Written by Rev. Dave Harvey |
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
God uses disruptions to put us through His school of grace; to remind us that we bring nothing to table. He ordains mundane events to keep us humble. God orchestrates events to create dependent children who come only with hands empty and arms outstretched.
One night several years ago, my foot began to itch. Looking down, I saw a mosquito bite on my toe. It figures… this is Florida. Mosquitoes are like the state bird. So I ignored it. Around 2:00 a.m., I woke up and my foot was numb. Thinking I must have slept on it in a way that cut off the blood flow, I ignored it. By morning, it occurred to me that there might be a problem. My foot had swollen to the size of my head and was covered in splotches and blood blisters. My strategy of “ignore until it disappears” was proving unfruitful. I just plowed into work.
My wife, ever the sensible one, suggested I go to the doctor. But the doctor meant downtime, so I demurred. Eventually, my foot morphed into a watermelon and my life experienced a work stoppage.
The diagnosis? According to the doctor, it was ant bites–not exactly the most masculine reason for a doctor’s visit. But I live in a state where insects and reptiles are always surprising people.
My foot was fine, but the ants derailed my day. A wrench was tossed into the whirring gears of my productivity. And the more it bothered me, the more my attention shifted from my foot to my heart.
Productivity as Righteousness
I’ve noticed when things are going well, I’m a model of contentment. When I’m working hard and can spot obvious fruits of my labor; when I’m making decisions for the team and we can see progress towards our goals; then God and me are doing great and my imagination runs wild over the conversations in heaven. “God, have you considered your servant Dave? What a wonderful and productive of a Christian leader he is–such a shining specimen!”
The assumed righteousness of my productivity delivers me peace and a sense of right-standing. But my confidence is not in the righteousness of Christ. It’s really me falling back to reliance upon my own works.
This is precisely the message that Paul was combating when he wrote 2 Corinthians. Opponents had come into the church and were carrying a message that did not align with the gospel. They were telling the Corinthian church that they needed a little help from the Law of Moses. Christ’s righteousness wasn’t enough. They needed to keep the Jewish law as well. They contended that Moses’s ministry was impressive–that it came in glory and power! And they were leading people astray from the gospel message that Paul had first proclaimed.
So in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul defends his ministry against these opponents. He tells the Corinthians that while the ministry of the Law (the ministry of death), came with glory, the ministry of the Spirit is much superior and carries greater glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:7–11). He was calling on the Corinthian believers to renounce any message that demanded they mingle their righteousness with the righteousness of Christ.
Why The Law Did Not Produce Righteousness
You see, keeping the Law of Moses had never produced life because no one was ever able to keep it perfectly! “The letter kills,” he wrote (2 Corinthians 3:6). Or, as Paul says to the Galatian Christians, “If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin” (Galatians 3:21–22). The law held people captive (Romans 7:6) because it demanded a righteous perfection that no one could attain. It held up to the people the picture of perfect obedience and through its requirements, revealed that no one was able to measure up.