07
Feb
11

The Simplicity That Is In Christ (2 Corinthians 10-11)

Thanks to some classes cancelled in the snowstorm, I had this post all ready to go on Thursday, but my internet connection wasn’t cooperating. I’m glad now, though, because the last couple of nights in the prayer room have really been powerful for me – centered around this thought.

Mike gave an excellent teaching last Friday (1/28) out of 2 Corinthians 10-11. It overlapped with much of what I’m hearing in the place of intercession right now, and my own meditations on the Upper Room Discourse in John 13-17, so that’s what I’ve been stewing on that’s boiling over into this post. I’ll post on my thoughts from John later, but I wanted to post some thoughts on 2 Corinthians 10-11. If they intrigue you, I highly encourage watching the archive of Mike’s teaching here.

Our Battleground

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

Paul is teaching on spiritual warfare or in other words, the struggle of the believer to become get free: Free from bondages that keep us in sin, and free from bondages that keep us in oppression and anxiety and depression. Free to experience the love of God, and free to live in love ourselves. His big message is this: spiritual warfare doesn’t primarily take place on the level of emotions or behaviors. That’s where we feel the effects, and so that’s the first place we have to wage war – resisting the enemy’s attempts to overwhelm our emotions or lead us into sinful behavior. But equally important, the symptoms alert us to a larger root issue. Paul tells us that the main arena in which we wage warfare is in the arena of the knowledge of God – what do we really believe about Him? If I’m finding myself prone to a certain sin or negative emotional reaction, the root issue that’s being exposed is that somewhere, I have a wrong view of God.

A.W. Tozer said it this way: “What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.” How we perceive God is perhaps the single greatest shaping factor in how we act towards God. If we see Him as mostly judgmental and angry, we will avoid Him. If we see Him as mostly detached and uninterested, we will ignore Him. If we see Him as mostly our heavenly scorekeeper, we will give Him our best. But if we encounter the God of the Bible who is a Bridegroom zealously pursuing us in love, we will run to Him in our weakness and give Him His best.

Our Weapons

Paul goes on to write how jealousy is being stirred in his heart as he sees God’s church falling sway to the attacks of the accuser:

2 Corinthians 11:1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

What’s he so concerned about? It’s not what you would think. He’s not concerned about heresies that are leading people away from sound doctrine. He’s not concerned about a false grace message that’s leading people into sin. It’s something far more subtle than that. What Paul is seeing in Corinth is that despite their best intentions, what they’re feeding on – their regular diet of biblical instruction – as good as it may sound and as moral and practical as it may be – at the end of the day is leaving people with a wrong view of Jesus. Again, not a heretically wrong view of Jesus – they’re not saying anything against who He was in title: they’re not denying He was God or denying Him as Savior… but it’s not Jesus. It’s error by omission. Because they’re not meeting the Man from Nazareth, the Jesus by assumption – the image that we have of Him in our minds based on our own experience, the brokenness of the world around us, and, yes, the lies of the enemy – is not getting corrected by seeing God in the flesh… and it’s leaving the church in bondage.

Here’s my (by no means inspired) paraphrase: Paul as he’s watching and praying for the church of Corinth from afar is saying, “My heart is breaking over you because I know who you are. You are the Bride of Christ – you are His desire and His beloved – and in His eyes you are pure and holy, washed by the blood of the Lamb and destined to stand before Him holy and without blame in love. Knowing this, it breaks my heart what I see happening to you: you’re distracted and you’re confused. Your eyes have been turned from your Beloved God and the simplicity that is in the Man Christ Jesus, and it’s left the serpent room to come put you in all sorts of bondage. You know a lot of stuff, but at the end of the day you don’t know Jesus clearly enough to recognize when the enemy begins making accusations against Him, you don’t know the gospel clearly enough to recognize when the enemy begins making accusations against you, and you don’t know the heart of God well enough to recognize when it’s Him speaking to you and when it’s a different spirit.”

I am so persuaded there really is a simplicity that is in Christ, but we need to sit up and pay attention to Paul’s warning. Our enemy is a liar (John 8:44) and an accuser (Revelation 12:10), and he knows as well as Jesus does that it’s truth that sets us free (John 8:32), he knows full well that it’s our testimony that will one day cast him completely out of power (Revelation 12:11), and he’ll do anything to keep us from having a right testimony about Jesus and who we are to Him. The serpent would love for us to go anywhere and everywhere but the simplicity that is in Christ. “Preach anything you want so long as it isn’t Jesus. Study anything you like so long as it isn’t Jesus. Learn moral principles and seven steps to whatever all day long, just so long as at the end of the day you’re not seeing the One who will expose the lies I’ve planted in your spirit about what God is like and how He sees you. Struggle to live holy all day long, just leave me room to put distance between you and your Father and I will keep you from the breakthrough you’re longing for.”

Most of us are familiar with the concept that “good is the enemy of best.” It has always been the enemy’s most successful strategy with the church – get us so full of good that we miss God’s best. Without hesitation, I can tell you God’s best is Himself. He wants to give us Himself. As we encounter Him, our hearts will be set free, our lives will be empowered in faith, our mission will become clear, and the power of Christ in us becomes realized. There is a real possibility, though, that we would settle for the good that is principles for Christian living, and miss the best that is Christ. In fact, I would have to guess it’s the predominate state of the American church right now, and it’s subtle enough we don’t notice it.

There is a real Man seated on the throne of heaven who really wants to meet us, fill us, transform us and set us free. There is a real enemy who will do anything he can to keep us separated from that Man by condemnation and shame, confusion and doubt, fear and anxiety. And there is a real battle to be fought, and this is the ground that it’s fought on: get to know Jesus, get to know the gospel, get to know the heart of the kingdom… get to know the Man.

The Testimony of Jesus

I say all that to say this: I’m convinced God wants to answer… now. One of the major themes I’ve heard for 2011 is “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 19:10) I believe God wants to shift something in a major way this upcoming year, because He, like Paul, is burning with jealousy over His Bride who has been kept in bondage. God promised He’d send the spirit of prophecy to all His sons and daughters (Acts 2:17-21). He’s zealous to tell us about Jesus – to glorify His Son that His Son might glorify Him (John 17:1). He wants to show us Jesus so that Jesus can show us the Father.

Here’s my personal response to that, which I would appreciate your prayers for grace in, but I also want to extend as an invitation for you. I’m convinced there is a unique grace for it at this hour of history. I’m giving myself to the testimony of Jesus this year. In addition to my normal devotions and reading, I’ve committed to daily meditating on the Gospels’ presentation of Jesus and letting that Man confront my assumptions about God and His heart. (If you want details on what that looks like, I shared on the practice of meditating on Jesus here). And I’ve committed to praying consistently and fervently for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:17). I have had some powerful times of prayer these last couple of nights since making this commitment. I don’t expect every night to be like this, but I think it’s the Father expressing His pleasure in that choice to ask and seek, and His confirmation that this is indeed something on His heart to give.

Father, would You give us the Spirit of revelation. Give us the knowledge of Jesus in a measure we have not known in years past. Come make real to us the heart of the Man from Nazareth that is the heart of God. Abba, I ask You for insight into His heart that causes every stronghold to be broken, every accusation to fall, that drives out fear and doubt, shame and condemnation, boredom and unbelief. Give us a revelation of Jesus that causes our hearts to burn and causes our hearts to tremble. Give us a revelation of Jesus that produces faith in our spirits and love in our hearts. Give us a revelation of Jesus that brings us boldly before His throne of grace.

Abba, would You come touch the eyes and the lips of a generation. Give us a right view of Jesus and a right testimony about Him. Pour out the spirit of prophecy, the testimony of Jesus, just as You promised. Release a bold and a clear witness of His worth, of His love, of His character. Give us a testimony that causes demons to tremble, saints to worship, and sinners to be pierced to the heart. Release an anointing to behold and to proclaim the goodness and greatness of God.

Amen

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This is the blogging home of Tim Harder - intercessory missionary from Wichita, KS, currently at Iris Central Coast in Pismo Beach, CA. more

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