New Covenant Living
Topic: New Covenant Passage: 2 Corinthians 4:7–4:12
We all carry something with us everywhere we go and we express something to other people everywhere we are. When you walk in to a room, you bring a certain presence with you into the room. You may bring a critical spirit, or complaining, or self pity. You may bring your unbelief or fear, OR, OR you can carry AND express the very presence of God. So a very basic question of life is: “What are you carrying and showing to others?” At all times, in all places, with all people, something is being revealed through you! Paul said about himself, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal body.”
2 Corinthians 3:6 says “He made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” He made us ministers of the Spirit. God made us to serve other people with the presence of his Spirit And.. the Spirit gives life! We don't have a letter to give people, we don't have just words to give people, we have life to give people.” –NOT our own, of course, but the life of the Spirit, or the Life of Jesus! You are to be a vessel through which the life of Jesus is seen, felt and experienced by others. Your calling in life is to minister LIFE!
New Covenant living is carrying the life of Jesus inside you and ministering that life to others. But here is the paradox: We carry around, both the death of Jesus AND the life of Jesus. And it is carrying the death of Jesus, that allows the life of Jesus to flow out of you to those around you. Paul said in verse 10, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal body.”
What does this mean? The death of Jesus clearly refers to his death on the cross. The cross is a place of weakness, of humiliation, a place of heartache and pain, a place of rejection, a place of losing everything! So “the death of Jesus” speaks of his sufferings, his obedience to the point of death, his giving up his life. For you to carry about in YOUR body the death of Jesus means that YOU live with this same attitude. It is being willing to submit to this kind of self-death for Jesus' sake and others. That death, Paul says, is what sets the stage for the miracle of others seeing the life of Jesus in you.
*Affliction, pressure, unfair treatment, in a sense puts your life on display for other people to see something in you! What they may see is your sinful response, (your self pity, your anger, your bitterness). BUT if you carry the death of Jesus in you, then afflictions create the opportunity, like no other, for people to see Jesus in you.
*Paul said, “We always carry about this dieing of Jesus.” In another place he said, “I die daily”. Vs 11 says, “We who are alive are ALWAYS being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body”. We are in a daily process of embracing the pressures, pain and problems of life, AND the self denial that goes with that SO THAT others see Jesus in us. This is a continual pattern of life, not for one hour!
This “carrying around the death of Jesus” is something you experience. You feel it! You feel the dieing. You don't have to be nailed to a cross but it feels something like that at times. I went through something a few years ago, during which, I told Cindy, “I feel that that is the last nail being driven into my last hand that will finish my crucifixion”. I said it with a sense of humor but pretty much felt that way too! Someone who used to be a close friend says things about you that puts you in a really bad light, and it hurts. But instead of retaliating, you choose to carry around in your body the dying of Jesus and you entrust yourself to him.
All true living for Jesus Christ will involve a kind of dying. Ministry to your children, to those in the church and those outside the church, loving people where you work, loving your wife, your husband, or your neighbors, will involve some cost, some emotional pain, some weariness, some loss, some disappointment, some pressure, some death to your own self will, some death to your own responses, IE choosing to carry about in you the death of Jesus!
And....Only as far as death works IN you can life work THROUGH you. Life in others comes at the price of death to yourself in some manner. Watchman Nee said, “First comes trouble, then desperation, then ministry”. Ministering life is a painful process at times!
Joni Erickson Tada said that artists use contrasting colors, light and darkness to make an image stand out. It is when you have sorrow, that your joy really stands out. It is when you are under great stress that your peace and composure really shine, and people marvel at the work of Jesus in you. It is when you are insulted or mistreated, that your love and forbearance really look supernatural. When something terribly disappointing happens, and you still show a sweet, patient spirit, THEN others see Jesus in you.
This life of Jesus is not just a figure of speech. There really IS a Life of Jesus in you. Paul described the gospel as the “the glorious riches of this mystery which is Christ in you the hope of glory. When we talk about the life of Jesus being revealed in us, it is not just a way of saying someone is really nice. There is a reality of his Spirit in us that is to be revealed, to be seen, felt and experienced by others everywhere we go. And...
The presence or absence of this life is as noticeable as whether or not you get water when you turn on your faucet or not! This LIFE, is either a present reality in your home..or it is not! It is a present reality in the church, your Bible study group, at worship team practice, when you talk on the phone, or at work....or it is not. And it is a big difference!
There are lots of ways to evaluate a Sunday morning: Was it too long? was there any misspellings in the words put up on the screen? How many people were there? Did other people reach out to me? Did the speaker entertain me? But the main thing that matters, when we meet together is simply “was there Life?” Was the life of Jesus manifested? Was the Spirit ministered to people. Did people encounter the life of God?
When you are in a Bible Study, don't talk about things that don't minister life. Don't talk just to talk. Your prayer should always be let me minister life in this meeting, in this relationship, with this person. Let Jesus be see, experienced, and felt though me!
This passage starts with the statement that we have this treasure in jars of clay. Being people who manifest the life of Jesus does not mean we are impressive people! Clay jars were common, ordinary, weak, easily broken, yet they were used to carry or store important things like gold or jewelry or important documents. This is a picture of what a Christian is. We are clay pots, nothing special in ourselves.
God's plan for you is not for people to look at you and see how impressive you are. Not for people to look at RLC.... God's plan is for people to look at you and say this person is so ordinary and yet I see something so remarkable in their life. They have all the same problems but I see Jesus in the midst of their life.
We are earthen vessels and we feel our “earthenness”. Christian living does not mean everything is going fantastic. It does not mean you feel fantastic. You may feel quite pathetic or weak. We feel the sting of criticism, the disappointment of loss. At times, we may feel like we do not know how we can go on. We feel emotions we don't want to feel. But...that is not all we have. And that is not all we are.
We are jars of clay BUT we have treasure in us!! We have the treasure of God dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit. The all-surpassing power is FROM HIM, not from us! For Paul, the Christian life was a continual miracle, a paradox in which divine life shone forth through his human body. When people met you they meet human being with weakness, and emotions, but they also encounter the life of Jesus in you!
Vs 8 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” This verse, as I see it, is a description of HOW this death and life of Jesus works in us. We all want the power of God, but we want it to come out of a calm, trouble free life. Paul is telling us it doesn't work that way.
*To be afflicted on every side: means all kinds of problems and troubles are coming at you. Literally “we are squeezed”. Your lock your keys out of your car, your property taxes go up, you can't sleep all night, you burn the supper, the kids all have the flu.
*Being perplexed means you can't see a way out. You don't know which way to turn. You are at your wits end. You don't understand what God is doing.
*To be persecuted means people are out to harm you. It includes everything from being excluded from conversations, to being insulted, to losing your home or your life.
*To be struck down or to be knocked down refers to sudden catastrophies, things that feel like a punch in the gut, things that shatter your life: a severe accident, getting fired from your job, being deserted by a lifelong friend, or being stoned like Paul!
And this verse is immediately followed by this statement: “We always carry around in our body of the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” Paul described his constant experience of being hard pressed, being perplexed, being persecuted, being struck down and he calls it “always carrying around in our body the dying of Jesus”. But where is the life of Jesus? Right here in this same verse!
On the one hand... “We are hard pressed on every side, we are perplexed, we are persecuted, we are struck down .” But on the other hand (or at the same time) we are NOT crushed, NOT in despair, NOT abandoned, NOT destroyed, NOT overwhelmed, NOT depressed, NOT wiped out.
How is the life of Jesus revealed through you?
*People see Jesus in you when you have troubles all around you but you are not crushed by them. They see that you are under pressure but they see something within you that keeps sustaining you in your trouble. They see a power at work, greater than the problem, enabling you to go on, even to rejoice - That is the life of Jesus! You are squeezed but not crushed. When people see in you the peace of Christ, when they see your obedience in very hard things, when people see his joy, his love and compassion in you, in your daily life, then Jesus is being revealed in you.
*People see Jesus in you when you are perplexed and confused about what to do next, but yet you are not in despair about it. When you can see no way out and others can see no way out for you, but you still trust your Heavenly father, they are seeing Jesus in you.
*People see Jesus in you when you are persecuted but you don't internalize that and consider yourself abandoned or forsaken. You have people trying to hurt you but you are not living as a forsaken abandoned person; you are not thinking like that, not talking like that, not considering yourself to be alone.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me but all deserted me (but just when you think Paul is going to engage in self pity, he said) May it not be charged against them! The Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed....” I wasn't abandoned! The Lord was with me! You may be mistreated but you are not abandoned!
Martin Luther wrote the Hymn a Mighty Fortress when he was hated and hunted down by the Pope. Instead of seeing himself as an abandoned person he saw himself inside a Mighty Fortress which was God himself!
*People see Jesus in you when you are struck down, but not destroyed by it.
The prophet Micah said in chapter 7:8 “Do not rejoice over me, on my enemy! For though I have fallen, I will rise! Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” When you view your low points in this way, Jesus is manifested in your life.
Things to consider: Manifesting the Life of Jesus is not automatic. Some people are hard pressed and they ARE crushed; they don't know what to do, and they are in despair, they are persecuted and they view themselves as abandoned, they are not only struck down they are in some sense destroyed or totally devastated. This passage almost forces us to ask, “Why can one Christian go through something hard and live continually in hurt and pain and wounded condition. And another go through something comparably hard and they are manifesting the life of Jesus to others and are glad to do so?
*At least part of the answer is that a person may not know that this the way God works.
Life comes through death. The power of God shows up in our weakness. Begin to tell yourself: *I am not overcome by the things that trouble me because I have the power of God in me to sustain me through it all. *I am not overcome by my sufferings because I see that life is flowing from me to people that I love.
It does involve a new way of thinking: Wives, perhaps your husband leaves to meet a friend for coffee and you have kids and diapers and dishes to do. Or husbands, perhaps you just got home from a taxing day work and your wife asks you to vacuum the house watch the kids while she runs to the mall. What is the reaction? Self Pity? Oh my, I have it SO hard. NO! You say: This is part of this amazing process where my dying to self leads to life in others! This is how the life of Jesus comes to shine through my human body. And because that is what you want more than anything else in life, like Paul, you embrace this process. If the cry of your heart is may Jesus be seen in me, you are going to see things that require you to deny yourself, in a whole different light!
We begin to see dishonor, unfairness, hardship, disappointment, in a different light because somehow, the LIFE OF JESUS IS MANIFESTED or revealed in our body THROUGH these things.
*Another reason you may not be manifesting the life of Jesus could be that your focus is on loving your own life. When you love your own life first and foremost then anything that makes life hard for you destroys you. If your mind set is in, I cannot live without people loving me or treating me well, or appreciating me, or without things going well for me.... then you will be destroyed when life doesn't go your way. We are here to die with Jesus! We carry about the dying of Jesus SO THAT..the life of Jesus my be revealed in our body FOR OTHERS TO SEE.
See how utterly selfless Paul is here. Yes, I have troubles on every side, yes, I get knocked down, BUT I am not bummed out, BECAUSE this is FOR YOU!
One more consideration: This passage is about suffering! It IS about accepting a path of suffering. BUT, I think it is a mistake to take this passage and to make it a glorification of suffering. It is not primarily about how wonderful suffering is. It is about how wonderful and sufficient the life of Jesus is to shine through us in our sufferings.
So it is not just a call to suffer – like that was an end in itself. It is an explanation of how we become manifestors of the life of Jesus. The object of suffering is so that you may have life to offer to others, not to be known as a person who likes to suffer! Again we carry the death of Jesus SO THAT his LIFE may be revealed. The emphasis is on LIFE! Carrying and expressing and ministering LIFE!
One: Consent to share in the dying of Jesus. Always carrying about the death of Jesus, is an act of the will. You consent to have your ego bruised, to look pathetic or weak, you chose to endure pressure or problems for Jesus sake. If we want to have the life of Jesus manifested there must be a willingness to accept the cross in our lives, willingness to deny self, willingness to endure things that cut across our will, willingness to die to self pity, to the demands of self in daily life, SO THAT...the life of Jesus can flow out from us.
Two: Become more concerned that the life of Jesus be seen in you, than that you are treated well or that everything is fair. If you are always concerned that things are fair, this life of Jesus thing will not be working well. Become mostly concerned about Jesus being seen and felt and experienced by others, through your words and actions and attitudes.
Three: Be willing to give up your demands for a trouble free life? Most of our trouble is right here. We place all our hopes on everything FINALLY going well! But our hopes are NOT to placed on everything finally going well! When we place our hopes in a trouble free life and then find ourselves hard pressed, knocked down, we get mad or depressed! No our hope is Christ is us. Our hope is that in all these things Jesus will be revealed through us.
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