56. II Corinthians 4: “A Dead Rat Sandwich”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 11/19/2015
(edited October 2020)
This Sandwich has great bread, but it’s rotten in the middle:
II Corinthians 3:12-18 - “from Glory to Glory”
“Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
xxx II Corinthians chapter 4 – the dead Rat
II Corinthians 5:1-3 - “our Eternal House”
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”
Starting off with a little joke tonight, but the subject at hand is not funny. In other words, our study in II Corinthians chapter 4 is “sandwiched” in the Scriptures between some of Paul most glorious writings about life in Heaven. But our passage in the middle deals mainly with the trials and challenges of living for God, not up in Heaven, but right down here on the earth. And it applies not only to Paul’s day but to our time as well:
Verse 1: “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;”
Paul is putting it right out there, isn’t he? All who trust in Christ, who live in Him, and minister to Him and through Him to others, that is to say ALL who believe, we can only survive the experience because of God’s Mercy! That’s right, because sooner or later, our ministries will get difficult.
Verse 2: “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.”
I think Paul may well have been tempted to become a corrupt Christian! Think about it, as Saul of Tarsus he had already lived as a spiritually blind, selfishly ambitious, and dangerous Jewish leader. Then Jesus gave him a new heart, new religion, and a new character. Still, bad habits die hard. And if Paul struggled with this, so will all of us at some point. I KNOW I have.
Verses 3-4: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
There should be no legitimate reason to criticize a Born-Again believer other than the spiritual ignorance or blindness of the critic. But sooner or later, for justifiable reasons or crazy Devilish ones, or for both, we will meet with resistance in our walk with the Lord. Paul’s telling us to expect it. Because of this, Christianity is actually a rotten place to worship yourself or your own comforts. Anybody know what I’m talkin’ about?
Verses 5-6: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
We bear the Gospel not because of us or anything we can do on our own. It is a true honor to serve the Lord and it is a privilege only He can grant.
Verses 7-9: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”
God has packed the Glories and Blessings of serving Him into very vulnerable packages. That’s the rat we have been smelling! We are the source of the odor! We are the weak link in the chain. Still, in Christ we can have security. But it takes faith.
Verses 10-12: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
The Apostle Paul was willing to suffer to be a spiritual blessing to others. And, yes, so was Jesus. If the Son of God had to endure (O, what He endured) hardship in order to reach us, then no doubt, we will also have to pay some price to serve one another. None of us can save the world, but each of us has a unique mission that the Lord has designed just for us.
When we turn a person turns their back on God it is a double tragedy. That person may wind up in Hell, AND spiritual tasks that maybe only they could do, or best do, will go undone.
Verses 13-14: “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”
So before you dive into our “sandwich,” check between those delicious slices of bread. To fully complete our little analogy, we need to purify that bread (our concept of Heaven) and replace that nasty rat of weakness and evil with a big and beautiful slice of Hope. The Hope of our Savior. The One Who suffered, but still overcame this world. If we don’t, we’ll wind up with a nasty taste in your mouth and a tummy ache.
Many, many in the church today are very disillusioned by their Christian experience and it’s because, through ignorance of the Word of God, they have eaten that rat and they have missed the Hope. But not Paul, just listen:
Verses 15-16: “ For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
There should a be a warning label on every church altar and in every sermon: WARNING, Personal Sacrifice Required. That’s a real part of what it will mean for each of us to serve God. And real worship and praise of the Lord does not try to ignore the dead rat. The victory, Christ’s Victory, is to rejoice in spite of it. Paul found that Victory in his life, and with the Lord’s help, so can we:
Verses 17-18: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”