Boasting in Our Weaknesses

Weakness. It is something each of us has an abundance of and yet none of us want to admit it. Even the word weakness conjures up a negative mental image of someone we never want to become: I think of that Norman Rockwell painting of the scrawny teenage boy with glasses looking at a picture of a bodybuilder while curling some light dumbbells. Why is weakness such a terrible concept in our minds? Why do we try to avoid it at all costs or choose the route of masquerading as though we’re strong? I think it is because at the root, we are all far too man-centered. Our sin nature and the confused culture around us deceive us into thinking that true strength resides somewhere deep within. Because we assume strength is found somewhere in us, the only solution for tapping into that strength is self-esteem or self-discovery or self-expression. This is the lie we are spoon-fed to believe in 21st Century Western civilization. Isn’t it odd how we’ve even projected that facade of self strength into the way we respond to terminal illness? When diagnosed with cancer, people say, “I’m going to beat this.” Now don’t get me wrong: it is good to have a positive outlook on life, but that should stem from a source more trustworthy than us. Even in our strongest moments, a microscopic virus or bacteria can wipe us out. At the end of the day, we just don’t want to be weak because weakness is seen as the enemy of all true progress; but that is just dead wrong.

What if God hard-wired weakness into us for some grander purpose? What if our weakness and frailty and vulnerability in life were all sovereignly intended to point us to the source of true strength, outside of ourselves? This is what Paul discovered. In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul is writing to defend his ministry against those denying his credibility as an apostle. They said, “his bodily appearance is weak” along with his speaking skills (2 Cor. 10:10). Although Paul goes on to defend his ministry and authority as an apostle, he never denies their claims concerning his weakness. As a matter of fact, he seems to wear this weakness as a badge of honor. Paul writes tongue in cheek about all the things he could boast in such as his beatings and shipwrecks and hunger and poverty. He then goes on to say, “If I must boast, I will boast of all the things that show my weakness…I will not boast, except of my weaknesses…I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses…I am content with weaknesses…I am nothing” (11:30; 12:5; 12:9; 12:10; 12:11).  Wow. It’s almost like Paul is saying, “Hey everybody, I’m really good and not being good enough! Watch me as I dominate not dominating anything.” Why would Paul be so backwards from the culture and boast in his weakness? It wasn’t just because he was jaded and fed up with the church. It was another reason altogether. It was because God taught Paul that the very weakness that made life miserable for him at times was part of God’s plan to point him to true strength.

We see this in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. Paul was given a “messenger of Satan” to torment him, which he also calls a “thorn” in his flesh. Theologians have debated for two millenia about what exactly this is (many say an eye disease perhaps received after being blinded by the vision of Christ; others some opponent to his ministry), but the point is the same nonetheless. He writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we don’t see our prayers answered the way we want, we can be encouraged to know God didn’t answer Paul’s prayer the way he wanted here (and Jesus’ prayer in the garden either for that matter). God was teaching Paul and us something marvelous about His purposes: weakness reveals to us our insufficiency, but it can also remind us of the sufficiency of God’s grace for every trial. Paul’s ailment lead to his repeated pleading, which led to the promise of God’s all-sufficient grace. There are moments in each person’s life where God gives us a nice reminder of our own weakness. Sometimes it is in the form of an illness; sometimes in the form of a sudden brush with death; sometimes in the form of the loss of a loved one. Yet there is that moment when our frailty is exposed and we can sing with the band Kansas, “All we are is dust in the wind.” If we could just learn to keep that mentality we would be less quick to pretend we’re strong and more prone to abide in Christ, our refuge and strength.

In the first chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul expresses this: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” The statement, “God will never put on you more than you can handle” is false. He will and often does. But He has a purpose in doing so: to drive you to rely on His strength. Pastor Matt Chandler has pointed out that when skeptics call Christianity a crutch they are correct, for we are all crippled and it is far better to acknowledge that than to hobble around on our broken femurs declaring we’re fine.

Years ago, my wife and I gathered the family for pictures outside our home. It was a beautiful Easter day and we were all in our “church clothes” looking good. There was a stunning array of azalea bushes we used as a backdrop. However, as many parents can testify, toddlers and babies don’t always do great at picture time. The picture we finally ended up with was priceless: both kids were screaming as my wife and I were holding them in a death grip with exhausted smiles on our faces. When we posted it on social media, it was interesting the response. People loved it because for once they felt they could identify and weren’t seeing just another picture of someone who appears to have it all together. It sure is easy to present a nicer image of ourselves than is reality…not only in social media, but in real life too. In our churches we can shy away from real community when we don’t open up about struggles in our sanctification. If we don’t embrace our weaknesses, then this Gospel we preach and believe can easily appear unnecessary for us who clearly aren’t that bad off. There is a reason why James 5:16a calls us to, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.”

So instead of hiding behind the mask of our sufficiency, may we all learn to embrace our weaknesses and run to the strength God provides in Christ. The next time you’re out of energy and feeling the only way out is sin, remember His grace is sufficient in that moment. When you just want to give up hope because things just seem too hard, remember: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). May we say with Paul, “I am content with weaknesses”, knowing His power is perfected in weakness. After all, how else is the world going to see the power of the Gospel if not in the midst of our own weakness and clinging to His strength? 

Who is Sufficient For These Things?

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, Paul speaks about how gospel ministry spreads the fragrance of Christ. This fragrance is either an aroma of life or it is an aroma of death. This is quite a visual that the apostle presents before us. He then asks a question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Recently, this passage and that question have pierced my heart. This is a season of pastoral ministry where I am acutely aware of my insufficiencies as a pastor. In the life of our church, we have seen a dear sister diagnosed with cancer, relationships in need of biblical counsel, and various physical/spiritual needs in the body. Who is sufficient for these things? I am not. Thankfully, this is the posture a pastor needs to be in. For when we confess our insufficiency, we are brought to remember what is sufficient for such trials in the life of a church. The Lord graciously brings back to my remembrance what I am to lean upon daily in the face of my insufficiency. I want to call your attention to see the sufficiency of the Shepherd, the Spirit, and the Scriptures.

The Sufficiency of the Shepherd   

In shepherding, pastors feel often overwhelmed with the responsibilities and burdens they feel in caring for the flock of Christ. This needs to drive us to see our dependency upon the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 23 must be a text that comes to our hearts over and over! He is our Shepherd! He purchased us with His own blood! He brings us to His table and calls for pastors to come and dine. Pastor, you must not be one who only thinks about the gospel when he is in the pulpit. For your own soul, you need to return over and over to the precious truths of gospel of grace in Christ. Meditate over Ephesians 1 and see how by union with Christ, you know election, adoption, redemption, holiness, and an eternal inheritance. The work of the Shepherd is not only sufficient for your conversion but for every part of your life and ministry. Brother pastor, your labor is not in vain! After giving instructions on how to shepherd, Peter writes these words, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Rest in that promise that while you are not the perfect shepherd, you are trusting in the One who is and pointing your people to Him! The Good Shepherd is sufficient not only for justification but for every need in the life of your congregation! He is sufficient for your own heart and soul! Behold again the beauty of the Shepherd!

The Sufficiency of the Spirit

In shepherding, there are many problems and we want to fix all of them. It is our tendency to see an issue, a conflict, or a tense situation before us and immediately begin to think about how we can resolve it and overcome every obstacle. Yet, so much is before us that is way beyond us and our abilities. When someone is diagnosed with a terminal condition, we do not have the capacity to heal. When someone continues in unrepentant sin and rejecting the gospel, we cannot change their hearts and make them new. This drives us to depend upon the work of the Spirit of God. Do you rest in the sufficiency of the Spirit? The Spirit brings real change and brings real comfort. As Jesus describes the work and ministry of the Spirit in John 14-16, our hearts need to bow and submit to His power and authority. This is not a passive path that the pastor takes in depending upon the sufficiency of the Spirit. It is a great comfort because you will be driven into the ground and despondent if you think that you are capable and sufficient to change all of the people and circumstances that exist in your local church. The Chief Shepherd put you there as His man. He gave you the Spirit who will bring forth fruit in due season. Yes, you are insufficient to change that man or woman. Yes, the Spirit is fully sufficient and able to raise the dead in sin to life in Christ! He is the source of our strength to persevere!

The Sufficiency of the Scriptures

“Preach the Word.” The mandate is clear and plain. Do you believe that the Scriptures are sufficient and meet the needs of your people? No, I am not talking about a mere biblicism that just goes looking for a proof text and treats the Bible as a collection of sayings and clichés. I am talking about the commitment to the beauty and flow of redemptive promise and accomplishment found from Genesis to Revelation. What will you give yourself to as the pastor serving your flock? The Scriptures point to the Shepherd and were written by the Spirit. What will you bring to your people week in and week out? You might confess that you believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. However, if you are not committed to sequential exposition that is rooted in the centrality of Christ, your view of the Bible might not be more than lip service. Give your people the Word.


I say none of these things as one that perfectly relies upon the sufficiency of the Shepherd, the Spirit, and the Scriptures. I confess that there have been moments lately where I felt real fear in seeking to process how I would navigate through the waters of trials and tests in the life of our church. The question “Is it worth it?” can creep around in the deep recesses of the heart. I can tell you that it does. A lady in our church recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer thanked me and my fellow elder this past Sunday. What was she thanking us for? She thanked us for preparing her for this trial due to our commitment to the ordinary means of grace. By biblical exposition, seeing the gospel as connected to every part of life, and rejoicing in the Spirit connecting us as a church family, she felt an inner peace and joy in the face of this trial. Those words brought me back to the question Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

Certainly, Jake Stone is not. I rejoice to know that there is One who is!

Beholding the Glory of Christ

This week in my Bible reading plan, I was struck by the repeated references to beholding the glory of God in Christ. I saw unbelievers like Pilate say, “Behold your King!” as he presented Jesus for crucifixion and I saw scenes where Moses beheld God’s glory on burning Mt. Sinai. I saw Zechariah prophesy of Christ’s coming, “Behold your King…how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!” and I saw David praying, “our eyes look to the Lord our God.” But what stood out the most to me were Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:18, where I read, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” All this language of beholding made me take a step back to see what Scripture teaches on this. I discovered 5 steps in the Bible’s argument on this, which may be helpful to you as well…

We were created to behold the glory of God

God says in Isaiah 43:7 that we were created for His glory. But what does it mean to behold God’s glory? It obviously means more than merely seeing it with our eyes. After all, Scripture says we’ll never fully see God’s glory because he is invisible and, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16b). Jonathan Edwards says to behold God’s glory is to delight in Him above all else. He says this in his Miscellanies: “God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in…[W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it.” This was the condition Adam and Eve had in the garden. They enjoyed unhindered fellowship with God. Until that dreadful day when they broke fellowship with God and started beholding the glory of lesser things. This brings us to the next step in the argument…

Sin and Satan have blinded us to God’s glory

Jesus says that we are born spiritually blind because of our sin nature (Jn. 9:39-41). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan compounds this blindness by actively blinding unbelievers from beholding the light of God’s glory in the Gospel. So not only can they not see God’s glory, but Satan is working to ensure they don’t ever see it. Thankfully, this is where the bad news ends and the good news begins…

God by His Spirit gives us eyes to behold His glory on the cross

The only possible way for the blind to see is by the miraculous touch of the Great Physician. They can’t and don’t want to behold God as glorious until then. As a matter of fact, Jesus said, “People loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (Jn. 3:19-20). So then, what needs to happen must be nothing short of Divine intervention. God must impart spiritual eyesight. But how does He do this? Through the preaching of the Gospel. This is precisely what Jesus sent the apostles…and us to do. Paul says Jesus sent him, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). But wait, I thought we already saw how Satan blinds them from seeing the Gospel when it is preached. Yes, but God in His grace, overcomes this blindness through the very Gospel that is preached. Paul says that what God does in the new birth is similar to what He did in creation: He says, “Let there be light” and He shines the Gospel into our darkened hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). So now that we see Christ’s glory and realize He alone is truly valuable, what do we do from here?

We grow more like Christ as we behold His glory in the Gospel

2 Corinthians 3:18, once again says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Becoming requires beholding. Beholding enables becoming. If we want to be more like Christ, we need to behold Christ more. The reason we sin is because we are beholding something else as glorious and not Christ. Paul David Tripp has pointed out, “If we worship our way into sin, we have to worship our way out.” How do we do this? Bible study, prayer, fellowship, humility, meditating on the Gospel. All the various means of grace are avenues God created for us to better behold His glory in the Gospel. If we seek God’s glory in these we will grow in Christlikeness as we behold Him. So then what is next?

One day, we will eternally behold His glory

John Piper puts it this way in his book, God is the Gospel: “Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.” God, through the preaching of the Gospel, has broken into your blindness to give you a sight of His glory and He now calls you to to an eternity of beholding Him which begins now. If you now see the crucified and risen Jesus as the most satisfying and glorious One of all, then God has given you this. Keep beholding Him in your daily life and be urged on by the future Day when you will behold Christ fully and finally with new eyes. We’ll end with some words from a Sovereign Grace hymn entitled When We See Your Face. Let these words spur you on as you behold Christ in your daily life:

“We will see, we will know

Like we’ve never known before

We’ll be found, we’ll be home

We’ll be Yours forevermore.”


Golf’s Lesson on Christ’s Consistency

I want to end my series of posts on 2 Cor. 12:7-10 by telling you a funny story about me. Now I grew up around people who loved playing golf. My Dad gave me a set of clubs when I was a kid and I would often find myself in the front yard playing with them. When I married Holly, I married the daughter of a golf pro, and because of his grace, Holly and I can play whenever I ask. One time recently I was out there playing a round with some friends and I was having a great time. After the first six holes I was beating my friends with a score of 3 over par, and I was astonished at how good I was playing. But then, the next 12 holes came and I found myself getting an 8 on one hole, 9 on the next, and so on until the end when I finished with a 125!

My game went from awesome (in my rookie opinion) to rock bottom when I ended the 6th hole and began the 7th. What happened! I always want a trouble-free round of golf and I got a trouble-filled round that day. I was seriously frustrated at myself for playing so poorly when I know I can play so much better. It wasn’t until later in that round that God began to teach me a lesson through this golf outing.

He began to impress upon me that my spiritual life has a strange resemblance to my golf game in that they can both be summarized by the word “inconsistent.” My mind went immediately to Romans 7 where Paul speaks of his own personal struggles in holiness and godly living. In that chapter Paul describes what we all know is true of ourselves in 7:19, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” What do we do with such a life of inconsistency before God? I so often feel I am the man James 1:6 and Ephesians 4:14 describes being a wave of the sea, tossed to and fro. How can someone like me ever be confident before God? Well, I am confident that I’m not the only who feels like that either. I’m sure most of you feel this too. David Brainerd the Puritan missionary said it like this: “No poor creature stands in need of divine grace more than I, and none abuse it more than I have done, and still do.” Paul answers Romans 7:19 later in 7:24-25, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Why praise God for Jesus? Because He became what He was not (sin) so that we could become what we were not (rightoues). Because we who are inconsistent can be consistent before God because Jesus was consistent before God on our behalf. There’s no confidence more solid.

Friends, I really do want you to be confident people, but I want you to confident in a Biblical manner as oposed to an vague Western confidence rooted in self-esteem. Paul was made weak by God so God could be seen as strong through Paul’s life, and he rejoiced at this. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. When I am weak, then I am strong. He knew his own weakness, he knew his Savior’s strength. Do you?

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

God responds in 12:9 with a strong and gentle word for Paul that he surely would never forget. After pleading, and pleading, and pleading for the thorn to be taken away God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” A quick glance at God’s response tempts us to believe God is unloving and selfish. “You mean I’m going to keep suffering so You can be magnified?” Wouldn’t God take the thorn away rather than let His servant continue to suffer? Isn’t that how love works? Isn’t love removing pain from peoples lives and not allowing them to remain in it? Then the question turns personal: Wouldn’t God solve my marriage problems? Wouldn’t God finally heal my disease or cancer? Wouldn’t God keep my family fed or my children healthy? Well, sometimes tha answer is “no.” Friends, God loves us in ways we don’t always find to be the most comfortable, He does this because He knows one thing is best for us, Him. C.S. Lewis stated it clearly: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” God wisely, strongly, and lovingly kept the thorn in Paul’s life, but at the same time told him when suffering comes His grace is sufficient to keep him strong, to keep him standing, to keep him moving forward and not giving up. Paul wanted a change in his circumstances, but God wanted more, he wanted to change Paul. At this news, Paul rejoices!!

All of this is confirmed by Paul’s response to what God told him in the end of v9 and v10. After hearing that the thorn would not be taken away and that God would hold him up through it by His grace, Paul says, “Therefore (or, “because Christ is magnified in my weakness”) I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses that the power of Christ might rest on me.” Paul is happy to endure the thorn to experience the strong sustaining hand of our Father. We should not say at this point, “This is a strange man.” Instead we should say, “This is a strange gospel we have.” You mean the goal of the Christian life is not comfort and ease? I won’t have a pain free existence if I’m a child of the King? No. It’s about being so in love with Christ and so stunned by His glory that we become ok with suffering so that we would know the powerful sustaining grace of Christ more. To further impress this upon us, Paul confidently states that he is content with weaknesses, trouble, insults, pain. What’s his reason? “When I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, God is intentionally and purposefully making Paul weak so He can be seen as strong in Paul’s life. Paul knows he can be confident in His hand to hold him through it. It won’t be easy, but how awesome will it be to feel, know, and behold, God in all His glory, sustaining him. Paul said it great when he said it a few chapters earlier in 2 Cor. 4:17, “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” And then again a few chapters earlier than this in 1:8-9, “…all this happened to us so that we would rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.”

Paul was a confident man, but his confidence wasn’t in himself, the thorn made him acutely aware of that, his confidence was in God.

The What & Why of Paul’s Thorn

Right away in 12:7 we see Paul being counter cultural by stating in the beginning of 12:7 and at the end of 12:7 that a thorn in the flesh (which he also referred to as a messenger of Satan) was given to him for one reason – to keep Paul from becoming conceited. Lets pause and ask two questions here: a) What was the thorn? And b) What purpose did it serve? So what was this thorn? Before we go any further I must say the idea of “thorns” is highly abused. You’ve heard this right? People label what ever the currently dislike as their thorn. My job, my spouse, my child, my in-laws, my car, my weight, my lack of weight, my height, my lack of height. These are not thorns. Let me get one things straight: a thorn is a thorn because it is something you ask God to change because you can’t change it yourself. Something so deep in the center of who you are that it haunts you to see it. Something that rids your bones of all confidence.

Now, I’m sure many of you have heard of Paul’s famous thorn in the flesh, and throughout the church history it has been a hot topic; many people have believed the thorn to be many different things. The good options range from inner emotional struggles from excessive sorrow and weight on his heart for the churches, to Paul’s enemies and false teachers who had a knack for following Paul and disrupting his work, to some kind of demon like harassment that ate pressed at him constantly, to a poor and rapidly decreasing eyesight that plagued his ability to read, write, and preach. Honestly it doesn’t matter which one is the correct option, there is evidence for all of these in Paul’s letters.

So lets ask our second question, what purpose did the thorn serve for Paul and what does it teach us today? It is crystal clear that Paul’s thorn was from God to keep him humble. The thorn was from God because it is God, not Satan, who wants to keep his people humble, and it served the purpose of keeping him humble because Paul had a huge reason to be prideful. Thousands of people were streaming into the Church because God was working and saving people through the preaching and ministry of Paul. And knowing how gigantically God used Paul for His work in spreading the gospel, can you see that out of all men he had a real need to kept humble. Who knows what would’ve taken place if God had not given him this thorn. Perhaps an example would help here. I’ve been in and around pastoral ministry for the past 10 years or so, and I’ve heard the praises. Everything from the casual “Thanks for the sermon Pastor”, to people coming up to me unable to say anything because they’re so thankful for what the pastor just said. You see, when that kind of praise is coming at you, it’s tempting to believe it. And it’s when you begin to believe the praise that you begin to believe you’re the one doing the work rather than God. Can you see why nothing good comes from pastors who think they’re big man on campus? When the glory of the message becomes focused on the glory of the messenger, the glory of God is mocked and defamed.

Whatever the thorn was it kept Paul humble, and apparently it did such a great job of keeping him humble that Paul begged God to take it away from him. When Paul says he pleaded with The Lord “3 times” he doesn’t mean he tried three times and stopped. The use of the “triple” in Hebrew culture was used to show the superior, sensational, and unsurpassed nature of an object. This is why in Isaiah 6 God is referred to as “Holy, Holy, Holy!” It’s meant to teach that out of all things there is none as Holy as God, and God’s supreme characteristic is His holiness. So when we see Paul say he pled “3 times” with God to remove this thorn, it means he really didn’t want it, and he constantly was asking God to remove it from his life.

Confident for the Right Reasons

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with The Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

In order for us to see what’s going on in these verses, I have to go back and give you the context for us to rightly understand the power of our passage. You see, in the previous few chapters in 2 Corinthians we find out that the false teachers who had come into the city of Corinth were not only teaching but boasting of their abilities, of their power, and of their intellectual prowess to be able to know and teach such lofty truths. Paul then in response to these empty boasts of the false teachers, responds by boasting himself. But Paul’s boasting isn’t like the false teachers boasting. Paul lays it out clear in 2 Corinthians 11 that out of anyone who could have boasted Paul had a reason for boasting.

“Am I not a Hebrew? Am I not an Israelite? Did any other other nations receive the promises of God as we did? Was I not the most learned Pharisee? More than that I have endured 39 lashes not once but five times, I’ve been stoned once, beaten with rods twice, and shipwrecked three times. I’ve been on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Not only this but I’ve received the most amazing visions of heaven I can’t even repeat what was told to me and I’m not even sure if I was in my physcial body or not.” No one else could say such things, actually I don’t think anyone else would want to boast about things like these. But Paul had reason to boast, he had been tossed from the fire to the frying pan more times than most would remember. But he doesn’t boast in his mighty strength or in his mighty power or that his intellectual equipment is fully functional. What then was Paul’s boasting?

Lets walk through our 4 verses to see what God has for us.

Continuing tomorrow….

Confidence is A Funny Thing

Confidence is a funny thing, especially in our time. Everyone one around us seems to be confident. It’s almost as if we’re taught from birth that confidence is next to godliness. Don’t you think so? Even if you’ve got no idea how to do something you better look like you’ve got it all together. Rather than asking for help our motto seems to be, “Fake it till you make it!” The strange thing about this is that confidence is a good thing, but the wicked thing about this is that most people, most of us are very confident for all the wrong reasons. We’re confident because of our abilities, we’re confident because of our social status or reputation, we’re confident because of our level of physical fitness, we’re confident because of our looks, because of our bank account, because of where we came from, because we got out of where we came from, because of the car we drive, he home we live in, the job we work, and on and on and on. Some of you are even confident of how confident you are.

Confidence is a funny thing. What makes all this just seem ridiculous is that the Biblical picture of confidence is diametrically opposed to everything I’ve just said. You see, Biblically, confidence comes from an awareness of two things: knowledge of our own weakness and knowlegde of God’s strength. Do you see now why this seems absurd in our day? You don’t hear this often. “I am confident” because I am weak and God is strong. I am wicked but God is holy, I can’t do it but God can, I will fail but God won’t.

Throughout the Bible there are numerous pictures of this lesson for us to see, probably because we are so slow to learn this lesson. In fact it is not an overstatement to say that this is partially the theme of the Bible. All over the Bible we find God working and saving and putting His strength on display for all the world to see through what, strong powerful squeaky clean people who’ve got it all together? No, over and over and over and over we see God showing His strength through weak and foolish people. Of all the places that teaches this, the place I want to show you this reality from is in the Apostle Paul. Why? Because the one was referred to as the Pharisee of Pharisees, the missionary of missionaries, or the preacher of preachers, referred to himself as the least of all the Apostles, a wicked and wretched man, and even the chief of sinners.

Confident huh? Oh yeah!

X: Ex-Nihilo Matters for Holiness

I know “ex-nihilo” does not officially begin with an X, but I couldn’t think of a topic beginning with an X (if you can, let me know!), so I figured this was just as good.

So what does ex-nihilo mean? Ex-nihilo, or “out of nothing” refers to how God created the world in Genesis 1. Why does that matter? Because this shows us that God created something out of nothing. The world was formless and void, and God took what was void and made it into something useful, where people can live. This applies to Israel and to us in different ways. To Israel, this meant that what God did at creation (creating something out of nothing) He can do again now with them. You see Israel was a sinful, rebellious people, wandering through a “formless waste” called the wilderness (Deut. 32:10). They would have read Genesis 1 and been encouraged that God could bring them, who were wandering through a formless land, into a land flowing with milk and honey. God would take Israel from being nothing to something. Genesis 1 therefore prepared Israel to enter into the promise land.

To us, it means something similar but different. We are living in a world that is in a sense “formless and void” because we live among people who disregard God and His commands. We, like Israel, are looking forward to the day when we are brought into a land better and greater than the land we now inhabit. But there’s more. We are sinful, rebellious people like Israel. Because of this, we are formless and void in our souls. BUT, the moment we trust in Jesus God does in us what He did at creation – turned nothing into something. Paul draws on this in 2 Corinthians 4:6 when he says:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

You see how Paul brings Genesis 1 into our own salvation? God said “Let there be light” back at creation turning the empty void into a fruitful paradise. BUT MORE, God said, “Let there be light” in our hearts when we believed in Jesus giving us a taste for the glory of God in the face of Jesus. God, in us, has made nothing into something. Our hearts used to be barren, rocky, empty, and void, but now our hearts are an oasis of fruitful paradise. Where does holiness come into this? It is out of this new garden paradise in our hearts, that holy living flows.

God created holiness in us in an ex-nihilo manner.