“Good To Grasp One Without Letting Go Of The Other” ( John 3:16, KJV ) by Carley Evans


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What does God love? The gospel of John tells us God loves the world. He loves the world so much that He gives His only begotten Son in order to save those who believe in Him. Those who believe in Him are given everlasting life. With this gift, they escape eternal darkness; they do not perish.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Christians ought to reflect God’s love of the world. True, we are asked to understand that love of the world is enmity with God.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, KJV)

Nevertheless, we misunderstand. God does not tell us to shun the world; rather, He commands us to go into all the world and preach the good news to its peoples.

 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19, KJV)

Yet, God warns us:

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6: 14-17, KJV)

God loves the world; He calls us to walk about in the world, reflecting His love of its peoples. At the same time, God tells us to separate from the world, not to envy it, desire it, follow after it.

“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:18, NIV)

 

“A Word Of Reconciliation” ( 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, KJV ) by Carley Evans


Paul says he is an ambassador for Christ. God uses him to beseech others to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus. Paul tells his readers that once in Christ, they each become new creations; “the old is gone, the new is come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV) Paul insists that “Christ’s love compels [him].” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Convinced that one died for all, Paul writes “therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) If all died, then Paul says he no longer regards anyone from a worldly point of view. Paul strongly reminds:

“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)

Paul carries the Word of reconciliation — that God no longer holds our sins against us. This not of ourselves, lest we should boast. Instead we are saved by grace. Therefore, we “should no longer live for [ourselves] but for Him who died for [us] and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“Gladly Spent For Your Souls” ( 2 Corinthians 12: 15, ESV ) by Carley Evans


To the church at Corinth, Paul rhetorically asks, “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” Paul reminds the church body that he is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) He is content in these and “boasts all the more gladly” of them, for “when [he] is weak, then [he is] strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10) Paul boasts of his weaknesses because Christ’s “grace is sufficient for [him], for [Christ’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Paul tells the Corinthian church, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” (2 Corinthians 12:15) He fears “God may humble [him] before [them]” as he “may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier” without repentance. (2 Corinthians 12:21) He knows what he will tell them when he comes in person. He “warns them now while absent, as [he] did when present on [his] second visit.” He tells them that the third time he “will not spare them.” (2 Corinthians 13:2) He can not spare them for “Christ is speaking in [him].” (2 Corinthians 13:3) Paul writes, “[Christ] is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but in dealing with you we will live with Him by the power of God.” (2 Corinthians 13:3-4)

“Live with Him by the power of God,” Paul tells the church body. “Boast in your weaknesses for Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, and is made perfect in weakness.” Yet Paul warns, “Repent, for Christ is not weak in dealing with you.” And, Paul encourages them. He writes, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”

“All This Is From God” ( 2 Corinthians 5: 21, NIV ) by Carley Evans


The ultimate paradox — Jesus who commits no sin becomes sin for us, “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Paul explains, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciles us to Himself through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) Our sin is stripped away by the Lord’s death. As a result,”God makes His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

Because the power we have is directly from God,”we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us…in His presence.” (2 Corinthians 4:14) We also know that “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17) We know “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) We also know that God “has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:5) Therefore, “life is at work in [us].” (2 Corinthians 4:12)

“God In Search Mode” ( Matthew 18: 12, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Can you see the great Shepherd “leaving the other ninety-nine [sheep] on the hillside [to] go in search of the one that strayed?”

Can you imagine the God of the universe leaving behind ninety-nine other planets and their populations to go in search of humanity on the planet Earth, the one people who strayed from His will for them? I’ve never particularly found the idea that we are the only intelligent creatures God created. The universe is so big, and God is so fond of diversity; I find it nearly impossible to believe we are unique ones He created in His own image.

Perhaps God has left “the other ninety-nine on the hillside” while He comes in search of us. Perhaps we are the only one — of many planets — that strayed; the one He decided to die for, so that we might join our brother and sister planets in the wider universe.

Of course, Jesus is speaking here of little children, of how we must not “despise one of these little ones.” (Matthew 18:10) But, the analogy He uses may actually have a different meaning than what we know.

 

“Share God’s Consolation” ( 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the all-merciful Father, the God whose consolation never fails us! He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we in turn may be able to comfort others in any trouble of theirs and to share with them the consolation we ourselves receive from God.”

Paul encourages us with the truth that God’s “consolation never fails us!” He reminds us that “we suffer with [Christ].”

And, oddly enough, our sufferings have a purpose. “As Christ’s cup of suffering overflows, and we suffer with Him, so also through Christ our consolation overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:5-6) Our consolation overflows to others, to our brothers and sisters in Christ and also to the world at large. As we know God’s comfort, so we are able to — and called to — comfort others. And we are able to — and called to — comfort others “in any trouble of theirs.” We do not need to have experienced that specific trouble to be able to offer comfort. Why? Because “through Christ our consolation overflows” to the other person; and Christ knows that person’s suffering in a way we can never know.

Therefore, “share with [others] the consolation we ourselves receive from God.” We each can be a blessing in times of trouble.

“Completely Open Before God” ( Romans 12: 3, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Paul suggests, rather strongly I think, “in virtue of the gift that God in His grace has given [him]” that each of us should “not be conceited or think too highly of [ourselves]; but think [our] way to a sober estimate based on the measure of faith that God has dealt to each of [us].”

Too often, we seem to be akin to Peter, James and John the brother of James on the mount where Jesus is transfigured before them. Peter says, “Lord, how good it is that we are here! If you wish it, I will make three shelters here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4-5) We just want to sit down and be in the Presence of the Glory of God. We want to leave the lost world behind, and rest. But Paul tells us not to desire to abandon the world; instead, we are to remain in it. He reminds us that “we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.'” (2 Corinthians 5:20, HCSB) “Because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people. We are completely open before God.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Paul warns us not to “take pride in the outward appearance rather than in the heart.” (2 Corinthians 5:12) We are not to “think too highly of [ourselves].” “So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

“Finally, Brothers, Rejoice” ( 2 Corinthians 13: 11, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


“Finally, brothers,” writes Paul to the church at Corinth, “rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” “Give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone.” (2 Corinthians 6:3) “Speak openly; [your] heart opened wide.” (2 Corinthians 6:11 [13]) Remember that “[you] are the sanctuary of the living God;” (2 Corinthians 6:16) and, as such, “complete [your] sanctification in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) “Wrong no one, corrupt no one, defraud no one.” (2 Corinthians 7:2) “Excel in everything — faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love — excel also in this grace.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)

 

As you remember that the living God dwells within you, you walk in awe and joy simultaneously. In this grace is your maturity, your ability to be at peace and to be encouraged. God is love and peace; and He is with you.

 

“Finally, brothers, rejoice” in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

“The Cheerful Giver” ( 2 Corinthians 9: 7, NEB ) by Carley Evans”


“Each person should give as he has decided for himself; there should be no reluctance, no sense of compulsion; God loves a cheerful giver.”

I’m certain you’ve sat in a church on a Sunday morning and listened to a pastor tell you to “bring the tithes into the treasury, all of them.” (Malachi 3:10) And to quickly assure you that there’s a great reward if you do so. Some people refer to this as the ‘prosperity’ gospel.

I prefer Paul’s exhortation here in his letter to the church at Corinth, in which he encourages each person to “decide for himself” without “compulsion” and without “reluctance” not only the amount to give but the time to give. Paul also tells the church “it is in God’s power to provide you richly with every good gift; thus you will have ample means in yourselves to meet each and every situation, with enough and to spare for every good cause.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9) “You will always be rich enough to be generous.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Jesus warns that it is an error to honor the ‘traditions of men’ at the expense of taking care of your parents; to set aside the good you should do for your family in order to please a church. Instead, we should look to the needs of those who are our dependents. If our child is unclothed and hungry and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our mother is in the least expensive nursing facility we can locate and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our neighbor is losing her house to foreclosure, and we give our money [under compulsion, that is] as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. (Mark 7:9-13)

God repeatedly states that He wearies of our offerings. What He desires is a contrite heart, humble and cheerful in giving to others in need. Look first to our families, meeting the needs of those we love. Then look to our friends and neighbors, then look to the poor and disenfranchised.

Decide for yourself, without compulsion, with no reluctance. For God loves a cheerful giver.

“New Creations” ( 2 Corinthians 5: 17, NIV ) by Carley Evans


“Regard no one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) Our point of view now is a heavenly one. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. As such, we must not grieve Him by yielding what is new to the old. “We serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6) Yet,”[we] are weak in [our] natural selves.” Paul encourages us — rather than “offer the parts of [our] bodies in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19) We should regard ourselves as being “in Christ,” as “new creations”; for this, indeed, is what we are. Paul says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) So much for will power. “What a wretched man am I! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) The answer is “Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Make no mistake — we do not rescue ourselves; we do not power ourselves into eternal life. God makes us “new creations.” We regard ourselves as such; yielding our members to the Holy Spirit who dwells within.