Good News For Authenticity

**Note- the following is a summary of the sermon from Sunday, May 1. We had an audio recording issue, thus there is not audio version this week.**

2 Corinthians 6.1-13 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

A month ago my nephew, Jasper, had his first birthday. Like most families we celebrated the little man with lots of pictures and practical gifts like clothes and diapers. Soon it was time for the main event. It was time to watch Jasper demolish some cake!

Like most babies he’d never tasted cake or icing before. He was about to discover there was sugar out there he knew not of. Having seen this frequently with many of our friends' first borns turning one, it’s always fun to see how each baby reacts because each one is different. Some will dive right in, others cautiously poke, or even try to throw it to the ground!

Jasper was more in the camp of the cautious pokers, putting his one finger in the sticky cake then looking up at mom for directions. His mom and dad knew it was good, we all knew it was good, but Jasper was not so sure yet.

For many of us we can be like Jasper when it comes to testing things out. How do we know this is authentic or the real deal? How do we know this is trustworthy and good?

As we come to our text for this week in 2 Corinthians, we find a people that are unsure about the authenticity of the gospel. Specifically, they are unsure of the authenticity of the Apostle Paul’s ministry and therefore his message of good news in Jesus. How can a messenger of God go through so many trials and appear to be so weak? In their culture, troubles meant divine displeasure. How do we know this is the real deal?

Those are the questions they are asking. The way Paul responds shows us some incredibly good news about what the Gospel does in our lives. It gives us the resources to:

  • Not wear masks.
  • Not be Eeyores.
  • Not have to measure up.

We Don’t Have to Wear a Mask

The Holy Spirit through Paul is urging those who had once received the grace of God to not receive it for nothing. To turn again to taste, see, know that this is good and huge! In fact this is the moment in history that the prophet Isaiah told would come centuries ago. Now is the day of salvation! Don’t miss this Corinthians.

So how does Paul prove his authenticity to the Corinthians who are unimpressed with his stature and see his “cursed” life. A marketing strategy that lists out all of the benefits of Christianity? Let’s push the tough parts to the fine print? No.

He speaks to them with a refreshing honesty that surprises.

He says you’re right. I have endured hardships, in fact more than you know. He begins to list a storm of troubles that he’s endured - trios of troubles. Troubles in general (afflictions, hardships, calamities), troubles from others (beatings, imprisonments, riots), and troubles he chooses to do out of love for God and people (labors, sleepless nights, hunger).

Why is this important for us today?

It shows us that the Gospel gives us the resources to avoid them temptation to wear masks in our relationship with God and with others. Simply put, it frees us from putting on a mask and pretend that everything is ‘hunky doory’.

Perhaps you’ve felt this temptation to put on a front that everything is good, great, fine when really it’s not. I can feel this at times and rationalize that no one would understand so why share, or what would other people think if they really knew my sin. It’s not pretty. I don’t want to burden them. I don’t want to be rejected. Yet, here we see Paul being brashly authentic about his hardships.

There is good news in the gospel because we don’t need to lead a double life. In fact our honesty helps advance the gospel and shines the light of Christ to others. No need to hide. He knows me and has helped me to have great endurance.

One of my good friends, David, told me a story of how he experienced the good news of Jesus when others took off their masks. He was in grad school and been invited to attend a church lifegroup or small group. He was going through a tough time in his life and decided to try it out. With his church background he knew it was probably a good thing to do. The night he went the leaders told the group, “Tonight we’re going to do things a little differently. Tonight I want to share my story and struggle with pornography and have us prayer for one another. I’m sure I’m not the only one and we want to pray for one another to be healed from addiction (James 5:16). Whoa! David had barely learned their name and then this. No masks here. He had grown up in a culture where the only prayer requested were “unspoken” ones. No real details but only general acknowledgement that they would like general prayer. Shocked by their authenticity David said, “I’m in.” This is what he was looking for and what I think we all want. There is a good news because we don’t have to wear a mask.

We Don’t Have to Be Eeyores

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 6:6-7 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 

What I want to point out to you is that Paul does not stop with just removing the mask, he also shows us that we don't need to be Eeyores either.

You may know people who can tend to pretend that everything is great. You might also think of those who tend to be weighed down by continual burdens. The troubles and problems of life have become their lens and things are always looking cloudy with good chance of rain, and probably tornados as well. These people I affectionately call Eeyores. That lovable old gray donkey in Winnie the Pooh whose pessimism is only matched by his loyalty to his friends.

Looking at the list of what Paul has been through it would be understandable that he might be an Eeyore himself. How would I respond to a beating? Not with kindness or patience I can tell you that! So what’s going on here. Why is he not an Eeyore?

As he lists the manner in which he’s endured with a list of descriptors - right in the middle isn’t a virtue but a person. The power source of the virtues, the Holy Spirit.

Why does this matter to us?

This is meaningful to me because I understand Eeyore. One of my main strengths is an ability to empathize with others- to get in people’s shoes to see what they’re seeing or feel what they’re feeling. I honestly have to cut down on headline surfing the news at times because it will affect my mood. My wife is the opposite, she’s more like Tigger, bouncing with a grace on her life to lift others spirits and be thankful for the big and small things (such a gift to me!).

So my fellow Eeyore’s what this means is we don’t have to despair because we are not alone.

In the midst of beatings, imprisonments, riots, change of plans, hardships, financial troubles, marital strife, sickness, wars and rumors of wars - in the midst of the hardships God has given us the Holy Spirit to be with us. You are not alone. This is good news.

Recently I was talking with a friend who had just believed in Christ and started to walk with Jesus. I shared my story with him but at the end it felt a little too polished and wrapped up. I can have a tendency to wrap up my testimony with a bow on top as if to say, yes I went through all that junk but now because of Jesus I’m good. While that is partially true I knew that if this is all I would share with my new friend that he wouldn’t be equipped for the long haul. It wouldn't be authentic. I might look good but he wouldn’t know the truth. So I began to share the rest of the story. Yes, Jesus did help me to overcome so much in my life, but I’ve actually shed more tears and gone through much harder challenges in the last 10 years I’ve walked with Jesus then all of the earlier years combined. The difference is that He has been with me, and this makes all the difference! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We Don’t Have to Measure Up

2 Corinthians 6.8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

So we don’t have to wear a mask and don’t need to be Eeyores. If I’m honest though, I can walk away more discouraged from reading this text than encouraged because I don’t think I can do what Paul is doing. This doesn’t seem like good news but a list of ways I fall short!

Yes I’m sorrowful like Paul, but am I “always rejoicing”? Sure I’ve experienced some persecution for being a Christian, but beatings and slander? Yes I love God more than stuff on my good days, but if I’m honest I often give into the pull of materialism.

But here is the best of news. Paul isn’t wanting the Corinthians to be impressed with him, to like him, or even mimic what he’s doing. Paul is painting a picture for them of where they can find bread! Painting a picture for them to see that this cake is good, really really good!

I don’t want you to do what I do, but know who I know.

Philippians 3:7-8 illustrates this more when Paul says,

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

This isn’t advice but good news. Friend you don’t measure up, neither do I, we all have fallen short of the glory of God. The good news is that Jesus did measure up and he did it for the sins of the world.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

As you look up at the ways that you fall short, each fault representing another rung to climb on the performance ladder, remind yourself that you need a hero and his name is Jesus. He who knew no sin came to the bottom of the ladder, but you on his back, and climbed up to seat you in the heaven. Not because of your goodness but because of his. This is good news.

Response:

Are We Mimicking of Meeting With Him

Several years ago my heart had grown weary and I’d sensed a distance from God. Yet, I was doing all the things I knew to do - reading the Bible, attending Sunday services, praying, small groups, everything! Yet it just seemed like there was a ceiling between God and me.

Around that time I had a dream. In the dream I was at our church sanctuary and the leaders were doing a beautifully choreographed song and dance on stage. One by one, group by group, the people in the crowd started to join into the dance. I looked to the leaders, then to my right and left, trying to mimic the dance moves - but I had no idea what I was doing. Frustrated and scared of being found out, I suddenly woke up. When I woke up I knew that God was trying to say something to me.

I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me that you were not made to mimic others but to meet with Me.

The Cake

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

This is the cake Paul extends to us and to the Corinthians. He’s opened up to show us that

  • We don’t have to wear a mask because there is no condemnation in Christ.
  • We don’t have to be Eeyores because the Holy Spirit is with us.
  • We don’t have to measure up because our righteousness is received from Christ.

Jasper did eventually taste and see that the cake was good. Let us remember the same thing this morning and open our hearts meet with Him. This is eternal life.