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life in you

A few weeks ago I found myself in an uncomfortable conversation with some other believers. I was sharing something that I felt God had laid it on my heart to pursue, and that He has confirmed in many ways. I was aware that sharing it was risky; that the level of relationship I had with some of these people did not guarantee a positive response. Even among the people who I did have a strong relationship with, it felt risky. Because of the nature of the Gospel - that it is quick and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 KJV/ESV smashed together) - it still has the potential to offend us, even us as converted believers, depending on where we are at at any given time in our journey of learning and walk with the Lord. I have been in the position of being a little bit offended and very stretched when another believer has brought a thought or correction before me, and in this particular interaction I was definitely feeling every bit the offender - straining some relationships, stretching people's comfort zones, and generally feeling a feeling that might have teetered on the edge of suffering (although I'd be hesitant to call it that because that sounds pretty... entitled.) I left the conversation feeling insecure and defeated, and could I even say... dead?


And then came a text - from someone I don't know, for reasons only God could have ordained: "I'm praying for you." It was the affirmation I needed, the reminder that just because something feels uncomfortable doesn't mean it's wrong. I am so naturally, humanly inclined to avoid any form of suffering. But the hard, harsh reality is that the Gospel does not go forth without suffering. It was quoted several times recently in the book my Bible study group is reading right now ("In the Year of Our Lord"): "The blood of Christians is seed."


I opened my Bible to the parable of the Sower not long ago - the one that is all about seed. Specifically, where I opened was Mark 4, and I'll get to the seed part. But what stood out to me first is where Jesus quotes Isaiah 6 in Mark 4:12. It stood out to me because I had just in the days prior opened to Acts 28 where in verses 26-27 Paul quotes the same thing: "You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear. And their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them."


There's a lot of theology here that I won't get into, but the theme that emerged for me was spiritual blindness. It comes again in II Corinthians 4 -"In [the case of the perishing] the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."


In a world where there is spiritual blindness, and where seed is falling on soil that is not good, there is all the more need to preach Jesus.

"Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away."


Only through Christ is blindness, veiled understanding, removed. Only through Christ.


All of these verses talking about blindness and spiritual hardness are referring to the Jewish people, and like I said, there is a lot of theology packed into here that I do not completely understand. But I see in II Corinthians that there are parallels and application drawn for us for our lives today.


Even as we proclaim the Gospel with boldness, as is promoted in II Corinthians 4, there will still be people who are blinded, misunderstanding what we say because of the work of Satan in this world. But remember that ultimately, the reason for this is not that Satan wants to destroy us specifically. He does want to do that, but it is because of a greater reason - he wants to destroy God. He wants to prevent the glory of God from being revealed to us and through us. He wants to stop the multiplication. The very multiplication that is commanded of us in the parable of the sower - to bring forth fruit thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold - that seed is what Satan wants to destroy. He has always been about destroying the Seed. Because he knows the power of the Seed, and of the seed. And so he hardens hearts, so that the Seed cannot take root.


And so God continues to command us to be seed. "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but LIFE IN YOU [...] So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (II Corinthians 4)


So we do not lose heart. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. We are very bold. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

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