2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 36
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’re going to begin a brand new topic here as Paul opens up with the last four chapters and I’m going to call it “Poise in the Face of Persecution”, and this is part 1.|
Before you do anything (2 Cor 10:1-3)
Turn with me if you will, 2 Corinthians 10. We’re going to begin a brand new topic here as Paul opens up with the last four chapters and I’m going to call it “Poise in the Face of Persecution.” Today’s message, and this is part 1, will be “Before You Do Anything….” Before you do anything there are some things we need to understand, and that’s what we’ll look at today in chapter 10:1-3.
Well, as I said, this is the last section of 2 Corinthians. It’s been a great journey but it’s not anyway over. We’ve been in it a year but we’ve got four more chapters to go. But it’s completely different than anything you’ve seen so far. I want to take you back and briefly bring you through what we have studied together. Perhaps you’ve missed a lot of it; perhaps you haven’t seen the flow of 2 Corinthians. If I had it to teach all over again I’d do something different: I would start in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.
It is amazing what five days in a deer stand can do for you. I don’t go for shooting deer; I go for the time alone. You see, in the south you hunt by yourself. Out here you hunt with someone because it’s so vast, etc. But you don’t do that in the south; you see them in the morning and you see them at night. And all day long you’re just by yourself. Just you and the Lord and the beautiful creation He’s put around you. While I was there He began to minister to me the theme of this book. In my eyes and the way I see it and in my study, I believe the theme is there in chapter 3:5-6, that we are servants of a new covenant and it’s all about living life in this new covenant: letting Jesus be Jesus in us.
The apostle Paul said because we’re in this new covenant we don’t find our adequacy in ourselves. You see, in the old covenant it was up to us. In the new covenant it’s up to Him. The new covenant is not about me holding on to Him, it’s about Him holding on to me. It’s incredibly different and this is what we have to see: that we find all of our strength, all of our sufficiency, all of our adequacy in Christ alone.
Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves.” That’s a strong statement for an old religionist that obeyed all the Pharisaical laws, 613 of them that they had. That’s quite a contrast to Paul’s former life. He says nothing comes through us. Our adequacy is not in ourselves, “but our adequacy is from God,” out of God, He’s the source of it, “who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills,” anything that we do under the letter is dead. It produces death, “but the Spirit gives life.”
Now with that understanding then, let’s look at the whole book that we’ve studied so far. In chapter 1, what do we find out about Him being our adequacy? He is our comfort. When we deal with the curve balls that life throws at us, and sometimes that’s in relationships, we run to Christ to find the comfort that only He can give. There’s no place, there is no person that can comfort us like He can in the difficult time. Paul had been deeply hurt by the church of Corinth because mainly they had listened to the false teachers and had sort of swung their way.
And Paul had been deeply wounded by this, but instead of blasting that particular group he ran to God to find the comfort that he needed to find. In 1:3-4 it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
We also saw in chapter 1 that who He is in our life, the adequacy He is in our life, all the way through 2:17, He’s the One who cleanses our conscience. He keeps our conscience clear when we’re falsely accused. The thing that keeps our heads above water is that our conscience does not condemn us if we live daily cleansed by Him. It is then and only then in our walk that our walk matches our talk. We know He knows and that’s the bottom line. We don’t have to tell anybody else. We know that He knows who we are and Whose we are. We don’t have to panic or defend ourselves when people say all kinds of false things about us. The apostle Paul was falsely accused, but he said in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”
In chapter 4 we learned that Christ is our consistency as we let Him live His life in us, He keeps us from going back and doing things our way, or as Paul would say, “losing heart.” Remember, that’s what that word means: to go back to doing things the old way, the way you used to do it before you got saved. And Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart.” In chapter 5 we learned that He is our confidence when it comes to facing death whether it be from persecution or just natural death. We don’t fear it anymore, because He conquered it. It’s just from here to there. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
Based on that truth that we don’t fear death or what men can do to us as ministers of reconciliation, we can be His ambassadors wherever we go. Conduits through whom He begins to make an appeal through our lives. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
In chapter 6 He’s our co-worker as we have the privilege of working together with God. That yoke that we’ve talked about, working together with God and as a result we do not receive the grace of God in vain. He says in 6:1, “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” You see, we get so excited that Jesus has come to live in us that we forget why He came to live in us, which is to live His life through us. The affects our relationships, it’s incredible, to the point that when we realize we’re wrong we’re willing to repent. This is what the church had done and turned back towards Paul. It was a godly sorrow that he produced in their life.
Second Corinthians 7:9-10, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
And then in chapters 8-9 that we just came out of, He is our creditor as we learn to distribute His money the way He wants it distributed. God is able, especially in our giving. It says in 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
Well, that brings us up to chapter 10 and we’re going to discover that He is our character; He produces His character in us in the face of persecution. When we have to stand there in the midst of it, be falsely accused and whatever else comes, He produces the character that is necessary in our life. He’s our adequacy; He will enable us to respond properly when we or even our friends are mistreated. And in our text today Paul particularly singles that out. It’s not just them, it’s their friends, and actually it’s Paul himself. Now that they’ve been turned back to Paul they want to see Paul vindicated and he has some things to say to them first.
It’s amazing how quickly you and I, our flesh, will cause us to take up an offense for a brother when we want to see him vindicated. It’s amazing how we’ll do that. We take matters into our own hands and we try to make things right as if we know what we’re doing. Well, this is the thought in the beginning verses of 2 Corinthians 10. Now chapter 10, like I said, is completely changing the subject. He’s been on giving and other things but he heads in a totally different direction.
In chapters 1-9 he uses “we” and “us” quite often, but now this is just Paul. Paul has a personal word for the church of Corinth that they need to hear from him and it’s all about how to handle the difficulties of life. Chapters 10-13 talk about how he defends himself in front of his critics and the church of Corinth needs to hear him say this.
He starts off and says, “Now I Paul myself.” That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Paul says, “I’ve got something I have to say to you.” If he mentions “us” or “we” from this point on it’s really incidental. In these last four chapters of 2 Corinthians he like I said, is going to defend himself and he’s going to help us understand how do you stand in the face of persecution? Is there a time to defend yourself? Is there a time not to, and we’re going to discover all of that. The believers in Corinth have repented and they love Paul and they really want to see Paul vindicated and Paul is going to warn them about some things that they need to understand before they do anything.
He doesn’t want them to take matters into their own hands. Now that they understand that Paul was telling them the truth all the time, now they see the false lies that these false teachers had said about Paul, Paul wants them to make sure that they understand. “Don’t you take this matter in your own hands. Don’t you take up an offense for me. Don’t you do that. There are some things you need to understand before you do anything.” So before you do anything in letting Jesus be Jesus in us, in the face of persecution whether it be us or our friend, we need to understand three things.
Before you do anything you need to understand the character that is required out of your life
First of all, before we do anything, before you ever do anything, when you hear a brother of yours has been mistreated, before you do anything you need to understand the character that is required out of your life. Verse 1 of chapter 10, “Now I Paul myself urge you,” and look what he does here, “by the meekness and the gentleness of Christ.” The word “urge” is the word in the Greek parakaleo, and it’s in the present indicative active, “I’m consistently coming alongside you, I am begging you, I am urging you.” This is what was used in Romans 12:1 when he said, “I beseech you therefore brother.” It’s the same idea. I’m urging you.
The character in which he comes to them in verse 1 is in the meekness and the gentleness of Christ. Now, we all need to understand those two words because that’s a character that only Christ can produce in us. We find our adequacy in Him. This has got to be understood before you do anything when in the face of persecution. This character can be misunderstood as we’ll see in a moment, and they had misunderstood it in Paul. The critics of Paul had misunderstood these two words.
You see, there were many of his critics that accused Paul of being timid and afraid of confronting the Corinthians face to face. The very fact that he had sent a very bold letter, that third letter we don’t have, played right into their hands. He had promised to come but he didn’t; we saw this back in chapter 2. Paul alludes to this in a tongue in cheek way in the last part of the verse. He says, “I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!” This is evidently what they were saying. “Yes, he’s tough when he’s away. He writes a letter that’s bold, but he’s a chicken. He’s a coward. He’s afraid to come and face us face to face, to confront us.”
So Paul, in using the words “meekness and gentleness of Christ” points us all to the character of Christ that must be present in our lives when we deal with people that oppose us; when we deal with people that are critical of us. And I want you to know Christ in us who is meek and gentle is definitely not weak. It has nothing to do with weakness. These words “meekness and gentleness” is never to be misunderstood as weakness. The word “meekness” is the word in the Greek prautes. Though “meekness” sounds like “weakness,” really it’s not. It’s the strength of a person’s character who loves others, now listen carefully, more than he loves himself.
Meekness is a disposition that so trusts God that it actually gives one the ability when falsely accused to stand calm and to stand quiet in the face of those who are wrongly accusing him. It’s an incredible characteristic. It’s the character of our Lord Jesus who lives in us. Listen to the words in Matthew 27:12, “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so that the governor was quite amazed.” I would have been too.
See, the governor would not have done it that way. This is the characteristic of Christ. Even when we’re falsely accused, we can stand there. You know why? Because we know that God will defend us. And if you’ve ever studied the epistles of Peter, he talks about that and he says, “Jesus continued to subject Himself to the One who judges righteously.” He knew that the Father would protect Him. He knew the Father would vindicate Him. And this is the character of Christ.
But at the same time meekness, when it refers to me or you, when it’s ourselves and we’re being falsely accused, says nothing, does not defend itself. But meekness, when it’s for the sake of others who are being deceived, will confront evil with a vengeance. We see this demonstrated by Jesus when He took a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple. John 2:15, “And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.”
You see, what was happening was they were presenting the temple to be one thing when it was to be another and it took it with vengeance to protect the people’s lives, to understand what it truly was. Aristotle said that the word “meekness” is a virtue that stands between two extremes. A meek person is not too quick to be angry—you can’t really anger him quickly—but at the same time he’s not passive either. He knows when and he knows when not to exercise his anger. Now that would be enough. Paul said, “I come to you in the meekness of Christ. I’ve got something I’m trying to tell you. Don’t misunderstand this characteristic in me as weakness.’
But if that’s not clear enough he adds another word, the word “gentleness” to complete the picture. The word is epieikeia. It’s only used two times in the New Testament. There may be other words translated gentleness, but this particular Greek word is only used two times. It completes the picture that Paul is drawing for us all. The word epieikes, which is again the character of Christ, builds on that word “meekness.” It helps us better understand it. It describes the humble and gracious way a person conducts himself among others, even those who hate him and speak falsely about him. It is seen by the world to be a weak characteristic. It’s seen by the world to be somebody who is timid, cowardly, because it doesn’t draw attention to itself.
And it’s saturated with kindness. The world doesn’t understand this characteristic. When the world sees this mild gentle way of life, it says in its ignorance, “Yeah, he has a lot of bark but he hasn’t got any bite.” But what they don’t understand: gentleness is patient restraint. This marvelous characteristic of Christ living in us causes us to patiently restrain our boldness to confront. But when we have to confront it causes us never to go further than is necessary.
This characteristic of Christ causes us to know what is appropriate and what is fitting. Paul, by putting these two words together is saying to the Corinthians, “Don’t you dare mistake my humble, gentle way when I’m among you even in the presence of my critics, don’t you mistake that to be weakness or passivity in any way. I know when and I know how much to be bold towards those who sin and deceive others. I know the timing because God lives in me, but don’t you mistake my character for being weak when I’m among you.’
We must find our adequacy in Christ before we ever deal with those who falsely accuse us or accuse others who are our friends or brothers or sisters in Christ. It’s an absolute requirement. Listen to the verse again, “Now I Paul myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!” You know what he’s really saying is before you go into any kind of situation that people are misrepresenting you or misrepresenting somebody that you care about, make sure you have the garment of Christ on.
He really says this to the Ephesian church, and in Ephesians 4:22 he says you put on the new man, take that old man off, put on the new man. He speaks of a garment and we know from Ephesians 3 you can only be dressed from the inside out. You can’t put it on from the outside in. It only comes to a yielded heart; it only comes to a person who has surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in his life. You’ll never see that garment, that character, produced in a person that is not willing to obey and surrender to God and to His absolute will. But when you put that garment on as the Holy Spirit dresses you in the character of Christ you begin to discover that His adequacy in you is what you’ve been looking for all the time. His meekness and His gentleness and all of a sudden the way you handle difficulties in life changes. It’s not like you used to do it. It’s the way He wants to do it in your life.
Let me ask you a question. What garment do you have on? Are you dressed today in the sufficiency, the adequacy, of Christ? Is your character around people gentle and humble and meek and mild? Do you have that gracious way with people, even your enemies? That’s the character of Jesus, and that must be understood before ever you enter into a situation that involves conflict with people discrediting you or discrediting somebody that you know.
Before you ever think about dealing with those who falsely accuse you or dealing with those who falsely accuse a brother that you love, you make sure you understand the character that is required. Make sure you’re wearing the right garment because if it’s not in the meekness and the gentleness of Christ, you’re going to do more damage that you’ll ever realize you could ever do.
Before you do anything you need to understand the conduct that is responsible
Secondly, the conduct that is responsible. You see the character that is required; here is the conduct that is responsible. What is responsible conduct when you’re wearing that kind of garment? He says in verse 2, “I ask that when I am present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.”
The word for “ask” there is the word deomai, which means “I beseech you.” It even takes the word parakaleo, I urge you. It takes it even further. “I’m trying to tell you something that is extremely important. This is personal. This is from me to you. You love me now, you’ve repented, and I love you, but you need to hear this from me. I know how you feel about me. I know you want to see me vindicated because now you’re hearts have been changed, but I’ve got to say this to you. It’s important that you understand this.”
When I was growing up, when my Mama wanted to say something like that she’d say, “Wayne Allen.” I can always tell when she had something important to say to me. Well, in the Greek it would be the same thing right here. “Listen to me.” Make sure the character is there that is required, but make sure your conduct is responsible.
Paul understands the tendency of their flesh just like his and anybody else’s to take matters into its own hands. The Corinthians had repented, their hearts had turned back toward Paul and they really wanted to see him vindicated in the face of those who said he was a coward. And Paul says, “Don’t you push me. Don’t you force this issue. When I’m with you I need not to be bold. Don’t you try to make me prove that I can be bold so that you might win your case over my critics.”
Folks, listen to what he’s saying here. We are never ever to force an issue when we know that somebody that we love is being falsely accused because Christ lived in Paul and because Paul walked by faith in Him, Paul knew when and he knew how much to deal with these people. But he said, “But don’t you try to make it happen.” He would confront those who were so deceptive in the church of Corinth. He even says in verse 6, “I’m going to punish all disobedience. I’m waiting for your obedience to get right first.”
But Paul knew that those who caused him pain were in the minority. He understood that now. Now, before it wasn’t that way. When he wrote that third letter, they all had sided with the false teachers. They had repented now; the whole church has turned back towards him. He didn’t want to scold the whole church for what only a few were doing. When the time was fitting, when the time was right, he would have to address the deceptive critics who were influencing and deceiving the church of Corinth, but the believers who wanted to see Paul vindicated would have to trust him to know when the time was right.
Conduct that is responsible when you know that somebody that you love has been wrongly accused is the conduct—now listen carefully—that will never, ever take matters into your own hands. That’s not the way the world operates; that’s the way God operates. The Corinthian believers needed to learn how Christians deal with such matters. And as we’ll see in the next few verses, it’s totally not the same way. It’s so contrary and contrasting to the way the world deals with it, it just stands as black and white.
Paul says very clearly, there are those “who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.” You see, he understands that this fleshly criticism of him is coming from people who don’t even understand to begin with. All they know is the way of the flesh; they’re lost to begin with. And he says, “Men, you’re not going to get anywhere going their route.”
So the character that is required is the meekness and the gentleness of Christ. And the conduct that is responsible is conduct that never takes matters into one’s own hands. I tell you what, I say this humbly, but I’ve been there and done that. I don’t know if you have or not, but I have.
You see, taking up an offense for a brother is what he’s dealing with right here. The church says, “Oh man, Paul’s been wrongly accused. We’re going to help him out.” And Paul says, “Don’t you dare force me to prove that I can be bold. I walk in the character of Jesus. I know when to be bold and when not to be bold. And the character of Jesus is not somebody who comes in and just eats everybody’s lunch. You don’t force this issue.” Conduct that is responsible never takes a matter into your own hands. Once you have the character that is required, God will show you how this is to be dealt with. You’ve got to let Him lead you through it. But don’t take up an offense for a brother. It can bring so much pain in your life.
Before you do anything you need to understand the confidence that is always reliable
Thirdly, the confidence that is always reliable. My next message is going to be “Choose Your Weapon.” What are you going to put your confidence in? What you think about the situation or what God thinks about the situation which you don’t even know yet? Until you’ve been in His presence. Verse 3, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.”
There’s such a difference in the character of one who confronts in the flesh. Have you ever been confronted in the flesh by anybody? You won’t ever forget it, will you? To prove a point, somebody tries to do that. It’s the difference between that person and the one who has discernment and stands in the character of Christ to only do what is fitting and in the way which is fitting. Now Paul explains the difference of daily living in a body of flesh but now allowing its desire to control what he does.
The first word, “flesh,” in the phrase, “For though we walk in the flesh,” speaks of the human frail body. We learned in chapter 4 that apart from Christ there is nothing more than an empty clay pot. And until it’s filled with the presence of God it’s worth nothing, can do nothing, and if it tries to do it, it fails. We walk in that body every day.
I was teaching in Galatians, and I’ve taught it here too, there’s a bummer in that verse Galatians 2:20, “the life which I now live in the flesh.” It’s speaking of the same thing right here: the body we live in, this human, fleshly body that we live in. The bummer is, and the downer is, you have the same body after you get saved as you had before you got saved. You say what’s the matter with that? Well, if you’re ugly before you get saved, you’re ugly after you get saved. I can’t help you. If you’re tall, you’re tall; if you’re short, you’re short. If you’re fat you can lose weight, but you’ve got the same body, both ways you’ve got the same body.
We walk in a body that’s frail. We live in a body every day that is dying every breath that we take. We’re born in order to die so that our bodies can be changed and glorified and we can live with Jesus forever. This body has a mindset to it and that’s what he brings up in the second time that he uses the word “flesh” in that verse. The word “flesh” is used in the phrase, “For though we walk in physical, human, frail bodies, we do not war according to the flesh.”
Now this word for “flesh” refers more to the mindset of this body, the way it’s been programmed to do things. If you came out of a successful business world and you came into the church, man, you’ve got a learning curve that’s bigger than Dallas. You’ve got to start all over again, because the way things are done in the church are not the way things are done in the world. It’s a totally different way. We don’t live according to the flesh. We don’t “war” Paul says, according to the flesh.
This refers to the “sinful mindset” that we have to deal with moment by moment. How many of you dealt with it this past week besides me? Anybody else deal with it? We know what it is. Everybody knows: it’s the old “I, me, mine.” It does things its own way. It doesn’t need God, it doesn’t need the Word. It can do it, it can do it, it can do it, it can. That’s that old mindset of the flesh.
The word “self” is a good synonym for the word “flesh.” When we’re facing the conflicts of life there will always be the tendency to yield to the deceptive ways of the flesh, to treat conflicting situations, to treat persecution, to treat a friend that’s been treated wrongly, to do it the way the flesh would do it, the way the world would do it. But then there’s that pull on the other side to do it the way God wants it done.
There are two absolutes in life: one is there is a God, and two is none of us are Him. It’s amazing how we think we know more than God. There’s no vacancy in the Trinity, I hate to tell you, your application is going to be turned down. God doesn’t need any help from men. It’s incredible how we draw on the experiences of the world and drag it right into our Christianity. And he says that’s not the way we deal with things.
Flesh will always cause you heartache and unnecessary pain. Paul calls the conflict we all have with the flesh a “war.” The word for “war” is a powerful reminder of what we face every day. The word “war” is strateuomai in the Greek, and refers to one who serves in the army and has to strategize against the enemy. Paul knows that this conflict is real and he’s trying to get the Corinthians to realize that their flesh is no better than the flesh of the people they’re trying to see Paul vindicated in front of. It’s the same thing. We never stoop to the level of the flesh that people use when they criticize us when they persecute us. You don’t stoop to their level to handle it is what he’s trying to say.
Paul puts his whole confidence in the Spirit of God. He’s chosen his weapon to be spiritual weapons to overcome his flesh and in no way does he want the Corinthians to do anything else or to do otherwise. It’s that confidence in Christ who lives in us that is always reliable. “For though we walk in the flesh,” Paul says, that’s every day, “we do not war according to the flesh.”
We’ll look at verse 4-6 the next time we come as we talk about “Choose Your Weapon.” I want you to read with me what it’s about to say. I want you to see the thought as Paul brings it all the way down. He says, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh,” boy, I can’t wait to get into that, how the weapons of warfare of the flesh, anger, all the stuff that they use, “but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”
There will be a time, Paul says, that we’ll deal with those who are disobedient. “They think I’m mild, they think I’m weak, they think I’m timid, they think I’m a coward because I can write tough letters when I’m away. I only wrote that tough letter,” chapter 2 says, “because I wanted to spare you from having to come to you.” But he said they are going to be surprised “because when I come to you I’m going to come in meekness and I’m going to come in gentleness. But there will be time I will deal with those who are deceiving your minds and I will do it in such a way they’ll never doubt again that I might not be bold. I’m going to do it in the armored garment of Christ.”
So before you do anything, before you do anything—and right now the first part of the context is they wanted to see Paul vindicated—Paul said before you do anything, make sure you understand the character that is required. You better have on the garment of Christ. You better be in the meekness and the gentleness of Christ. And by the way, you try to fake that, you can’t do it. You cannot do it. In the face of somebody who’s lying about you, you can’t do it. You cannot do it.
Secondly, conduct that is responsible is conduct that never takes a matter into its own hands. It knows that there is a time; it knows that there is a palace. It doesn’t force the issue. And thirdly, the confidence that is reliable, the weapons you can depend on are divinely powerful. He’s already mentioned two of them: gentleness and meekness. That’s the character of Christ. And you begin to see the weapons that a Christian has that a lost person does not have.
It’s interesting to me how when you go to snow ski they teach you how to stop before they teach you how to start. That’s not a bad deal. I never listened; it’s taken me years to understand the frailty of my flesh. I never read directions; I don’t think many men do. That’s why I’m always spending time going back and redoing something, because I didn’t read the directions to start with. When I first started learning how to ski I was interested in getting on the slopes. Hurry and get me out of this class. I didn’t pay much attention to it. I got that little V and I didn’t know how to stop. I just faked it.
And so I didn’t get to ski but once a year. I was with a friend of mine and old George had never been on skis in his life and he said, “Wayne, let’s go skiing. I want to learn how to ski.” I said, “I can teach you.” Boy, that’s the blind teaching the blind. And I went up to the lift operator and I said, “Which one is the easiest lift?” And what I meant was, which one is the beginner lift, but I didn’t say that. These were both intermediate lifts. I didn’t know that. And she said, “That one right there.” I said, “Okay, good.”
Just getting George to the lift was one thing; he’d never been on skis before. Finally got him in the chair and we’re going up and I kept expecting it to stop immediately because of the little bunny slope, they’re not very high. We just kept going, steeper and steeper. Further and further and it didn’t take me long, I’m slow but I get there. It finally dawned on me what I had done and the mistake I had made. And George has never been on skis and we’re on an intermediate run.
We get up to the top and I said, “George, when you get off this thing you’re going to fall, but everybody falls. Don’t worry about it: it’s part of it.” Did he fall? He wiped out about 10 skiers. Finally got him back up on his skis and I said “It’s going to be alright. I’m going to teach you.” We got over to where the hill started to go down and I said, “George, put your skis in a V and you’ll stop.” But I noticed I wasn’t stopping. I was moving because I had gotten on that slope. And he said, “Wayne, what am I supposed to do?” And I kept going. And he said, “Come back, Wayne.” I said, “I don’t know how.”
And I had to keep going because I didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t see George for three hours. Dave was on a gondola going over him at one point; didn’t realize it was George at first. Everybody was laughing pointing down and he looked and here’s a guy waist deep in snow, got his skis on his shoulder and he’s trying to walk down the run. He never learned to stop, so he started and boy that can cause you some pain. When I saw him three hours later he said, “Barber, you’re going to pay for this.” He didn’t know that verses, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”
There’s a word in the Greek that is not used in this context. It’s in modern Greek and you don’t use modern Greek, but however it’s interesting. It means “brakes.” And the word is translated “sound judgment” in Scripture. You’ve got to know when to stop before you ever start. And the apostle Paul says, “Out of your fervor for me, out of your love for me you’re about to make the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. Don’t you dare force this issue. Don’t you dare step in and take the matter in your own hands and don’t you take up an offense for me. I come to you in the meekness and the gentleness of Christ. I know when, I know how, and I know how much in Christ. He will handle this situation. Our confidence is in Him. It’s not in our flesh and how it handles situations.”
You know, I don’t know what this says to anybody, but I know last night I couldn’t get out the door for people telling me the conflicts they’re facing this next week and how this has helped them to put their feet back on the ground, to get over their anger, to get over their irritation with others. But I’m telling you, folks, taking up an offense for a brother is worse than what’s happened to your brother: it’s worse. It causes more damage in the body of Christ.
You see what happens is we think we understand it. You never fully grasp it. Nobody can tell you because they’re going to tell you from a perspective that they have. They don’t see the whole picture, but God does. That’s why it’s important to understand the character that is required, the conduct that is responsible, and the confidence that it is only reliable when you trust God and not your flesh to handle a difficult situation.
Boy I tell you, I don’t know how far we’re going to get in this thing. It just goes home and reads your mail, doesn’t it?