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Open Hearts

2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle

Sep 8, 2019

by: Jack Lash Series: 2Corinthians: Paul Most Underappreciated Epistle | Category: NT books | Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:11–6:13
  1. Introduction
    A. 2Corinthians 6:11–13 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 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.
     B. We come back this morning to Paul’s epistle of 2Corinthians. 
    II. God’s open heart 
     A. 2Corinthians is the apostle Paul’s most personal epistle. The attitude of the Christians in Corinth toward Paul had soured under the influence of his detractors, who had accused him of being unimpressive in person and awkward in speech (2Cor.10:10). Some had even portrayed him as crafty and deceitful (2Cor.12:16). 
     B. And though he rejoices over some recent encouraging signs, in this letter Paul appeals to the Corinthians, determined to rebond with them, for he knows that their bond with him is closely connected to the continuation of their bond with Christ.
     C. And here in 2Cor.6:11 Paul begins a passionate, personal appeal to the Corinthians. He is fighting to win back their trust and their affection. 
     D. Paul pleads with them from an open heart: “our heart is wide open.” He is not withholding himself from them or hardened towards  them. They are like his own children, his precious treasures.
     E. As a theologian, Paul is unsurpassed. But this apostolic burst of affection helps us to see that the apostle Paul was not just an intellectual theologian. Paul was also a very relational, very loving, very affectionate man of God. 
     F. Was he like this naturally? Are you kidding? No! He was rigid, judgmental, proud, intolerant, cruel.
     G. What then was Paul’s secret? He was filled with a very relational, very loving, very affectionate Christ.  
     H. In appealing with an open heart for the Corinthians to open their hearts to him, the apostle is reflecting the spirit of the One who said: 
      1. “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." (Matt.23:37) and 
      2. "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." Rom10:21
     I. This is God’s attitude toward His people. Though we resist Him in a thousand ways every day, yet amazingly He continues to reach out to us in love. 
      1. It would not be inaccurate for us to adjust the words of 2Cor.6:11 and put them in the mouth of God speaking to us: “My mouth has spoken freely to you, O Christian, My heart is opened wide.” for Christ has spoken freely to us and opened His heart to us: "I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)
     J. This is remarkable! What an amazing God we have! 
    III. Opening our hearts to others
     A. Paul was not just reflecting the loving appeal of Christ. In the Lord’s name he was calling the Corinthians to the same thing. He was calling them to open their hearts wide as well. 
     B. We’ve seen God’s open heart toward His people reflected in the open heart of Paul. But now we see that He calls us to have open hearts as well. God wants us to have this same attitude as Jesus &Paul.
     C. Jesus didn’t come to protect Himself, but to give Himself away. He calls His followers to do the same. By opening his heart to these straying Corinthians, Paul was following in his Master’s footsteps. And he calls us to follow as well: "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." (1Cor.11:1) 
     D. And think about who Paul’s heart was open to. He had originally come to them at great risk to his life to bring them the gospel. In love he had stayed with them longer than any other place up to that point, for one and a half years. During that time, he served them, he taught them, he encouraged them, he built them up in the faith. But when Paul left to go back home, some Judaizers infiltrated the Corinthian congregation and started spreading false accusations and criticisms of Paul in order to undermine him among the congregation. And sadly, many of the people who had come to Christ under Paul and been ministered to by Paul began to buy into these evil reports, and criticism of Paul began to foment in Corinth. 
     E. These are the people Paul is talking to when he says, “My heart is open to you.” They were people who had hurt him, people who had turned on him, people who had believed lies about him, people who had bad-mouthed him to others. Just like Jesus had wanted to gather His children together, as a hen gathers her chicks, even though they were unwilling, and just as Jesus stretched out His hands to a disobedient and obstinate people, so Paul is doing the same to the Corinthians. 
     F. Paul did not give in to the temptation to resent the Corinthians or slam the door of his heart toward them in order to protect himself from further hurt. He didn’t just keep having some kind of theoretical love for them, but he kept his heart open to them. He put himself out there. He continued to make himself vulnerable. 
     G. Sadly, this kind of attitude is rare today among Christians. Most folks feel justified in protecting themselves, and are very hesitant about opening their lives to others, especially to those who have hurt them. But this attitude is not from the Spirit of Christ, but from our sinful flesh and unbelief. 
     H. Sure, it makes sense to protect yourself — today it’s considered common sense! But that doesn’t mean it’s the Christ-like thing to do. 
      1. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t think that way? Aren’t you glad that He didn’t act out of self-protection instead of acting out of loving determination to secure our salvation? 
      2. I know of no argument in Scripture which can be made to show that God has called us to protect ourselves in this way. Instead He calls us to serve Him and entrust ourselves into His hands. 
     I. Sure, it may seem foolish to make yourself be vulnerable, and you may well get hurt if you do, but I can guarantee that you’ll never get hurt more than Jesus was hurt for you. 
     J. If you’re worried about getting hurt, who are you thinking about? Yourself. You’re operating out of fear. And “God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power and love and self-control.” (2Tim.1:7) Fear comes from us, love comes from the Lord. 
     K. If you’re worried about getting hurt, then you’re being driven by fear instead of love. 
     L. So... Who in our lives can we honestly say this to: "My mouth has spoken freely to you, my heart is opened wide."? Anybody? Maybe your own children? 
      1. For Paul, as for Jesus, he could say this to many. And if we were filled with the Spirit of Christ, it would be the same for us. 
     M. What holds us back? To put it bluntly, it’s idolatry. We have an idol of human approval. Or earthly security. Or creature comforts. We have our minds set not on the things above but on the things of this world. We’re looking at the winds and waves, and not keeping our eyes fixed at Jesus, the master of the storm. Christ isn’t enough for us. We think we need lots of other things in order to be able to have peace and happiness. 
     N. If there is a barrier between us and others, it’s because there’s a barrier between us and the Lord. 
     O. But the worst thing is that we don’t see it as sin or idolatry. We usually blame it on others. 
      1. “I am angry because of what others have done to me!” 
      2. “I am downcast because of the way others treat me.”
      3. “I don’t have close relationships because I’ve been hurt in the past.”
     P. Remember the great benefit of bitterness: you don’t need to take the blame for your own unhappiness! 
     Q. And yet, Paul tells the Corinthians in v.12, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.” 
     R. You see, our problem is in our own hearts. Our sin is our sin. 
     S. No one else can MAKE us sin. People did all sorts of bad things to Jesus but He never sinned. And the reason we’re different than Him is because of the sinfulness of our hearts. 
     T. Whatever problem there is between us and God is not God’s problem. He has extended His arms to us; He has sent His Son to provide a way of forgiveness and free access to Him. If there is still a barrier between us and God, it is our barrier, not God’s. We are restrained by our own affections, by our own desires, by our own pride, by our own rebellion, by our own unbelief. 
     U. God’s heart open to us, our hearts open to God, our hearts open to each other: these are all linked together. If our hearts are not open to one another, then in some way our hearts are not open to God.
     V. When we blame others for our problems, we are really blaming God. And as long as we blame God for our problems, there is no repentance in our hearts because we really don’t think it is our fault. If this is how we think, we can expect no blessing from God, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
    IV. Conclusion
     A. God has called us into relationship: with him, with one another, with the world. 
      1. Just as He has flung wide the door for us to enter into relationship with Him, so He calls us to do the same with one another. 
      2. Romans 15:7 “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
       a. This is not talking about greeting one another. 
       b. The Greek word here means to receive or accept, or to take.
       c. The idea here is to take each another into our hearts. 
       d. Take others into your heart, just as Christ has taken you into His heart.
      3. This is a commandment. “A new commandment I give to you: love one another.” (John 13:34) 
     B. We can’t take this lightly. This is not optional. 
     C. And, yes, it’s sometimes hard. None of us get to hang around or fellowship with perfect people. 
     D. Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp
      1. Relationships are a mess! 
      2. Because of this, we are tempted to hide from them, to protect ourselves from them. 
      3. The problem is that we desperately need them.
      4. Not only that, but we’re commanded to cultivate them. 
     E. But there’s another obstacle. Many feel that they are too busy for close Christian relationships. 
      1. It is pretty clear that the early Christians, of course, counted their fellowship as more important than their careers. 
       a. “They devoted themselves to teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...And all who believed were together and had all things in common...And day by day, they attended the temple together and broke bread in their homes.” Acts 2:42–47 
       b. Hebrews 3:13 “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
       c. Hebrews 10:24–25 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
      2. Of course, if someone’s heart is actually wide open to other believers, and circumstances beyond their control prevent them from having fellowship, then God will have mercy on them, as He did on those in prison. 
      3. But it is also possible to use one’s busyness as an excuse for not being devoted to fellowship, either because relationships are threatening or because our hearts aren’t actually open. 
      4. And it’s possible for one’s work to suck up all the available time not because it has to, but because either success or material prosperity has become an idol. 
      5. In contemporary Christian culture, close, spiritual relationships are generally considered optional: a luxury, not a necessity, good to have if you can fit them in, but it’s not a big deal if you can’t. 
      6. I don’t believe this is consistent with the NT. Jesus went to great lengths to exhort His people to love one another. He didn’t just mean to not hate each other. He didn’t just mean have a good feeling in your heart toward people that you never spend time with. 
      7. He meant being involved in people’s lives. He meant helping others and letting them help you. He meant opening your heart to the ones He died to save, the ones He calls His precious children.