The Measure of a Man

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 7/18/2021

Good morning Lakeside! We’ve been slowly working our way through this amazing letter Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth. In Chapters 8-9, Paul was challenging the Corinthians to give with the same sincerity as that of the Macedonians. Someone asked me, “Is the Church in financial trouble? Is that why we discussed giving the past few weeks?” No, Paul spent a few chapters talking about giving, so we spent a few weeks talking about it!

But today we're in 2 Corinthians 10, and were moving along! Chapter 10 has a lot to say about our self-concept—how we measure ourselves, and measure others. If you measure everyone by yourself, you are in trouble. If you measure yourself by the standard of everyone else, you are also in trouble! Comparison, envy… is a huge problem especially in this age of social media. Since the beginning of time, we’ve always been creatures of comparison. Cain’s sacrifice didn’t measure up to Abel. Instead of learning to sacrifice rightly, and live rightly, Cain killed his rival, his very own brother!

But now we have social media. We have instant communications. We spend most of our days, overly preoccupied with our status, and comparing our status with that of others! For example, if I post a picture of a fish I caught, someone posts a picture of a bigger fish they caught! When it comes to comparison nobody ever wins. BTW, since I wasn’t having any luck catching bigger fish, a while back I posted this photo… [SHOW FISH PHOTO]. I defy any fishermen to catch a fish with a bigger appetite this this fish (joke).

This morning I want to talk about our “headspace.” How do we spiritually navigate the toxic waters of comparison and envy without succumbing to them? How do we properly measure ourselves, and see ourselves and see others. Let me offer principles for cultivating a healthy self-concept, a healthy sense of self.

Measure True Humility. One strategy for change is make a negative a positive. Take our compulsion to compare for instance. If we compare others by the measure of ourselves… if we compare ourselves by the measure of others… it's very destructive. Right off the top Paul says, in Corinthians 10:1, “Now I, Paul, myself, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. . .”

Instead of making myself (or others) the comparison point, what happens when I make Christ the comparison point? Well Christ Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped or stolen or competed against, so he emptied himself of all status or glory. He made himself nothing. He took the nature of a servant, a slave, becoming obedient unto death even death on a cross!

Jesus’ headspace was meekness and gentleness. Back in 2012 Nik Wallenda became the most-watched high wire artist and daredevil in history. A billion people across the world watched as tightrope walked across the Niagara Falls. In 2013 he highwired across the Grand Canyon. What pride. What fame. Right? After each event, after the huge crowds dissipate, after the media fade away, he can always be found quietly picking up trash, cleaning up after the crowd. When asked to explain he said, “After an inordinate amount of attention I sought and received, I need to keep myself grounded… I do it because it is a way to keep from tripping.”

The meekness and gentleness of Christ grounds us. Emptying ourselves of this compulsion to compare, to envy, to be better, to one-up… keeps us from tripping over our own ego, or other’s egos. Christ Jesus’ shows us how. He emptied himself of the ego need, the esteem need, the social need, the status need.

Measure True Connection (1-2). Another way to stay grounded is to stay relationally connected with people. And by connection I don’t mean digitally. I mean personally connected...whites of the eyes.

This letter was written in the 1st Century, 2000 years ago, long before social media was invented, or even keyboards were invented! 2 Corinthians 10:1, “Now I, Paul, myself, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble among you in person but bold toward you when absent.” Paul is making an important observation about human nature here! We tend to be bold toward people when absent from them, but humble in their presence. We tend to be bold when were in the vacuum of relationships. Oh how we roar when we’re on our phone texting, or sitting behind a screen, or typing on a keyboard, or virtue signaling on social media. How easy it is to be bold writing a letter, like Paul is doing here. Or how easy to be bold writing an anonymous letter!

2 Corinthians 10:2, “I beg you that when I am present, I will not need to be bold with the confidence by which I plan to challenge certain people who think we are living according to the flesh.” Cowardice is hiding out in our sniper’s perch, from which we can kill, cancel, condemn with seeming impunity or few repercussions. Courage is going directly to a person. Paul is having a candid moment here. He has raised issues in his letter and he’s begging the Corinthians to take care of business before he arrives. Yet Paul is perfectly willing to deliver his challenge personally, face to face, eyeball to eyeball. The point is we act far more humbly and meekly and gently in a person’s presence—because it’s there we realize our impact. In a vacuum, we might be like jet pilots dropping bombs never realizing the calamity our words are creating on the ground, in the lives of real human beings.

Measure True Truth (3-5). So Paul is being accused by certain people of “living according to the flesh.” Nothing brings out the dark side of our flesh than a sharply worded insult, or criticism, or personal attack. I don’t think anyone is exempt from personal attack—not these days! But instead of punching back with harsh words, instead of living according to your flesh, Paul has some pretty good advice. He suggests we wage war “against” the flesh. But How?

2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

You can apply these words in the realm of theology, in the realm of philosophy, within any realm of knowledge. We don’t fight back with fists, with falsehoods, with fake news and fallacious memes. We fight back by letting the simple unadorned truth decimate the strongholds of Satan. But keep in mind Paul is speaking these words not in the context of Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics but in the realm of personal relationships.

The best strategy for heading off an attack is to embrace true truth, and let go of falsehood. The truth needs no qualification, no adornment. The truth about you, the truth about others, the truth about a situation. The truth simply needs declaration. The proudest, most arrogant people can’t handle the truth. Those who are evil suppress the truth, they are afraid of the light, because their words and deeds are evil. The simple truth has always, and will always, be the single most power force of transformation whether societal or personal. The truth sends Satan packing every time.

If someone says something about you, and it isn’t true, take it captive, submit it to Christ, and don’t let it define you (no matter who says it). In everything you are tempted to say, or write, or post, or say (whether in person, whether in a letter, whether on social media, or text) go no further than truth.

Measure True Purity (6-11). Paul turns his attention to the use of power and authority. Our use of power and authority, especially when discipline or punishment is involved, must be on the side of truth. Our integrity stands or falls on our right use of power and authority to edify, to serve, to build others up. It’s never right to use power or authority or position to terrify.

2 Corinthians 10:6-11, “And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience is complete. Look at what is obvious. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, let him remind himself of this: Just as he belongs to Christ, so do we. For if I boast a little too much about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be put to shame. 9 I don’t want to seem as though I am trying to terrify you with my letters. For it is said, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak and his public speaking amounts to nothing.” Let such a person consider this: What we are in our letters, when we are absent, we will also be in our actions when we are present.”

Paul’s point is that he is acting sincerely and courageously. He’s acting in purity. He’s acting to serve, and edify, and built them up in the Christ. He’s not afraid to hold them accountable, whether by discipline or punishment, to not only do what is right but to help them grow in Christ. This isn’t about ego, about raw exercise of power, or about being authoritarian for authoritarian’s sake. All we do and say, must be motivated by seeking the good of others. How is this helpful? How is this encouraging? How is this edifying?

Measure True Faithfulness (12-16). Paul’s next point is that we really need to focus on our circle of influence. 2 Corinthians 10:12-16, “12 For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure but according to the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned to us, which reaches even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we had not reached you, since we have come to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We are not boasting beyond measure about other people’s labors. On the contrary, we have the hope that as your faith increases, our area of ministry will be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel to the regions beyond you without boasting about what has already been done in someone else’s area of ministry.”

This is my take. Mattering doesn’t matter. Faithfulness is what matters. The reason we compare and classify and criticize and measure ourselves against others is to matter “more” as someone else’s expense. Paul says in effect, “Not us. God has given us an assignment, an area of ministry, of impact and influence. He has given us this square of acreage to farm. If we're faithful with little, God will enlarge our ministry. We don’t need to take credit for what God is doing somewhere else. We don’t need to measure, compare. We need to keep hand to our own plow, preaching, serving, fulfilling the assignment God has given us (small or large).”

Measure True Confidence (17-18). 2 Corinthians 10:17-18, “So let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.” At the end of the day, who cares how we measure ourselves, or others measure us. The only thing that will matter is what God sees, and what God measures.

Scripture Verses

2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Worship Playlist

The Lion and the Lamb by Bethel Music

Who You Say I Am by Hillsong

Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship

Faithful to the End by Bethel Music

Study Questions

  1. How does your worldly resume compare to your resume in Christ? What brings the Lord's commendation?
  2. How can you turn boasting in yourself into boasting in the Lord (10:17)?
  3. Which of the 6 points in this week's sermon give you the most trouble? Humility, Connection, Truth, Purity, Faithfulness, Confidence

Apply It!