2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 24
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Working Together With God – Part 1. Working together with God involves immediate caution, a window of opportunity, and a lifestyle.|
What is Involved in Working Together With God
Turn with me today to 2 Corinthians 6. We’re going to begin a new mini-series in our studies of 2 Corinthians, as you see what I’ve been doing. I’m going to entitle this “Working Together With God.” That ought to thrill your heart today and the message is specifically, this is part 1, “What is Involved in Working Together with God.” So as we enter into chapter 6 I believe you can’t put away what we’ve already studied. It’s just a flow like the current of a river. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a canoe on a river or a raft and you’ve seen how that current carries you down the river. The Ocoee River was about 45 minutes from Chattanooga, and we would go there quite often. It was a class-4 whitewater river. As you know, in the Olympics, that’s where the Olympic kayaking took place on that river. Just not far from where we lived. And it was just really awesome.
Every year when I’d do my camp at Dayton, Tennessee, at Bryan College, we’d always take about 500 kids up there and we’d rent every raft on the river. Can you imagine? And there were 500 some kids going down that river that particular day. There’s one place on that river that I really love. The first time he did it I didn’t, but we have a guide in the raft, you have a helmet on, you have the life vest on and when he says, “Okay, everybody out of the raft.” That’s a little tricky when you’re in white water. But he said, “Keep your feet in front of you and keep your hands behind your head and just let the current carry you down.”
He wanted us to feel the strength and the movement of that current. And as we got over into that water it was just awesome. You thought it would take you straight down the river. It did, but its own path. It would pull you over here, over to here, because that current doesn’t run the way you think it’s going to run and it’s sort of an adventure as you ride the current of that river.
Well, that’s the way it is when you study Scripture. It’s like getting into the current; the Holy Spirit of God begins to carry you to what He wants you to know. Many times you’re reading through Scripture thinking, “Why didn’t he address this, and why didn’t he answer that?” And God says “It’s none of your business. I want you to know what I want you to know. Now get in the current of My river and let Me take you where I want to take you.”
This river began for us in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 when we discovered that God is the God of all comfort. Now why would Paul bring that up? We know from the context of what we’ve studied that the church of Corinth has not been a pleasant experience for Paul. They’ve eaten his lunch. They’ve falsely accused him; they’ve done everything you can think of. The legalists had gotten in there, the false doctrine had gotten into the church, so the apostle Paul ran to the only place he knew to run and that’s to the God of all comfort. That’s a beautiful picture of how we ought to be every day in our life.
Well, when we’re persecuted and because we’ve been submissive to Him, He is the God of all comfort. And that’s when you discover that for the first time in your life perhaps. This current took us through the truth, beginning in 1:12, of how important it is to let your walk match your talk. You see, when you’re falsely accused as Paul had been, the beautiful thing is when your walk matches your talk and you’re living to please God and you’re not living to please men. What happens is that you can hold your head up. Your conscience does not condemn you when people falsely accuse you. You don’t have that inner turmoil inside of you because you know that God knows, and that’s okay.
Well, on our journey we learned in chapter 3 that, just like the apostle Paul, that we are servants of a new covenant. That’s the most beautiful words I can say to you today. In Christ Jesus we are servants of a new covenant. We saw that because of this Christ has come to live in us in the person of His Spirit and our adequacy is no longer of ourselves. This is where we have to learn, it’s a complete change in mind, it’s a renewal of the mind. Nothing in my life depends upon my ability when it comes to the Christian life, but it depends upon my availability and your availability to the One that lives within us.
Christ becomes our adequacy in the new covenant and as we begin to see this and understand it and rejoice in it, the current carried us right into chapter 4, and we learned how to live without losing heart. What do you mean by that? Well, as we studied, going back to the flesh never reaps anything. There’s nothing there. It’s empty, it’s fruitless, there’s nothing there. And so we learned that because Christ lives within us and He is our life, and ministry is received, not achieved and all of a sudden we begin to experience this mighty journey of walking with Him and then we can live without losing heart. We don’t become faint-hearted because we trusted our flesh.
And as we rounded the corner in the current in this river of 2 Corinthians we rounded the corner of chapter 4. We came into that beautiful, beautiful, long deep-watered area of chapter 5 when we learned how to conquer the fear of death. Death is not an enemy to the believer. Jesus conquered death; He conquered sin, death, and the grave. And so in Christ we have our victory and we don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to necessarily look forward to the act of dying, but we certainly can look forward to what happens after death.
And then we came into that beautiful deep pool of being ambassadors for Christ and we saw the message that we have: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and at the moment of salvation we die, there’s a death, and there’s a newness of life that we enter into when Christ comes to be our Lord and our Savior.
Well, that brings us in to what we’re going to be looking at today. What a journey we’ve been on. Isn’t it interesting how the current carried us over here, carried us over here, carried us over here. You say, “Well, you’re not talking about this topic and you’re not talking about that topic.” That’s exactly right. I don’t impose upon God what He knows already is the need of people to hear. I just come to His Word and let His current carry us to where He wants to carry us and I promise you, whatever needs you have, at some point He will address in His Word.
Well, as we get ready to dig into our text today, Paul says in 6:1, “And working together with Him.” I want those words to just ring in your heart, just to thrill your soul, “working together with Him.” Now remember, he’s following the thought of that long stretch that we went through as ambassadors for Christ, being ambassadors for Christ, having been given the ministry of reconciliation.
Paul understood that taking the message of the gospel to people, now he could reason with them, but he understood as we’ve covered already, that only God could persuade the hearts of men. This cannot be done by man alone. This is God’s business; salvation is of God. It’s a joint effort and we get to work together with Him. It’s that yoke. Now, I don’t want you to ever miss this. This is what it’s all about. Jesus is right here, we’re right here. And He leads us through life. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing: working together with Him.
I mean, look at those words, “working together.” It’s one word in the Greek, sunergeo. And it means together. Sun means we’re so together with Him nobody can separate us from Him. And ergo means to work, to labor. And this is very much like the phrase that Paul himself used in Colossians 1:29. And Paul says this, because a lot of people get on me all the time. “Wayne, this grace message sounds passive to me.” And I’ve been saying this for years, folks, if you think it’s passive, you haven’t got it yet. God will absolutely wear you out. He won’t burn you out, but He’ll wear you out. This is the busiest life you could have ever had in your entire life. Listen, this is what Paul says in Colossians 1:29, “And for this purpose also I labor, striving” and some people stand up and say, “Bless God, Wayne finally got it,” but they didn’t finish reading the verse: “I labor, striving”—how do I labor and how do I strive, listen carefully—“according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Do you see the difference?
You see, a lot of people bring that striving labor ethic out of the workplace into their Christianity and they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. We work together with Him. I don’t live in my strength, I live in His strength. Working together with Him is a 200% relationship: 100% my willingness to get into His Word and renew my mind so His Spirit can transform my life; 100% my willingness to submit and yield to Him in each and every given situation of my life; but it’s 100% His power and His presence that enables me as I yield to Him in the various situations of my life.
Just think about it. Yoked together with Him. With Him. I want you to catch those words “with Him.” We are “with Him.” Sometimes in a message I wonder maybe I don’t say it right or something and it just kind of goes “that’s good, what’s next?” With Him, with Him. You say, “What are you talking about?” Let me just show you that little term “with Him,” how we are identified with Him. With Him; we’re never apart from Him, never.
Romans 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk [with Him] in newness of life.” Romans 6:5, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:8, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Romans 8:17, “and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” First Corinthians 6:17, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Ephesians 2:6, “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 2:12, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” Colossians 3:4, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Second Timothy 2:11, “It is a trustworthy statement: For as we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.”
“With Him,” I tell you what. That’s enough right there to just get on the altar and thank God for the rest of the week, that we’re with Him. You say, “Wayne, you still haven’t touched me yet.” Well, you can’t understand working together with Him until you understand how He’s placed you with Him. How many of you know who Tony Evans is? He’s one of my favorite preachers and I enjoy hearing him when I can. I met Tony and have been there at his church and he always told the illustration that he was the chaplain of the Dallas Mavericks.
And he had four tickets to every game. His family would go with him and when the family didn’t go, he would call his buddies. And he would make up those four tickets; maybe three of his buddies would go. And he said every time he would tell this story as an illustration, and I’ve heard him preach it many times, he’d say, “You just come and remember you are with me. So don’t let anybody bother you when you get to the arena. Just tell them you’re with me and everything else will take place.’’
Well, I’ve heard that story, but then I got to live it. I was out there visiting with him, and he called us up at the hotel, and he said, “Wayne, let’s go to the ballgame tonight. They’re playing the Denver Nuggets.” And he said, “Now listen, when you get there, you park in a certain place.” And I said “Well, okay.” He told us what to do. Well, we got down there, traffic was busy, and we started to come in and the policeman with a big badge said, “You cannot park here.” And we said, “Wait a minute. We’re with Tony Evans.” “Oh,” he said, “you’re with him. Okay.” And he moved the barrier and we pulled in just a few yards from where you walk up the steps to go into the arena. It was an awesome place to park.
Well, we were going to go over and get our tickets. About that time Tony was standing over here and he said, “Guys, come on, you’re with me. You don’t have to go over there to get a ticket. I got your ticket.” We walked up and he let us in. I said, “Tony, I’m hungry, I’m about to starve.” He said, “You’re with me, would you relax?” Got on an elevator, went down two floors, walked into a big banquet room and it was free. All the food you wanted. The manager of the team was there and a lot of the wives of the players. And I’m thinking this is nice.
Well, it came time for the game. I said, “Let’s go. I want to get out there and watch them warm up.” He said, “Wayne, you’re with me.” And we walked out a special door and guess who was in front of us? The Denver Nuggets and the two teams were together. I used to think I was tall when I played basketball. Man, I played center when I played basketball in college. I couldn’t even start as guard anymore. I’m too short. These guys, I was looking up at them. Their chin was above my head. And they walked out and you could hear all the people clapping as they introduced the team and then we walked out. People were still clapping.
I found out who sits in those chairs down by the floor. And it was awesome: right down by the floor. We were ten feet from where the playing was taking place, on the second row. And man, it was just awesome. All of this took place because we were with him.
Now I want you to get this. Somehow I’m going to fail if you don’t get this. You’re with Him. Now the next time you start bad-mouthing your circumstances, the next time you start bemoaning your circumstances, remember something: you are with Him. It’s one thing to be with Tony Evans at the Dallas Maverick basketball game. It’s another thing to be with the King of glory that walks with you everywhere you go, that you’re never alone. No matter what comes your way, He lives within you. You are with Him and because of that you get to work together with Him. Do you see the picture? Every day of your life lived on this earth is for a reason. and it’s not to get fat and lazy and see the world. It’s because God has made us His ambassadors in this world and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. He has moved in, we are with Him; we get to work together with Him.
And Paul’s trying to get this point across to the hard-headed Corinthians that had caused him so much pain in his life. You see, that’s the whole message of living grace: Christ in you. You are with Him. You can’t, He never said you could; He can, He always said He would. Christ in you and you get to work together with Him. So let’s venture into our text today.
Working together with God immediately involves a caution
Three things are involved in working together with God. The first thing is that working together with God immediately involves a caution. And before you even get too excited about it, there’s a caution that Paul throws up. And he says in verse 1, “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
Now let’s break those words down and make sure we’ve got an understanding of what they mean. The word “not,” he says, “not to receive the grace of God,” it’s the words me eis, but it means “not in any single way.” Paul says, “we urge you not to in any single way to receive the grace of God in vain.” The word for receive is the word dechomai, which automatically changes the picture. This is the believer; this is somebody who is so excited about the grace of God and salvation. It means to receive with expectancy. There’s another word in the Greek that is translated “receive or to take hold of” and it’s the word lambano. And lambano is just a “oh, thank you, I appreciate it,” and dechomai is, “oh man, this is awesome.” To receive with eagerness. Dechomai is that eager, willing, expectant reception of something.
The word for “vain,” when he says “not to receive the grace of God in vain,” is the word kenos. Now kenos literally means “empty.” It means without any content in it whatsoever. Here in our text it means “fruitless, without any success, without any evidence.” In other words, it’s of no use whatsoever. Now you understand “don’t receive the grace of God to where it bears no fruit.” Don’t receive the grace of God to where it’s empty and without substance in your life.
Now listen, Christ is the grace of God, that’s the well, that’s where all the grace comes from, is out of Him. And we must remember back in chapter 3 that Paul showed us that our adequacy because of the grace of God is now in Christ. Everything we need is in Him to live the Christian life. We can’t live it, but He can, and He lives within us. So everything that we need: He is the grace of God.
As I said earlier, we can’t, He never said we could; He can, and He always said He would. You’ve got that down really well. He lives in us, the grace of God lives within us. Now understand, we’re with Him to do through us what we could never do ourselves. Dick Woodward who is with International Cooperative Missions, he is their mouthpiece, he is their voice, he is their radio teacher, is paralyzed from the neck down. Now if you tell somebody that they can’t, but God never said they could and they’re full of energy and full of themselves, you haven’t gotten anywhere.
But this man understands this truth because he can do nothing but open his mouth. That’s all he can do. And he wrote down these four principles of his life. I’ve heard him on an interview and it’s awesome. He says, “I’m not but He is; and I’m in Him and He is in me. I can’t but He can; and I’m in Him and He is in me. I don’t want to but He wants to; and I’m in Him and He is in me. I didn’t but He did; because I was in Him and He was in me.”
And that’s it: grace is the enabling power of Christ in us working through us. Now when that happens, when I’m a yielded vessel, when I’m a conduit through which Christ can do His work, it never turns up empty. It always bears fruit. It doesn’t end up vain as you understand now what he’s saying. What Christ does through us is spiritually successful and it will not burn on judgment day, and we talked about that in chapter 5. We’ll all stand before Him and have our works judged and tested by fire.
So now, with this understanding, what does Paul mean when he says to believers who have received the grace of God with great eagerness and he says, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain”? You see, grace is good, it is received with eager expectancy, but how many believers receive God’s saving grace with outstretched arms but are wasting the opportunity in the times in which they live to allow that grace to work through them and in the context persuading others in the ministry of reconciliation?
Actually, they’re of no use to God at all. Can you imagine a believer who is so excited about receiving God’s grace but not willing to live in it? Not willing to die to the flesh daily by saying yes to Him? You see, Paul has covered this before. We know exactly what he’s talking about. Galatians 2:20-21, and you know this very well because I’ve quoted it so many times, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Paul could have easily have said, “I do not receive the grace of God in vain.” You see, a lot of people will welcome grace within their lives, but then they don’t allow it to do its deep work within them and transform them daily. By saying “not to receive the grace of God in vain,” in this context Paul is saying, “Don’t waste the opportunity that God has given you in the days while you’re here on this earth.” You are an ambassador for Christ. His grace is within you. Don’t receive the grace of God in vain. Be an ambassador for Christ, live in His adequacy and let Him persuade men while the time is near.
Don’t get so excited about His coming to live in you that you do not live daily so that He can live through you and touch others. Don’t miss the point that God’s grace is so that we might see others reconciled to Christ. So many people haven’t gotten this yet. They still think that Jesus comes to live in them to make them healthy and wealthy and whatever else you can add to it because He’s all about down here. And that’s so foreign to Scripture. God is leaving me and you on this earth for one reason: so that we might be recipients of His grace, we might be transformed by that grace, enabled by its power to be His ambassadors as we worship Him and glory in Him; His ambassadors carrying with us wherever we go the ministry of reconciliation.
People say, “Wayne, you’re not evangelistic.” Well, if I’m not then I don’t understand what I’m talking about. That is evangelism; that is missions. We’re not here for any other reason. You say every morning you wake up, ask God, “Why did You let me live another day? God, I don’t deserve to live.” Every time you take another breath say, “God, why are You allowing me to take another breath?” And God says, “Because I’ve got a purpose for you. You’re My ambassador and you have within you the ministry of reconciliation.”
You say, “Well, I’m a little puzzled here. How can a believer receive God’s grace in vain?” That’s easy. If you’ll remember back in 5:15 it tells you the purpose of having received it to start with. It says, “and he died for all, that they who live”—now listen carefully and he speaks of the ones who have received His grace—“should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” That’s pretty clear. When a believer chooses to live only for themselves, when they choose to react to their circumstances instead of respond to the grace of God in the midst of it, when they choose to be so full of themselves and they don’t have their focus on why it is that God is allowing them to live to start with, and why God has given them this life in Christ while here on this earth, then at that very moment they have received the grace of God in vain. And that’s a sad, sad thing.
I’ve been there, surely you’ve been there. I just pray that if you’re there this morning that you understand that God’s grace is still there and you’re still useable but only to the degree that you’re willing to yield and obey Him. God does not work through vessels that are full of themselves. No, sir, so if there are fleshly agendas here this morning, then understand that you’ve received the grace of God in vain. You’ve got to lay those things down and let God be God in your life. That’s what it’s all about. We have an opportunity in this age in which we live and the only way to be fruitful is to allow Christ, the vine, to produce that fruit through us as branches and our responsibility is to abide in that vine, not to receive the grace of God in vain.
Working together with God involves a window of opportunity
So working together with God involves a caution, a huge caution. Be real careful that you realize when you start living for yourself you’re not working together with Him. But secondly, it involves a window of opportunity.
We’ve got to see this life while we’re here on this earth as a window of opportunity. He says in verse 2, “for He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is the ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’” And anytime that you see an Old Testament Scripture you have to remember that there were immediate circumstances that the Scripture would apply to, but as you look at prophetic Scripture you have to look far beyond what was just the immediate and the obvious because the actual is much deeper. And Paul picks up on this.
From the 40th chapter of Isaiah all the way through is a prophecy of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He quotes from Isaiah 49:8 and his point in using this Scripture from the Old Testament is to get them to understand the urgency and the privilege of living in the time in which they were living.
The word “time” in the phrase “acceptable time” is the word kairos. Now there’s another word for “time,” chronos. I’ve got a chronometer right here and I’m watching it. There’s nothing like a clock-eyed Baptist. That’s chronos. Kairos is season or opportunity; that’s what the word means. So he says at the acceptable time, acceptable season, at the right opportunity. “I listened to you” is a prophetic verse here.
The word “acceptable time” is further identified in the verse. What is the acceptable time or the favorable time? It’s the day of salvation. Now that can be applied in a physical way, immediately to Israel, but you’ve got to look far beyond that. He’s telling them of the promise that was made to Abram who became Abraham and was passed to Isaac and to Jacob and then Jacob became Israel and you know the story. He’s looking beyond what they would possible see themselves. So this acceptable time, or this favorable time is the day of salvation.
Let me read it again, “for He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’” Now Paul picks up on that and brings it into a future spiritual sense that we’re living in today. The first time the word “acceptable” is used in verse 2 is the word dektos, and dektos refers to that which is the object of divine approval and intent. In other words that’s a time that is scheduled or intended. The second word for “acceptable” is euprosdektos. It lengthens the word with two other words and that means “well accepted.” Boy, you just pushed this out of sight when he says, “This is the favorable time.” The word “behold,” he says, “behold, now is the acceptable time,” “behold, now is the day of salvation,” means, “stop what you’re doing, stop it, stop it, stop it right now and look around you at what you’re missing. Now is the favorable time.”
Make sure you get the picture here and I’m not sure I can adequately explain it. Isaiah 49:6, back up in the context there, he talks about his servant, who is Christ, is not just going to bring salvation to Israel but to all the nations of the world. He says in verse 6, “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel.”’ That’s too small of a thing, it’s much bigger than that, “I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Salvation will come to all the nations but at great price and cost to the servant, the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 7, “thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and its Holy One, to the despised One, the One abhorred by the nation, to the Servant of rulers, kings shall see and arise, princes shall also bow down; because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”
And then it comes, “but this salvation will be at an acceptable time.” Just like I’ve always been at the right time to rescue you and to deliver you, there will be a future deliverance and it will come at the right time. Verse 8, “Thus says the Lord, ‘In a favorable time I have answered You, and in a day of salvation I have helped You; and I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, to restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages.’” But what you’ve got to see is beyond that. There’s coming a day of great salvation, greater than this deliverance from their captivity, greater than anything else, it’s going to be their spiritual salvation and it will come at the right time, a favorable time.
Now the Lord Jesus picked up on that term and, oh, if you’re not excited yet, strap your seat belts on. In Luke 4:16-21 Jesus does an amazing thing. Verse 16 says, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.” Now, wonder what the Son of God is going to read? Think He knows the Word? Verse 17, “And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written”—the word “found” means He knew exactly where it was, just turned right to it. He knew exactly what He was doing—‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’” That acceptable time; that acceptable time. “And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” The time is here: now is the acceptable time. Now is the favorable time.
Paul picks up on this promise and what he’s trying to tell them is really simple but you have to go around the block to make sure everybody understands. He’s trying to say, “You are living in that favorable time. Salvation is not going to come through the Law like the false teachers talk about. It’s going to come through Jesus Christ; only through the Servant that will die for you.”
He wants them to pay attention to the fact that they’re living in that favorable time. The window of salvation by grace is wide open to both Jew and to Gentile. The false teachers were still trying to get the Corinthians to go back up under law and he said, “Don’t you do that! Don’t you do that.” Just like he said to the Galatians, “Don’t you receive the grace of God in vain. If you go back to the Law, that’s your flesh, that’s your performance and it will never produce anything. It’ll be vain; it’ll be void. It will end up empty at the judgment seat of Christ. Be fruitful in the acceptable time. Live out the grace that God has put within you.”
Paul is pressing them to realize the urgency of the time in which they lived. You know, folks, this is what excites me about it. We’re still living in that favorable time. How do you know? Because He hasn’t ended it yet—when He comes back for His church. We’re still on this earth, and I’ll tell you what, think about for a second the people that you know right now that don’t know Christ. And you think, “I can’t ever do anything there.” And God says, “Listen, I’m the One who takes care of persuading men, but I want you to be My ambassador. I want you to be enabled by My grace. I want you to be a vessel so that while you’re here on this earth, in this season, in this opportunity, don’t squander it, don’t throw it away. Let it be fruitful.”
Be fruitful; let Christ in you bring about that which He would say is success, when people are persuaded of their reconciliation to God. And I believe God is saying to us in the 21st century to be fruitful, fruitful. Don’t play around with this message of grace. You’re here for a time; be useable to God in that time. And that’s going to affect our evangelism in this city and this state, that’s going to affect our missions around the world, that’s going to affect our giving, that’s going to affect everything that we do because we’re not here for any other reason. We’re strangers just passing through. God says, “I want to use you while you’re here. Stop squabbling, stop being unreconciled to each other and get busy about what I have put you on this earth to be.” That’s what He’s saying to us, folks.
Don’t receive the grace of God in vain. How can we be reconcilers of men if we can’t even be reconciled to each other? You see the point? So there’s caution. Why is there caution? Because there is a window of opportunity and Paul does not want them to squander the grace that has been so beautifully to them. Don’t receive the grace of God in vain for now is the day of salvation, now is the acceptable time.
Working together with God involves a lifestyle
And finally, it involves a lifestyle to back up what we say. You know, everybody wants to point a finger when it comes to this. You can’t do that. You can’t look at my life and I can’t look at your life. You’ve got to look at God and let Him look at your life and my life. You can always tell someone by the way he lives his life whether or not he’s received the grace of God in vain. You can tell whether or not he has realized the open window of opportunity in which he lives. You can tell very easily whether or not he’s working together with God in being His ambassador with the ministry of reconciliation.
Do you know how you can tell it? The way you can tell it is not by the hardships he has to go through. No sir, that’s akin to all of us. But it’s by the way he handles them and by the godly response that he has to them. Christ in him, this person who works together with God, who has not received the grace of God in vain, who understands the season of opportunity that he’s in, that it not only requires the words to reason with men, it requires a life that backs up those words. You can always tell.
Christ enables that person to live in such a way that does not discredit His ministry. And he’s going to explain that, “giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God.” You see, it’s not in what happens to him as much as in his heart, his response to the Lord of always willing to be the wrong one when it comes to relationships, of always being willing to totally depend upon God when it comes to circumstances, giving no cause for offense in anything so that the ministry will not be discredited.
Paul says, “giving no cause for offense in anything.” That needs to be understood today. It’s a present-active participle. Present tense means it’s a consistent lifestyle. In other words, the active voice is used there, which means Paul did not intentionally, because of any agenda that he was aware of in his flesh, give offense in anything that he did. You see, this has a lot to do with one’s motive in what he does. James tells us in the book of James we all offend in many ways. How do you balance those two things? I can’t live that way.
Here’s what he’s trying to say: when Christ lives in us and we’re seeking to please only Him and let Him deal with our fleshly agendas down here and we’re saying yes to Him, we don’t have to worry about this, because by intent we would not intentionally offend anybody. But I promise you that your life will offend; but it won’t be because you intended that to happen.
I told my wife one day, “I think I could stay in bed for a week and offend somebody about every hour, even if I was asleep.” You can’t take that and say nobody can live that way. You’re going to be an offense. Jesus, the gospel, is a stumbling block to the Jews and it’s an offense to the Greeks, it’s foolishness to them. So there is an offense there, but it’s not an intentional offense because we’re out of the way. We have died to whatever it is, our personal feelings, our whatever it is we’re holding on to and we’re just seeking to let Jesus be Jesus in us so that we can be ministers of reconciliation, so that we don’t discredit the ministry that God has given to us.
We no longer live unto ourselves, “giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited.” The ministry he talks about is the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of being an ambassador for Christ. The word “discredited” is the word momaemai, which means to find fault or to find blame. It’s in the aorist tense, at any time, in the passive, which means “nothing we do with intent has caused anybody to discredit who we are and what we represent.” Again, none of us are perfect and we will offend, but it’s not my intent, that’s not the heart of the matter. And then he says, “but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God.”
Boy, this excites me. This is what it’s all about folks. “Oh, Brother Wayne I’m getting old.” Isn’t it funny? I’m 62 and I’m talking about old, other people being old. My Mama when she was right at 70 she was saying, “These old people just bother me.” And at my age, it’s all relative, isn’t it. Folks, listen. Thank God He’s letting you breathe today. I love you and I’m so glad you’re here today. I’m so glad we’re together, working together, working together with Him. Isn’t that awesome, and we’ve got a mission out there. I tell you what, so much of our time is spent with people who are so full of themselves they’ve received the grace of God in vain and they’re not being about the purpose for which God gave them here on this earth.
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