.

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