The New is Here
2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1
13 It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
There are a lot of things that can knock the ‘heart’ out of you. There are a lot of things that can happen that can make you lose heart, lose confidence, lose conviction, lose hope and lose love for your now and tomorrow. With no real ‘heart in it’, your work, your study, your family, your church, your plans for your future seem futile or fearful.
This man Paul knows the depths of this loss of heart. He will show us God’s heart when we lose heart. He finds it and shares it from the bottom of his barrel. He will show us how we Christians in a community are called to go about not losing heart – why we don’t need to, despite how deep the bottom of the barrel is.
2 Corinthians is a combination of fragments of a conversation between a church community and Christian missionary. It is an incomplete story of a rocky relationship. It is like listening to someone on the phone, we only get one side of the conversation, but we can generally get the idea of the conversation.
These Corinthians have knocked the stuffing out of Paul. He probably came close to losing all heart for them and even for his gospel mission.
Paul has just been released from a dark, dank, lonely prison in another city – Ephesus. He had been rotting away for no just reason maybe two years, stewing on the broken relationship with those Corinthians.
I have never been forced to serve time in prison. But they tell me that if you are, you never come out unscathed. Paul is a scarred man.
He was also a troubled man. This letter of all his letters shows the depths of his suffering but the heights of his joy in that suffering.
It is thought that he finds a halfway house of safety and some recovery with his friend Philemon over in Colossae. Slowly the nightmares subside. But his heart is still burning for a greater purpose.
In the letter we hear that Paul’s heart is burning for two things: He needs to get back to Corinth, and he needs to complete his mission of organizing a collection for the Christians suffering back in Jerusalem under famine conditions under persecution.
The road has been rough between he and the Corinthians. He is in that place of conflict with someone once loved, where you are not sure if there will ever be a return to love and respect. It eats at you day and night. His heart burns to find reconciliation.
He wrote that first letter (1 Corinthians). He thought he lovingly dealt with all the issues they raised – use of money, behaviour in matters of sex, belief in the final appearing of Jesus … He even wrote that magnificent poem about love for them (1 Cor 13). But it all turned sour.
- There was internal fighting among key leaders (1 Cor 10-17)
- They were embarrassed by Paul’s shabby appearance, his awkward speaking manner, his blunt and direct teaching style.
- Paul would simply not fit into or play along with what the Corinthian Christians wanted and expect from a Greek or Roman leader.
- He would not take any money from them for his labour among them, as he was known to do in other places. This was an affront to their pride.
- They called his apostleship into question and asked for more ‘letters of accreditation’ from him next time he came. (2 Cor 3:1-2, 2 Cor 6:4-10)
- They were annoyed with him about him switching his travel plans on them and branded him untrustworthy or even unstable.
What is going on? The Corinthians had failed to recognize how gospel ministry operates. It does not operate like the world in power, dominance, creating winners and losers … Gospel ministry flourishes like this:
4 … as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)
“There’s my CV!” says Paul.
Paul heads off looking for Titus, a gospel mission companion. To Paul’s pure joy, Titus finds him and shares the relieving news that the Corinthians have softened. They have humbled themselves before God and would welcome Paul back! Like the news that all is forgiven with your estranged friend, Paul jumps for joy!
And so, this scarred man now reborn with a driving conviction to fulfill his calling writes with all of his might to his people – and it is beautiful.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (1:3-4)
7 … we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (4:7-9)
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, … that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (4:14-15)
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view (looks, power, money, beauty…). Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (5:14-17)
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (8:9)
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings. (13:13)
That is what true reconciliation does for you! Peace with God and people give you heart – heart for serving, giving, living, moving, being. He makes you new.
This is how we face our challenges; new. This is how we face any conflict, any discord, anything that tries to knock the heart out of us – new – with faith in Jesus.
A Christian church can operate with new gospel heart that comes from laser focus in any circumstance.
18 … we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Where is your focus? Where are you looking to face the challenges you are facing. You won’t find this new heart and joy and drive by withholding love, ignoring your or others’ pain, bearing grudges, getting even, getting more, despairing of yourself, losing confidence in Jesus’ presence and promised preferred future for yourself, the people you love and for the millions you don’t know.
This is where you will find heart and not lose heart – where Paul found it.
Paul found his heart by receiving God’s heart when he heart had just about run out – at the ‘bottom of the barrel’, as we say.
At the beginning of our text Paul goes back to the Psalms. He goes back to Psalm 116:10. He quotes in in our text:
10 I believed, therefore I spoke (to the Lord),
“I am greatly afflicted.”
11 I said in my haste (to the Lord),
“All men are liars.”
But God proved himself true – no liar
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
‘Lord, save me!’
5 … God is full of compassion.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
Is this your experience? Do you want it to be? In your questions, your dashed hopes, your overwhelming realization that you have not got what it takes, that your life may be insignificant after all, your performance lost, your heart squashed, love broken, clay vessel smashed, you will find heart because Jesus is all heart.
Friend, the Lord Jesus is good to you now, return to your rest in him.
At the bottom of the barrel Jesus shows God to be our “Father of all compassion and comfort”, as he has always been.
Sure, 5 … we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, (but) so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
Friend, you are still his cracked pot. You still have his calling. You have him at the bottom of any of your barrels.
So, in your struggle, your hurts, your regrets, your loss, your dashed dreams, your lack of confidence in what you are doing and when you can feel your heart being crushed by the Evil One or by the darkness within or by the enemies of this Jesus and his peace, you can still:
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. (2Cor 13:12)
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2Cor 8:9)
New heart gives new sight, new approach to old things and problems. He gives you new words, new loves, new efforts, new hopes, new possibilities for old problems;
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor 5:14-17)
Take Jesus’ heart today, friend, no matter what you or we face.
16 … we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.