6.6.21 2 Cor. 6
Henry David Thoreau spent about two years in his own words escaping “over-civilization” and going back to the “raw” and “savage delight” of the wilderness.
He wanted to conduct an experiment, could he survive, even thrive, by living a simple life in radically reduced conditions?
He wrote his famous book “Walden” (roughly during the time of the Civil War) about his experiences.
Walden was the name of the pond where he lived in a cabin during those two years
Now, for the rest of the story.
This place of “raw” and “savage delight” where he escaped civilization…was 1.5 miles from his family home.
Lots of friends and family visited him while he was there escaping civilization.
When he wrote Walden, about his time away from the corrupting influences of civilization, he would often go eat his lunches in his mother’s home.
This doesn’t seem authentic to me…he relied on others to support him (they had to stay in civilization and work real jobs)…so he could go find himself in nature.
He went to “raw’ nature…but it was a 20-minute walk from his childhood home.
Walden was a trans-cen-den-talist. It was a movement that developed in the eastern US in the 1800s…basically a human centered non-religion religion.
Their core belief was in the inherent goodness of people and nature, while society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual.
But what is society but a collection of individuals?
They emphasized subjective intuition (what I feel) over objective facts.
But of course, what they feel, becomes their facts.
I want to compare and contrast Paul’s experiences and thinking with Thoreau.
Both were writers. Both believed in a specific worldview….they, like all of us, lived out of their worldview.
For Thoreau, the past was virtually irrelevant.
-He needed no one from the past to inform him, he was able to construct completely original ideas on his own.
For Paul, the past, present, and future were all under the direction of God…what God had done and said in the past was enormously important now and in the future.
For Thoreau, humans are good and civilization corrupts them.
For Paul, humans are sinful and collections of humans into cultures are naturally going to be sinful as well.
For Thoreau, the solution for our problem is to escape the corrupting influence of the culture around you…and look to your own heart and to nature.
For Paul, the solution is the work of Christ on the cross…look outside yourself to what God has done in history and in the gospel.
For Paul, collections of redeemed individuals in small kingdom societies called the church “ekklesia”…the “called out” ones…is the solution for society, the world at large.
“Called out” by God to take the gospel back in to culture.
Unlike Thoreau, Paul did not trust his own intuition to understand the world…he looked to the revelation of God…it interpreted his experiences, and it shaped his thinking.
The good news of God…salvation through Jesus Christ…shaped his entire world view.
A worldview is like one of those garage peg boards…tools each have their spot.
In each person’s heart and mind there is a peg board…with pegs to hang all that they see, hear, feel, and think and experience on.
Everyone has one.
I read this bit of news…and I hang that thought or idea there.
I have this happen to me…I hang it there.
I read a book…see if it fit on a peg…or if it will become a peg
People develop these pegboards in a variety of ways
-What they learned from parents…even if they had no parents.
-From internet, friends, teachers, songs, movies.
-From their own minds…what I feel or want to be true.
-Through a study of Scripture…ideally coming to fully biblical conclusions but often not…sometimes there are pegs from the bible that are not biblical…verses taken ouf of context or outside the author’s original intent.
Everyone has a pegboard…what if the pegs don’t hold…what then?
We can become disillusioned by a leader who falls…if we recover, okay…it was a temporary setback.
-If our worldview falls with the leader…then it turns out that key peg was dependent on that person…that person failed and the things we had hung on him…fell with him.
Or something happens to us…that we can’t make sense out of…no peg will hold it…what then?
Sometimes, something so traumatic happens that even if our worldview is rooted in reality, our mental/physical ability to deal with the experience can be overwhelmed (at least for a while)….I’m not talking about that kind of experience here.
The worldview, in that case…held, it was the person mind, heart, soul…that was simply overwhelmed by events.
I’m talking specifically about pegs that we hang life on that are not fully based in biblical reality or perhaps they are…but we have not fully, personally “owned them” or they are not fortified enough in our lives to withstand life itself.
*I read of a man who had made his living off of being a public Christian…who had lost his faith.
-As I read his reasons for loss of faith and his arguments against the faith…I was surprised that he was just now thinking about these things…I wondered how he had gone so long without deeply considering some of the things that now caused him to struggle.
-I also thought about how none of the things that were suddenly unique thoughts for him were other than thousands of years old…and had been wrestled with and through by men and women of faith for a long, long time.
For some reason he had been isolated from these thoughts…now his worldview suddenly proved inadequate.
Jesus used the illustration of a foundation for a house.
One builder built on sand another on stone…when storms came the house on sand washed away along with its foundation.
The house on stone withstood the storm…the foundation of stone is the gospel.
Sand=anything else we build our lives on other than the truth of God.
The essential belief system that we build our lives on, or hang life’s experiences on…must match what is actually real and true about the world.
Everyone has a worldview-
That pegboard, that foundation will be tested…by life itself…and ultimately by death.
*This is an analogy…reality is more complex than a peg board, but it is accurate analogy and it can be helpful…to help us think about our thinking.
“But I believe the Bible is true.”
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that the “pegs” we have developed are actually biblical…sometimes they are not…a verse out of context, a biblical doctrine out of balance…
You can believe the Bible without having a fully biblical worldview…the Bible can of course be misundertsood and misapplied.
It takes work in community over time to develop a fully biblical worldview.
Complicated. Confused? Yeah, so many are…and the result of all this confusion is that say…
“I’m so confused that I refuse to choose.”
But no one gets to opt out of choosing…there is the myth of “I’ll keep my options open” or “I’m not going to believe anything.” “Or its just too complicated so I will keep it simple and just not make a firm choice.”
To not choose is a choice.
I’m not saying we have to have opinion on everything…that’s not necessary…but on the essentials, the pegs that life hangs on, choices must be made (a choice is being made or has been made)
When you chose to not chose…that becomes the worldview, the “pegless” board that you try hang things on.
Then that choice to not choose…means the worldview will develop randomly not intentionally…and it will fail.
One of the impacts of the crush of information and opinions coming our way is that many have developed a worldview that is essentially a peg board with no holes or pegs.
As I said…a worldview that we could call a “pegless” board.
There is no confidence of belief in the able to know what is true about historical events, current ideas, people or ultimate realities.
No confidence in being able to interpret and apply the Bible speaks to life because of the vast number of opinions..
What I envision is a person standing in the garage looking at his pegless board.
Holding all their tools, unable to do anything with them, nowhere to hang them…nowhere to hang life itself.
Then another thing happens to them, a new idea comes to them, a different opinion…and they are crushed by the weight of all this stuff and no pegs on which to hang them.
Despair, disillusionment, disbelief sets in…apathy
Who, what do I trust to spend my life on…to hang all this stuff on…what if I choose wrong?
I just won’t choose…because you can’t really know.
Or they choose based on what sounds and feels good…even if it is not actually real.
The fickle Corinthians…were easily swayed by every new idea, and influenced by every new and charismatic teacher.
They were Christians, at least many of them were…but they had not learned how to think “Christianly” yet.
To them Paul wrote…
…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
There in concise form…is his worldview.
The gospel is what we are to give our lives for…we interpret all that comes our way through that lens.
Let’s go to chapter 6.
6 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Paul had written in chapter 5 that we are Christ’s ambassadors and God makes his appeal to others through us.
He continues that line of thought here…we are God’s fellow workers.
We are not his equal partners…but we are at work with God in what he is doing in the world.
This warning to not receive God’s grace in vain is not about potentially losing salvation…but about wasting salvation.
Failing to live out fully what God has done in their lives and in human history at large…because they have their heads continually turned by false teachers.
He quotes from Isaiah speaking of the time in (that) future when God would bring the exiles back from Babylon…that was a great day of salvation.
But all of the Old Testament pointed to the new…if that was a great day of God’s favor…how much more now when God has brought deliverance through Christ.
In the next few verses, he gives an outline of his credentials…he will do this again later.
This is important, it is not to puff Paul…but to demonstrate that he was no fraud and his message is legitimate…this great good news is from God.
There have been those who have proclaimed the gospel…and their life was a lie.
Their failure doesn’t mean the gospel is untrue…but Paul was called by God to write a significant part of the New Testament.
His failure to live true to the gospel would have been catastrophic.
Here he tells the Corinthians…
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.
He is not worried about himself…but rather that his ministry (the truth of the gospel) would lose influence in their lives.
There is an AF award called the “AF Commendation medal”
When the medal is awarded there is an accompanying citation read that lists the accomplishments of the recipient.
The award “commends” the airmen for what they have done…it also serves to give credibility that this person is worth promoting, has earned respect, etc.
If Paul’s commendation citation were read at a ceremony it would be very puzzling…because it is sort of a reverse recommendation.
I’m sure the Corinthians would have either been totally puzzled…or smiled, then began to laugh as they read it.
“Paul, you rascal…I get what you are doing.”
While what Paul called the “super apostles”…were thriving, beautiful, eloquent, powerful, successful…all kinds of human awards coming their way.
Paul’s commendation is:
“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;
Anything else Paul?
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;
These are his credentials, this is his commendation…it is all Christ not Paul-centric
Then he gives nine antitheses…or nine pairs of opposites to compare and contrast his ministry from a human point of view versus the true view of one who in Christ.
1. through glory and dishonor,
-From God’s perspective…he is passing from one degree of glory to another
-From the world’s…he is becoming more and more a loser.
2. bad report and good report;
-He has people saying bad things about him
-Meanwhile God is preparing his “well done, good and faithful servant” speech for when Paul’s life is over.
3. genuine, yet regarded as impostors
-Many believed he was a fraud…but he knew his love and faith was real.
4. known, yet regarded as unknown
-He is being cancelled by some people
-But God knows him personally
5. dying, and yet we live on
-He is outwardly wasting away
-He is inwardly being renewed day by day
6. beaten, and yet not killed
-He will die, when God is done…not before
-Roman government…it is not their call.
7. sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
-His life is often hard, his heart is often full
8. poor, yet making many rich
-He has little in terms of temporary possessions but his ministry of the gospel is making many eternally rich
9. having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
-Nothing much in terms of stuff…but he is a son of the owner of the Universe…and all that is Christ’s is his.
Paul’s life legitimized the message of the gospel.
For those who saw him from a mere human point of view…his life was not compelling.
For those who stepped back and looked differently his life made the truth of the gospel compelling.
While Thoreau is living in a cabin in a pond a short walk from his mom’s house…living off the labor of others…writing of things that come from his own imagination.
Paul is taking the gospel across the known world…at great and unimaginable risk and personal cost…he could live off of the work of others…but he doesn’t.
He writes of things that come from the very mind of God.
While on the one hand the truth does not depend on our ability to live it consistently or to defend it coherently.
The truth is not helped by those who speak it and yet fail to live it.
The truth remains true but it doesn’t look true to those who need to hear it and live it…when professed spokespeople for truth fail to live that very truth.
We must pay attention to our life and our message…we are God’s fellow workers.
We do not want to receive this grace in vain.
Sure, if you are born again…you will experience life eternal…but we must not squander the great opportunity we have now to know God and make God’s love known to others.
**I am terrified of the thought of failing in a way that brings discredit to the gospel…causes others to stumble.
“You shouldn’t make it about you, Terry.”
I agree. I shouldn’t…and I too often do.
But that is not what this is about.
This is about my friends, my family, my children, my grandchildren…you.
I know the truth of the gospel stands on its own apart from me…I also know I can make it easier or harder to believe and to live the truth by how I live my life.
This is Paul’s point…while the truth stands on its own.
My life, he wrote, stands as a marker to the truth.
So, he goes on to ask for them to open up to him as he has opened up to them.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
“We have spoken freely “ is an idiom that is literally “our mouth is open to you”…it means he has spoken with candor, straight forward speech.
So… “My mouth and my heart are wide open to you.”
“I am honest with my words and honest with my life…why then, do you withhold your heart from me?”
He is saying… “I’m all in in this relationship…will you be?”
This helps make sense of the next section that has been, I think, often misunderstood.
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
He is asking…okay…now choose. Who and what will you believe? Who will you worship?
This is often used as a proof text to say:
-don’t marry an unbeliever (which is good advice but not the point here)
-don’t get into a business arrangement with a non-believer (which is not necessarily good advice…I’d prefer to partner with an ethical non-Christian than a non-ethical Christian)…but at any rate, also not the point here.
Clearly Paul is not saying we should never befriend and interact with those who are not believers.
In his first letter he specified this very point…it would be impossible to live as God’s people in the world and not interact and befriend those who do not believe.
His point here is about how they were to worship, and who they were to listen to in terms of determining their worldviews.
He has given his own credentials…he is a trustworthy messenger…as such…he compels them to trust the gospel…that is his life message.
That God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ.
Now, he urges them…separate from anyone who tries to get you to believe anything other than the gospel and worship anyone other than Christ.
This is about these false teachers…whose words and lives did not line up with truth.
Don’t align yourselves with them…if you do, you are aligning yourself with darkness and the enemy and with idolatry…this will ruin you.
This is about not day to day contact with people who do not follow Christ…but aligning hearts and lives in worship with those who do not worship Christ.
There are a lot of potential applications for this…and those applications can be difficult to figure out…they can take hard work.
I’ve had many conversations with people over the years…as they struggle to know how to live in the world not of it.
I’ve talked to bomber pilots flying into war zones…trying to decide how to live as a Christian in that role…same with prison guards…and public school teachers…and businessmen and stay at home moms.
To live a Christian worldview…in a broken war…is complex.
It’s not simple…but it is doable.
It is doable…when we live in community under the authority of the Word of God.
People who believe they can be spiritually successful without being religious are deceiving themselves.
Religion simply means faith practiced in community.
But to attempt to live the Christian worldview
…apart from the gathered body of Christ(the church)
…is to enter into a war with no weapons…no one to stand in combat with you.
The result that you will become a casualty of war…and it won’t be because the church (as an institution) failed…it will be because you tried to go solo into combat.
Look at the imagery he uses next that confirms this is about heart alignment or worship in community.
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”17 “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”18 “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
The temple was the place of worship. We are now his temples.
Paul uses this idea to refer sometimes to individual Christians…our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.
Here he uses it in another sense here…the church.
Collections of Christians together in worshipping communities are the Temple of the living God.
Just as Thoreau was wrong…culture does not corrupt the individual…culture is a collection of already corrupted individuals.
So some are wrong to say that the “church corrupts spiritual people”…the church is a collection of spiritually transformed people.
The Ekklesia (what the NT calls the church) are the called-out ones…collected together in communities.
There is no real and lasting Christ-like transformation apart from life in a committed community.
We are to live in and among those far who from God…as his people…but we are not to worship like they do.
We are the church…Ekklesia…called out in community in order to go back into culture.
We, as Jesus said…are to be in but not of the world.
This means we do not give our hearts and lives away to things that are not of God.
The false teachers who were trying to compete with Paul for the heart affection of the Corinthians had lives and messages that were in contradiction to the truth of the gospel.
If people give their hearts to what is not true…the result is devastation.
Paul was not afraid of being “cancelled”…becoming uncool.
He didn’t care about that.
He wrote, “We are known, but regarded as unknown”. “having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
He knew who he was…and he was not concerned with others thought of him…he was concerned with others.
To be overly concerned with what others think of us…is to not be actually concerned with others…it is, to make life about ourselves.
He was seeking to make life about the gospel…for the good of others.
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children that we may obey him.”
When I lead wedding ceremonies, like last weekend…I will focus on the covenant commitment being made as the center of gravity of the entire event.
Dresses, flowers, music, reception…all this is important and yet insignificant compared to the making and marking of commitment…the real purpose of the wedding event.
I will say… “Today you are deciding, never again will you decide if you will keep your commitment, just how you will keep your commitment.”
My application, my conclusion for today is to “Purpose to live the decided not the perpetually deciding life.”
Realize that everyone choses what they will give their lives for…a failure to decisively choose is still a choice.
When the sun goes down…we will have given our lives away on another day for something.
You can change your mind on what you have chosen to base your life on…but never think that you can live a single day or a single hour…undecided…not chosen.
Many are susceptible, vulnerable to what is most current, or most cool, or what sounds and feels best to them.
This is life build on sand…a peg board with no pegs to hold life on.
To believe the gospel is to believe the facts of God in Scripture and the acts of God in history.
There will be mystery…the secret things, they belong to God.
The things revealed, they belong to us so that we may obey God and enjoy him.
There is that wonderful and difficult tension.
You don’t have to live despair or disillusionment when events surprise and disturb you or leaders fail you…yes it is difficult and confusing…but the pegs hold.
You don’t have to read the news or this opinion or that one…and become dismayed and perpetually confused.
Life will be perplexing and hard…but the pegs hold.
There is no need to live continually deciding whether or not the gospel is true…whether or not you will give your life away for Christ or not.
Decide…then go live decided, not deciding.
This is a stable place to make complex decisions from.
This is a coherent worldview…to hang all that life brings your way on.
Do not despair if you feel you have experiences, thoughts and nowhere to hang them.
One of the most important pegs for your life as a Christian is called “The secret things” peg…this is God’s peg…and you can hang things there.
This is no “leap of faith” this is no cop out.
Everyone lives with mystery…everyone….everyone has a “mystery peg” but if they don’t follow God…it is really just a gamble…maybe it will hold, maybe not.
We, however, know that this mystery peg belongs to God and so we don’t trust mystery…we trust God…there is no gamble in leaving the secret things to him.
If a child has learned through many loving acts to trust her parent…it is no cop out when that child continues to trust even when she doesn’t understand.
It is a good and reasonable choice.
Even if one of the pegs you hang things on is the peg called “The secret things”
This is still a reason for confidence…because it is the peg that is the “Secret things of God”
And this same God is your Father.
Live humbly…you can wrong about things.
Live confidently and decisively because the things revealed belong to us and to our children that we might know God.
*Final thought…live confidently and decisively without being grumpy about it…there is nothing compelling about a grump.