2 Corinthians 3

Scripture  2 Corinthians 3:3-6, 17 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life……Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Observation-What does it say? 
“Paul’s critics solicited human references. Paul turns, instead, to divine references. For the credential that he has to offer is Christ’s own letter written with the Spirit of the living God on the hearts of his converts. His critics boasted, as well, of the presence and power of the Spirit in their ministry. But for them it was the Spirit’s presence as manifested in and through the working of signs, wonders and miracles (12:11-12).”  Paul, on the other hand, looked to the inward change of heart as the primary evidence of the Spirit’s presence. It is changed lives, not sensational feats, that are the true sign of a Spirit-directed ministry. -biblegateway.com commentary

Understanding-What does it mean?

Paul did not measure a successful ministry the way his critics did.
The fruits of a successful ministry are not just measured by how many miracles one has done, or prophecies spoken over people, or how many people converted, etc. Those are outward works and the critics of Paul’s ministry measured success by that! They boasted about it! No. Paul wrote that it had to do with an inward change of heart for Jesus, which goes deeper than outward works (only possible by the Spirit). This was in essence his letter of reference that displayed the Spirit’s work in his ministry.  There are gifts of the Spirit, but here, Paul speaks more about the fruits. There are many ministers who have the gifts, but not the fruits which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. 

Life Application  Outward gifts are important, but it’s important that the inward gifts of the Spirit are developed too. 

“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2
What do people say about us when they compliment us or speak well of us to others? Are they only complimenting our outward works (such as you are a great singer or a great teacher or a great administrator), etc.? If there is nothing about our character in any of those compliments, it might be time to build up our references in those areas as well. 
Real talk: While writing this, I am also being convicted myself.
When someone offends us, do we respond with a gentle/kind word or do we chew their heads off, think bad things and spread bad gossip about them?
When someone treats us unfairly, do we treat them unfairly back or do we love our enemies and forgive them as Christ has forgiven us? 
When life’s unfair circumstances hit, are we joyful and have peace through the trials or do we have a victim mentality?
When we are tempted in any way, do we hold fast to goodness and respond with self control, or do we give in to the temptation? 
When there is something we want right now, but can’t have it yet, do we throw a fit/complain and go into debt/blame God for it or do we delay gratification and wait patiently for it? 
When we commit to something (or someone), are we faithful to follow through on it to the end, or do we want to give up at the first sign of hardship?  Do we leave when a better opportunity comes along? 
Dear Jesus, I pray that we would have the fullness of Your Spirit, both in gifts and fruits. I understand that it is only by Your doing that these things will come to pass, so I pray for a heart that is fully submitted to Your will whenever convicted. You usually ask me to move in a way that goes against my human nature or the worldly norm. I pray You would strengthen my faith and trust.  I want to always say Yes to You and No to my flesh and the enemy. Amen. 
-Michelle Gaddi