|Sunday School & Bible Class (Sept-May)||9:15 AM|
Confident in Christ
June 3, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Confident in Christ
2 Corinthians 4:5–12 (NIV84)
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Dear Friends in Christ,
If you have a few hundred ounces of gold, where would you keep it? What storage facility would give you confidence that your gold would not be stolen? You could dig a hole in your yard and hope it it there the next morning but you might not sleep well at night knowing your treasure of gold is so easy to steal. You could buy a safe and put it in your house but having that kind of treasure in your house might make you a little uneasy too. Get a lock box at the bank? Maybe we would be more confident then.
What if you had 147 million ounces of gold valued at some $100 billion? In 1936, the United States government built a special facility to hold treasures like this. It was built of granite and the main door to this treasure chest was two feet thick and weighed about 20 tons. It is protected by electric fences and barbed wire, cameras and electronic sensors, and plenty of heavily armed guards. And just to make it extra secure, they built it next to an army base so that it is protected by thousands of armed soldiers. It is called the United States Bullion Depository and located at Fort Knox.
Those who keep their treasure in Fort Knox can be confident that the treasure will be there when they want it. No one is going to take their treasure from them. This confidence comes from the strength of the treasure container. Paul gives us the opposite picture today. He tells us of the treasure that is Christ Jesus. But we have this treasure in jars of clay. We are weak, confused, and under pressure from the world, the devil and our own sinful flesh. How can we be confident in the treasure when we are such weak containers? As we begin our series on being confident today, we see that our confidence in not in ourselves but is in Christ. He is our treasure. He is our life.
Christ is Our Treasure
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
If your favorite singer or band is having a concert in Des Moines, you will likely try to go to that concert. What if an unknown singer is going to sing your favorite band’s songs? Would you go to that concert? Maybe. Very often the person delivering the message, the song, the entertainment is more important to people than what is performed. Paul urges us not to fall into this celebrity mindset when dealing with the Word of God.
He did not go to Corinth to tell the people how great he is. He did not go there to talk about himself. He did not want the people to obey him or follow him or believe in him. Paul’s mission in every stop on his mission journeys was to preach Christ crucified. Jesus Christ is Lord, not Paul. Jesus is the Savior, not Paul.
Paul does not want anyone to place their confidence in Paul. He knows what a wretched man he is. The warning still applies today. Don’t put your confidence in a human spiritual leader. There are spiritual leaders who have tens of thousands of followers in our country. Some preach themselves openly, telling their people to be more like them and God will bless them with earthly prosperity. Others tell their people to buy their books, buy their materials, buy their 25 year shelf life bucket of food, and they will be saved from suffering in this life and in the next. These leaders may talk about Jesus but they preach themselves as little saviors.
There are preachers who gain large followings because of their ability to preach. They are good at public speaking and could keep the attention of an audience while talking about paint drying. Some preach Christ and his Word faithfully. We thank the Lord for such gifts to the Church. Others preach themselves explicitly or implicitly. People follow them not for the message about Christ but for the entertaining messages, the practical ways to fix your life, or the good feeling one gets from the message whatever it may be.
Paul tells us not to be confident in any man but only in Christ. How foolish it would be for the people to follow Paul because he was such a wise man. He admits that he was in complete darkness. There is nothing he preaches that is his own idea. Just as God had to bring the first light into the world on the first day of creation, so also God had to reveal the light of Christ to Paul. For Paul, it was a blinding light on the road to Damascus. God took Paul from the darkness of unbelief into the light of faith in Christ. God took Paul from the darkness of sin and opposing Christ to the light of Christ’s forgiveness. The Holy Spirit has done the same for you, bringing you to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior. He is our treasure.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Again Paul urges us not to be confident in any sinful human. We are nothing but jars of clay. We are not museum quality pottery. We are simply containers. A person may have stored all kinds of things in a clay jar – money, scrolls, grain, water, wine and more. The clay jar is never as valuable as what it contains. We have been given faith in Jesus Christ, confidence that our sins are forgiven and eternal life is our future. Christ is the treasure and our confidence. We are chipped, dented, cracked and broken. But Christ is not. He is the perfect treasure. He is without sin and yet took all our sin on himself so that we are saved from God’s wrath. Our confidence comes from the threefold truth: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! (CW 406)
Christ is Our Life
And this confidence in Christ changes our life.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Paul tells us here about the victorious Christian life. Certainly the biblical definition of a victorious life is a bit different than the world’s. This is not a chicken in every pot, finding your soulmate, 2.3 kids, and an early retirement type of victorious life. Paul talks about real life here. Real Christian life has pressure. Pressure to fall in with the crowd and ignore Jesus and his Word. Pressure to be quiet about Christ, your treasure. Pressure to conform to worldly morality instead of God’s clear commandments.
Real Christians can also be perplexed. We don’t have all the answers. Why didn’t God stop the school violence in Texas or Florida? Why did that friend betray me?
Real Christian life may also include persecution and being struck down. Paul participated in both sides of this. He persecuted believers before his conversion. Then he was persecuted as a believer. He was struck down violently at times, one time having stones thrown at him until they determined he was dead. What kind of persecution do we or will we face? I don’t know, but it will happen.
A side note on persecution – be careful not to claim persecution where there is none. Recently, a Christian publisher claimed that Google was persecuting them by refusing to let them advertise Christian products. It turns out that Google restricts a certain type of advertising for all kinds of religions and anything that would reveal private information. They were not picking on Christians in this case.
If real Christian life is full of pressure, confusion, and persecution, where is the victory? With confidence in Christ, our victory is assured. These small or big obstacles in life will not destroy us. With Christ as our treasure, nothing can separate us from the love of God. With Jesus as our Good Shepherd, no one can snatch us from his hands. We have God’s promises to us which are all answered “yes” in Christ. Jesus is proof that God has kept and will keep every promise. These problems will not overcome us but Christ will bring us through and eventually out of this world into eternal life.
Confidence in Christ allows us to be witnesses for Jesus in the midst of suffering.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
Our weakness and suffering in this life is an opportunity to show the light of Christ. It is one thing to be confident in Christ when everything is going well. Confidence in Christ shows all the more when life is not going well at the moment. When you lose the big game, the big job, or a loved one. Thin of how Paul’s life of persecution showed his confidence in Christ. He was unjustly arrested along with Silas in Philippi. They were whipped, put in the innermost cell of the jail and put in stocks. What did they do in the middle of this horrible injustice? They sang hymns and prayed to the Lord. The suffering of his body because for Paul and opportunity to show others the confidence he had in Christ. Or think of his response to the storm at sea while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar. Fourteen days of storm and Paul remains calm, trusting in the Lord Jesus. That was a great witness to the unbelieving soldiers and other prisoners.
How can we show our confidence in Christ even when little things go wrong in our day? The car doesn’t start, the computer at work is acting up, the coworker doesn’t show up and you are left to do everything, you stub your toe, your friend can’t come to your house today. We have an opportunity to show that our confidence in Christ does not change because something little ruined our day. It does not change because something big ruined our decade. It does not change because our confidence is not in ourselves or in our life. Our confidence comes from Christ. He is the treasure who gives us life eternal. No one can take this treasure away.