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Ministry Partnership

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

SERMON POWERPOINT

Sunday, March 29, 2020

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:4

Ministry Partnership

I was a 19-year old college student who was brand new to my Christian faith.  I had just believed in Jesus Christ a month earlier when I met up with a group of Christians on the Iowa State campus.  That group is now known as Stonebrook.

I didn’t know much about Christianity.  I knew Jesus died and rose from the dead to save me.  I believed that.  And so I believed I would live forever with God.  But I didn’t know much else.

Within a few months, my understanding of the Christian faith deepened and broadened.

One area that God profoundly shaped me in was my mission in life.  My purpose.  As a Jesus follower united with other Jesus followers called the church, we all had a mission together.  A mission of representing God to the rest of the world.  Not out of arrogance…. Like I know more and therefore am better than others.  Rather out of deep humility and profound gratitude, that God had been merciful to me, and now he wanted to show mercy to others THROUGH ME.

We are almost finished with a sermon series going through a letter written by one of God’s  spokesmen named Paul.  He wrote this letter to a church in ancient Greece.  A city called Corinth.  One of the main topics in this letter is our mission.  The purpose and the calling of every Christian.  Our ministry.  The letter is quite instructive and inspiring.

If you have a Bible, turn to 2 Corinthians 6.  Let’s begin with covering the end of last week’s passage from Pastor Dave to get some context for today.

Vs. 6:11-13

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.

12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.

13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

The Corinthians have in some ways turned away from Paul.  And this is not merely a distancing of friends who, perhaps, have lost touch somehow.  He has lost their love, their affection, and their trust.

So he is appealing, “Give your hearts back to me.”.   And because Paul is God’s representative, he is ultimately appealing to give their hearts back to the Lord.  Paul is concerned they are listening more to false apostles and less to the Lord’s true, appointed apostles.  So ultimately what is at stake is their faith in Jesus Christ.

What inspires me about Paul is his love for this church.   The people are becoming wayward.  So the situation is urgent and important.  Yet how does he speak?  He’s not yelling or manipulating.   He speaks firmly yet tenderly like a father. 

I vividly remember my parenting days with my four daughters.  My heart was to be like Paul here and appeal to my daughters to give me their hearts.  I didn’t always succeed in having Paul’s heart, but that was my passion and my pursuit.

So we see here that Paul is passionate and heartbroken and affectionate.  This is important for us to see.  This tells us how God calls us to himself, and how we ought to be with one another.  We will see this heart again at the end of our passage this morning. 

Now Paul breaks into what seems like a completely unrelated topic.  But we’ll see how it all connects.

Vs. 6:14-16a

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15 What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

What is Paul talking about?

Vs. 14, he says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”  What does this mean?

 “Yoked” refers to the wooden yoke that ties two oxen together while they are plowing the ground.  Paul says, “Don’t be unequally yoked.”  Like the farmer shouldn’t put an ox and a donkey in the same yoke. 

Even if you’re not a farmer, it’s not hard to imagine how yoking two different kinds of animals in a yoke pulling a plow wouldn’t work well.  For example, an ox and a donkey have significantly different height, weight, stride, and strength.  It’s not a good match.

Paul is using the yoke as a metaphor.  Christians should not be “harnessed” in certain ways with non-Christians.  He is not saying the Christian shouldn’t have friendships with non-Christians.  That’s not Paul’s point at all.  More on that later.  Somehow the church has become united in unhealthy ways with non-Christians.  With unbelievers. 

Instead of partnering with Paul and one another as ambassadors for Christ, they are partnering with evil. 

Paul may have had in mind idol worship.  If we take some cues from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (chapter 10), some people in the church were participating in idol worship.  The Corinthian believers were going into the temples of idols.  Having idols in their homes.

This may be the sort of “unequally yoked” that Paul is referring to.  And there may be many other applications, as well.

Really, Paul is telling the Corinthians and us that any type of union with unbelievers that leads us astray from Christ our Savior…. is destructive and dangerous. 

He gives five comparisons to make his point.  One comparison would be enough to make his point.  But Paul likes being verbose.  So he gives us five comparisons to hammer on this point.

  1. Righteousness yoked with  lawlessness?  What do they share in common?
  2. Light yoked with darkness.  They are opposites and cannot reside in the same room.  If a room is lighted, it’s not dark.  If a room is dark, it’s not lighted.
  3. Christ yoked with Belial?   Belial is a name for Satan.  They couldn’t be more different.  How could they possibly partner together?
  4. Believer and unbeliever. 
  5. Temple of God and idols.

Paul is saying that Christians should not be united— yoked together—with anything or anyone that turns their hearts away from the One True God.  Like the First of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.  The Lord told Israel, “You shall have no other gods besides me.

One author summarized Paul’s point like this:

“Do not form any relationship, whether temporary or permanent, with unbelievers that would lead to a compromise of Christian standards or jeopardize consistency of Christian witness.”

We are ambassadors of Christ, ministers of reconciliation.  If our conduct is compromised, we have little to offer to a world that needs salvation from Jesus. 

There are limitless possibilities of how we can be “unequally yoked” with non-Christians.  We can be unequally yoked in religious activities, in marriage, in business partnerships, in recreational activities, and more.    The Spirit can lead us to keep our eyes on the Lord as we strive to be “equally yoked” with fellow Christians.

But let me be clear:  Paul’s point is NOT that Christians should not have friendships with non-Christians.  In fact, one of Paul’s points in this letter is that our mission from God is to go out into the world as Jesus’ ambassadors.  There is no “social distancing” for Paul. 

From Pastor Matt’s sermon a couple of weeks ago, we looked at this:

2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV “…we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.

We are to represent Jesus.  To go out into the world and love people.  To genuinely care about them.  To tell them about eternal life in Jesus.

Just last night I received an email from a Christian woman I know who is a nurse on a hospital floor that is focusing on COVID-19 patients.  Among other things, she asked for prayer that she would testify about Jesus.  She admitted she is scared about getting sick herself.  But she is also on mission.  She genuinely cares about her co-workers, patients, and patients’ families.  Like that dear woman, Paul was passionate about people. He loved people wherever he went.  Regardless of religious background or ethnicity.

So back to chapter 6, Paul pleads with us not to have unhealthy relationships with non-Christians in such a way that we are led astray.

Vs. 6:16b-18

Then in vs. 16-18 Paul quotes some OT passages to further make his point.

16 ….. For we are the temple of the living God;  as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is beautiful.  God desires to literally dwell among us.  He desires to be our God and we his people.   Such a beautiful promise to intimacy with God. 

This reminds me of the end of time when all true believers in Jesus will be in heavenly glory.

Revelation 21:3–4 ESV And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more…”

We ought to weep with joy for the glorious intimacy that is promised for every Jesus follower.

And the Lord wants such intimacy NOW.  Not simply after we die.  He desires it now.  Just like a good father toward his children. 

Back to 2 Corinthians:  Vs. 17 tells us:

17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing;  then I will welcome you,

18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Once again, the Lord calls us to holiness.  As he is holy, so we are to be holy.  We are his children.  He died to give us life, and now he calls us to live our lives for him out of love for him.   Being unequally yoked with unbelievers will pull us away from all that. 

Now let’s look at 7:2-4. 

Vs. 7:2-4

2 Make room in your hearts for us.  We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

4 I am acting with great boldness toward you;  I have great pride in you;  I am filled with comfort.  In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

If we go back and compare this with 6:11-13, we find Paul’s point is similar.  “Give your hearts back to me for the Lord’s sake.”  Paul is pouring out his heart to the church.  He loves the Corinthians.  He would die for them.  Paul is not engaged with people and in ministry because he’s being forced to.  He is not in it for the money.  He is not looking for prestige.  He is not arrogant, looking down on all these “weak Christians.”

No, he sincerely loves people.  He seeks their welfare.  He longs for a good relationships with these people.  He yearns that they would put the Lord first.  Paul is such an inspiring example for us to follow.

Lessons

So I want to finish up by answering the question, “So what?”  So what does all this have to do with me?  How does it relate?  What do I do with this?

Let me offer two lessons from this short passage.

First Lesson:

Join our hearts to one another.  To our fellow believers

Every true believer belongs to God.  Each one is God’s possession.  His adopted son and daughter.  This is an enormous privilege and glory.  The believer belongs forever to God’s family.  What security and hope and joy!

It is a privilege. 

And it is a responsibility, too.  A responsibility to join with the rest of God’s family.  Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Each of us who are following Jesus have a responsibility and privilege—as God’s family—to live together as ambassadors for Christ.  As Jesus’ representatives.  And we are to do this with joined hearts. 

When I was a brand new Christian as a 19-year old, I didn’t know much about Christianity.  But after about 4-5 months with this church, I saw the purpose they had together.  They were on mission for God.  Ministers of reconciliation, like Paul speaks of in Chapter 5.  I realized until that point, I really had no clear purpose for my life.  But then I saw the Scriptures and what God wanted.  I realized the glorious calling I have along with the rest of God’s people. 

So Paul sees that the Corinthians are lacking that intimacy of a people in love with God, in love with each other.  Their hearts are not joined with his. 

And how does Paul remedy that?  Instead of yelling at them or lording it over them, he spoke tenderly.  Passionately.

Look again at what Paul said:

6:11-13 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open… In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

7:2 Make room in your hearts for us… I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

With God as our Father, we are not like roommates or merely fellow employees at a business.   We are family.  Parents, brothers, sisters.  Not a perfect family.  We all have our own set of dysfunction.  But every Christ follower is a member of God’s family.

Are we giving ourselves freely to one another?  

Many of you already are, and I thank God for you.  You love the people in this church.  Your heart is given to them. You are serving them.  Caring for them.    Discipling them.  I am proud of you.

Others of you, however, may realize you are NOT giving yourself freely.  You are like the Corinthians were toward Paul.  You are distant.  Emotionally and spiritually removed.  Why? 

  • Perhaps we have some hurts from within the church.  Some bitterness.  What will it take for us to get that dealt with?
  • Perhaps we have some hurts from our past.  Our parents or other family burned us.  And burned us badly.  Understandably, we don’t want to get hurt again.
  • Perhaps we’ve listened to some lies.  Some gossip.  And we’ve lost trust and respect for people in the church.
  • Perhaps we simply lack the deep, biblical, heartfelt conviction that we are a vital part of God’s family, Christ’s Body, and we desperately need one another.

The reasons are many and varied of why we may not be wholehearted with God’s people.  But our heavenly Father lovingly calls us to himself and to his family.  And even in these strange days we are in with social distancing and hand washing, we must give our hearts to one another.  Our spiritual progress and health at stake.  We need one another.   Also, our mission is at stake.

Look at what Jesus himself prayed for us:

John 17:20–21 ESV “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

He prayed for a oneness.  A unity.  A deep love.  Just like the Father and the Son have.  And the result of this?  “That the world may believe that the Father has sent the Son.”  Wow!  We can display Almighty God to our dying world.  We are “ministers of reconciliation.”  We are “ambassadors for Christ.”

What a purpose for life!!!

We are in a spiritual war against Satan, the world and its philosophies, and our own flesh.  We must help one another to give our hearts to one another.   It’s a struggle, but it’s worth the fight. 

So the first lesson:  “JOIN OUR HEARTS TOGETHER.”

Second Lesson:

Walk in holiness

God calls us to leave our old ways behind and to join with him in a walk of holiness.   A life spent growing in our passion to imitate God.  To act and think and speak like him.

Why should we walk in holiness?  So many reasons.  Here are a few. 

  1. God is holy and pure, and through faith in Jesus Christ his Son, he has adopted us as his children.

And simple stated, in love he wants us to imitate him, our heavenly Father.    Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God as beloved children.”

  • We are Christ’s ambassadors to the world.  We represent the Lord Almighty. 

We want to be the best picture we can be of God to this world. 

  • Sin has never done us any favors. 

Romans 6:21  “But what benefit did you receive at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For those things result in death.”   Sin does no favors for us;  instead it leads us to death.

So, how can we walk in holiness?

FIRST, it is healthy to regularly examine our lives.  

In prayer, ask the Lord this simple question:  “Is there anything I am doing now that is not reflective of your holiness?”

Please don’t do self-evaluation without the Lord’s help.  His Spirit lives in us, and he will guide us.  This is not about “self-help.”  This is “Holy Spirit help.”

Ask also in prayer, “Lord, am I ‘yoked with the world’ in any way that is leading me astray from a pure walk with the Lord?”  Am I compromising some area of godliness in order to be liked and accepted?

So some prayerful reflection on our hearts with the help of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. 

SECOND, let us help one another to walk in holiness.

As we join our hearts together as God’s family, one of our responsibilities is to help one another grow.  To disciple one another.

A passage that has been on my mind in the past 5-6 months: 

Colossians 1:28–29 ESV Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Like Paul, we must work hard by God’s strength to help one another.  To remind each other of the truths of the faith.  To encourage one another with truth and love so that we don’t become hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

This is one of the reasons we meet on Sundays and in our small groups, called Community Groups.

And in all this, we do it from loving relationships.    Like Paul did with the Corinthians.  With passion yet with kindness and patience.  Appealing to one another out of our relationships. 

Conclusion

If you have believed in Jesus Christ, you have every spiritual blessing in the heavens.  You are loved, forgiven, and sanctified.

Let’s give our hearts to one another in love.  Freely, without reservation.  Our heavenly Father calls us to this.

In this relationship as the church, we have a calling.  A reason for living.  That purpose is to love the Lord, love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and to go out into the world and love people, pointing them to find life forever in Jesus Christ. Together we are on mission.  We are ambassadors for Christ.