“God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (MSG)
Among the many Hebrew names of God, my favorite is Jehovah in the nick of time! Well, it’s not really one of the Hebrew names of God, but it sure describes my experience often with the ways of God. God is never in a hurry, but He is never late! The problem is that His schedule and mine are not often synced. That’s where faith comes in. We learn to trust God through the circumstances of life over which we have no control. In Psalm 107, the psalmist underscored God’s timely response to Israel’s cry for help. Four times he said, “Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God. He got you out in the nick of time.”(Vs. 6, 13, 19, 28 MSG) It may seem like God is not listening. At times He may even appear as an unkind friend, indifferent to our needs. (Luke 11:5) If we were to judge Him on the basis of our circumstances, we would certainly draw the wrong conclusion because our judgment would be premature. God knows our needs. God hears our cry. That’s why the writer of Hebrews said, “Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].”Hebrews 4:16 (AMP) The day you need Him, God will be there to help!
“Open your heart to us!” 2 Corinthians 6:13b (NLT)
Is your heart opened or closed? It most likely depends on the relationship, doesn’t it? We can have an open heart toward one person while closing off our hearts to another. Marriage and family illustrate this concept well. A wife or husband may be totally open to a son or daughter while closing their heart to their mate. An open heart is trusting, loving and engaging. When I close my heart, I’m more suspicious, withdrawn and nonresponsive. This was the case in the relationship of the Apostle Paul with the church he planted in Corinth. Issues had developed within the church that Paul had to address. His attempt at correcting those issues resulted in a number of people closing their hearts toward him. They became defensive. Paul writes to them with this appeal, “Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!” (2 Cor. 6:11-13 NLT) Again in the following chapter he says, “Please open your hearts to us.” (2 Cor. 7:2a NLT) You can almost feel the anguish and pain in his request. If you’ve ever experienced a loved one closing their hearts to you, you know what they were going through. How do you know when your heart is closed? When you close off your heart to another, you withhold your love from them. Is there someone to whom you have closed your heart? A closed heart can quickly become a hard heart – indifferent, calloused and uncaring. Ask God to tenderize your heart. Time is short, and relationships matter. Maybe you need to take the initiative and make the appeal to someone you love who has closed off their hearts to you. Before you do, take some time to read 2 Corinthians 6 and 7 to see what Paul did that restored their relationships. Notice how he addresses the issues while affirming his love and encouraging those to whom he was appealing.
“… work toward complete holiness ….” 2 Corinthians 7:1b (NLT)
We live between two poles – acceptance and striving. We don’t strive in order to be accepted. Our acceptance by God is on the basis of grace through faith. You can’t earn it, and you don’t deserve it. In exchange for our sin, God offers His righteousness so that we may be accepted by God through His Son, Jesus Christ! That’s grace! Grace secures our position in Christ as right with God. Paul told the Philippian jailer the simple gospel, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved ….” (Acts 16:31 NIV) Acceptance is not something you achieve. It is a gift you receive by believing. Our position in Christ is settled forever the moment we believe! Out of His acceptance we strive to please Him. Acceptance describes our position before God while striving describes our condition. Acceptance involves belief. Striving involves behavior. What we believe quickly begins to affect how we behave. This is a lifetime process of working out what God has worked into our lives. The challenge in today’s passage would be impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers. Out of our acceptance we “… work toward complete holiness ….” A look at this passage in context gives us better understanding. “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT) Whenever we turn to God, we turn away from sin. We make a clean break from our past, and everything becomes brand new in Christ! This doesn’t mean we will be sinless but that we are growing and maturing in our faith. Our lives should reflect the message as we learn to be what we have become. Are you working toward complete holiness? When you know He has already accepted you just as you are, it takes the pressure off. Your desire will be to please Him in everything you do and say.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)
Would you trade something of immeasurable worth for something completely worthless? Probably not. But that is exactly what God did when He gave His one and only Son to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God. It reminds me of an old song by Bill Gaither that I heard again at a funeral of a dear friend.
Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood.
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife.
But He made something beautiful of my life.
This is an offer too good to refuse…my sin for His righteousness! Who could possibly pass on that? If you’re bartering, you exchange items of equal value. But, God offers to trade His righteousness for our sin! Why would He do that? “For God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT) What love! How does God do that? British pastor and theologian John Stott said, “Christ has no sin but ours, and we have no righteousness but His.” When we trust Christ, we make a glorious exchange. He takes our sin and makes us right with God! Our sin was laid on Christ at His crucifixion. His righteousness is given to us when we receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior! Only then can He make something beautiful out of our lives.
“Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)
The Bible says that God is love, not just that God loves, but that He is love. “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NLT) His love is unlike the love that the world offers. When Paul described love as the most excellent way, he gave us specific characteristics of God’s love that sets it apart from any other love we have known. Each characteristic is an attribute of God Himself, for God is love. Let’s consider them with the expectation of experiencing this love in our own lives and relationships as we experience God.
- “Love is patient and kind.”
- “Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.”
- “Love does not demand its own way.”
- “Love is not irritable.”
- “Love keeps no record of being wronged.”
- “Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.”
- “Love never gives up, never loses faith.”
- “Love is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Is it any wonder that he says love is the most excellent way to live life? We can have great ability, power, fame or fortune, but without love it matters little. God made us to love us, and only through Him do we have the capacity to love. On our own, we could never experience this kind of love much less produce it. But God offers us hope! “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:5 NLT) Ask God to fill your heart today with His love until these eight characteristics are descriptive of your love as well.