“What we are is transparent to God, and I hope it is also transparent to your conscience” (2 Corinthians 5:11b, the apostle Paul, my translation).
What exactly is transparency? It is “removing the mask and revealing who you really are; it is getting beyond the surface to what is really going on in your heart” (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/533184043361623961/).
When Paul “goes transparent” he reveals heart-qualities for which we all should strive. Take a look.
FEAR OF THE LORD
“Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men” (5:11a).
Paul trembles, not at being judged for his sins, but for how he lives as a Christian. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due for what he has done in the body . . . ” (5:10a).
Such accountability drove his behavior: “ . . . we try to persuade men” to believe the gospel.
We’ve so emphasized a “personal relationship with Jesus” that fear sounds foreign. But knowing we will stand “before the judgment seat of Christ” to account for how we’ve lived as believers should cause some trembling. If it doesn’t, perhaps we should pray for it.
“What we are is plain to God and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart” (5:11b,12).
Paul knew the Corinthians could easily misinterpret his remarks as self-applauding. He merely wants to set the church straight, “so that you can answer those who take pride in outward appearance rather than what the heart contains” (my translation).
Years ago a young man visited our church. He was a good guitarist, who wanted to join our worship team—and he wasn’t hesitant to cite his accomplishments! I decided then and there that, no matter how talented a musician, his pride would be a problem. Humility, not pride, should ”ooze” from our hearts.
“If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (5:13-15).
Commentators divide on exactly what Paul meant by his “out of your mind/right mind” statements. But there’s no question what drove Paul to endure suffering for preaching the gospel: “For Christ’s love compels us”.
His love was far more than a warm feeling: Christ “died for all”. His death was a sacrifice for the benefit of others. And it meant more than sins-forgiving. It meant “all died”. John Calvin explained: “He died for us that we might die to ourselves”. That was Paul’s explanation—and more: “ . . . he dies for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him . . . “
We celebrate Christ’s love, as we should. But his “cross-love” in our hearts should drive us, not just to “feel” love, but to live for him. It hasn’t influenced us sufficiently until it does. “Jesus, make your love a powerful force in my life that drives me to live, not for me, but for you.”
A NEW CREATION VIEW
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (5:16,17).
Paul doesn’t see people as just people, and he certainly doesn’t see them for what he can get out of them. That’s “a worldly point of view”. Rather he sees them as sinners who, by grace through faith, can become literally “a new creation” from which the old, sin-dominated order has gone and to which the new righteousness-dominated order has come. Or to say it another way, “a new creation” from which a craving for this fallen world has gone and to which a taste of the new holy world order has come.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors” (C.S. Lewis).
Of course, this view, then, should move us to pray for, love, and find ways to share the gospel with others so they might become the new creation they can be in Christ. That’s how it moved Paul.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:18-21).
God, says Paul, is the source of “All this . . .” And “All this” starts with God reconciling us rebels to himself through Christ. Consequently comes “the ministry . . . [of] the message of reconciliation”. True, this is the apostle’s ministry and message. But, to a lesser degree, it’s also ours. It begins with a heart that’s been reconciled to God, that knows the joy and peace of “war over”. And it continues with a sense of responsibility: “he has committed to us the message of reconciliation”.
I’ve heard preachers claim we have people in our lives only we can reach with the gospel. I doubt it. But I do believe we know people with whom we can have a key role in bringing to faith. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
A rather heady claim that—to identify ourselves as Christ’s ambassadors. Who’s sufficient for such a thing? But note that “ambassador” means God is making his appeal through us. He’s wooing through our feeble efforts.
And note, too, that the message is reconciliation, not one of heavy evangelism-“salesmanship” or deep theological doctrine. Reconciliation. Quit fighting God. Surrender to Jesus. Trust him to make you his friend. And so here’s the gospel to be told: “God made [Christ] who had no sin to be [guilty of] sin for us, so that in [faith-relationship with] him we might become [recipients of] the righteousness of God.”
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You and I are transparent to God. What we really are inside, he sees. Do we hope, as Paul did, that we’re transparent to others’ consciences? Do we want them to see our heart?
We’re not apostles, but do we share some of the same heart-qualities as did Paul? Do others’ consciences tell them we’re trying to persuade them for Christ, because we know we’re answerable to Christ? That we live for Christ because we know we’re loved by Christ? That we see them potentially as wonderful new creations in Christ, not just another fault-filled face in the crowd? That we really believe God is appealing to them for reconciliation through us?
Some big matters for us to pray about . . .