Be Reconciled

Second Corinthians is considered to be the Apostle Paul’s most personal letter to any congregation. Filled with emotions ranging from uncertainty and frustration to sympathy and relief, it is a heartfelt appeal to the church he planted in Corinth. The letter reflects the tumultuous relationship he had with the church he once led for more than a year and a half (Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016).

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV)

In this particular passage (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) we see Paul explain the purpose of his ministry: reconciliation. He states that because of the love of Christ, he feels compelled to share the message of hope that Christ’s atoning death on the Cross ushered in, by helping individuals turn from enemies of God into ambassadors for Christ.

Reconciliation = the removal of human enmity toward God

[1] Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 698). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

If God loves me, why does Scripture talk about “fearing the Lord”?

In our modern times, we tend to equate fear with dread or terror. However, “fearing the Lord” is a critical concept found throughout the Old Testament. According to the Old Testament, people who fear God receive His protection, wisdom, and blessing. To fear God means expressing loyalty to Him and being faithful to His covenant. When people fear God, they show trust in Him and obedience to his commandments. “Fearing the Lord” in biblical terms is a response by people to God, evoking respect, awe, and love.

Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,

but he who is devious in his ways despises him.

Proverbs 14:2 (ESV)

We preach Christ crucified and share the message of reconciliation, not to brag or boast, but out of love for others and out of awe for the love God has demonstrated toward us. Because of Christ’s unfathomable love for us, those reconciled to God feel compelled to encourage others, pleading our case, with the hope of winning them over for the sake of the Gospel.

Persuade: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action.

Throughout the Gospels in the New Testament, Christ demonstrates his love for people, and we also see the love that people have for him. In his death, Christ died for all individuals without distinction of gender or social status or any of the things people measure others by. Yet, not all get the benefits from Christ’s atoning death. Those who repent and believe in the Gospel, living for Christ, receive all the advantages made possible through Christ’s death on the Cross. Through his death on the cross, Jesus broke the power of sin so that those who believe and place their trust in Christ may live for the purposes of God and fulfill the plans He has for us.

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When we meet Christ, we are changed forever. There is a “before Christ,” and there is an “after Christ.”  When we experience Jesus and recognize his love for us and accept the atoning gift He is offering us, we can no longer be the same. It is simply not possible. Yes, our human sin nature still churns inside us. But so does the Holy Spirit, fighting with moans and groans on our behalf, empowering us with the strength of the Lord to overcome the trials and temptations we face in this life.

Once we encounter and experience Jesus Christ, we are no longer our old Self but are new Creations. We are no longer at odds with God. The hostilities between the Lord and us have ceased. Therefore, we become ambassadors of the Great Almighty, proclaiming what He alone has done for us; Not because we asked, but because it was the desire of God. Jesus Christ, having no sin, died for us, chained by sin, freeing us from our bondage. Because of Christ, our chains are gone. Because of Jesus, we know joy, hope, and love we did not know before.

So we plead with you, be reconciled to God.

I’m praying for you.

Go be salt; Go be light.

The Devotional Guy

7 Ways to Cultivate a More Gentle, Prayerful Spirit

One of the several personal goals I have set for myself in 2017 is to be a gentler, more prayerful man. This is not easy for me. “Till the soil,” I tell myself. “Till the soil.” “Be the light,” I remind myself. “Bite your tongue,” I hear my inner voice exhort. Cultivating a spirit of gentleness and prayerfulness can be challenging for any of us, during the current times we live in.

Why change?

You don’t pour new wine into old wineskins. It causes the skins to swell and burst, spilling the new wine. But it’s hard for us to let go of old habits and make room for new thinking. We get comfortable and set in our ways.

37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 Instead new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

Luke 5:37-39 (NET Bible)

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The Gospel is a powerful thing. It has a built-in expanding and explosive quality. When we experience a Jesus encounter, we are forever changed. So for this believer, having had a life-changing encounter with Christ several years ago, change is not an option as much as it is an imperative to seek to be more like Christ each day.

Having been convicted numerous times of having a harshness and gruffness, becoming more gentle in spirit is honestly a no-brainer for me. Maybe that is true for you also; maybe not.

As I seek to grow closer to God and be a better reflection of the work Christ continues to do in me through the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming more prayerful is a necessary building block in this process of spiritual growth.

Perhaps, you find yourself wanting to cultivate a more gentle and prayerful spirit.

So how do we proceed?

Here are 7 ways to cultivate a more gentle, prayerful spirit:

  • Pray. It really is self-explanatory, is it not? If you want to become more prayerful, spending time on your knees praying is fundamental. There is really no way to become more prayerful other than by repeated, intentional, constant prayer.
  • Listen. Gentleness grows when we follow Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s advice and seek to understand before being understood. It marks the difference between hearing and truly listening. Listening before speaking helps us respond more gently.
  • Think before we speak. Cultivating a more gentle, prayerful spirit entails responding better and more mindfully to the stimuli engaging us. Recognizing that just because you think something, doesn’t mean you are required to say it. Often times the best response is the answer not given.
  • Consider our actions. Actions have consequences. Too often, the consequences are unintended. People are always watching. If I do this, will it draw people closer to Christ or push them away? Be the light, not the vehicle of darkness.
  • Be mindful. Remember who’s you are. God sought you and bought with Christ’s redeeming blood. You are His ambassador. Do not take that responsibility lightly. Live it excellently.
  • Read God’s Word, Commit it to heart. I have found that there is a direct correlation between my spiritual walk–walking the walk, not just talking the talk–and spending time reading Scripture. Additionally, equipping myself with God’s Word by inscribing it in my heart and committing it to my mind, helps cultivate a more gentle, prayerful spirit.
  • Ask and trust the Lord. Ask God for help. Becoming more gentle and prayerful is not something you and I do alone in our own power. No. We need God to provide us His strength and His power. When we ask, we have to trust that God will do exceedingly and abundantly far more than we ever imagined, in accordance with His will. Ask and trust God to deliver.

It won’t be easy. It will not happen overnight. But we press on nonetheless. I’m praying for you.

Blessings,

RB

the Devotional Guy