By: Martin Cisneros
Perhaps one of the biggest dangers that can become a stumbling block to a growing believer is the [personal] realization of actually having grown in the grace, knowledge, hope, wisdom, love, power, and diligence of the Lord. At least at first, and then again at various stages – or between stages – of growth. I’ve personally got "the goods" spiritually to back up my talk – anywhere I ever wanted to go with anything. I carried on like this yesterday (i.e. the following verses) and I got rebuked by Jesus, our High Priest, for being 100% Grade A "FLESH" in the way that I was behaving for most of the morning:
2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. (2Corinthians 10:2)
7 You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ's, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ's, so also are we. (2Corinthians 10:7)
11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present. (2Corinthians 10:11)
5 For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.
6 But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things. (2Corinthians 11:5-6)
16 Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.
17 What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.
18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. (2Corinthians 11:16-18)
31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. (2Corinthians 11:31)
[My paraphrase on this verse is "I swear to God…" I seem to remember elsewhere in the Bible certain "issues" with "swearing." Didn’t Jesus say something about not doing it?]
1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. (2Corinthians 12:1)
11 I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.
12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. (2Corinthians 12:11-12)
Or in other words (In verse 11), if it weren’t for you, I’d be further along than I am spiritually. It’s all your fault.
2 I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone,
3 since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. (2Corinthians 13:2-3)
All of the above verses are the Satanic thorn in the flesh that St. Paul mentioned in 2Corinthians 12 being held back and hindered by, lest he should righteously be exalted by the abundance of the revelations of Christ that he’d received. Like I said, I carried on identical to the above yesterday – without there being a contextual difference in how I behaved, with the exception of one personal situation – and whether contextually or a little more obviously "in the flesh," it was all "flesh" in the eyes of the Lord and nothing to do with walking by the regenerated nature of God within me through Jesus Christ. And yet, most of the above verses are things that baby Christians admire in St. Paul as they’re reading through the New Testament, genuinely craving that they could be this way someday. No, Jesus Christ and especially His redemptive work is our pattern!
All of the above is dramatically different from how I normally walk and what’s genuine New Testament maturity. A few verses out of hundreds for clarification of a New Testament maturity that dramatically contrast with the above passages are these:
10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down. (2Corinthians 13:10)
5 On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. (2Corinthians 12:5)
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Corinthians 12:9-10)
Or in other words, Paul would rejoice in the finished work of Christ (and owned it as his own) – His weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties, etc., because when his perspective was "it is finished," and "Christ has redeemed me from this and I’m abounding therein with thanksgiving," then all was well. While he was trying to perform, then all he had going on was gyrating flesh that was not a living sacrifice before the Lord. Performance based religiosity isn’t necessarily just in trying to make something happen. The worse manifestation of it is misreading this verse and glorying in things that are an absolute abomination to the Cross of Christ, like illnesses, personal character, emotional, and economic weaknesses, etc. I am content with "by His stripes I was healed," but not so that I’d have the same stripes, nor so that I’d rejoice when my own back ever hurts in a false humility that’s trying to offer up anything of my own flesh to God rather than the flesh of Christ in remembrance that my needs are met according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. I am content with knowing the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, that through the poverty that He bore, I’ve been made rich, according to 2Corinthians 8:9. And my finances are under serious renegotiations by the power of Christ within me and the Angels of God around me, and the commandment of Jesus, after the order of Melchizedec, for the purpose of my life lived before Him. In the Name of Jesus, I am thoroughly furnished for every good word and work – every!! Talk about peace on earth, goodwill towards men, glory to God in the highest, exuberant thunderous praise that Jesus is Lord, etc., when I’m able to genuinely "owe no man anything but to love him." (Romans 13:8)
21 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. (2Corinthians 12:21)
True humility and demonstration of growth is more concerned with one’s enemies and the state of growth of one’s spiritual offspring and those that surround one than with one’s own creaturely comforts. A true reflection of the grace of God is in diligently fasting and praying for one’s enemies, as well as for anyone that one would call a friend – that Christ would be formed in them (Galatians 4:19). This is not to say that Christ is only reflected in one when they’re of a sad countenance. On the contrary, Christ forbade such in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) ‘cause if you really believe that you’re receiving each and every time that you pray (Mark 11:24; John 15:7; John 16:23; Colossians 3:12-17), then there is absolutely no basis for a sour disposition whatsoever.
A true sign – though obviously not the only nor the best sign - of growth is concern for the growth of others. A true sign of Christ speaking inside of one is when the one in question is continually pointing you towards the finished work of Christ and the full impact of all that you’re redeemed from and towards – even if they themselves look horribly foolish in delivering such a Testimony because of the current condition of their finances, infirmities of the flesh, or other weaknesses that the power of the Cross is still being applied to by Jesus their High Priest as healing aloe leaves.
4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?
6 But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.
7 Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.
(or as though we were failures)
8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.
(this verse alone is worth meditating on for 12 months – all by itself, but most especially in the light of the whole book of Proverbs and the teachings of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John.)
9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak
(or majoring on the weakness of Christ through which we’re delivered) but you are strong (or are strengthening and abounding in hope, wisdom, and fruit through our testimony); this we also pray for, that you be made complete (or that you’d complete the circle and come to a place of growth where you’re not only delivered, provided for, nurtured, and complete - in vision, purpose, and provision - but that you’d be doing to and for others what we’ve done to and for you thus far). (2Corinthians 13:4-9)