Our Great Calling

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/16/2021

This morning we’re in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (Week 7). Sometimes there are these passages that virtually preach themselves—this would be one of those occasions! For me, these verses are a clarion call to Christians everywhere. They give us great insight in how to live powerful lives (how to stay anchored and rooted) in theses ever darkening and depraved times. For our purposes today, let’s consider a series of three questions. . .

The first question is this: What Drives You? In 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up.” Before we can consider what these verses say to us, we have to reflect on what they meant to Paul. We already know from chapter one that Paul is “patiently enduring” incredible “affliction.” (1:4, 8). But through it all, he is deriving comfort, strength, and joy from God (1:6). Paul alludes to some great ordeal that occurred while he was in Asia. He and his companions were completely overwhelmed, beyond their own strength. They despaired of life itself! They felt they’d received a death sentence (8). They were pushed to all new depths of trusting in the God “who raises the dead” (9). Paul’s been delivered from terrible death and he is praying to be delivered again! (10).

If you’ve read through 2 Corinthians, Paul can’t seem to pile up enough words to describe his dark night of the soul. In Chapter 5 he is groaning in his mortality. In Chapter 6 it is affliction, hardships, difficulties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard labor, sleepless nights, hunger. . .

I find my mind firing off with so many thoughts at one time. First is this. Whatever physical hardships Paul has encountered—the very worst part—is that on top of it all—when he finds himself savaged by life and cornered in this dark, vulnerable moment—the Corinthian church isn’t there supplying comfort but instead personal attack and criticism! Oh the timing of people! Later in 2 Corinthians 6:12 Paul says, “We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us!” 2 Corinthians 6:13 Paul says, “I am speaking (to you) as to my children; as a proper response, open your heart to us!” Could you Corinthians act like adults here and show a little comfort and compassion and care?

Still, from the beginning, what consumes Paul’s mind? It isn’t frustration and hate. It isn’t anger and retribution. No, it's that God is “the Father of mercies and God of comfort!” (1:3). When other people are extracting from you, every ounce of mercy you can muster… we do well to consider, that we too, like (petulant children), extracted every last ounce of mercy from God.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1, that “we have this ministry” and “we do not give up” because WE OURSELVES WERE SHOWN MERCY! Our need for patient endurance doesn’t quite measure up to that of God’s, who suffered even to the point of sending his One and Only Son to the cross. It doesn’t quite measure up to that of Jesus who shed his blood, and broke his body, that we might repent and be saved. It doesn’t quite measure up to the ministry of the Lord’s Spirit, who despite our childish ways, continually ministers (sanctifies and transforms) us into the exact image of our Lord Jesus Christ! Why not give up on ourselves? Why not give up on others? Because the Lord in his mercy didn’t give up on us!

I’m thinking of this dark time in which we find ourselves, in a world where patient grace seems to be running dry. Where everyone has their head hanging out the window, and finger extended, condemning, canceling others. Instead, Paul is looking in the mirror and realizing how much he himself (much less others) needs God’s mercy. Elsewhere, Paul writes how “God’s grace compels us!” and how he was once “a violent man and persecutor” but God had grace. Does God's mercy drive you? Does it inspire you, sustain you, energize you? Does it enable you to patiently endure physical and person affliction? We’re called to Mercy!

The second question is this: What Guides You? In 2 Corinthians 4:2 Paul says, “Instead (i.e. of giving up), we have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth.”

In Paul’s day, as in our day, people often seek the cover of Scripture. Instead of coming to terms with their need for God’s grace, people double down on their sin. Instead of renouncing secret and shameful things, people proudly broadcast them! Instead of living with integrity, people act deceitfully, afraid to come into the light because their deeds are evil. People know they cannot commend themselves before God. They know they don’t have a clear conscience. They know they stand condemned by God’s Law and written Word.

So then what becomes the sinner’s strategy? When sinners have nowhere left to hide, they DISTORT the Word of God! They play word games! They attack the clear meaning of Scripture! Remember the devil tempting Adam and Eve? “Did God really say. . .”

*Instead of coming face to face with the Truth, we deface the truth.* We take what’s the clear, black and white word and will of God, and smudge it into however many shades of gray we can. We change the meanings of words. We rip verses out of their original context. We ignore the Holy Spirit and the author's intention, and make the Bible say what we want. We call evil good, and good evil. We call darkness light and light darkness. We recreate God in our sinful image, instead of letting him recreate us in his holy image. We make God the author and enabler of our sinful whims. God wants me to be this way, he created me to be this way, my inner truth is that I am what my flesh wants; not what the Spirit of God desires!

The average believer would be terrified to have their public and private life held up to the mirror of Scripture. Adam and Eve hid in the trees. They tried to cover and excuse themselves in whatever pathetic way they could. But God of course saw right through them. They were as naked in their sin as jaybirds. They were without excuse. This is where anyone who distorts the word of God will find themselves… without excuse and under judgment.

Paul is saying, “we commend our lives to God. We commend ourselves to your ever-scrutinizing consciences. We’ve indulged in an open and unfettered declaration of TRUTH. We hide nothing, nor from anyone or anything. Hold up the mirror of God’s Word! Hold up the mirror of God’s holiness!”

Let me ask not just whether God’s mercy drives you, but does God’s word (God’s Spirit) guide you? Or are you running from mercy and distorting God’s word?

The third question is this: What Captivates You? In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Paul says, “3 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Think of all the things that can captivate us. We can be captivated by God’s mercy—but many are captivated by anger and hate. People are captivated by all the ways they’ve been victimized, hurt, injured, disadvantaged, left out and left behind, or damaged by others. We are a grievance culture. Our backwards way of healing our pain is to exacerbate, amplify, even exaggerate other people’s faults (past, present, and future). We can be captivated by anger and hate or we can be captivated by God’s mercy and grace. One will bring healing, the other will widen and deepen our already fatal wounds.

We can be captivated by God’s Holy Word—but many are captivated by the deceitful and distorted rhetoric of men. I have wasted so much of my life listening to talk radio, cable television. . . being entertained by secular lyrics, secular books, and secular thinking. It’s amazing how clear and captivating God’s Word becomes when you shut the Devil off. The Devil keeps us from seeing and hearing what God would have us see and hear. He’s always twisting God’s Words, and distracting us, and entertaining us unto sin and death. The Devil monopolizes our attention all week long, and at best, loses not more than an hour of our attention on Sunday. And sometimes he can distract us that whole hour too! We need to really unplug to give God the time he deserves.

But here is Paul’s point in verses 3-6. In life, we can be captivated by our own image, or other’s people’s image, or by God’s image! We can be captivated by our own face on facebook, or other people’s faces on facebook… or we can shut down the whole system and become captivated seeing God face-to-face. What if we were more enamored with God’s perfect image than with perfecting our own?

Why do you suppose the Devil is working overtime to distract us? In the garden, he used that which was pleasing to the eye to lure Adam and Eve from God. Some things never change. The devil still uses mouth-watering images to distract.

· Why? He knows the moment we become captivated by the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ his dark game of shadow making is over.

· The Devil knows that the moment God’s light of truth shines into our darkness, his darkness cannot stand, and gets dispelled.

· He knows that once we receive the knowledge, and see the glory of God in the face of Christ, we’ll never be captivated by the Devil again!

· The Devil also knows that peering into the face of Christ sanctifies and transforms. Worship undoes the damage, it undoes what Satan has done. Worship sets us free to become the sons and daughters God created us to become.

We cannot let the endless parade of images the devil serves up… eclipse (crowd out) the very image of God in the face of Christ. In an age of endless distractions (bigger and bigger TVS, instant connectivity to people, world wide web of images at our fingertips, addictive gaming and gambling platforms, ). . . we have to discipline ourselves to stay attune to Christ’s glory. The God of this Age may try to blind us, but we don’t have to be complicit!

Our Call Today… let’s be captivated by God’s Mercy… God’s Word… God’s Glory & Image in Face of Christ!

Scripture Verses

2 Corinthians 4:1-6; 6:12-13

Worship Playlist

Good Grace by Hillsong

This We Know by Passion

Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me by Shane & Shane

Study Questions

  1. If people are blind to the gospel as men walking around in darkness (4:4), how are we able to help them see Jesus?
  2. Who might be waiting in darkness for you to share the knowledge of God in Christ? How does your life show this to be your priority?
  3. What must you do to make yourself captive to God's Mercy, God's Word, and God's Glory & Image in the face of Christ?

Apply It!