(2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
What is holding you back? Are you seeking to be a “better Christian” but can’t seem to achieve what you are looking for? And do you really know what it is you are actually looking for as a Christian?
Many people have an ideal in their mind as to what it means to be a Christian, but often they live lives in condemnation because they can’t measure up to that ideal. They think a Christian should be a certain way, act in a certain manner or think a certain way and they cannot achieve those ideals. And so they condemn themselves for their lack of control, lack of motivation, lack of faith or whatever.
Which brings me back to my first question and the title of this post: What is holding you back? That is what we need to look at today as Paul discusses aspects of this question in these few verses.
The Perfection Ideal
At various times in this blog I have written about the need to be perfect. This is not my suggestion, but is what Jesus Christ Himself said in Matthew 5:48.
You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The perfection that Jesus indicated we all must achieve, is to be perfect like God. This is the TRUE perfection ideal; to live, behave and think like God thinks.
However, what does it mean to be perfect like God? How is God more perfect than man? It is in answering questions like these that we find difficulties because no man truly understands, nor can they understand the depths of God.
God is good. God is love. God is filled with compassion, mercy, truth, and above all God offers man His grace. He is forgiving, patient, kind. He is not boastful, proud or arrogant and He does not sin. And as you search the scriptures you will find a multitude of other facets to the nature of God.
The challenge we all face is how we can aspire to such things and live them, not just from time to time, but ALL of the time. Every minute of the day we must live these things if we are to be perfect as God is perfect. And this is not just in our actions but also in our thoughts because actions follow thoughts. So if we are to be truly perfect, it must begin in the mind and spirit of a Christian. But how is such a thing possible?
Well, it is possible, otherwise Jesus would not have made the statement saying we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. And there is a way. It is the process of transformation that comes only through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Widen Your Focus
The key to understanding this is to look at your focus. Paul was concerned with the Corinthian church, indicating that their scope of focus was too narrow. Lokk at what he said in these verses.
11 Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return–I speak as to children–widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
In verse 11 Paul is showing the church at Corinth that Paul and his fellow companions were open to the church. They were available. Their mouths were open, indicating they were prepared to teach and speak the words of God necessary for the church to learn and grow. They were not holding anything back but were offering all they had to give so the church could learn. Then he adds that their heart is open. Paul loved this church and wanted the very best for them. He wanted to see them grow and mature in Jesusw Christ so they would be strong, stable and mature Christians.
But the church was restricted from achieving and receiving all they could. It was not a restriction placed on them by those who were teaching and presching the word, but rather a restriction they had placed on themselves.
They were restricted in their own “affections,” as it says in verse 12. They were unable to see the full breadth and depth of the message of Jesus Christ and so their ability to learn and grow to maturity was being stunted. This was a self-imposed restriction.
How many Christians today suffer in the same way? How many of us are likewise restricted because we believe only part of the gospel and do not take to heart ALL that Jesus offers us?
The answer to this question is…many Christians fall into this category. They go so far, but are unable to progress any further because they are restricted in themselves from moving forward in the Lord. They have become a limiter to their own growth because they are boxed in by a set of beliefs that prevent them seeing the fulness of the truth
Example of The Veil of the Law
Let me give you an example from the Bible, and this is only one of many, where people are restricted in their ability to grow into the fullness of the perfection that is possible in Jesus Christ.
14 But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:14-18)
Here is a classic example where the people of the Lord are restricted from growing, due to their own affections.
Paul shows that those who continue to live under the old covenant of the law as given by Moses, have a veil over their minds and they cannot see the truth of Jesus Christ because it is veiled by the law.
The law brought condemnation to man because it showed sin for what it is. But Jesus came to set man free from sin and to set him free from the law so that we could live under God’s grace by faith rather than the restrictions bondage of the law and sin. The law is the power of bondage to sin and death, but grace is the power of freedom and life in Jesus Christ, and grace is received only by faith.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the law. The fault exists with man who cannot keep the law.
But if the old covenant, based on law leads to bondage, sin and death, and the new covenant based on grace leads to freedom and life, the how can a man live under both covenants at the same time? How can a man live in bondage AND freedom at the same time when these are polar opposites of each other?
The truth is that you cannot live under both covenants at the same time, and God did not intend man to do so. But many, many Christians still religiously follow and bind themselves under the law with condemnation when they break it, not understanding that this is not how God meant for us to come to Him in Jesus Christ.
This is only one of the self-imposed restrictions man places on himself. There are many others, indeed too many to cover here.
What is Holding You Back?
So what is holding YOU back? What beliefs are you clinging to that are preventing you from moving forward in Jesus Christ? What things have been preached to you by well-meaning pastors, that do not have any basis in the Christian covenant or have been twisted scriptures by preachers who are perhaps being less than true to the covenant.
I strongly urge all Christians to take to heart the words of Paul later in this letter to the church at Corinth where he says:
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? –unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6)
You need to examine what you believe and what you are being taught to ensure it aligns with the truth of the new covenant as espoused by Jesus Christ and those He commissioned to write the New Testament. Look at the principles that were taught, especially the foundation concepts that underpin everything necessary to bring you to perfection in Jesus Christ and to enable the Holy Spirit to do the work of transformation in your spirit and your life.
In particular look at the six foundation teachings as identified in Hebrews 6:1-2. They are: repentance, faith towards God, baptism, laying on hands, resurrection, and eternal judgement. Do you fully understand what these all mean and how they work together to bring you to perfection in Christ?
Also consider what things you have accepted or rejected that you have seen other people accept or reject and ask them why they have taken a different position to what you believe. I’m not talking about looking at practises and beliefs outside of Christianity, but the Christian principles that you hold but others don’t, and vice versa. For example, do you accept or reject water baptism? Do you accept or reject receiving the Holy Spirit with signs attending? Do you accept or reject speaking in tongues for use today? Do you accept or reject tithing? And there are many other beliefs in the church that differ among professing Christians.
It is not until you examine what you believe against the light of the gospel, understanding that the gospel and the New Covenant ALL hangs together perfectly, that you will learn and grow. Until we all do this we will never find the perfection that is only possible through correctly understanding the grace of God in Jesus Christ and following Christ in accordance with the way He set forward, rather than following our own affections.
We must widen our hearts to accept all Jesus has to offer and not be restricted by self-imposed limitations. If you don’t you will never learn what is holding you back.
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