The Law of the Letter or of Life

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Job 3-4, 2 Corinthians 3

The Olympics are going on in full steam with the final days approaching this week. Though I’ve never been one to follow gymnastics, swimming, track, or fencing, when the Olympics comes around, I’m glued to the screen watching people strain towards earthly glory in the form of a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Today, I was watching the morning news, and Caleb Dressel was doing an interview. When asked about how he took care of his mental health, he said that the first thing he did when he got back home from a big event was to not think about swimming for at least two weeks. When he got home, he wasn’t a medal winning athlete; he was just himself. He said if he didn’t do this, the pressure would be too much. He would start to go after an unattainable goal that would ultimately lead him down a dark path. 

Though we can pursue earthly achievements in our careers, finances, homes, sports, hobbies, etc., we are called to live with eternity in mind as Christians. A gold medal, large retirement account, promotion, or degree is not the pinnacle of our life. The way that we live now is working towards that final goal which will come when the trumpet sounds. As I talked about earlier this week, we can rest in assurance that this goal has already been achieved. The victory is won, and we wait for Jesus to come. 

I can say that… but in my heart of hearts, sometimes it’s hard to live like that is actually true. I like to be in control, and for the things that I’m actually good at (which is not sports), I like to be one of the best. I will go all out. And, so in my Christian walk, I can fluctuate from being distracted and worried about the cares of the world and being so legalistic that I stifle the relationship that I’m trying to work towards. When I make it about me, I can go down a wrong path – just like Caleb Dressel. I can’t do anything to add to the accomplishments of Christ, and so all of my actions where I am trying to be the ‘best’ Christian ultimately burn me out and leave me empty – and they can actually leave me further away from Christ (like the Pharisees). 

In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul writes, “17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We don’t have to live by the law of the letter anymore. We can live in the freedom that comes from living in the Holy Spirit. We are not changing ourselves on our own power; we are relying on the power of God. And, God can do so much more than any man – Olympic medal winning or not. When we rely on him, we have the victory! Whose power are you living in?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 3-4 and 2 Corinthians 3 .

What’s That Smell?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

Job 1-2, 2 Corinthians 2

My husband is a great cook, but he takes a long time to prepare his meals. On the nights when he is in charge of dinner, I wait patiently for him to chop all of the vegetables, season the meat, and get something sizzling over the stove. After 30 minutes (or a few hours), I finally know that dinner is ready when I get a whiff of something that smells delicious. That smell draws me into the kitchen; it’s enticing and promises a great meal. 

In today’s reading, we read a little bit more about Paul’s testimony. He explains some of the trials that he has faced in his ministry, some of which are difficult and bring him to tears. At the end of 2 Corinthians 2, Paul begins to turn his focus on the way the Corinthians are living. And the question he asks is one that is a little strange, “What do you smell like?” 

At home, I get to smell the delicious smell of my husband’s cooking. But, at work, the smells are not so pleasant. Middle School boys back from PE hang out in a cramped classroom, where Axe Body Spray mixes with some pretty rank BO. Sometimes the students can’t take it anymore and they say, “Mrs. Fletcher, I need some Febreeze in here, because it STINKS!” So, obviously I get to smell the best of smells and some of the worst of smells. Smells that bring me joy and lead to life and smells that make me die a little inside. 

So let’s go back to Paul’s question – “What do you smell like?” He’s not talking about smelling nice like you are about to go on a date to a nice restaurant. Or smelling bad like a middle schooler back from Field Day. He’s talking about the way that our ‘fragrance’ – our way of living – shows Christ to other people. 

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? 17 For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.” 
Paul here is saying that we are the fragrance that points people to who Christ is. Through us just being in people’s lives, we should leave behind a scent of Christ. This scent can encourage others to know Christ more – an “aroma of life leading to life” – or it can convict others who refuse to follow Christ – “an aroma of death leading to death.” Our testimony points others to Christ. People are watching, and they are judging the Christian faith based on how you are living. So, I’ll ask you the same question: What do you smell like?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Our Testimony

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Esther 9-10, 2 Corinthians 1

So far this week, we’ve seen how we need to live in light of our ‘why’ – or our purpose for living. Our why should be the gospel. We’ve also seen how we can live in light of our final victory. Jesus has already won the war, so we can face our battles with strength and determination. As Paul begins 2 Corinthians, we see him turn his focus onto another important element of our Christian walk – our testimony. 

The word testimony means “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” When we think of a testimony, we may imagine someone getting up in court and attesting to what they believe happened in a situation. Testimonies are important and can be used as evidence in serious cases. If a testimony is given in court, that can make the difference between whether or not justice is served. 

In our Christian walk, we also give a testimony. Our testimony is the evidence of Christ’s work in our lives. It is our account of how the gospel has changed us. Sometimes our testimony may look like it does on true crime documentaries. We get up in front of our church or small group and recount in 1-5 minutes how we came to know Jesus and what he has done for us. Our testimony however is much more than a short speech. Our testimony is our whole lives. 

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul gives his own personal testimony of issues that he had previously in his missionary journey. At one point in their travels, they had even despaired of living because things had gotten so bad. But Paul reminds himself and the Corinthians of his hope. He says, 

9 Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again 11 while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11) 

Even in the midst of his trouble, Paul reminds himself of what God has done for him in his life. He knows that God has already delivered him, and so, he can trust that God will deliver him again. This truth helps to strengthen Paul’s own faith when faced with a difficult circumstance. It also becomes an amazing testimony for the church as a whole. The Corinthians can see how Paul handles this time of trials, and they can live with the same mindset in their own lives. 

Our testimony can be based on the past times that God has been faithful to us, but our testimony also includes how we treat others. In verse 12, Paul goes on, “12 For this is our confidence: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace.” The way we treat other people is also a part of our testimony. If we treat others well – with God-given sincerity and purity, we will testify, or show evidence, that the gospel makes us better people. It makes us a people full of love and grace. Our actions can testify for God or they can testify against God. It depends on how we live. 

What is your testimony?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Boasting of the Best

2 Corinthians 10-13

We are going through our final chapters in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians!  Thank you for sticking with me through this last week and listening to my ramblings 😊

As Paul is finishing up his letters, he seems to talk a lot about boasting.  Boasting can be defined as possessing something as a source of pride.  Paul is possessing the knowledge of the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what that means for his sinful life.  He takes pride in the fact that he belongs to Christ, and he wants others to be proud of that too (10:2).  He doesn’t want people to be proud of themselves or their own accomplishments, but only be proud of the Lord and being part of a group of believers (10:17).

In chapter 11 Paul talks about those who do boast about themselves and discusses how at the very most we should only be willing to boast about our weakness (11:30).  In order to be in a position that you are not only willing to share a weakness but are seeking to openly and proudly share a weakness, you must be truly dedicated and excited to be part of that movement.  Paul understood the impact that sharing his weakness, or his testimony, would have on believers because he got to experience first-hand the grace of God.

Paul didn’t always want to deal with the things that created his testimony, he calls them a thorn used to torment him (12:7).  He asked for the things that were difficult for him to be taken away, and Jesus told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (12:9).  Paul did not innately know that the things that were difficult, that were shaping his testimony, were going to be used for God’s glory.  But when he learned that his weakness would only more greatly reflect grace, he did not shy away and try to hide or change his weaknesses to present himself as higher than he was to the church.  All too often Christians can feel this pressure to hide the parts of their life that weren’t “pretty” in the eyes of other believers.  But most times, what we have gone through and come out of because of the grace of God is one of the most powerful tools in bringing people to Christ and encouraging believers.  We should be boasting in our weaknesses, in what God has brought us out of, with the purpose of growing and strengthening the Church.

Paul closes his letter by saying this: “Finally, brothers, rejoice.  Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (13:11).  Part of becoming mature can include developing and sharing your testimony.  Being encouraged can happen when you share and hear about testimonies from other believers.  We are all of the same mind when we focus on growing and strengthening the Church.  And being at peace comes from knowing that each believer has that same focus.  When we are able to do all of these things, God will be with us and give us His strength to complete tasks we never thought possible. 

We make up the Church, and we are responsible for continuing to grow the Church and keep one another strong in the faith.  Paul’s letters are a great place to start when looking for ways to be part of the Church, but there is absolutely a level of personal communication with God that is necessary to know where He wants you to be.  I encourage you to take time today to reflect on your own testimony and to ask God who He wants you to share this testimony with.  You may be surprised where He leads you!

Thank you all for joining me through the Corinthians!  This week has been a great time for me to refocus on the mission, and I hope it was for you all as well.  Until next time, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 10-13

Tomorrow we begin a new week reading Acts 20:1-3 and Romans 1-3.

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