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So What's The Difference?


"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
II Corinthians 3:1-6

Good Morning Beloved,

Welcome to worship, we're so glad you're here with us today.

Wherever you find the genuine, you will find somebody promoting the counterfeit. Even art critics have been fooled by fake "master pieces," and sincere publishers have purchased "valuable manuscripts," only to discover them to be forgeries. The genuineness of a ministry is seen in the spiritually transformed lives not in conformity to external rules.

No sooner did the Gospel of God's grace begin to spread among the Gentiles did a "counterfeit gospel," a mixture of Law and grace, appeared. Those who spread this false gospel, the major emphasis was that salvation was by faith in Christ plus the keeping of the Law. They also taught that the believer is perfected in his faith by obeying the Law of Moses. Their "gospel of legalism" was very popular, since human nature enjoys achieving religious goals, rather than simply trusting Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work. It is far easier to measure religion than true righteousness and spiritually. However, God gives maturity and Christian growth as we follow His Spirit not as we follow the law. The letter of the Law kills, the Spirit gives life. The Spirit gives life. People are so fickle, I find it amazing how quickly they’ll believe lies about someone they know well enough, not to really need to be deceived. Not only do they believe the lies, without merit but they spread the lies.

What an honor and great privilege it is for me to share the Word of God with all of you today. In our continuing study of II Corinthians, our text today is chapter 3, verses 1 through 6. In this particular epistle, this section speaks to my heart, as it should to the heart of any minister, that there’s a sense in which you’re kind of outsiders listening as this Word is directed at us; however, it’s not limited to that, because you must hold the standard, maintain the standard, expect the standard that is laid out here to be lived by those who lead and serve among you. This section of the Word, is about the competent minister, the capable pastor.
Is it any wonder why so many pastors today avoid this particular section?

Let's bow our heads in prayer.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your Word for us today, may it transform the lives of the hearer. Thank You for those You have gathered together with us today, may they be blessed. Father, we pray for those who are teaching Your Word with honor and virtue, that they may not defect from the truth, and when the attacks and assaults of the enemy come, and we know they will, that You would raise them up, strengthen their ministries, in order that Your church may flourish and grow.

Lord, we pray for those who are teaching false doctrine, that their flocks might not be deceived. We pray for those who are beginning in the ministry, that You would raise up competent, faithful teachers of the Word, preserve their reputation, lead them that they might not succumb to the pressures of society, of the culture to teach a doctrine that tickles the ears of the hearer.

Thank You O' Lord, for the standard You have set for us, may they be written in our hearts.

May all it be for Your glory
in Christs' precious name

Today's Message: So What's The Difference?

Open with me your Bibles to the book of II Corinthians chapter 3. Allow me to read to you our text for today, to get it settled in our minds. Follow along with me if you would, as I read II Corinthians 3:1-6

"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

These false teachers were spreading lies to the Corinthians, saying that there was a hidden, secret side of Paul: a dark side, a sinful side, a wicked side; implying that he had dirty thoughts, an evil mind; and there was a side to him of which the Corinthians just didn’t know about it. These false apostles were doing everything within their power to destroy Paul's credibility. Here Paul has to deal with his self-defense with delicacy. Because he does not want to give these false teachers any reason to further accuse him of pride. So Paul affirms himself, in a gentle manner, that the Corinthians would come to understand the truth.

In verse 1, Paul begins with asking the Corinthian believers two questions, "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?"
Having to affirm his own motive in contrast to these gospel-peddlers, Paul is sure that he will be attacked as egotistical and self promoting. No utterance of his was safe from perversion at the legalists' hands. Since Paul states "again" apparently this commending "to place together, placing one person with another as a way of introduction or recommendation," was repeatedly required because of the constant accusations empowered by the vicious accuser of the godly.

These infiltrators had succeeded in penetrating the ranks of the leadership in the Corinthian Church on the strength of certain "letters of commendation," which they had produced on their arrival. Therefore, these false teachers said they had letters that authenticated their authority, however, Paul had none, he had to commend himself, which is not proper.

There is an element of the ludicrous in any suggestion that Paul might be in need of letters of recommendation or that his ministry and personal character needed to be documented. Paul's work spoke for his character. Now understand, Paul is not saying that letters of commendation are a deplorable practice, he is simply saying that there is better proof. Paul is defending that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, and that he has all the rights and privileges thereof; and as the apostle of Christ, he speaks divine truth, therefore, they must continue to acknowledge that what he says is truth, and it must be obeyed.

The best proof of authenticity of ministry is given in verse 2 where Paul says, that "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men."

Beloved, nothing is more to the delight of faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the spiritual lives of those among whom which they labor. Paul was telling the Corinthian believers that they were his letter. The effect of his ministry in their lives was his letter of recommendation testifying to his authenticity. They were his fruit, saved through the word he brought them. They certainly did not need any other verification of authenticity for they themselves were the proof of it.

He says they were written, perfect tense, meaning they were permanently written in each others hearts. The heart is the center of love and devotion and it was in the heart that these believers were written. They were secure in his heart and that he should be in theirs.

Then, Paul continues, by saying that they were "known and read by all men." Professing Christians are the letters, the only bibles than men read and know. I can assure you that the only Bible many of your acquaintances are reading is you.

There are some people, who believe that our handwriting reveals our character. Experts in the field of graphology watch for things like the particular slant of letters, the way they are formed, where the "t" is crossed, and how the "i" is dotted. Based upon these distinctions, conclusions are drawn about one's personality. We are told that the style of our writing shows whether we are outgoing or withdrawn, individualistic or of a conforming nature.

While some may question the reliability of this practice, it does reminds me that Christians are epistles "known and read by all men." The conduct of our life is composing a letter which details the kind of person we really are.

Therefore, if we are trying to please the Lord Jesus Christ, the handwriting of our lives will reveal a love for others and responsiveness to their needs. We will also express individuality and a willingness to stand alone for righteousness' sake if duty demands it. Further, each day, we will try to adjust our behavior to the will of our heavenly Father. And, if we allow the Savior to live through you by relying on His power, then the handwriting of your life will communicate to others you belong to Him. Christian lives have often been the living letters that recommend Christ to others.

Beloved, our Christian lives is the world's Bible. However, our writing is done with scratchy pens. The message is occasionally blurred and becomes so illegible, that God's love cannot be deciphered.
However, thankfully, God is pleased to work with the most unworthy instruments! Amen?

God is a magnificent Author who is quite capable of using even horrible penmanship, like you and me to communicate His message to those around us. Regardless of how we appraise our living message, we must keep on writing for His glory. Remember, we're not called to write for God, but to allow God to write through us.

In verse 3, Paul makes it clear, that the best letters of commendation are the lives lived by those we disciple. "being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

Beloved, we are being manifested, revealed or open for all to read and we are a letter written by Christ. Christ Himself is imprinting His character upon our hearts. The Spirit of the Living God is taking the truths taught and writing them upon our heart. The instrument used for writing was not ink but the Spirit of the Living God. Ink will fade and perish the Spirit is eternal. The most central part of our being bears the eternal engraving of Christ which marks us as eternally His own. When the temporal ink of this world fades, and it will be the final writing of those who have Christ's name written across their hearts, that will be delivered by angels to a new heaven and a new earth. 

The extraordinary powerful imagery of writing on the tablets of human hearts comes from the Old Testament passages that predicted a new day when God would give men new hearts.

Jeremiah 31:33 says, "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

No longer is the external law written in the stone, the Ten Commandments, of the Old Covenant our guide, but internal living laws written in hearts at Pentecost, the day that celebrated the giving of the stone law. At Pentecost God poured forth His Spirit to write His living law on the hearts of the redeem granting them a living power to fulfill it and live for Christ.

When God gave the Law He wrote it on tablets of stone, and those tablets were placed in the Ark of the Covenant. Even if the Israelites could read the two tablets, this experience would not change their lives. The Law is an external thing, and people need an internal power if their lives are to be transformed. The law admonishes us to "Do this!" or "Don't do that!" However, it cannot give us the power to obey it. If we do obey, most often, it is not from the heart and we end up worse than before! When the Spirit of the Living God guides our life, He also provides us with the power to obey Him.

In verse 4, Paul says, "Such confidence we have through Christ toward God." Here is Paul indicating the true source for confidence in ministry. Paul's confidence rests in Christ, not in human resources. The living letter Christ wrote in their hearts, and ours,  is real and is the proof for any who are seeking for Paul's authenticity and authority, which was being belittled.

So Paul credits God for all his accomplishments giving God the glory rather boasting in his own personal prowess. The point made is that the real change in the lives of the Corinthian Christians had been the work of God rather than of himself. God had merely allowed Paul to be the minister through whom it had all happened.

In verse 5, Paul teaches us that our adequacy comes from God and by His grace alone. "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,"

In spite of what many teachers of the Word believe, none of us are adequate to carry on the Holy Spirit's ministry. God is the One who enables us to proclaim and stand firm in the gospel, it is not by our own natural strength or power. Here, Paul expresses his total dependency upon God and cast aside self-competence.

No one is competent to carry out the responsibilities of God's calling in his or her own strength. Without the Holy Spirit's enabling our natural talents lead us only to earthly ends. As Christ's witnesses we need the character and empowering only God gives. We who have received all things from Christ, look with confidence through Christ to God for all things.

Paul informs us, in verse 6, that the new covenant ministry was not empowered by a legalistic letter but by the power of God's Spirit. "who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Paul was able look back to a definite occasion when God called him into ministry and gifted him for service, unlike his rivals in Corinth. Paul was made a servant of a New, not the Old, Covenant. It is the permanent covenant not established in the blood of often repeated animal sacrifices but established in the once for all sacrifice of the shed blood of Jesus. This new covenant is the last will and testament of Jesus Christ.

Paul's emphasis on the New covenant implies that his opponents were ministers of the Old Covenant. These legalists told people that people could obey the law and become spiritual. But the Old Covenant letter could not give life, it is a ministry of death. The New Covenant of grace "gives life" to those who believe because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Galatians 3:21 teaches, "Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law."

Words themselves cannot produce righteousness, even though they be God's Words. There must be the vitalizing Spirit to charge the words with the vigor and transforming power that can only come from God. 

Notice that Paul says "the letter kills." He's not implying that the law is evil but that no man will be justified or sanctified by law. The law is used to slay the sinner and prove him helpless before God, condemned and deserving of death and eternal separation from God. This realization prepares the way for life giving grace for all who will recognize their need. The true outside life can only be produced by the true inside life.

A legalistic ministry brings death. Preachers who major on rules and regulations keep their congregations under a dark cloud of guilt, and this kills their joy, power, and effective witness for Christ. Christians, who are constantly measuring each other, comparing results, and competing with each other, soon discover that they are depending on the flesh and not the power of the Holy Spirit. There was never a standard that could transform a person's life, and that includes the Ten Commandments. Only the grace of God, ministered by the Spirit of God, can transform lost sinners into living epistles that glorify Jesus Christ

The difference between the old and new covenants is that under the old law, it is written on tablets of stone confronting man with external ordinances and condemning Him of his failure to obey its commandments because of sin. Where as the new law is written internally within the redeemed heart by the vital regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, so that through faith in Christ, the only law keeper is the inward experience of His power, which gives man life and enables him to walk in the will of God.

Beloved, the key to knowing that our faith is real, is our service for the Lord is made up of all "want to," and no "have to." If the reverse be the case, we have likely become legalistic, having substituted adherence of man-made rules for loving obedience to God's commands.

We must ponder upon the great price Jesus Christ paid for our redemption. God exposed His heart of love for you and for me. He inflicted on His beloved Son, the punishment of our sins, that we deserve in order that we could be forgiven. As we confess our sins and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, we'll experience afresh His vast and marvelous love. This should bring us to the place where our "want to" far exceeds our "have to."

Proverbs 11:19, says, "He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death."

And in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—"

The verdict pronounced over the law breaker was the sentence death. However, the grace of the New Covenant is life giving in Jesus Christ. As God, He was the law giver, and as man, He is the only law keeper. He vicariously endured each sinner's death penalty ridding us of the legal accusations documents by nailing them to the cross with Him. Therefore, Pentecost could occur and the Spirit of God could come down communicate His life and give His obedience to every trusting heart. This same spiritual life is given to every believer.

Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gave us power, so that there can be an end to sin, in order that the sinner is permitted to live, grow and develop, which is much better than the sinner being put to death. It was clear that in the old covenant there was a fear to carry on with sin, because there was a death sentence attached to it. Jesus died on the cross, that people could now come out from sin and to a live a new and good life, a life in Jesus Christ, our Savior.

This New Covenant, was inaugurated by Jesus Christ in His sacrifice on the cross and is entered into by faith, and is lived out in our dependence upon the Holy Spirit. As we follow our calling and live in the Spirit, Christ makes us competent, capable in our service for Him.

Beloved, is your adequacy, your competence, or your confidence in God, the One who has written a love letter upon your heart?

Is your life revealing that to an unbelieving world?

May it be so...

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

Copyright © 2019-2020 All Rights Reserved

The Brian Monzon Ministries



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