2 Corinthians 5-9 The Message Bible

5 1  For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven - God-made, not handmade 2  - and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move - and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! 3   4   5  The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less. 6  That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. 7  It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. 8  Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming. 9  But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that's what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. 10  Sooner or later we'll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what's coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

11  That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure. It's no light thing to know that we'll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That's why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care.

12  We're not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we're on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. 13  If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. 14  Christ's love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. 15  He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

16  Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. 17  Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! 18  All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 19  God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. 20  We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you. 21  How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

6 1  Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. 2  God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. 3  Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. 4  Our work as God's servants gets validated - or not - in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; 5  when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; 6  with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; 7  when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; 8  when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; 9  ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; 10  immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

11  Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. 12  We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. 13  I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

Ye Are the Temple of the Living God

14  Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership; that's war. Is light best friends with dark? 15  Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? 16  Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: "I'll live in them, move into them; I'll be their God and they'll be my people. 17  So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good," says God. "Don't link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. 18  I'll be a Father to you; you'll be sons and daughters to me."

7 1  With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God. More Passionate, More Responsible

Paul's Joy at the Church's Repentance

2  Trust us. We've never hurt a soul, never exploited or taken advantage of anyone. 3  Don't think I'm finding fault with you. I told you earlier that I'm with you all the way, no matter what. 4  I have, in fact, the greatest confidence in you. If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles.

5  When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn't settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn't relax because we didn't know how it would turn out. 6  Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. 7  We were glad just to see him, but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time! 8  I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don't feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. 9  Now I'm glad - not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. 10  Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. 11  And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart.

12  And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter. My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you - that you would realize and act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God. 13  That's what happened - and we felt just great. 14  If I went out on a limb in telling Titus how great I thought you were, you didn't cut off that limb. As it turned out, I hadn't exaggerated one bit. Titus saw for himself that everything I had said about you was true. 15  He can't quit talking about it, going over again and again the story of your prompt obedience, and the dignity and sensitivity of your hospitality. He was quite overwhelmed by it all! 16  And I couldn't be more pleased - I'm so confident and proud of you.

The Offering for the Saints

8 1  Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. 2  Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. 3  I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could - far more than they could afford! - 4  pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. 5  This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. 6  That's what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up.

7  You do so well in so many things - you trust God, you're articulate, you're insightful, you're passionate, you love us - now, do your best in this, too. 8  I'm not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians' enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. 9  You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us - in one stroke he became poor and we became rich. 10  So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. 11  Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. 12  Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands. 13  This isn't so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you're shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, 14  your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. 15  As it is written, Nothing left over to the one with the most, Nothing lacking to the one with the least.

16  I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. 17  He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. 18  We're sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. 19  But there's far more to him than popularity. He's rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God's gifts to honor God as well as we can, 20  taking every precaution against scandal. 21  We're being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. 22  That's why we're sending another trusted friend along. He's proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started. He's heard much about you, and liked what he's heard - so much so that he can't wait to get there. 23  I don't need to say anything further about Titus. We've been close associates in this work of serving you for a long time. The brothers who travel with him are delegates from churches, a real credit to Christ. 24  Show them what you're made of, the love I've been talking up in the churches. Let them see it for themselves!

9 1  If I wrote any more on this relief offering for the poor Christians, I'd be repeating myself. 2  I know you're on board and ready to go. I've been bragging about you all through Macedonia province, telling them, "Achaia province has been ready to go on this since last year." Your enthusiasm by now has spread to most of them. 3  Now I'm sending the brothers to make sure you're ready, as I said you would be, so my bragging won't turn out to be just so much hot air. 4  If some Macedonians and I happened to drop in on you and found you weren't prepared, we'd all be pretty red-faced - you and us - for acting so sure of ourselves. 5  So to make sure there will be no slipup, I've recruited these brothers as an advance team to get you and your promised offering all ready before I get there. I want you to have all the time you need to make this offering in your own way. I don't want anything forced or hurried at the last minute.

6  Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. 7  I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. 8  God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. 9  As one psalmist puts it, He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out. 10  This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, 11  wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. 12  Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. 13  This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. 14  Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. 15  Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!


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