- Sermon Notes
Building on Promises
2 Corinthians 7:1-11
In the last several chapters Paul has given us some of the greatest promises a believer can receive. If any man is in Christ he is a new creation, old things pass away, behold; God is making all things new, Paul wrote in Chapter 5.
That’s a foundational promise. In other words, that’s a promise you can build on. It’s very much like when Jesus said that whoever hears and takes hold of His word and builds his life on those words is like a wise man who builds his house on a strong foundation.
That’s the theme in Chapter 7; he starts out by saying, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved…” Let’s receive these promises and understand that He wants to build spiritual maturity in our lives. He’s building spiritual maturity on the foundation of all that he has promised us.
In Chapter 6 Paul quoted from Isaiah, “Come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. God was calling Israel to leave Babylon behind, go to Jerusalem and build the temple. The temple represented the fact that God was with them; that He would be among them and pour His blessing and favor out on them.
In a similar way, God is calling us to leave worldly things behind because we are the temple of the living God. He is Immanuel, God with us. Our relationship to God has been completely redefined. We were once estranged from God, but we who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He is now with us and we get to live out the rest of our days walking with Him. He will be a father to us, Paul wrote, and we will be sons and daughters to Him.
He is a good, good father and He is completely committed to our spiritual maturity. Any good father wants his children to mature. Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Do you know the greatest thing you can give to your children? It isn’t money, or clothes, or a new cell phone, or anything money can buy. The greatest thing you can give your children is to give them godly character; because you’re equipping that child for life.
That’s what God is giving to us; He’s equipping us for life by building godly character in us, He’s filling us with the Holy Spirit of life. We now have a relationship where we’re, “Working together with Him.” -- 2 Corinthians 6:1. What a great way to live your life; working together with Him. This is key because too many people are self-reliant. We all have a tendency to think that we can do things on our own.
That reminds me of the story of the guy who was going to an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking place. He kept searching and searching and finally, panicking, he looked up and said…
Chapter 7 is about building your life on these promises, knowing that He is making all things new and giving you a great gift – godly character. But here’s something important to understand, He builds godly character even through the troubles and sorrows of our lives. In fact, it’s often the times of deepest trouble and greatest sorrow that we grow the most.
We’re working together with Him; we’re walking together with Him and even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for He is with us and His rod and His staff comfort us.
I. God Fills us with Comfort
- Verse 4 – “I am filled with comfort,” Paul wrote.
- Having these promises, Paul wrote, let us cleanse ourselves from worldly things, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. “Behold, I make all things new,” God said. In other words, keep growing in spiritual maturity.
- But spiritual maturity also recognizes that God is with us in our troubles. It’s often times the difficulties and troubles of life that cause people to blame God or get angry with Him and rather than growing in faith, they melt down their lives.
A. Be filled with comfort in all your affliction
- Verse 4 – Paul says he is filled with comfort and overflowing with joy even in all his affliction.
- The word ‘comfort’ is important. In the Greek it’s ‘paraclesis’; it means ‘called to one’s side.’ In other words, you are comforted when someone stands alongside of you. It’s also used to describe a legal advocate who stands next to you for your defense.
- The Holy Spirit is called the ‘helper,’ the ‘paraclete.’ He is the one who comes alongside; the “Helper.”
Isaiah 30:21, Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
- God comforts us in our affliction; He walks with us and strengthens us that we might comfort others.
1 Corinthians 1:3-4, Blessed be… the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
- We ourselves have been through the greatest affliction and the time of deepest grief in our lives and God used this church and many from around the country to come alongside and encourage us.
- And God has used our tragedy to strengthen and encourage others. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside others in the valley of the shadow of death with much deeper compassion.
Illus - I was heartbroken to hear about the pastor whose pregnant wife was killed this last week. I had to reach out to him with words of encouragement.
B. God comforts the depressed
- Verse 6 - Paul actually writes this as a principal for us to take hold of; literally it means that God comes alongside those who are beaten-down.
- That’s what the word depressed literally means. We know that life beats people down, but what a great encouragement to know that God cares, that God comes alongside, that God builds up and comforts those who are beaten-down.
- One of the best examples of this is from Paul’s own life. Several years after he wrote this letter, Paul found himself beaten-down in every way possible, but God came alongside and strengthened his faith.
- Paul found himself the cause of a riot in Jerusalem so the Roman soldiers took him into protective custody, but when the Jews plotted to kill him, Paul appealed to Caesar. They set sail from Caesarea, but along the way they encountered a storm that raged on for two full weeks.
- They threw the ship’s cargo overboard, and a few days later they even threw the ship’s tackle overboard; gradually, all hope was lost.
Acts 27:25-26, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.”
- That ‘running aground’ meant they went through a shipwreck and had to swim to shore. Finally, the natives kindled a fire and Paul, gathering sticks and laying them on the fire had a viper come out and fasten on his hand.
- Can you imagine how Paul could have responded? “All right, Lord, I’ve had all I can take. Here I am, serving You and what happens? I get attacked by a crowd, there’s a plot to kill me, I sit in prison for two years in Caesarea, I have to go through a raging storm for two weeks, I get shipwrecked on this island, and now this, bitten by a viper? How much can a man take?”
- How much can a man take? Maybe you’re going through a difficult time right now. Maybe you’re going through one storm after another. Please know that He comes alongside; He comforts, He encourages, He strengthens faith, He pours out wisdom. Turn to Him for help.
Psalm 138:3, 7-8, You made me bold with strength in my soul… Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your loving kindness, O Lord, is everlasting.
- Paul has every confidence that God is able.
2 Corinthians 3:4, And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves… Our adequacy is from God.
II. Sorrow can lead to Life
- One of the things that encouraged Paul was hearing that there were many in the church of Corinth that took his correction to heart.
- He knew his letter was strongly worded and would cause them to grieve with sorrow, but it was a sorrow according to the will of God; a sorrow that brought transformation and life.
- Paul explains in verses 9-10 that there are different kinds of sorrow. In other words, how we respond to correction makes all the difference in the world. To quote the famous Notre Dame football coach, Lou Holtz, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”
- Lou Holtz is always good for an interesting quote, for example, “Behind every successful man… stands a surprised mother-in-law.” Here’s a better one, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
A. Have sorrow according to the will of God
- This has everything to do with how a person receives correction. No one likes to be corrected, no one likes to know that they were wrong, but truthfully, everyone needs correction at one time or another. But how do you respond?
- Sorrow according to the will of God means that we receive the correction with teachable hearts. Paul says this kind of sorrow produces a repentance without regret.
- This kind of sorrow leads to life. There are many, many examples of people that look back on some great tragedy and then later say, “That tragedy was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Maybe they got fired from their job because of their arrogance, or something happened that caused the person to wake up spiritually.
Revelation 3:2, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for your deeds have not yet been completed in the sight of God.”
Proverbs 24:16, A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
- God takes tragedies and turns them into triumphs. That is, if we’re teachable and respond according to the will of God, that produces a repentance without regret.
- You’ll never regret turning your life around; you’ll never regret walking away from worldly things and rebuilding your life on a godly foundation.
B. The sorrow of the world leads to death
- Some people, when corrected, simply can’t receive it. Instead of being teachable, they get defensive, or they get angry. Some of the people in the church of Corinth couldn’t receive Paul’s letter so they lashed out at him, questioning his authority as an apostle.
- Why do people do this? It’s pride. Pride has been our problem from the beginning. You can go all the way back to the book of Genesis. When Adam sinned he immediately began to blame someone else…
Genesis 3:11-12, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then Adam said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
- The sorrow of the world Paul refers to is the sorrow of someone who is sorry that he got caught. There’s no repentance because he would do it again if given the opportunity, although more cleverly so as not to get caught the next time.
- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone in trouble say, “I just need to work this out on my own.” The problem is self-reliance. If a person is self-reliant and then destroy themselves through their bad decisions, what do they have left?
- We have a foundation in the storms of life, even the storms of our own making. He’s a good, good father and he’s not walking out that door.
Psalm 86:5, For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
2 Corinthians 7:1-11 NASB
1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one. 3 I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. 4 Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.
5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. 8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it-for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while- 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.