2 Corinthians 3
1 Are we beginning to praise ourselves again?
Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation,
or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf?
2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves.
Your lives are a letter written in our hearts;
everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.
3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you.
This "letter" is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.
It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.
4 We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ.
5 It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves.
Our only power & success come from God.
Paul is writing these verses in his second letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth.
Evidently there were people questioning Paul's credentials as a carrier of the Gospel.
Also, it would seem that some of these evangelists depended on letters from various churches & groups of followers to authenticate their ministries.
It sounds like there was some ego & self-importance involved in some of these evangelists.
Surely not in the early church when everyone was uber-holy!
I think we all know better than that – people are people, whether in first century early church or 21st century church ;-)
The idea of some folks thinking Paul needed credentialing is kind of laughable.
He was probably one of the most highly educated workers in the early church – maybe the most educated.
It is believed he had the equivalent of more than one PhD.
Our daughter, Hannah, is working on a PhD in American History. I can't imagine ANYONE have more than one of those – just doing one wears you down to a nub!
We also know Paul also spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek - & probably Latin, since he was a Roman citizen by birth.
He was a Pharisee – iow, he knew the law of Moses inside & out.
Iow, this man was no slouch...
The interesting thing about this passage is what Paul says at the end.
He basically says that he's not the one who is making things happen when he goes to an area to encourage people to follow Jesus.
He clearly says it all because of what God does in the minds & hearts of people, not Paul.
Anything that happens is because God favors their work with His power.
I can remember especially in those early years of ministry 40+ years ago when I was trying to figure out how to do it, people would basically tell me the same thing.
I can remember asking successful people what was the secret to their success.
It was interesting that most of them said think ahead & plan ahead, & then work your plan.
But all of them also said, to the person, something that absolutely drove me CRAZY!
They all said “seek first the kingdom of God, & all these things will bee added to you.”
iow, if I wanted ministry to happen, the best thing to do was to get closer & closer to God, & let Him change me into the likeness of Jesus.
I couldn't see that reasoning at all.
I thought they just didn't want to tell me their secrets of ministry.
Remember how young & inexperienced (read: stupid) I was back then.
But ya know what – it's true.
If we spend more time letting God recreate us in His image – iow, let Him beat out the sinful parts we've allowed to come in – then the impact we want to have will follow, whether we're in active ministry positions, or just living life & being of impact wherever we live & work.
iow, whatever we are & whatever we are able to be do depends on God's favor – His power working in us & through us.
I wish I'd known that way back then.
I've said all that to say this...
Spend the bulk of our trying to get closer to God, allowing Him to make us like Him in the way we think & act.
If so, the rest of our life will take care of itself.
Hard to believe?
Too risky a proposition?
Yeah, I've thought all those things.
But it's true.
If we spend more time surrendering ourselves to God, we're not the ones making our lives make sense.
And He's better at it than we are.
I hope all that made sense. Sometimes when I sit here writing this, it seems to make sense.
I just wonder sometimes if it really does in the light of day. ;-)
Anyway, Happy New Year!