II CORINTHIANS 1:12: “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: What does a real pastor look like? What character qualities should an undershepherd of God’s flock be known by? Paul saw himself as a servant, a slave of Jesus Christ. He was given a commission to proclaim the Gospel. His ministry as an apostle was not one to flaunt before men. It was a holy calling and with it came great responsibility.
There are many today who are leaders in the church that are more like the Pharisees than like Paul. Many hide behind large titles that separate them from the flock. They boast of their accomplishments and flaunt their worldly possessions as evidence that they are men and women of faith. When the unsaved world looks at these leaders it merely emboldens them to mock Christianity. What the world needs to see today is men and women walking in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul!
Paul was not ashamed to boast. Yet his boasting was not in his accomplishments or his authority. His boasting was in the work of the cross of Jesus Christ in his life.
- “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Galatians 6:14-15 NKJV
His boasting before the Corinthian church was boasting of the work of the cross in his life. Paul learned obedience and surrender to Christ through the things that he suffered. Whatever air of superiority he may have flaunted as a Pharisee was nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus when he placed his faith in the risen Lord. Unlike the false teachers of his day, Paul boasted in his weaknesses and transformation – not in his position or power.
Paul contrasted himself to those who boasted in themselves. He leaned not upon what others thought about him but on what God thought about him and what he knew in his heart to be true.
- “…We conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
There was no pretense in his life. He gave his life to the Corinthian believers in simplicity (singleness of purpose) and godly sincerity (purity, authenticity, without hypocrisy). He did not rely on trendy gimmicks or the popular conventional wisdom of the day. Paul relied fully upon the grace of God in his life and his ministry. This is why Paul proclaimed,
- “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” I Corinthians 15:10 NKJV
There were no hidden motives in Paul’s life. No hidden agendas. No seeking of fame and notoriety. All that he once held as important now paled in comparison to the calling of God on his life and the responsibility he had to minister to the saints. His life was given in service and sacrifice. To Paul the cross was not merely a symbol of the faith – it was the pathway of his life!
- “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” II Corinthians 1:9-11 NKJV
I will never forget the time I visited the Billy Graham Memorial Library. Billy Graham was one of the greatest preachers and evangelists of the 20th Century. I had the privilege of hearing him when they held a crusade in San Antonio, Texas. Although Billy Graham stood before presidents and kings, and although he wrote numerous books and preached to thousands around the world, this is what is written on the headstone of his grave.
Billy Graham. Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!
When I think of these two men, and when I look at the church today, I pray that we will have more leaders like Paul and Billy Graham. I pray that my life can be, in even the smallest way, caught in even the edge of their shadow and testimony. The world may not have agreed with Paul or Billy Graham, but there is no doubt that they had to respect them both. It is time to stop with all the titles and the need for attention. It is time to pick up our crosses and live in simplicity and godly sincerity as we fulfill the call of God in our lives.
Lord, this morning I am challenged and humbled as I read the testimony of these two giants in the faith. I pray that you would draw me to the cross, help me to empty myself of everything other than Christ, and give me the grace to finish well the course that You have given me in my life. Grant me the grace to live each day of my life in simplicity and godly sincerity.
In Jesus’ Name!