Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2
We need a new word for “ministry.” Ministry makes you think of formalized training and a pastor’s role. It was the right word for Paul in this letter because he is trying to establish his leadership role in the church in Corinth. But the truths he is laying out here don’t only apply to those in the professional ministry. They apply to all believers everywhere. We’re not talking about someone’s job description in the pastorate, we’re talking about the effect we have on people as believers and followers of Christ, wherever we are — all of us, everywhere.
Let’s face it, we all want to make a difference in the world. We all want to leave some kind of legacy. We all want to touch someone’s life in a positive way. I just heard from one of our MemberPartners that a team of men I was with made a big impact on his life when we came to his college for a week of meetings in 1969! That’s 50 years ago, and he’s still talking about it? How do you do that? How do you make a difference in someone else’s life? You don’t; God does. This is the essence of the new covenant: what God does in and through you when you show up and walk alongside someone.
That’s why we don’t lose heart, because we are not counting on ourselves. If we were counting on ourselves, we would have to hide our failures and indiscretions. If we were counting on ourselves we would have to rely on the things Paul denounces here like secret and shameful ways, or deception, or even distorting the word of God. These are the types of things we fall into when we are trusting in ourselves because we have to help the work along. We can’t just trust God for it.
On the other hand, the new covenant, or the new way, has us simply laying out the truth of God’s word plainly, “commending ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” That’s what we call here at the Catch, “walking alongside.”
Last year I spent a good deal of time caring for a dying man in his 80s. He was a lifelong atheist, and yet he seemed to be interested when I spoke the truth plainly to him. He asked me a lot of questions and I simply answered them as simply as I could. There was also the fact that I was commending myself to his conscience simply by being with him almost every day. The combination of the truth backed up by a real life finally won out and he became a believer. I did not push him to believe. Simply was who I was. God did the rest. I think his conscience eventually informed his brain what was going on. It’s the plain truth spoken through the honesty of a life that makes the difference. It doesn’t take a seminary education; all of us can do that.
The 21 Day Challenge
— Day 14 —
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
We are all called to be ministers of the new covenant. God is making us able, not ourselves. If we understand that and we breathe it into our lives and with all those around us — with our family, our neighbors, our workplace, our community, our world — life will never be the same again. You and I can count on it.
Chapter 4: Verse 1 – This Ministry
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
For Your Further Consideration
- What is ‘this’ ministry mean in verse 1?
- What comes to mind when you think of a Minister of Christ?
- A mild-mannered man standing before mild-mannered people, and exhorting them to be more mild mannered.
- A tall, good looking man in a fine suit.
- The man with the right way to conduct our lives.
- A celebrity preacher.
- A full-time employee of a church or cyber church who is kept around to do the teaching, the counseling and other odds and ends.
- You and me.
Paul says in so many words, “This ministry is not about big shots, you and I are not among others who are domineering leaders with the last word to utter. We are servants of Christ, under-rowers with our eyes fixed on Him. What He tells us to say that is what we are to say, and what He tells us not to do that is where our limits are. That other ministry tries to win the approval of human beings. That other ministry tries to please people. If we were still trying to please people, we would not be a servant of This ministry, which is Christ.
For Your Consideration
- Why do we not lose heart?
- Whose business is it to bring people to Himself?
Regarding Discouragement and Depression
- Ever wonder why Christians get discouraged or depressed (non-clinical depression)?
- Looking back at what we have studied to date, do you think people who are discouraged or depressed are
- Focusing on what they are doing for God, or,
- As they feel at the moment, what they are not doing for God, or
- Do they not understand the basis for this ministry that Paul speaks of which he calls the “new covenant,” the new arrangement for living, which God has provided in Christ?
- What about you? Do you feel discouraged or depressed at times? All of us need to seriously examine why we may feel so discouraged at times.
- Are we still depending on ourselves?
- Are we still trying to help God out?
- Do you really think you can earn frequent flyer miles for God.
- Is it possible you feel guilty because you never quite ‘made it’ for God?
- Do you think that somehow our flesh is improved or at least not as dirty as our filthy neighbor?
- Do you ever rationalize that God is “helping me” make myself a better person?
These are examples of a veiled language. We experience depression and discouragement because these veils keep us from the freedom found in His Spirit.
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways;
- What forms of secret and shameful ways have you witnessed in yourself or others?
Some examples of secret or shameful ways include:
- “If you get a certain number of new people to church next week,” the pastor exclaims, I will eat my hat.’ This is corrupt.
- The Sunday school teacher says, “I will give you a dollar next week if you come back to Sunday School.” This is, at the very least, degrading.
- Retelling a compelling story as if it was your own. This it dishonorable.
We don’t need forms of secret and shameful ways. If we continue to practice disgraceful and cunning ways, however, we can count on having feelings of depression and failure.
We do not use Deception,
- What does deception mean?
- What forms of deception are you aware of?
- Playing on emotions to get people to give money
- Telling stories to purposively bring people to tears.
- Creating a specular event just to attract people
- Marketing methods of manipulation
- Causing the blame to be directed to someone else
- Having hidden agendas
- Being crafty
- If we are not to be people who deceive, what are we to be? (Some examples might include men of integrity, aggressively opposed to deceit, an open book)
nor do we distort the word of God.
- What does distort the word of God mean?
- What forms of tampering with the Word have you witnessed in yourself or others? An example might be twisting the Word of God or pulling the truth out of context to prove your point.
On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly
- What, in your opinion, does Paul mean when he says, “truth plainly?”
- Setting forth the truth plainly is designed to (may have multiple answers):
- Make everyone comfortable.
- Makes people feel good.
- Be a load of guilt, fear and anxiety.
- Be a flavoring to life.
- Be a low calorie dessert.
- Fit reality
- The way things are.
- The revelation of reality.
- A powerful attraction.
we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
- What is a conscience?
- Consider a time when your mind was or emotions were fighting with something but God reached you through your conscience? Example: when considering a sexual affair?)
- Have you ever gotten lock jaw when trying to share the truth with someone? Good. Long conversations and/or arguments rarely work. Just tell the person the truth, recognizing there is a voice inside each person. That voice was put there by God. It’s called a conscience. The conscience can be saying,”Yes” when the head is shaking, “No.”