20190811 Sunday Worship sermon
“Invitation to Positiveness”
2 Corinthian 1:15-22
When a social issue arises, it seems there is much more to criticize with a negative perspective, than to see it positively.
Some people are accustomed to habitual criticism.
When this negative mood persists, I fear that a trend of disbelief about humans and society will prevail.
Today we read the scriptures from the Second Corinthian.
In today’s text, I hope we can learn to maintain positive thinking through the attitude of Paul.
The Corinthian church was founded by Paul himself.
You can imagine how much affection he had for the Corinthian church.
Yes, Paul loved the Corinthian church very much.
But after Paul left the Corinthian church to go on his mission, there were some people who taught wrong things and criticized Paul.
As Paul was about to return to the church from his mission, he heard this news.
I can imagine that Paul was not pleased.
Paul was probably hurt and felt betrayed.
However, even in that situation, he did not blame others or think negatively.
He wrote a letter to the people of the Corinthian church to restore the positive relationship with them.
And that letter is the second Corinthians.
Therefore, we can call today’s text an invitation letter to positiveness.
If you look at verses 13 and 14, Paul speaks to the people who criticize him.
“And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (verses 13 and 14)
In other words, he is saying, “despite the hurt and pain that I got from you, I still love you and you are still my pride and I hope you treat me likewise.”
Have you ever been betrayed or tricked by others?
By somebody close to you?
Once you have the experience of being betrayed, it is hard to trust others.
But Paul is saying it is possible.
Paul shares in today’s text the reasons that we can trust others and think positively despite the fact that we got hurt by others.
Paul gives us three reasons.
First, it's because God is faithful.
Paul says in verse 18 “God is faithful.”
Yes, our God is faithful.
Do you believe that?
Just as God is faithful, Paul wanted to treat others faithfully and with the grace of God.
That's because God has also met and treated Paul with his grace.
The fact that Paul met the Lord on his way to Damascus was entirely by God’s grace.
It's not because Paul had qualifications to meet Jesus.
It was entirely by the grace of God.
That is right.
God comes to us and meets us by his grace.
Paul remembered God that met him faithfully and with his grace.
And that is why he could treat the people who criticized and betrayed him with grace.
It is amazing that God treats us with his grace even though we always fail, disobey and disappoint him.
Despite our failures and shames, God trusts us.
And this is God's faithfulness and his grace.
I read a story titled, “the rabbi’s gift.”
There was a group of young men who was seeking the truth.
They formed a monastery community and lived together.
More people joined the community.
But as they lived together, they started to find sinful nature in each other.
In the beginning, there seemed to be no problem.
But as time passed, they started to have more conflicts and hatred.
More and more people left the monastery and only five were left.
They had to decide whether they should close the monastery.
So, they all went to a rabbi they respected.
They asked, “Rabbi, we started the monastery seeking the truth, but now everybody left. Do we need to close the monastery?”
The wise rabbi told them, “so, there are only five of you guys. One of you will surely become a messiah.”
The five friends started thinking.
"The Rabbi told us that one of us will be a messiah. Who could it be?
Could it be him? He tends to be suspicious, but he is very honest himself. Could God be using him due to his honesty?
Or could it be this guy? He tends to come out as rough, but inside he is very loving and kind. Could God use him due to his love and kindness?
How about him? He is a little greedy but on the other hand, he is very passionate. God could certainly use that passion of his.
Or him? He is arrogant, but he is very smart and has leadership. Could God use those characters?”
Since the Rabbi told them that one of them will be a messiah, they all started thinking differently.
Before, they were busy finding negatives of each other, but now they started focusing on the positives of each other.
They started looking for possibilities and positive characters of each other, in the effort of finding the messiah among them.
From that day on, things changed in the monastery.
They started to trust and respect each other.
And as the words spread that they trusted and respected each other, people started joining the monastery again.
They no long had to worry about closing the monastery.
That's right, the community can be completely different based on how we treat and view each other.
When you see other people, do you see their negatives first? Or do you see their positives first?
I think we tend to find the negatives of other people first.
And those negative perspectives that we have become stereotypes and prejudices which prevent us from finding positives of those people.
It’s the same in the church.
We tend to treat others with negative perspective rather than with the grace of God even in the church.
Of course, it is really hard to find positives in some people.
Nevertheless, we still have to try to have a positive perspective and treat others with the grace of God.
Brothers and sisters, depending on whether we have positive perspectives or negative perspectives in others, those attitudes will change the communities, the families, the church, our work place and whatever we are part of.
God treats us with his grace and trusts us.
That is our strength.
Despite the people and circumstances that fail and disappoint us, God trusts us and he is always faithful.
He always maintains positive perspectives of us.
God loves us the way we are despite our shortcomings and shames, he accepts us with his grace.
If we believe in God who accepts us faithfully the way we are with all our negatives and shortcomings and failures, we can treat each other faithfully.
We can still trust and love those who disappoint and hurt us.
I pray that we view and treat others faithfully, remembering God's grace and faithfulness for us.
Secondly, we can maintain positive perspective because Jesus is faithful.
Paul says in verse 19,
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” (verse 19)
There is no “no” to Jesus Christ.
He always says “yes” to God.
Jesus came to this world to accomplish God's purpose, which was to save the world.
Jesus came to this world and was crucified to save the world, to save us.
Early disciples of Jesus did not understand the true purpose for which he came to this world.
They just thought that Jesus came to perform miracles to heal and feed others.
But as the life of Jesus was filled with more hardships, more and more of those disciples left Jesus.
In other words, Jesus was betrayed and forsaken by the followers and disciples he loved.
And eventually Jesus was crucified on the cross at which moment none of his disciples was with him.
And what did Jesus do when he resurrected?
Jesus came to his disciples, those who betrayed and abandoned him.
He blessed them and called them again.
Brothers and sisters, think about it.
If you are Jesus, could you possibly do that?
Do you think you can possibly go back to the disciples that hurt you, disappointed you, betrayed you, and abandoned you to be crucified on the cross?
Do you think you could go back and talk with them, bless them, and accept them as your disciples again?
And call them to do your work?
I don’t think I could’ve done that.
If I were Jesus, I would probably go to them and ask them, “how could you guys have done this to me?”
I would be mad.
But Jesus didn’t do that.
He trusted the disciples who disappointed him.
He treated them with grace.
He treated them with the positive perspective.
In today’s text, Paul is approaching the people who criticize and hurt him with the heart of Jesus.
Jesus embraced the disciples who betrayed him.
He loved them to the end.
He forgave them and he was crucified to save them.
And he resurrected to change them and give them new power and strength.
His crucifixion and resurrection are the events that show his positive perspective and faithfulness.
Brothers and sisters,
I pray that you approach the people who disappoint you and hurt you with the heart of Jesus.
I pray that you maintain positive perspective of others with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
It’s because Jesus loved and believed in us first.
We can trust and view others positively with the faithfulness and love that Jesus has for us.
Lastly, we can maintain the positive perspective because the Holy Spirit is faithful.
In verses 21 and 22 Paul says,
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (verses 21 and 22)
God sent the Holy Spirit to renew our lives.
God sent us the Holy Spirit as the proof that He is with us and renews our lives.
Therefore, no matter how difficult our situation may be, we know we will be renewed by the Holy Spirit.
Human beings are resistant to the changes.
Our minds are very stubborn.
But when the Holy Spirit enters our heart, we can be changed.
We trust that the Holy Spirit works in us faithfully.
And that is why we can have positive perspectives of others.
With the work of the Holy Spirit, anyone can be changed.
During the 19th century in England, there was a famous atheist named Bradler and a pastor named Hughes.
One day, Bradler suggested an open debate to Hughes.
The topic of the debate was “does God exist.”
Pastor Hughes agreed to the proposal and suggested as follows.
He said, “There is one condition. On the day of the debate, you need to bring a hundred people whose lives were impacted by your atheism. I will bring a hundred people whose lives changed because of the Gospel.”
Finally on the day of the debate, do you think Bradler brought a hundred people whose lives were impacted by atheism?
He couldn’t possibly find those one hundred people.
Even Bradley himself did not show up for the debate.
Brothers and sisters, Christianity is the religion of transformation.
The Holy Spirit changes the lives of those who seem stubborn and resistant to the changes.
There is this Jewish parable.
A boy wanted to turn a steel plate into a round circle.
So he prayed, “God, please help me make a round circle out of this steel plate.”
And an axe appeared and started pounding the steel plate.
But it was no use.
And a moment later, a saw appeared and started sawing the steel plate.
But it was no use again.
A while later, a small flame of fire appeared.
The boy thought that this small flame couldn’t make a difference.
However, as time passed, the steel plate started to melt and turn into a beautiful round circle.
Our sinful nature tends to disobey and reject God.
However, the Holy Spirit melts and changes our heart as the small flame melted the steel.
The Holy Spirit renews and opens our hearts.
Knowing the Holy Spirit that changes our hearts, we need to look at other people with positive perspectives.
Today, we looked at Paul’s love and affection for the Corinthian church.
Paul always tried to maintain the positive relationship with them even though they disappointed and hurt him.
That’s because Paul looked at them with God’s faithfulness, Jesus’ faithfulness and the Holy Spirit’s faithfulness.
I pray that we could do the same.
Brothers and sisters, let us look at others with positive eyes, with the eyes of loving God.
Even if some may disappoint us and hurt us, let us maintain the positive perspectives in our lives.
It’s because God maintained the positive perspective of us.
Jesus maintained the positive perspective of us.
And the Holy Spirit maintained the positive perspective of us.
God remained faithful to us despite our shortcoming and weaknesses.
Jesus remained faithful and died on the cross and resurrected for us.
The Holy Spirit remains faithful and changes our stubborn hearts.
We should view our lives, the world, and others faithfully with positive perspectives rather than negative perspectives, with love rather than hatred.
When our perspective changes, whatever we are part of, our families, work places, church and the community will certainly transform to please God.
They will become the community of faith and love.
I pray in the name of Lord that we all start that process today. Amen.