FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Words For Reflection:
Suffering, for the Christian, is not an accident it is a divine opportunity. To wear life out in the service of Jesus is to open it to the entrance of Jesus’ life; it is to receive, in all its alleviations, in all its renewals, in all its deliverances, a witness to His resurrection. – James Denney
As you may know, today marks the 500th anniversary of the "start" of the Protestant Reformation. I put "start" in quotes because there were others prior to 1517 that stirred the pot and prepared the way for Martin Luther. However, this day in 1517 Martin Luther is credited with nailing his 95 theses to a Wittenberg church door (though some dispute it was a church door) starting what we now refer to as the Reformation. Not one to mince words, Michael Horton reflects on the state of the church 500 years after the Reformation. In this article he gives a broad overview of a variety of influences that have left and continue to leave their mark on the church today.
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Psalm 128
Immortal, Invisible - Adoration
The Church’s One Foundation - Adoration
Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy - Grace
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us - Response
Psalm 128 - Communion
Doxology (Tallis Canon)
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of Obadiah.
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may findthis approach and this app helpful.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
He Leadeth Me
He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav'nly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each day of our lives has proved us guilty in your sight. Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart; our best efforts to love you and others are but filthy rags. All things in us call for our rejection but all things in Christ plead for our acceptance. We appeal from your throne of perfect justice to your throne of boundless grace. Grant us to hear your word assuring us of the gospel of your Son: that by his stripes we are healed, that he was bruised for our iniquities, that he was made sin for us that we might be declared righteous before you, that our grievous sins, our many sins, are all forgiven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:22-25
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text – 2 Corinthians 4:1-18
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
1. God's mercy (v. 1-6)
2. God's power (v. 7-12)
3. God's purposes (v. 13-18)
So we do not lose heart! This statement frames 2 Corinthians 4 (see vs. 1 and 16). 2 Corinthians is the 4th letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. The church in Corinth had its fair share of problems and even criticisms of Paul and his ministry. Yet Paul says twice, "we do not lose heart." Really?
How can Paul say that and mean it? How can we say that and not be in denial? Is it possible to say that and really live it even with the sin and brokenness we see in our lives and the world in which we live? Paul says yes. How? God's mercy! God's power! God's purposes!
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart! (v. 1) For Paul, God's mercy was the soil out of which everything in his life had grown. In other words, his ministry wasn't his own. It was a gift. His ministry was a demonstration of God's unmerited favor because of what Jesus had done. Looking at it from a different perspective, Paul's ministry success or lack of it wasn't what sustained and motivated Paul. It was God's mercy to him in Christ. This is why Paul goes on to speak about his ministry approach. When things get hard or don't go well, it might be tempting to manipulate people or find fault with God's word (v. 2) or change the message to be more suitable to others (v. 3-4). In addition, it might be tempting to make ministry more about himself than about Christ (v. 5).
Do we not feel this? Life presses in. You feel squeezed by work, family, church, and friends. You find God's word alarming and even offensive at times. You feel pressure to make a name for yourself to take care of your family and help others or any number of other misguided good intentions. Darkness sets in. Where is God's mercy then? The light of God's mercy penetrates our dark hearts in the face of Jesus Christ! How do we know we can trust God's word? How do we find the courage to proclaim Christ with our lives in thoughts, words and actions? Because of God's mercy!
Stop and reflect for a moment. What does your life proclaim? Does it proclaim that forgiveness is real when you or others fail? Does it proclaim good news that can also weep at bad news? Does it proclaim a hope that nothing in this world can take away?
You see what God's mercy means for us is God never blesses you without at the same time calling you to be a blessing to others. But how can you be a blessing to others? Life is hard. People are hard. Relationships are complicated. Our plans often don't succeed. So then what? But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (v. 7) When Paul says, "we do not lose heart" it might be tempting to think he is down playing real life. But there is no way you could read his letters and draw that conclusion (see 2 Cor. 11:23-28). Instead what we find is someone who is afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed(v. 8-9). In other words, something in Paul's life is sustaining him at every point along the way. What is it? It is the death and life of Jesus (v. 10-12). The death and resurrection fundamentally changed Paul's understanding and experience of suffering and hardship. The death of Jesus means it's real and it's painful. The life of Jesus means there is help and sustaining grace. God's power is manifested in the fragile and weak in the midst of real life not in spite of it. It is in this life that the words of Jesus come to us, "Because I live, you also will live! (Jn. 14:19)
Perhaps you're thinking, "that's all well and good but how I do I know what God is really up to when I become discouraged and the light of the gospel seems to dim?" So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (v. 16). No matter how much we experience the physical or emotional or psychological effects of sin and brokenness (whether our own or someone else's) God's mercy has the power to reach the deepest part of who you are and renew you (see v. 6)! How can you be sure?He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us into his presence (v. 14). This is why Paul can say, "For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison"(v. 17). Did you catch that? Light and momentary versus eternal weight! If you ask me, all affliction feels like it will never go away and it is anything but light. But when we understand our lives through the death and resurrection of Jesus a different picture emerges. We get introduced to something more weighty and substantial; something more real and permanent. Not the things we can see but the things we can't see. Or to put it better, the things we can only see with the eyes of faith fixed on Christ. So we do not lose heart!
Sermon Reflection Questions
- What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- There are three reasons Paul says, "we do not lose heart?" God's mercy, God's power, and God's purposes. Why do you need all three? What happens if you only have one or two?
- What happens when we lose sight of God's mercy? How can we get it back? (v. 1-6)
- What sustained Paul even through every affliction? Can you relate to him or not? Why or why not? (v. 7-12)
- How can you know what God is up to in your life when you have no idea what God is up to? (v. 13-18)
Confession of Faith: The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried:
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.