December 3, 2 Corinthians 5-9

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For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.

So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

11 Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in outward appearance rather than in the heart. 13 For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion, that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! 18 Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” For he says:

At an acceptable time I listened to you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.

See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!

We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed. Instead, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardships, by difficulties, by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; regarded as deceivers, yet true; as unknown, yet recognized; as dying, yet see—we live; as being disciplined, yet not killed; 10 as grieving, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet enriching many; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. 11 We have spoken openly to you, Corinthians; our heart has been opened wide. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 I speak as to my children; as a proper response, open your heart to us.

14 Do not be yoked together with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said:

I will dwell
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among them
and be separate, says the Lord;
do not touch any unclean thing,
and I will welcome you.
18 And I will be a Father to you,
and you will be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.

So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, corrupted no one, taken advantage of no one. I don’t say this to condemn you, since I have already said that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am very frank with you; I have great pride in you. I am filled with encouragement; I am overflowing with joy in all our afflictions.

In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival but also by the comfort he received from you. He told us about your deep longing, your sorrow, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more. For even if I grieved you with my letter, I don’t regret it. And if I regretted it—since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a while— I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. 11 For consider how much diligence this very thing—this grieving as God wills—has produced in you: what a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice! In every way you showed yourselves to be pure in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was not because of the one who did wrong, or because of the one who was wronged, but in order that your devotion to us might be made plain to you in the sight of God. 13 For this reason we have been comforted.

In addition to our own comfort, we rejoiced even more over the joy Titus had, because his spirit was refreshed by all of you. 14 For if I have made any boast to him about you, I have not been disappointed; but as I have spoken everything to you in truth, so our boasting to Titus has also turned out to be the truth. 15 And his affection toward you is even greater as he remembers the obedience of all of you, and how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice that I have complete confidence in you.

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will. So we urged Titus that just as he had begun, so he should also complete among you this act of grace.

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this act of grace. I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving advice because it is profitable for you, who began last year not only to do something but also to want to do it. 11 Now also finish the task, so that just as there was an eager desire, there may also be a completion, according to what you have. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 It is not that there should be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality. 14 At the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may in turn meet your need, in order that there may be equality. 15 As it is written: The person who had much did not have too much, and the person who had little did not have too little.

16 Thanks be to God, who put the same concern for you into the heart of Titus. 17 For he welcomed our appeal and, being very diligent, went out to you by his own choice. 18 We have sent with him the brother who is praised among all the churches for his gospel ministry. 19 And not only that, but he was also appointed by the churches to accompany us with this gracious gift that we are administering for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We are taking this precaution so that no one will criticize us about this large sum that we are administering. 21 Indeed, we are giving careful thought to do what is right, not only before the Lord but also before people. 22 We have also sent with them our brother. We have often tested him in many circumstances and found him to be diligent—and now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and coworker for you; as for our brothers, they are the messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore, show them proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you.

Now concerning the ministry to the saints, it is unnecessary for me to write to you. For I know your eagerness, and I boast about you to the Macedonians, “Achaia has been ready since last year,” and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you in this matter would not prove empty, and so that you would be ready just as I said. Otherwise, if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we, not to mention you, would be put to shame in that situation. Therefore I considered it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance the generous gift you promised, so that it will be ready as a gift and not as an extortion.

The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written:

He distributed freely;
he gave to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

10 Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the proof provided by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. 14 And as they pray on your behalf, they will have deep affection for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Think about that last verse we read today for just a moment. An indescribable gift. Have you ever received a gift so extravagant you didn’t even know how to describe it? These types of gifts take your breath away. They are beyond comprehension in so many ways. And this is exactly what Paul says about Jesus in this verse. The gift is so over the top, so extravagant, so amazing, that he doesn’t even know how to describe the gift. The gift of God himself coming to earth to die in our place is a gift that truly is indescribable. Today, live in the truth that you have been given the greatest gift that has ever been given in the history of the world. And then move through the rest of the Christmas season with the understanding of what really happened that morning our Savior was born.

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