Andrew Abernethy – Fourth Testimony – Canea, Western Australia – 1973

II Corinthians 1:12, “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and Godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, have had our conversation in the world, more abundantly to you-ward.” Verse 24, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith, ye stand.” There is very rich teaching in these letters to the people of Corinth. We never learn all that there is to learn in the book, sometimes we say we have never seen it so clearly, then later on we read again and it is clearer again. The great thing is that it remains fresh to us.
We read Matthew 5, 6, or 7, and turn to that, we read it so many times but it has not lost its zest, because we see things that we may not have seen before. This is the proper approach, we may be sixty years professing but we are still looking through a glass darkly. We only know in part, we can learn more and more. This book remains fresh to us. When we read about things that were written to the people of Corinth, we see that these things apply to us today, and we say that we don’t want to miss anything that was helpful to others. The people at Corinth were brilliant, learned people, had culture, great ability, and were superior to others. They were out of balance. They had plenty of knowledge, but were lacking in the love of God, the divine love of God was lacking. Paul writes, “If any man thinks he knows, he does not know anything.” We may think we know but there is no place in this way of God for the glory of the flesh. As we love, we attract. These people were out of balance, had knowledge but not with the love of God. They were top-heavy, not even balanced. The love of God keeps our feet where they belong, it is not brilliance that helps in the way of God, but it is God helping us to fill our place. Good if our love for God is keeping pace with our knowledge. If any man loves God, he is known of Him. We need to get to know Him better and better. There was a man 94 years of age and he was off the track for a little while, but he was brought back onto the way again. The Lord helped him back again, it may be possible that we have moved to the left hand or the right hand, but good if we can easily move back again. God has power to move us, for if He cannot move us He will remove us.
The second letter to the Corinthians was very different to the first. The first letter brought a Godly sorrow, they realised that they were off the track, and when we read this letter, we can say, “That’s for me. Nobody else knows but I am taking that in, that is the way God deals with us, reaches the hidden recesses.” The Lord does not want to humiliate us, He does not let other people know what we are. Sometimes when people first profess, they say to some of the workers, “If you see me out of order, or see me doing something that is not wise, I would like you to tell me, I want to know what is right.” We don’t get a chance to tell people, because God tells them, the Lord is teaching them, personally. People do not say, “We do these things because our preacher says we should do them,” but people do what they do because they believe it is right in God’s sight, it is right in the Book, and we are doing that, because we love God.
Paul writes, “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience.” Good if we can give an honest testimony. Joseph’s brothers came and said, “We are true men.” Was that a true testimony? No, it was not true, it was not the testimony of their conscience. This was the testimony given, but later on when they were brought down, they said, “We are verily guilty before God, we are guilty, and we saw the anguish of his soul.” Paul said, “Our rejoicing is this, that in simplicity and Godly sincerity.” We have our manner of life in the world. This verse I believe is the key verse to the letter, there is a lot of development going on from this verse. Simplicity, you can hardly explain simplicity, walking in simplicity, not in guile, not in subtlety, but in simplicity and singleness. We are walking in singleness, Jesus said that if the eye be single the body is full of light. We are simple enough to believe the Gospel, we are teachable, and that is simplicity. We believe the Lord and the word of God, that is simplicity. The world knows too much to trust the Gospel. The people of the world think that we are dumb people, but children 12 or 14 years of age know more than the clergy will ever know, they are teachable and single. When we hear we begin to follow, we are simple enough to obey what we hear, it is not a great perplexity. What we read and we feel comes to us, what applies to us, we accept it. We do not dismiss that, but we take it to ourselves in simplicity.
Chapter 11:3, “But I fear, lest by any means as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your mind should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Paul writes, “I fear.” There are great fears that the workers have, that by some means the minds of God’s people are corrupted from the simplicity in Christ, beguiled by the devil, the adversary. We are not ignorant of his devices, but maybe we are deceived by the mind of the devil. The devil is far cleverer than us, but there is provision made by God to overcome. We are walking along and there are snares and pitfalls, we don’t know where they are, but the One above knows, so we walk confidently and we are unharmed. Adam and Eve were deceived, they partook of the tree of knowledge. This is religion, religion of knowledge. Younger people come and reach a profession, everything is correct, they have a head knowledge, and some have ended disastrously. This is partaking of the tree of education, they know what is right and wrong. They have a mental knowledge of this. Jesus was also tempted by the flesh, the world and the devil. The devil is in all these things, he is in the world, he is in the flesh, and he is working every string to deceive. False religion is pleasant to the eye, the way of God is not popular, for this one reason, the first condition is this, let him deny himself. This is the first thing and you don’t have to do that in the religions of this world. No one wants to be a fool for Jesus’ sake in the world. The religious world makes you wise and popular, we will not be like that if we follow Jesus. Eve’s eyes were opened when she was deceived and showed that they were wrong, but the Lord showed them how to get right again. The religions in this world, through wisdom, will show us how we are wrong but only the Lord will show us how to get right.
Chapter 8:2, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves.” In the margin, “liberality” means “simplicity.” These people were very poor financially, but they had an abundance of joy in their poverty, they had a great joy in the Lord. This was their manner of life, a generous way of living, willing to help others. Power and beyond their power, have we gone this far, or are we living to our power? It is possible to feel complacent when we are living to our power, but these people went beyond their power, gone to the very limit beyond what is expected of us to do, is that simplicity. This is the single eye, that we’re living for one thing and one thing only. They had poverty, but a singleness of heart. Are we quite sure that we possess it? If we possess it, we need more of it. It is available from the source of supply, this is simplicity at its best. Godly sincerity – it means being transparent, nothing covered up, not masquerading before others, showing we are something more than what we are, it is so easy to do. This is a part of false religion, they are guilty of hypocrisy, it is like an actor on the stage.
When I was coming over on the plane, there above me was a moving picture show. I would shut my eyes but then I would have a look to see what was going on, but it was only an act, the whole act on a stage. We could have a religion like that, going through the motions but not meaning it. This was the leaven of the Pharisees, hypocrisy. We have Godly sincerity, it is a small matter to all of us whether we are able to speak well or not, because the all-important is what the Lord thinks. We stand or fall before God. The Lord will not hear my prayer if I am not sincere, Godly sincerity is just not putting in the time in prayer, but meaning it. When we pray to the Father, it is not entertainment that we want, we are on business. Good to be transparent and to mean what we are saying before God with all our heart, otherwise if we are not sincere, we will suffer. “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God, but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” We do not twist the word of God, or dismiss it, but we speak sincerely, what is given from God so speak we in Christ. This is the ideal that we have. You may say that in Matthew 10 is the main thing for those the servants of God, that is not important, that is the sideline, but this is the main one; that in the sight of God we are walking in sincerity, this is an inner quality.
Paul writes, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy.” We are not the boss, we are not dictators, we are not setting ourselves up because we don’t have that authority, only that we want to be a helper together of your joy. We do not want to make a show or make an impression, but only for this, to be helpers of your faith and joy. In the way of God, there is a discipline, but we do not have any dictators, a discipline that is able to help us together in the faith of God. This is our motive, this is our business of the work of God.
One time, there were two of our workers in a town, and this night, they were going for a walk. They walked by a church so they thought they would go in. When they were inside, they started an ordination service, they would have liked to have got out, but they stayed there. The residing minister was giving over the parish to a younger man, he was saying what they should be to him and what he would be to them in the future, this man that was just out of the seminary, or should we say the cemetery! The residing minister, “From this time forward you shall be known as the Reverend Gordon Stewart, before you were just Gordon Stewart. This title does not mean very much to you, it is like the curl on the pig’s tail, it does not affect the bacon, but it helps to give a better appearance.“ What a joke, this was not sincerity. We do not want to betray the confidence that the Lord has in us, we do not want a lack of the right behaviour in the home. We may be a thousand miles away from home but we are living the same way. We are men walking and fighting an honest battle, not walking as men in the flesh. Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. We are seeking to fight an honest battle to keep pure.
Chapter 6:3, “Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed. By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.” We are seeking to have pure thinking, a heart and purpose true. It is a great thing to move among people who are pure in heart, they have liberty in Christ, free from bondage by having pureness by the word of God. Noah was a savour of life to the people inside the ark, but to the people outside of the ark, he was a savour of death. Good if our lives can be a savour of life to the world.
Chapter 8:8, “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.” Paul wanted proof of their sincerity, we are not walking in a fool’s paradise, but the Lord is with us. Good if there is evidence of it as we mingle amongst the people of God. We like to see evidence of sincerity in the love of God, in doing things in a material way, not sowing sparingly, but of sincerity towards God. There was a man that I know and I have great respect for, and there was a need existing, a family came to evil days and he met the people’s need. Those people that were helped never knew who ministered to them, this man never even told me, I don’t think this man’s wife knew, but I happen to know through a source that he never let know. We do not need to make a show about these things, because if we make a show here, that is all the reward that we will get. What we do for Jesus’ sake that no one else knows, that will receive a reward in eternity. When we have sincerity of divine love, we feel we must do it, when the love of God impels us, in our heart to do it. If we receive no credit for it, and it is done unto the Lord, we will receive a reward. Paul wanted to know the sincerity of their love, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God. I hope we do not lose it, we cannot describe it but when we see it we know it.
One time in a home where I was staying, the wife of the man was a gracious lady, and a brother came who was speaking to her about a matter that I knew about, and the man was saying things regarding this matter that were not right, I knew that they were not right, and the woman of the home knew it was not right, so she said, “I don’t think you are correct.” The man was very ill-mannered, and insisted he was right, so the woman graciously said, “Well, you may know best,” and let it go. There was no argument. We may decide that we are in the right, but good to just let it go, have the grace of God in our lives, not fleshly wisdom, not lacking in grace, because if we lack grace we are objectionable. We should pray for grace sincerely.
Chapter 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” Now this could happen to us, that we are not thought so well of, but God is able to abound toward us, grace, so that we would be all sufficient in our lives going out to others.
Chapter 12:8, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” Paul had a thorn in the flesh, we don’t know what it was. We all have a thorn in the flesh, we all know the plague of our own heart and Paul had it, too. We don’t know whether it was physical or spiritual, he prayed three times earnestly for God to remove it, and that is a natural thing to want. “My grace is sufficient for you.” We would all like to be free, wouldn’t we, that we would have no more trouble, and if this were the case we would not need to pray any more. My grace is sufficient for you, we often say, “That is my human make-up and we can do nothing about it,” but we can do something about it. We say we can’t help it, that is my personality, we can help it by the grace of God. My grace is sufficient for you. Paul was able to say, “I take pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, for when I am weak then am I strong. I will very gladly be spent for You.” This is the grace of God, not going where we want to go, not doing what we want to do, but spending our lives to help others by the grace of God. Paul wrote in the first chapter, “I want to come and see you.” That would be pleasant for him, but Paul said, “I go where it is right to go in the sight of God.” I hope that we will not lose the simplicity of the way of God.