Saturday, March 15, 2008
What Shall Come Of My Ministry? 2 Corinthians 2:12-17
2 Corinthians 2: 12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia. 14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 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.
11 so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his intentions.
There are many things about the church that can demoralise us.
Over recent weeks the number of people who bailed out pasturing churches is amazing to me. As you know Tom is taking time out from ministry to try and determine whee the Lord would have him be, and what he ought to be doing.
If you read the Together In Ministry paper of the BUNSW you would be aware that there is confusion over what we should be about as Baptists in NSW in the 21st Century.
Again of you read the TIM you would be aware that more than 1/10th of our churches are vacant at the moment with so many pastors resigning over this last few months.
I had a phone call yesterday from a former regional superintendent of our Baptist Union despairing over the situation in the Creations Ministries organisation and several churches he had concern for.
Over just a few years, I have found there are very not so many pastors older than me still in ministry these days.
We hear of troubles among our churches in this region: 2 pastors told their congregations last week that they were about to close those churches.
When we hear of a pastor caught in immorality. When we hear of church members bitter and hateful. When we see church members behaving in ways that do not enhance the gospel.
There are many things in the life of a church that can distress us. As we grow older sometimes we just want to run away and hide.
Here, for example, is what Mr John Buchan says regarding Oliver Cromwell: "Oliver had long thoughts of a little ease at last, of an old age like a Lapland night, when he could return to a simple life of family joys and country peace. But he resolutely put them aside, for he knew that he had entered upon a war in which there was no discharge, and that case was not for him on this side the grave .... He must he up and doing, for he was called upon to assist in the building of the city of God. There was no security, no hope of laying aside the task."
A similar yeanling for rest from the strife of many turbulent years was manifested by the dauntless Scottish reformer, John Knox. in the preface to his last book, written after the cause of the reformation had virtually triumphed in his native land, Knox states that he had already " taken good-night at the world and at all the fasherie of the same," and henceforth wished his brethren only to pray that God would" put an end to my long and painful battle." It was an attitude that came to light again and again in the utterances of his latter days. The veteran had fought a good fight, and longed for his discharge.
The most familiar form of suffering, however, is physical pain. It is true that bodily sickness may be relieved through the resources of medical science, but there is a limit to such alleviations. A man is laid low with some form of malignant disease, and his frame is racked in every nerve and limb with excruciating pain. Nowhere, perhaps, outside the Book of Job, can a more vivid and realistic account of this kind of suffering be found than in Ugo Bassi's" Sermon in the Hospital." Here is a characteristic passage:
Such long weakness and such wearing pain As has no end in view, that makes of life One weary avenue of darkened days;
The bitter darkness growing darker still,
Which none can share or soothe, which sunders us
From all desire, or hope, or stir of change,
Or service of our Master in the world.
Or fellowship with all the faces round
Of passing pains and pleasures--while our pain
Passeth not, nor will pass; and only this
Remains for us to look for-more of pain,
And doubt if we can bear it to the end.
Little wonder if in such hours of anguish there should be a yearning for release.
The apostle Paul was deeply depressed and disturbed over the church at Corinth. It has every problem imaginable. Some were given to immorality. Some were caught up with themselves. Some had perverted the gospel. There were ratbags running the show. Paul had suffered at their hands. A church that promised so well turned so bad. Paul had addressed them about their problems. And now he wants them to know why he isn’t completely distracted and throwing the towel in.
He wants them to know that the Lord of the church wants us to get up and move on. He wants us to see why we can be encouraged. Why you and I can be thankful for the church and for God’s work in it. Do you remember the footy song from last year:
We'll be singing When we're winning We'll be singing
I get knocked down But I get up again You're never going to keep me down
He sings the songs that remind him Of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him Of the better times: Chumbawamba I Get Knocked Down
Like the coyote on the road runner cartoon show. He gets knocked down and he gets up again. Sometimes we all feel like that.
Paul lists several truths that pick him up and keep him going after he has been knocked over.
He sings the songs that remind him of the good times and the songs that remind him of the best times. And he knows that in spite of all that he is enduring, all the trouble he sees, the songs of the good times and the songs of the best times are actually the songs of now!!
Because no matter what he sees now that disillusions him, no matter what he sees that disturbs him, no matter what he sees that depresses him or makes him despair, still the Lord is King.
Whatever you are going through right now:
1. Your Life Is Prevailing.
Verse 14. 14 Now thanks be unto God,
Paul wrote, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place" (II Corinthians 2:14).
Paul had in mind the Roman Triumph. The picture is the triumphal entry of a military hero into the city of Rome. In a Triumph procession, the victorious generals marched in a certain order through the streets of Rome to the Capitol. First came the city magistrates, state officials, followed by the Roman senate, and then the trumpeters. These were followed by soldiers who carried their spoils from the conquered land. Next pictures and models of the conquered citadels and ships were carried along in the parade. The white bull for the sacrifice followed, and then the captive rulers, their leaders and captured generals in chains who would be executed before the day was over at the sacrifice. Following them came the musicians and priests swinging their censers with a sweet-smelling incense burning in them. To the conquered victims the incense has the stench of death lingering all about them. To the victorious army the fragrance has the sweet aroma of victory. Finally, the conquering general rode in a chariot drawn by four white horses. His family and his army followed wearing their decorations and shouting lo triumphe! Lo triumphe!
“This was not, however, the triumphalism of Paul's opponents, who declared themselves superior to Paul in missionary success as well as 10 ecstatic experience. Success and strength were the marks as well as the objectives of their ministry and significant numbers of the Corinthians came under their influence.
Christian triumphalism, although a contradiction in terms has had its appeal in many subsequent generations. The Emperor Constantine believed that he won his greatest battle through the first two Greek letters of Christ's name which were inscribed, cross-like, on the shields of his soldiers. Many subsequent leaders have sought victory in battle in and for the name of Christ. In the Middle Ages it was believed that God was glorified through soaring cathedrals and spectacular church ceremony. Closer to our own times there have been some expressions of missionary Work in under-developed countries which appear to have been as much inspired by a spirit of colonial expansion and cultural expansion as by obedience to the Great Commission of Christ. In our own century, triumphalist language has been used of some church growth movements and the development of so called "great churches”.
For his part, Paul consistently applies anti triumphalist language to his ministry throughout this letter. He is the Corinthians’ servant, a dying man, 'weak' and a fool. The newcomers ministry, like their Christ was characterized by a this-worldly triumphalism. His ministry, like his Christ, was characterized by crucifixion. This has serious implications for the way Christians think and speak about their faith.
'Triumphal ism' in all its forms is excluded by the studied remarks of the apostle Paul within this letter. What is important to God is not 'bigness' - of church buildings, or of the numbers who gather there - but faithful and sacrificial service, based on the example of Christ himself.” Paul Barnett BST 2 Corinthians. 52,53
Christ is the universal conqueror marching in triumph down through the corridors of time throughout the conquered world. He is in the lead, and we, His chosen warriors march behind Him enjoying the benefits of His conquest.
There were two groups of prisoners that marched in those triumphs. There were the Condemned Prisoners and the commended Prisoners.
Commended prisoners were soon to be released.
You are a prisoners for Jesus Christ chained to the chariot wheels in His glorious triumph/ You used to be bound by Satan, but now you have been freed to be enslaved to Jesus Christ
George Matheson wrote make me a captive Lord and then I shall be free. Force me to render up my sword and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand Imprison me within thy arms and strong shall be my hand.
My will is not my own till thou hast made it thine;
f it would reach a monarch's throne, it must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent amid the clashing strife,
when on thy bosom it has leant, and found in thee its life.
Aren’t you glad to be under a great power? In the same way those freed from Satan count it a delight to be freed and enslaved to Christ. In His service is perfect freedom
There are the Condemned Prisoners
Those marked out for imprisonment or execution. Refusal to submit to the new Sovereignty.
By their very rejection they condemn themselves.
Have you dropped at his feet and found in enslavement to Him you have your true manhood?
Or are you self condemned because you have never owned Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
You have never repented and believed. He that believes not is condemned already.
Are you enslaved to Jesus Christ? Then you can share with all God’s servants in all centuries the freedom of being in Christ, the freedom of being led in the triumphal procession of Christ.
Romans 8:36 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No matter what, Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ… but look at verse 37.
No matter what perplexities you face today. You are triumphant. No matter how much you feel like a loser because of the disasters of your life right now, you are triumphant. Is this nuts? No this is looking at things from the eternal perspective.
No matter what, Nothing can stop the Lordship of Christ.
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, (II Corinthians 2:14).
He leads us. He leads us in triumph
Matt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Romans 16:20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
1John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Rev. 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Acts 26: 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Phil 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Friends, we don’t struggle for victory. We are being led along in His triumph who through his death and resurrection has already won the victory!
No matter what nothing can stop the lingering odour of Christ
14 and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.
I saw a sign that read: "Old fishermen never die; they just smell that way!" The sign reminds me of carnal Christianity that always has the smell of death about it. It stinks. It has a repulsive odor.
Occasionally very occasionally I come across a perfume that I react to. Yes, it’s the whole ordeal, runny nose, watery eyes and a deep soar throat. I have had it. I don’t know what the person was covering up, but phew! They tried too hard.
Ray Stedman, illustrates this point in a down-to-earth way. "Have you ever been in a room when a very pretty woman walks by wearing a distinctive perfume?" he asks. From that time, whenever that fragrance whiffs into your nostrils, you recall that woman. An unforgettable imprint is made on your brain! (I'm not certain if the illustration holds for women!)
Our lives will have a distinctive quality that makes an unforgettable impression on people around us.
You Are An odour to the Lost
As the triumph entered the city gates, the priests would amrch ahead and around and through the parade wafting their incense throughout the prisoners. The chariot wheels with their prisoners chained would smell the overwhelming effects of that incense. For some this incense was a reminder that they were soon to be released. They ah already bowed the knee to the Sovereign, an their promised release was soon to be fulfilled. For others, who had not bowed the knee to the Sovereign, the incense was a reminder that they were soon to be enslaved or executed. Their doom was sealed.
Not all people will be favourably impressed. To some we are the stench of DEATH. The Spirit in us causes them to be even more aware of their spiritual need, of their alienation from God. They may not even know why, but they don't like us. They don't like the way we make them feel. But to others we are the fragrance of life because we bring them the knowledge of eternal life through Christ Jesus!
A refusal to bow meant being ushered into an underground place under the capital hill.
There is coming a day when every knee shall bow.
And to them the fragrance of Christ will be a savour of death unto death.
Death to death for those who reject Him, we will not have this man to reign over
You Are An odour to the Loved
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to understand who are believers and who are not? There is a wonderful communion and fellowship begun here on earth with other fellow believers in Christ.
You Are An odour to the Lord
As terrifying as this is, its all about the glorious triumph of Christ. The gospel and those who preach it are well pleasing to the Lord, whether people receive it or reject it.
Whatever you are going through right now: if you have bowed your knee to Jesus Christ as your Sovereign and saviour, the Lord delights in you.
2. Your Life Is Powerful
And who is sufficient for these things? 17 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.
No matter what nothing can stop the labourers for Christ Here is the Triumph of the Ministry.
Who is sufficient for these things?
Paul is going to answer that question in 2 Corinthians 3: 4 We have this kind of confidence toward God through Christ: 5 not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God.
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; KJV
But our sufficiency is of God. What if things aren’t going your way? What if you can’t see the fruit of your witness immediately. Do you just give up? Do you just say, well it works for others, but God isn’t doing it for me? Well you keep on. You don’t have a choice in it. You keep on.
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." (2 Chronicles 20:3--4)
Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, faced a dilemma. His enemies greatly outnumbered him. To make matters worse, his enemies had joined forces with Israel's other enemies and were coming to destroy him.
One day, someone came to King Jehoshaphat and warned him that a gigantic army was headed his way, bent on his destruction. It was hopeless. There was no way that he could meet this army with what he had. He was going to be destroyed. What did Jehoshaphat do? The Bible says that he "set himself to seek the Lord." He prayed, "O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You" (2 Chronicles 20:12).
The Lord told Jehoshaphat, "Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. . . . Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you" (2 Chronicles 20:15--17). Jehoshaphat and his army went out to meet their enemies, but they put the worship team out front. The Bible says that when they began to sing and praise the Lord, the enemy started fighting among themselves and destroyed each other. Maybe you are facing what seems like an impossible situation right now. You may not be able to see a way out. But God can. Call on Him. Then stand still and see what He will do.
He intends to work mightily through His people. And He will. He intends to spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere. There is no defeatist thought with the ministry, in spite of desperate situation Jesus Christ is triumphing.
No matter what nothing can stop the faithful word of Christ
17 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. God calls you to a loyalty to the message of the gospel and a loyalty to the ministry of the gospel. He wants you to display faithfulness to the message of the gospel.
That means being sold out to Christ. Not corrupting the message, committed to being faithful to the message. The word Corrupt here has in mind saloon keepers diluting the drinks and making money under false pretences. The implication is clear: Don’t water down the Word of God.
To do so is to cease to move in the train of the Saviour’s triumph.
We are living in an age when the Word of God is watered down in order to make it acceptable to the elite or to the hedonist.
Whatever men may say, or criticisms they attack with, there is one who has triumphed and He is leading me in that triumph along the chained chariot wheels.
Paul says though we or an angel preach any other gospel let him be accursed.
Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
God make us ever faithful to the message of the gospel in these days of departure from the faith.
Rev 5 8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.