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2 Corinthians

8:1-15

 

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you- see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, "Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack."(ESV)

All We Need

Sarah

20 January 2014

What prosperity the church experiences under the grace of God! How rich we are, who have been redeemed not by silver or gold, but by the holy and precious blood of the Lamb. Yet, despite this affluence, many people who call themselves children of God are setting their hearts on the wealth that does not save, that moth and rust corrupts, inflation eats away, and recessions devour. A friend of mine was telling me recently that many immigrants are attracted to the American so-called churches that preach that God wants you to be rich in the things of this world and its flesh. People from other countries who seek to immigrate to America are often attracted by the limitless opportunity the economic freedom of America seems to offer. They want a better life than what they had experienced in their former homes. This has been fueled not only by American media, such as Hollywood movies, television, and the internet, but also especially by the success and prosperity preaching of American television preachers. Joel Osteen's "Lakewood Church" has become a popular tourist Mecca for guests visiting Houston from other countries.

 

This desire for economic prosperity, while not an evil in itself, becomes a positive heresy when it crowds out the gospel of Christ's blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. In such a heresy, every divine gift is turned into an assurance that the Lord God wants you to drive a new Escalade and never mind about the cost of gas. In this prosperity preaching even the royal priesthood of the baptized has been transmogrified into proof that the Lord wants you to be swathed in the purple of designer clothing. After all, you have the blood of royalty coursing through your veins. Only the best for you! Of course, this ignores that the royal priests of the New Testament are called on to offer spiritual sacrifices, that is, the prayers, offerings, and most of all themselves. Those priests are to follow the priestly life of the High Priest of the New Testament to the altar of His cross. They are to see His self-immolation and seek to offer themselves with Him on the cross of His suffering. Upon the altar of the cross, the High Priest who is poor and lowly (Mt 11:29) becomes most wealthy and spreads his largess among us that those who are lowly and downtrodden with Him might be raised up with Him, enriched by His precious blood. They are to look into the eyes of the suffering Son of God and see in His weakness their strength, in His death their life, in His blood their wealth. How could mere mammon make them richer?

 

What do we expect to perceive as we crest Golgotha to see the King? A golden throne draped in purple silk? A thousand shining courtiers fawning over a majestic monarch? The opulence of royal palace stuffed with the gaudy trappings of earthly power and the signs of overlordship and worldly dominion? Will our eyes be filled with rubies the size of hen's eggs and diamonds glittering us to blindness? If this is what we expect to see on the temple mount of our religion or displayed at the pinnacle of our faith, we will be gravely disappointed. For we shall see there only the Suffering Servant of God, the God-Man crucified for us men. We shall see only what looks to the world like poverty of both pocket and spirit. A pitiful excuse for a God. But then our eyes are blinded by the worthless glitter of that which parades itself as worthwhile. Christ, who was crucified, is not for the life of this world, but His own life. We shall see the glorious beauty of the heavenly city, the divine court, and all its riches, because we sought it not in this life. For now, all we need is Christ crucified.

 

John Cassian

 

"In writing to the church of Corinth Paul, the instructor of all the churches, speaks thus, 'For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.' (1Co 1:22-24). O most powerful teacher of the faith, who even in this passage, when teaching the church thought it not enough to speak of Christ as God without adding that He was crucified on purpose, that for the sake of the open and solid teaching of the faith he might proclaim Him, whom he called the crucified, to be the wisdom of God. He then employed no subtlety or circumlocution, nor did he when he preached the gospel of the Lord blush at the mention of the cross of Christ. And though it was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles to hear of God as born, God in bodily form, God suffering, God crucified, yet he did not weaken the force of his pious utterance because of the wickedness of the offence of the Jews. Nor did he lessen the vigor of his faith because of the unbelief and the foolishness of others. He openly, persistently, and boldly proclaimed that He, whom a mother had borne, whom men had slain, the spear had pierced, the cross had stretched, was 'the power and wisdom of God, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness.' But still that which was to some a stumbling-block and foolishness, was to others the power and wisdom of God. For as the persons differed, so was there a difference of their thoughts: and what a man who was devoid of sound understanding, and incapable of true good, foolishly denied in unbelief, a wise man in faith could feel in his inmost soul to be holy and life giving." 

 

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 3.8
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have been portrayed as crucified among us. Send Your Spirit to us that we might see You in faith that we might be called holy and given Your life. We plead for the foolish that you might remove the scales from their eyes that they might see the richness of Your blood. Amen.

 

For the family of Gladys Duncan, whom the Lord gathered to Himself, that they would grieve as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

 

For the unemployed, that they might gain useful work in keeping with their vocations

 

For President Obama and the Congress of the United States, that they might serve the people for the common good 

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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