As we study the epistle of 2 Corinthians over the next few months, and keep our eyes on the writer, Paul, the bond servant of Jesus Christ, we will sometimes find that he was on the pinnacle of joy, and at other times in the valley of despair.
And for a good half of this epistle, Paul will constantly remind his audience that the road is not always easy and that even he himself had his moments of despair and disappointment.
Pastor Ray C Stedman, in his expository study of this epistle, wrote a book, almost 30 years ago, and entitled it “Authentic Christianity”. He pointed out that the initial state of euphoria of believing and becoming a Christian, may continue for weeks or even months. But very soon, the old natural life begins to reassert itself. And the glow begins to fade from Christian worship, and Bible reading becomes less and less rewarding. And Pastor Stedman painted three possible scenarios as follows:
Firstly, there will be decline to the point of dropping out of all Christian relationships, neglect of his Bible totally, little or no time for prayer, lost of interest in spiritual matters entirely, and finally, living no different than he was before he became a Christian. And grave doubt is raised as to whether the individual ever became a Christian at all.
Second possibility is that he becomes aware of his cold and rebellious heart, is frightened by the thought of backsliding to what he was before, and casts himself in repentance, renewing his trust in God’s promises and perhaps seeking the help of older, or more experienced Christians and thereby returning to a state of peace and joy. This cycle may be repeated many times until it becomes the pattern of his experience and he comes to think of it as normal Christianity. Or he may learn something from each repeated cycle till eventually his eyes are opened to the truth that will deliver him from his ups and downs experience and he becomes a settled, stable, Spirit-led Christian.
The third and most likely possibility is that the person may discover what millions of others before him have learned. It is possible to avoid the pain and humiliation of repentance and renewal by maintaining an outward faced of spiritual commitment. In so doing, he can preserve a reputation for spiritual growth and maturity that is satisfying to the ego and seems to gain much in the way of opportunities for service and the commendation of the Christian community. He drifts into it, little realising that it is a TOTAL FRAUD, a shabby IMITATION of the real thing. He may be a true Christian in whose heart Christ dwells, but except for rare moments (usually of desperation or high ecstasy), he does not live the Christian life. The quality of life may be moral, often even generous, and it certainly is religious, however it is anything but Christian.
As we study the first 6 chapters of 2 Corinthians, we will see that Paul helps the Corinthians to distinguish between authentic Christianity, and he himself lived it, and the pale imitation that many of them had mistaken for the real thing.
May the above help us to stir our thoughts as we study and prepare our hearts and minds in receiving the teachings from the Holy Spirit.
Elder Andrew Lim
Reference: “Authentic Christianity – Ray C Stedman”