2 Corinthians 12:8-10
The Christian life is not always an easy life to understand. There is an element of mystery because we are dealing with the supernatural. We have the Holy Spirit within us and we fight a spiritual power- the Devil. We have a Gospel that saves us, a supernatural Gospel. One word that comes to mind when I think of the Christian life and read my Bible is the word paradox. What is a paradox? The dictionary defines it as "something that seems unbelievable or absurd but can actually be true". Dr. Packer in his Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God describes it as, "a figure of speech, a play on words in the form of a statement that seems to unite two opposite ideas". The Christian life is full of paradoxes. We have one here in our passage. "When I am weak, then I am strong". Other paradoxes: we rejoice, we mourn. The Christian life is one of rejoicing, but also mourning. Those two realities coexist. Another: we have the peace of God, but we are in a battle every day. #3 The flesh lusts against the spirit. #4 We can't see God, but we can see God. We can't see God because He's invisible, yet Jesus could say, 'the pure in heart shall see God'. How do we see God? Not literally with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith. We see God. #5 Romans 7, sin is in us, but Romans 6, we are not in sin. We have been set free from sin, but we still struggle with sin. #6 The Christian life can be described in terms of loss and gain. We can lose much, friends, comforts, our home, a job. I think of Hebrews 11. Those Christians were wandering in deserts and living in caves. Paul describes himself as starving at times, naked. But we also gain. What does the Christian gain? Eternal life, an incorruptible inheritance. #7 paradox: As a Christian we have the greatest friend and the greatest enemy. We have God in Christ as our friend and, as our enemy, the Devil Himself.
#8 The Christian life is perfect and imperfect. How? Perfect pardon, perfect justification. Imperfect sanctification. We are confronted with paradoxes over and over again. Even when we pray: we pray to a God in light unapproachable. Yet the Bible says this God is near. How can we get near? He comes close. You draw near and He draws near to you. When we pray, we come with a deep sense of our poverty, but also knowing how blessed we are in Christ. In the Puritan collection of prayers, Valley of Vision, we read: "Let me learn by Paradox, that the way down is the way up". Jesus said become like a child and you will inherit the kingdom of God. Humble yourself and God will lift you up. The way down, God said the way of the servant is the path to greatness in my kingdom. "A broken heart is a healed heart. To bear the cross is to wear the crown. To give is to receive. The deeper the well, the brighter the stars. There is light in my darkness, joy in my sorrow, riches in my poverty". The Christian life isn't always easy to explain. #9 We are in this world but not of this world. #10 Sometimes our greatest defeat becomes our greatest victories. Often when we suffer greatest weakness like Paul, that is when we become strong. Sometimes we go into a wilderness and experience barrenness, but it can be the most fruitful times in our life. The Christian life is full of paradoxes. It is a blessed life, but not always easy to understand.
Pr Cook: Psalm 51 is a penitential psalm where we can see how God brought good even out of David's terrible fall. We would not have Psalm 51 in our Bibles if David had not sinned but God overruled. (Read v 13-17) I remember watching on TV Apollo 11 landing on the moon and the words of Mr. Armstrong, "One small step for man and one giant step for mankind." In recent years, we've had the Rover on Mars bring back pictures of the red planet. We can look at the advancements and amazing accomplishments to remind us that God has made us in His image and man is fulfilling the creation mandate to subdue the earth. Something even more amazing is that we can speak to God Himself, the God who made us and all things. Everything in this world has His fingerprints all over it. We can talk to the God of gods in the Heavens - where that is exactly I don't know. He's a transcendent Being who sits upon a throne of absolute sovereignty and yet He's mindful of us. Even more than that, He listens to us. We have His ear. Even more impressive than having the ear of the president of the United States. We have the ear of God, who has the heart of the king in His hand. We know from Psalm 139 that He's aware of every word that comes off our tongue. But there is a difference between our ordinary prayers that God hears and our actual praying. He takes a different interest in our praying; the Proverbs author says He delights in our prayers. God has a discrimination, attentive ear when we pray; a delight. He loves to hear us pray. How can we be sure God hears our prayers? From our Bibles, what are some arguments we could use to say, "Yes, I am sure God hears my prayers."? Many reasons we could give. One is, we pray in the name of His Son. Jesus did say, If you ask in My name my Father will answer your prayers. We pray Christ-mediated prayers. Second, is praying in line with Psalm 51, with a broken-spirit and a contrite heart - He will not despise that. Think of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the Temple. God hears one man but not the other. What is the difference? One had a broken heart and contrite spirit. The other man was proud and self-righteous. If we come humbly acknowledging we need mercy we can be assured of God hearing our prayers. Third, if we prayer filial prayers. That is we pray to a Father in Heaven who hears us. We are His adopted children. He will hear us because we are His children. We can pray with confidence, knowing we are not on a fool's errand.