A Beautiful Benediction

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INTRODUCTION

What will happen if I admit my weakness? I’m sure many of you have asked that question as we’ve worked our way through 2 Corinthians. Maybe you’ve come close to admitting your weakness but then held back. “What will people think/say/do if I admit my depression/abuse/trauma/temptation/doubt/grief?”

Well, I have to be honest with you, some will take advantage of your confession of weakness. Some will look down on you, speak down to you, and even try to put you down further. Sadly, some seem to take pleasure in kicking others when they are down. They see your weakness as an opportunity to make yourself look worse and themselves look good. I don’t want to discourage you from admitting weakness, but I want to be honest with you about what to expect.

But, the benefits of admitting our weakness is far greater than the loss. You may lose shallow relationships with some, but you will gain deeper relationships with others and with God. That’s the closing message of the Apostle Paul in these final verses of his letter.

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BACKGROUND

I hope you’ve seen throughout this letter that we find God’s strength when we admit our human weakness. Paul’s taught this in many different ways and many repeated ways. Now as he comes to the end of the letter, he motivates us with the benefits and blessings of accessing God’s strength through admitting our weakness.

What will happen if I admit my weakness?

1. WEAKNESS IMPROVES OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS (11-13)

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Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you (11-13).

What does a “strong” church look like? If the church leaders and members all project self-confidence and success, what will be the result? The result will be the Corinthian church: a miserable church, a divided church, an argumentative church, a competitive church, a selfish church, a stressed out church, a self-sufficient church, and an unwelcoming church.

What does a “weak” church look like? If the church leaders and members admit their weaknesses and need of one another, what will be the result? As I said in the introduction, we will lose some shallow relationships, but we will gain many deep relationships with one another. If the Corinthian church followed Paul’s manifesto of strength through weakness, the result will be the kind of church described in the closing verses of this final chapter.

  • Rejoicing: “Finally brothers, rejoice” (11). Instead of being mad and sad, they will be happy and joyful together.
  • Restoring: “Aim for restoration” (11). Use church discipline not to punish but rescue and recover.
  • Reviving: “Comfort one another” (11). “Comfort” means “put strength in” those who are down and out.
  • Reconciling: “Agree with one another” (11). Work at agreeing more than arguing.
  • Relaxing: “Live in peace” (11). Create a calm and tranquil environment that people can feel at home in.
  • Reaching out: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you” (12-13). Admitting weakness breaks down barriers, brings people together, and widens our view of others needs. Verbal and physical greetings communicated embrace and acceptance.

The best way to improve our relationships with others is admit our weaknesses to others and ask for help from others. There’s no letter in which Paul bares his soul more and “let’s it all hang out.”

CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY

Admit weakness. Start with one weakness and one person rather than all weaknesses to all people. Begin with someone you trust like a husband, wife, Dad, Mom, pastor, elder. Say, “I’m struggling with temptation/parenting/ depression/pain/loneliness/regret/bad decisions. Can you help me?”

Accept weakness. If someone entrusts you with a weakness, respond with compassion, care, and confidentiality. View it as a sacred privilege that invites you into a deeper relationship. Let’s build a culture of strength through weakness. As somebody put it in a message to me this week: “We love this church so much. The family of all messed up people trying to learn God weekly in our own different ways, yet still praying for and holding one another up in prayer.”

WEAK PEOPLE HAVE
STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

What about my relationship with God?
Admitting weakness improves our relationship with God too.

2. WEAKNESS IMPROVES OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (13, 14)

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And the God of love and peace will be with you…The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (13, 14).

How many times have you heard these words of benediction? Hundreds, maybe thousands of times. But have you ever thought about what they mean?

As we admit our weaknesses and accept the weaknesses of others we not only strengthen our relationships with one another, but with God. God responds with his love, peace, presence and blessing. But when people are strong, sufficient, and proud, he reduces their experience of his love, peace, presence, and blessing.

Weakness brings more grace

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Grace comes first because although God’s love was first in the plan of salvation, grace is first in our experience of salvation. Why did Paul want the Corinthians to have more grace? First, because we can never have enough of it. However much grace we have received, there is more to receive. Second, because grace is what drains us of our strength and fills us with God’s. And third, it’s the secret to all Christian growth. That’s why Paul wanted this for everyone (1 Thess. 5:28; Gal. 6:18; 1 Cor. 16:23; Rom 16:20, Philemon 25). We get more of Christ’s grace by seeing our need of it more, asking for it more, experiencing it more, and thanking for it more.

Weakness brings more love

The love of God be with you all. The more we experience grace, the more we will experience the love of God. Grace is needed for us to see, receive, and enjoy God’s love. God’s love is especially attracted to the weak and the needy. His little ones get a lot of his love (Matt. 18:1-10). As we experience the Father’s love, we enter more into the fellowship of his Spirit.

Weakness brings more fellowship

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. The ultimate consequence of Christ’s grace and the Father’s love is communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. It’s a fellowship that promotes holiness, a love of truth, and spiritual comfort. While the Holy Spirit is present in every believer, his activity level varies in each believer and therefore each believer’s experience of the Holy Spirit varies.

CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY

Bless by pointing all to God. Point people to the triune God, God in each of his three persons. Point people to the deity of all three persons. Point people to God’s character and its effects.

Bless by praying spiritual good for all. In a culture that prized material and worldly success, Paul wants the Corinthians to experience the deepest and highest spiritual blessings.

OUR EMPTINESS OPENS
GOD’S FULNESS

SUMMARY

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A NEW CHAPTER

Jesus: Jesus’s experience of weakness in his humanity deepened his relationship with God and others. He learned obedience and dependence through the things he suffered.

Gospel: The Gospel is for the weak, the little ones, the nothings, and the nobodies. God desires to bless all such with his grace, love, and fellowship.

Discipleship: We disciple others by admitting our weakness to those we are mentoring and teaching, and encouraging them to do the same. Weakness strengthens discipling.

Deepen: Seek a deeper relationship with each of the three person’s in the Godhead. Consciously cultivate your relationship with the Father, with the Son, and with the Spirit.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What are you usually thinking of when you hear the benediction in church?

2. When has admitting your weakness to others gone well? Or badly? What did you learn?

3. How can we as a body of Christians get better at admitting our weaknesses?

4. How have times of weakness improved your relationship with God?

5. Which of the three blessings in the benediction are most meaningful to you?

6. How can you be a benediction to others?

PDF OF SERMON NOTES.

 


Show us the Father: Compassion for the Hurting

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INTRODUCTION

Fathers, what do you feel when you see your child crying? What do you feel, when you are in ER with your injured daughter. What do you feel, when your child is bullied? What do you feel when your grown-up daughter has a miscarriage? What do you feel when your adult son loses his job? In all these situations you feel compassion, don’t you? You see their suffering, in some senses feel their suffering, want to reduce their suffering, and do all you can to relieve their suffering. Compassion is a beautiful characteristic in a father. To receive a father’s compassion is such a healing experience. The opposite is extremely hurtful and deeply harmful.

Now listen to this verse: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Ps. 103:13). Isn’t that a stunningly wonderful truth? Think of the time that you felt greatest compassion for your children. So the Lord shows compassion to his children. How does our heavenly Father show compassion to us?

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BACKGROUND

It’s not easy to understand God. That’s why he uses illustration and analogy so much. In verses 11-14, God comes down to our level and uses three comparisons to teach us about who he is:

  • Comparison 1: The height of God’s love. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him” (11).
  • Comparison 2: The distance of God’s forgiveness. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (12).
  • Comparison 3: The depth of God’s pity. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (13).

The third comparison that teaches us the depth of God’s pity is connected to God’s awareness of our weakness. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him” (14-17).

Where can I see my heavenly Father’s compassion?

1. SEE YOUR FATHER’S COMPASSION IN THE BIBLE

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See your Father’s compassion in Israel’s life

In addition to innumerable compassionate acts and compassionate laws, God gave specific verses to Israel.

  • The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them (Exodus 3:7-8)
  • For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him (2 Chron. 30:9).
  • Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted (Isa. 49:13; see also Isa. 54:10; 63:7)
  • How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah?How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender (Hosea 11:8)

See your Father’s compassion in Christ’s life

We see the Father in Christs multiple acts and words of compassion (John 14:8-9).

  • When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36)
  • When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matt. 14:14)
  • Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him (Matt. 20:34)
  • Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” (Mk. 1:41)
  • And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” (Luke 7:13)
  • Jesus wept…Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb (John 11:35, 38).
  • I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat” (Mark 8:2).

CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY

Worship our compassionate God. Think of how many times “compassion” and synonyms for compassion appear in the Psalms. This is one of the major reasons we are given to worship God. Ponder the tender sensitive heart of our God and let this evoke warm worship towards such a remarkable God.

GOD REVEALS HIS COMPASSION
IN HIS REVELATION FOR ADORATION

I see God’s compassion in Israel’s life and Christ’s life. What about in my life?

2. FEEL YOUR FATHER’S COMPASSION IN YOUR LIFE

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When does a Dad feel compassion for his children? In the same way and to an even greater degree does our heavenly Father feel compassion for us.

When we are small. Most dads will never forget the first feelings they had when they saw their children for the first time. Until you are a Dad, you really can’t feel this pity for children. God has such compassion for us no matter our age.

When we sin. We are much more patient with the sins of our children than we are with adults. We understand their weakness and folly. We may feel both anger and affection. God has similar compassion for us when we sin.

When we slip. As dads we learn to distinguish between deliberate sins and accidental slip-ups. We see our children make unintentional mistakes that hurt them. Sometimes we know they are making mistakes but we have to let them so that they learn for the future. God has similar compassion for our slip-ups.

When we’re scared. Don’t you hate it, dads, when your child comes into your room trembling because of a nightmare? “It’s OK! I’m here. I’m with you. It wasn’t real,” we assure them. How many times do we hear God saying in Scripture, “Don’t be afraid.” He sees our fear, is moved by our fear, and moves to remove our fear.

When we sag. How do you feel, dads, when your little one cannot keep their eyes open, when they cannot walk another step? You don’t shout at them and demand more do you? No, you pity them and want to carry them or carry them to bed. God is similar when he sees we are tired.

When we suffer. Most dads cannot bear to see their children fall and hurt themselves. Their cries of anguish rip our hearts. Similarly when God sees, our physical, emotional, mental, relational, spiritual sufferings, his heart go out to us.

When we sleep. How do you feel, dads, when you see your children sleeping? No matter how much of a rascal they’ve been through the day, we cannot but melt when we see them sleeping, we stroke their heads and smile. God shows similar compassion to us when we sleep each night, and especially as we go to sleep in death.

FAITH IN GOD’S COMPASSION
HELPS US FEEL GOD’S COMPASSION

 CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY

Receive your Father’s compassion. Don’t ignore it, or shrug it off, or try to live independently. But welcome it to comfort and strengthen you for daily life and service. We receive it by faith. We believe it to feel it.

Reflect your father’s compassion. This is not just for dads, but for us all (Col. 3:12; Eph. 4:32; 1 Pet. 3:8). We have multiple opportunities in our lives to show the compassion of our Father.

SUMMARY

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A NEW CHAPTER

Gospel. When we seek God’s salvation, he shows us compassion (Matt. 7:7-11). He does not cruelly hide from seekers but loves to be found by seekers. He loves to give good gifts to seekers, especially the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Service. Having received our Father’s compassion we can reflect our Father’s compassion in our family, in our church family, in our neighborhood, in our workplace, in our social circle, in our outreach (Matt. 18:33).

Prayer. Compassionate Father, help me to see and feel your compassion so I can show and express your compassion to the hurting.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What other verses and incidents reveal God’s compassion?

2. What characters in the Old and New Testament show compassion to others?

3. Who did you show compassion to in the last week? Who will you show compassion to in the coming week?

4. How can you help your children see our heavenly Father’s compassion through your fathering?

5. What role does compassion have in evangelism?

6. How would you help someone who got the opposite of compassion from their father.

PDF OF SERMON NOTES


The Resurrection Story, Writing with Red Ink, Some Painful Amazon Reviews

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Listen here.

0:01 How can a Brit celebrate the 4th of July?

1:08 Why is Christ’s resurrection story so important?

4:59 What’s your favorite writing instrument? by Meribeth Schierbeeck

11:50 Some painful Amazon reviews of The StoryChanger.

New Book: The StoryChanger: How God Rewrites Our Story By Inviting Us Into His

Visit thestorychanger.life for more resources on changing our story with God’s Story.


Three Questions about Worship, A Stolen Purse, Story Apologetics

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Listen here:

0:27 Daily Devotional: How do we decide how to do church? (1 Corinthians 14)

4:53: A Stolen Purse with Jean Gomes.

11:13: Telling a Better Story About Christianity

No Christianity is not as bad as you think by Josh Howerton

New Book: The StoryChanger: How God Rewrites Our Story By Inviting Us Into His

Visit thestorychanger.life for more resources on changing our story with God’s Story.