2 Corinthians 12:11-21
11/17/2019Ryan Hayden 2 Corinthians
Take your Bibles with me again and go to 2 Corinthians 1. 2 Corinthians 1. Today we are going to read three verses and really focus on one. Let's read verses 12-14:
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;
I want to preach to you today, mostly from verse 12, about the three elements of a truly Christian testimony.
Paul starts verse 12 by saying "our rejoicing is this." That word "rejoicing" is found about a dozen times in the New Testament and most of the time it's translated "boasting" or "glorying." So gives us an idea of what this verse means.
Paul is saying to this Corinthian church, look, there are some things about my life and my ministry that I can be proud of and then he gives them three things in this verse.
I want to suggest to you that every Christian life should be characterized by these three things. They are four things that the people in your office or your knitting club or whatever should be able to say about you. They are three elements of a truly Christian testimony.
So let's pray and I'm just going to go, phrase by phrase, through verse 12 and give you those three things this morning.
The first thing Paul said here was
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience,
The very first thing that Paul says about his life is that he has...
Now, what does that mean? "A clear conscience?"
Paul talked a lot about conscience. He said in Acts 24:16, when he was sort of standing trial before a group of jews and a roman governor:
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. (Acts 24:16)
And in 1 Timothy 1:6 he said:
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
Then in that same chapter Paul said:
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
That's just a few times - there are many times Paul and other apostles talk about having a "good conscience."
So what does that mean? Well, you conscience is like your warning system. It's a God-given internal alarm that says "this isn't right, you need to fix this, you don't need to do this."
Remember the old show "lost in space" with the silly trash can looking robot. What would the robot say? "Danger will Robinson! Danger!"
Our conscience is like a little voice inside of us that says "Danger, Ryan Hayden, Danger." It's an uneasy feeling we get when we know we are doing something wrong.
And look, the conscience isn't infallible. You can mess your conscience up.
Paul talked about how some false teachers were:
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (1 Timothy 4:2)
So you can mess up your conscience. You can break it. If you ignore it too long, it will stop working.
You can also have a hyperactive conscience. You can believe that God wants you to do things the Bible doesn't say and sort of overtune your conscience. It's not infallible. But it's still important.
We as believers are supposed to have a good conscience. A clear conscience.
Look, maybe in your business or on your taxes or something you realize you can get away with something and your conscience says "Danger will Robinson" and you say "oh, shut up conscience" and do it anyways. That's not having a good conscience. Maybe you are tempted to kind of twist the truth a bit. There are so many ways our conscience works.
But it's a warning system and we should listen to it. And if we do something to bother our conscience, we should make it right.
Paul said he could boast in a good conscience. That was part of his testimony.
Is that a part of your testimony. Do the people at your workplace or the people in your family know that you are someone who will do the right thing all the time - regardless of what everyone else is doing.
A clear conscience.
The second phrase Paul uses here is...
that in simplicity and godly sincerity,
That's talking about...
The word "simplicity" there means "single meaning".
I saw a video this week of Elizebeth Warren. She was campaigning down in one of the Carolinas and she was speaking to this group of minorities and they were complaining that the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries aren't fair, because those are two states that are far whiter than the rest of the county, so minorities don't get a good voice. And I mean, you could just tell that Elizabeth Warren was nodding along, agreeing with that.
But then someone asked her about it directly and you could see her politicking in real time. You could see the calculations going on in her face. She's thinking "O yes, of course" and then she's thinking "but if I say that, the people in Iowa and New Hampshire will get mad at me and not vote for me" so she just got kind of frustrated and said "Err...I'm just a player in this game...what do you want me to do?"
We don't expect politicians to give us a straight answer anymore, do we?
Do any of you watch political debates? Do you know what I love about political debates? I love watching these politicians expertly find ways to not answer questions. I'm mean they are slippery. They know how to dodge and dance and say just what they think people want to hear.
"Well Alex, it's interesting how that horrific crime I was allegedly a part relates to my policy position on climate change, no other candidate has done more to reduce carbon emissions than me."
They are slippery. They know how to avoid a bad sound bite at all costs, right.
And what Paul was saying here was that he was the opposite of slippery. He was straightforward. His yes meant yes and his no meant no.
He talks about this in verse 18. Look at that:
But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
He was saying that there wasn't some hidden meaning behind his words. He wasn't trying to manipulate them. He was just giving them the simple, single meaning, sincere answers to their questions.
Listen, people ought to know that when we talk to them, there are no games going on. We aren't trying to manipulate them. We aren't trying to be subtle. We are just speaking the truth.
Jesus talked about this in the sermon on the mount. Let's look at this real quick. Matthew 5:33-37:
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Jesus was saying that a Christian shouldn't have to qualify his words with oaths and swears. His word should just stand. His yes should mean yes and his no should mean no.
So a clear concience, a simple speech.
Look at the next phrase in verse 12:
not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God,
I think the third element of a truly Christian testimony is...
Paul was saying to these Corinthians, look, when I was there, I didn't use some fleshly manipulation tactics. I just relied on the grace of God.
As Christians, we should never try to manipulate people.
Can I tell you, there are some churches that do this. This sort of thing was even taught by some hero's of fundamentalism.
I remember watching a video on soul winning by this guy named Carl Hatch who was teaching a bunch of preachers boys how to witness and basically he had a way to take people's hands and squeeze them to push them to make a decision. He had all kinds of ways to have a conversation with someone where the only way out of the conversation was them praying a sinners prayer.
That's not soul winning, that's manipulation.
Let me let you in on one of the dark secrets of a lot churches. A lot of churches have altar calls like we do. But they train a large number of their people to get up and move towards the altar when the invitation starts. Why? They want to give the impression that a great crowd of people are moving forward to the altar so that people will be manipulated to move too.
There were books written in the sixties, seventies and eighties that layed all of this out. All these methods for growing your church.
Is it any wonder why a generation or two down the line, we have churches that will do anything and everything to get people in the door. It's the same pragmatism in different clothes.
Yesterday it was invitation techniques now it's manipulative music and atmosphere.
But Paul didn't do any of that. He said "not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God." His ministry was just straightforward. He was relying on God's word and God's grace to do the work, not some shifty method he picked up in a church-growth book.
Paul was very clear about this to this church. In 1 Corinthians 2 he talked about this, He said:
[1Co 2:4-5 KJV] 4 And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Look, if your faith relies on some awesome band, or some big crowd, or some slick tongued preacher. What happens if those things go away? What happens if you find yourself in some country where they have none of those things? Is God handicapped then? Of course not.
Our ministry shouldn't rely on some man-made method but on God's power and God's work.
Look at a few more passages here in 2 Corinthians.
Look at chapter 4:12
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (4:12)
We don't need craftiness. We don't need politics. We just need to let people know what the word of God says. Straight up.
One more passage here. Chapter 10 verses 3-4:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) (10:3-4)
God doesn't need fleshly methods to do his work. I mean He doesn't need them. It's like God is out there mowing the lawn with some huge zero turn lawnmower and we get out their with our scissors and think we are going to help God. He doesn't need it. His work is powerful enough.
Look, if you have someone you are praying for, they don't need some flashy church or some huge auditorium or some awesome music. They need the old Bible, they need God to work in their heart the same way God has always worked in hearts.
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
May that be our prayer this morning. That we have a testimony we can be proud of - a clear conscience, a simple speech and no manipulative methods. Just trusting God to do His thing and making ourselves available to be used by Him. It's a powerful thing.
Let's stand and pray today.