AN EARNEST DESIRE TO SERVE GOD
Text: II CORINTHIANS 7:1-16
- To properly understand this chapter, we should recall the background to I and II Corinthians.
- Remember there was a man in the church at Corinth who was guilty of gross immorality (I Cor.5). The church did not deal with this sin and so Paul had to rebuke them. He told them they had to deal with the situation.
- Now as we get into II Corinthians, we discover that they did as Paul had said and the problem was dealt with. The man apparently had repented and confessed his sin (II Cor.2:5-11).
- Titus came to see Paul with the encouraging report that the church in Corinth had an "earnest desire" to serve God (II Cor.7:7).
- As we study this chapter today, I would like for us to focus on those words in verse 7, "earnest desire."
I. WE MUST HAVE AN EARNEST DESIRE TO CLEANSE OURSELVES FROM ALL FILTHINESS OF THE FLESH AND SPIRIT (7:1).
- This is a powerful Scripture and somewhat unusual. What I mean by that is we are used to cleansing ourselves from the filthiness of the flesh, but not of the spirit.
- When we think of the filthiness of the flesh, many things immediately come to mind: immorality, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, drunkenness, etc.
- I hate to sound like a broken record (some of our young people probably do not know what that expression means!), but if you seriously want to cleanse yourself from the filthiness of the flesh, you will have to eliminate about 99% of the garbage on television.
- And Hollywood is even worse. G-rated movies are extremely rare. Most films are indescribably filthy.
- So we can readily understand what Paul means by the filthiness of the flesh, but what about the filthiness of the spirit? How about pride, arrogance, selfishness, covetousness, unbelief, a bad attitude.
- Sometimes these sins are not as easily recognized. Some Christians think they are holy because they avoid certain worldly amusements and vices. They dress conservatively, never miss church, and so on but they have not cleansed themselves from the filthiness of the spirit.
- What Paul is saying is that there are some practices which defile the body, and there are other practices which contaminate the spirit.
- Now we have "these promises" (7:1), that if we separate from sin and walk with God, He will be our Father (6:14-18). This is the basis for holiness (7:1).
II. WE MUST HAVE AN EARNEST DESIRE TO REPENT OF ALL SIN (7:9,10).
- Like David, our prayer should be, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps.139:23,24).
- And if the Holy Spirit brings conviction, if He puts His finger on sin in our lives, we must repent (II Cor.7:9,10).
- Some people think that only lost people need to repent. But the Bible teaches that Christians need to repent as well (cf. Rev.2,3).
- In Paulís first epistle, he corrected them for tolerating sin in the church. They were saved but they had to repent (7:8-10).
- Now Paul was rejoicing (7:9), not that they were made sorry (that is not enough. Judas Iscariot was sorry), but that they "sorrowed to repentance."
- They repented of their sins and corrected the things that were wrong. Godly sorrow produces the kind of repentance that seeks to rectify the offense.
- "The sorrow of the world" (7:10b) is simply shame at being caught and "worketh death" (e.g. Judas Iscariot).
- I remember hearing a message on this text when Donald Manes, the former Queens Borough President got caught in a scandal and committed suicide. He was sorry he got caught but it was not godly sorrow (7:10).
- The Corinthian believers were sorrowful after being rebuked by Paul, but thank God it was a "godly sorrow" (7:9-11).
- They were careful to clear themselves of the charge of tolerating sin inn their church (7:11).
- They were indignant, fearful (godly fear), desirous, and zealous in their efforts to straighten the problem out (7:11).
- They wanted to avenge the wrong that had been done (7:11). This zeal is often misunderstood by worldly and carnal church members, but Paul commends them because they were trying to get things right with God and keep their church on the right track. Which brings us to my third point.
III. WE MUST HAVE AN EARNEST DESIRE TO OBEY GOD WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING.
- II Corinthians chapter 7 begins and ends with the fear of God (7:1,15).
- The apostle Paul explained that his chief purpose of his writing to them (7:12) was not just to secure the punishment of the fornicator, nor even "for his cause that suffered wrong" (probably referring to the manís father; cf. I Cor.5:1), "but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you" (7:12).
- In other words, Paul wanted them to know he loved them and cared for them. If Paul had not spoken up, the entire church would have been corrupted (I Cor.5:6,7).
- Mature, spiritual Christians understand this. It would have been much easier for Paul to stay out of it, but he couldnít.
- Therefore, Paul corrected them and he was "comforted" by the way they handled the problem (II Cor.7:13,14). They were obedient, and "with fear and trembling" they received Titus (7:15).
- Therefore Paul had "confidence" in them "in all things" (7:16).
- This section begins with separation (6:14ó7:1), and ends with reconciliation (7:16).
- If we separate from sin we will be reconciled with God and with other believers.
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