Vicissitudes Of Life

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:8-10, NLT

8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.
9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.
10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

  INTRODUCTION

F.F. Bruce labels this section, “The Vicissitudes of Apostolic Life.” Vicissitudes are uncertainties, changes, variations, up and downs, twist and turns, unpredictable things that happen in life. Remember, our theme is the integrity of ministry. Paul is under attack and in 2 Corinthians 6, he defends the integrity of his ministry.

There are things the Christian Minister needs to understand.

I. UNDERSTAND THE UNPREDICTABLE NATURE OF MINISTRY

C.S. Lewis refers to these vicissitudes as undulations, rising and falling of the waves, the ups and downs. Ancient sailors never knew what to expect: today we have sophisticated technology that helps us avoid storms but in the old days ships were subject to the weather at sea. Being a pastor is somewhat like being an ancient sailor, we never know what to expect.
In letter 8 of the Screwtape Letters, we find this paraphrase in my rewrite…We humans are created in God’s image with a spiritual nature that longs for eternity, but at present, we live in a world of time and space. This world we live in is constantly changing. While our spirit longs for something better, the body of our humanity is caught in the continuum of time. In this world, life can be like the waves on the Sea, up and down, but within restricted banks. We long for consistency, for a level plain, but life is filled with changes and these changes create highs and lows. Solomon said it like this: there is a time for laughter and a time for crying, a time for dancing and a time for mourning. Laughter and dance come with the highs, crying and grief come with the lows.
I had a good visit with one of our Senior Adult couples last week. The man seemed to be in perfect health and was only 73. I saw them again yesterday morning and all seemed well but within ours he suffered a severe stroke and he departed this world in less than 24 hours later. You never know what a day is going to bring.
 Paul summarizes these vicissitudes in pairs of antitheses, paradoxes, or contrast. 
  • Honor us or despise us
  • Slander us or praise us
  • We are honest, but they call us impostors
  • We are ignored, even though we are well known
  • We live close to death, but we are still alive
  • We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.
  • Our hearts ache, but we always have joy
  • We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others
  • We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

There are two more list in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, one is chapter 4 of the second letter and one in chapter 4 of the first:

  • We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed
  • We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
  • We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God
  • We get knocked down, but we are not [out]destroyed. [2 Corinthians 4:8-9]
  • Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ!
  • We are weak, but you are so powerful!
  • You are honored, but we are ridiculed.
  • We bless those who curse us
  • We are patient with those who abuse us
  • We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.

II. UNDERSTAND THE SPIRITUAL CONFLICT 

We are in a war with an unfriendly, unsympathetic world. The world hates us just as it hated Christ. We are not going to get encouragement or recognition from the world. This is something every Christian minister needs to understand. If we please the One who called us, we are not going to please the world around us.

Paul received no honor and no praise from his persecutors who were mostly Jews. Paul’s enemies had no respect for him and therefore, gave him no honor. They hurled criticism after criticism and slander upon slander but never would they give Paul credit, recognition or praise. The word he uses for dishonor is normally used in Greek for loss of rights as a citizen (atimia, Greek #819). Paul says, “I may have lost all the rights and privileges which the world can confer but I am still a citizen of the Kingdom of God.”

In slander [bad report, literally to defame] and in praise [good-report]. There are those who criticize his every action and who hate his very name, but his fame with God is sure.

Deceivers [Imposters] and yet true. The Greek word (planos, deciever or imposter, Greek #4108) literally means a wandering quack and impostor. That is what others call him but he knows that his message is God’s truth.

Unknown [ignored] yet well known. The Jews who slandered him said he was a no-account nobody whom no one had ever heard of, yet to those to whom he had brought Christ he was known with gratitude.

Dying [living on the edge], and lo! we live. Danger was his companion and the prospect of death his comrade, and yet by the grace of God he was triumphantly alive with a life that death could never kill. 

Chastened [beaten], but not killed. Things happened to him that might have chastened any man’s spirit but they could not kill the spirit of Paul. Grieved [heartache, sorrow], but always rejoicing. Things happened that might have broken any man’s heart but they could not destroy Paul’s joy.

Poor, yet making many rich. He might seem to be penniless but he brought with him that which would enrich the souls of men. Having nothing, yet possessing all things. He might seem to have nothing, but, having Christ, he had everything that mattered in this world and the next

So there are two worlds in view here: the carnal, earthy, natural world and the spiritual or heavenly world. No one can please both. If you live for the world, you will displease Christ and if you live for Christ you will be despised by the world.

III. UNDERSTAND THE SURRENDER IT TAKES

Paul was sold out lock, stock and barrel. He was not looking back and had no intention of letting up or laying down. He had that tenacious spirit that all ministers must have.

Dr. Vance Havner points out Paul’s unique perspective gave him the advantage over the devil. If the devil offered Paul something...Paul would say, “I don’t need anything, I have all I need in Christ.” If the devil threatened to take something away, Paul could respond, “I don’t have anything, I gave everything to Christ.”

Paul’s enemies tried to discourage him which didn’t work so they tried to kill him.  They first organized attempt was at Damascus but Paul’s friends lowered him from a window in the wall of the city by putting the little fellow in a basket. Then in Jerusalem some years later, 40 Jewish zealots took a vow that they would not eat or drink until Paul was dead. I guess these guys starved to death because they did not come close to killing Paul.  In Lystra they tried stones and thought they had killed him but he got up and walked away. Then in Ephesus, they threw him into the arena with wild beast and he escaped unharmed. It did scare the heck out of him but it did not kill him. The Jews were frustrated in that he seemed invincible. Paul was not an intimidating man physically but few strong robust men could have endured what he did; this had to puzzle his haters.

 

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The Opportunity Of A Life Time

Luke 11:29-36, NLT

29 As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah.”
30 What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.
31 “The queen of Sheba will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.
32 The people of Nineveh will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.
33“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.
34 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness.
35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.
36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

INTRODUCTION

An Opportunity of a lifetime. Opportunities, at least some, are rare and come only once in a life time. Halley’s Comet is one such opportunity. It appears in the earth’s atmosphere once every 75 years. He came through in 1986 and will not be back until 2061. Did you happen to see it in 1986? I was 37 years old but I missed it. If my memory is correct, you had to get up in the wee hours of the morning, like 2:30 am and we only had a couple of nights to see it. Unfortunately for me, I choose to stay in bed and I missed the comet. Obviously, I will not be around in 2061, that would make me 112.
I do hate I missed the comet but it is not the most painful regret I have: the point is, some opportunities come only once in life time. Speaking of once and a life time opportunities, no one was more privileged than the Jews some 2,000 years ago. The Son of God paid them a brief visit. He came to their beloved Temple. He visited their holy city. He taught God’s word while in their presence. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and even raised some who were dead but they ignored Him as long as they could and then they rejected Him and had Him crucified.
Our scripture passage today begins like this… As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah.” Jesus was  becoming more and more popular and the crowds were pressing in upon Him but Jesus was not impressed because He knew what they were seeking. They wanted visible proof that He was the Son of God. Jesus refused to accommodate them and He will not accommodate you either. You will either take Him at His word and trust Him by faith or you will continue to walk in darkness. He is not going to eliminate faith for you or anyone else. You cannot please Him a part from faith. Faith is His modus operandi; it is the way He does things.
Jesus said, “On the day of Judgement, the men of Nineveh are going to rise up and accuse you folks, they repented as the preaching of Jonah and you haven’t repented with Me doing the preaching. The queen of Sheba came here to hear Solomon and he took her breath away, and you don’t pay any attention to anything I say.” Jesus has a great point. The men of Nineveh are going to be furious, “We repented when a bigoted a-hole preached to us and you guys had Jesus.” The Queen of Sheba will have a similar outrage…I was so impressed with Solomon that I was speechless and you guys had the opportunity to hear Jesus the Son of God and you paid no attention.”

How did the Jews blow such an opportunity?

I. THERE HEARTS WERE HARD

Hebrews three has commentary on this point: This is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.
Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.  You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God… Remember what it says: “Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”
Sin had hardened the Jewish Religious Establishment’s heart; they were suffering from spiritual-sclerosis the hardening of the heart.
Jonah may have been an outstanding preacher; we really don’t know anything about his oratorical skills; what we do know is that he had very little character. He didn’t like people and especially Assyrians {Gentiles}. He preached to them but he did not want them to repent. He only preached to them because he felt compelled. He actually got angry when they repented and God spared them. Jonah and Jesus, there is no comparison. Yet the Assyrians Gentiles could hear God in Jonah’s voice where as the Jews accused Jesus of having a demon. So it is not the quality of the preacher, it is the condition of the heart.

II. THEIR MINDS WERE CLOSED

In Luke 18, a few pages over, Jesus tells a story about two men going to the Temple to pray, one of the men is a Pharisee who is filled with pride and contempt. Jesus told the story to call the Pharisees out for their pride, self-righteousness and contempt for others. If you go to the end of the story, this is what Jesus says…“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”

The Queen of Sheba was a Gentile and a female, yet she traveled hundreds of miles to hear Solomon teach and she was impressed. The Jews refused to listen to Jesus and they were seldom impressed. How is it that a Gentile woman can be impressed with the teachings o Solomon when the Jews were not impressed at all with the teachings of Jesus. Surely, you do not compare the teachings of Solomon with those of Jesus.

I will tell you the difference. The Queen of Sheba was a seeker. She was searching for the truth and she had an open mind. The Jews were too narrow, too bigoted, too filled with pride and contempt to listen. They had contempt for Jesus.

III. THEIR EYES WERE BLIND

Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.  “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness.”
The Jews were blind. The Son of God was standing in their presence and they couldn’t see him. Increasing the light will not help a blind person. They may feel some of the warmth but increasing the voltage or intensity of the light will not help them. Jesus was infinitely brighter than Jonah or Solomon but it made no difference because the Jews were filled with darkness. What others could see as clear as day, they could not see.
God does not will that you be spiritually blind: Paul said in I Timothy 2:4, “God desires for everyone to be saved and know the truth.” God does not want you in the dark and He is certainly not keeping you in the darkrk.
35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.

The Grace Equipment

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:6-7

6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.
7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.

INTRODUCTION

Last week we talked about verses 4-5 where Paul commends his ministry with proofs that he is authentic. He mentions [1] Internal conflicts [troubles, hardships, distresses], things which press upon us, things that must be endured. Then there are the external tribulations or trials [beatings, imprisonments and mobs or riots]. [3] Finally, the strenuous effort required to be a follower of Christ and a minister of the gospel [hard work, sleepless night and deprivation].
Now Paul turns from the trials and tribulations that must be endured to the equipment God graces us with to accomplish our purpose. Once again, we have a trilogy of trilogies.

I. THE GOD GIVEN QUALITIES OF MIND

  1. Purity [hagnotēs]. This purity involves chastity but it speaks more of intention and motive than chastity. It comes from the same word used for Holy Spirit. The word holy is hagios which is holy. The root word is häg-no’s which means clean, pure, chaste. The word hagnotes is a synonoum from integrity, a clear and pure motive. Remember the quote by E.G. Rupp I shared last week, “The Christian church stands or falls on the integrity of its ministers.” Albert Barnes also said, “To succeed in ministry, a man must have integrity.”
  2. Knowledge {gnōsis} {Understanding} Paul was a very educated man and he put no premium on ignorance. Not only must the Gospel Minister be a man of integrity, he must have an understanding of the gospel he preaches. It is hard to communicate what we do not understand. Barnes says, “The idea is, that the ministry should not be ignorant, but that if they wished to commend their office, they should be well informed, and should be people of good sense. Paul had no belief that an ignorant ministry was preferable to one that was characterized by true knowledge.” My Father in the ministry was Calvin Inman and he believed that a call to preach was a call to prepare. I heard him say that so much that I didn’t pray about going to seminary, I just went but I did some praying after I got there. If I had my way, those who boast about their ignorance would not be allowed in the pulpit. Only a fool would boast of his ignorance. I am deeply ashamed of mine.
  3. Patience: As I have often explained, The AV translates two Greek word for patience and one of them is used in verse 3 and translated endurance by the NASB. The second word is here, makrothumia which means slow to get hot. Some translate it long suffering. I can assure you, a Christian minister will have his patience tried. The devil always has advocates and they know how to pull your string. Dr. Landrum Level use to say, “A horse fly cannot not hurt a horse but he can agrivate the horse until the horse hurts himself.” Dr. Level is right, many a preacher was sent packing because he lost his cool. One outburst is all it takes. Again, my father in the ministry caustion me again and again, “More preachers get out of sorts with their church due to building programs than anything else.” I can give you a recent example: a friend of mine has pastored a church for close to 20 years but he got invested in the plans for a new building and would not compromise. The results: the church fired him and got a new pastor. He lost his cool in a business meeting and they would not forgive him. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.

II. THE GOD GIVEN QUALITIES OF HEART

  1. Kindness {chrestotes}. I love this word. William Barclay says it is the opposite of severity…“a sympathic kindness or sweetness of temper which puts others at ease.” Have you been around someone who made you uneasy, unable to relax, to be yourself and then there are those who are the opposite, they free you up and make you feel at ease. None of us fear kindness. I am convinced, that next to humility, kindness may be the greatest virtue. Kindness is next to irrisistable.
  2. Holy Spirit: F.F. Bruce makes the point that all Christian virtues imminate from the Holy Spirit. In the OT, the Holy Spirit is the Ruach ha-kodesh, Spirit of Holiness. I think it is this idea that Paul conveys. We ministers need the Spirit of Holiness and the spirit of holiness. An unholy minister is not a model that Paul would pursue. Barclay agrees, the minister need a spirit of holiness. His highest motive must be to please the LORD whom he serves.
  3. Sincere Love. This one needs little commentary; out love needs to be real and without hypocrisy. The word love is agape, which is love from above. It is not a natural love, it is supernatural. It is not an inherent love, it is an imputed love. It is not a conditional love, it is an unconditional love. Naturally, we love those who love us, we love the lovable but agape loves the unlovely. Two OT stories illustrate this love: the story of Joseph and the story of Hosea. Both Joseph and Hosea are types of Christ: Joseph’s brothers and Gomer are types of sinners like you and I. Joseph’s brothers were liars, thugs, murderers and outlaws. They were devoid of character. Their own father couldn’t trust them. Gomer was a whore. She abandoned her husband and children to play the mistress for men of wealth. Over time, she lost her attractiveness and became a slave. She was a dirty, haggard, ugly slave. There was nothing lovely about her and yet Hosea loved her and took her back.

III. THE GOD GIVEN QUALITIES FOR MINISTRY

  1. Truth: All of this equipment that God has given us came via grace and these things enable us to minister to others. Among them is the TRUTH. What a wonderful gift! I love truth and I hate lies. It is because of a lie that we have abortion on demand and millions of innocent children have died since 1973. Roe vs. Wade was based on a case from Texas involving Norma McCorvey who I met personally some years ago. Norma was not raped: she lied. When she confessed, the judgment was already on its way to the not so Supreme Court. Sarah Weddington, the feminazi lawyer, told Norma to keep her mouth shut, it wasn’t about her. At least Weddington told the truth about that but Roe vs. Wade is base on a fabrication. Are you surprized? We know the truth and the truth will set men free. This world needs Jesus. He is the only One who can fill the vacuum.
  2. Power of God: Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonesense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved, it is the POWER OF GOD.” Again is chapter 2 Paul says, “When I came to you, I was weak and trembled in fear and my teaching and my message were not delivered by skillfu7l words or human wisdom but with convincing truth of the power of the Holy Spirit.” There is worldly power, no doubt about it but like the sun, it has less energy everyday. Worldly power is deminishing. It has no long term future: God’s power is eternal in nature. George Washington refused to take credit for the war of independence, he knew it was God’s doing. He followed the example of Henry V who refused to allow his minstrels to write songs of praise to him, saying instead, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.”
  3. Weapons: The Roman soldier had weapons for the right hand and the left. He used his right hand to wheel his sword and the left to hold his shield. The rights was the aggressor, the left was the defender. We need the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God but we also need the shield of faith to keep the darts of doubt from getting to our vitals. We must ward off the incoming projectiles or else we will fall to the enemy.

CONCLUSION

It is truly amazing when we see the God who calls us equipping us with every thing we need to preach the gospel of peace. I have people tell me, “There is not enough money in the world to get me to do what you do.” I usually say, “I fill the same way, there isn’t enough to get me to do it either.” I can’t imagine the horror of doing what I do without the call and equipment that God gives by grace when we surrender to His will.

People keep asking me what I am going to do when I retire and I say, the same things I’ve been doing: preaching the gospel and helping people. That is, as God gives me grace because a part from His power and grace, I can’t preach a lick. You don’t know just how much I marvel over what God does in and through my life. Every time I preach an anointed sermon, I sit down amazed.

 

Spiritual Claustrophobia

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 6:3-13

3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.
4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.
5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.
6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.
7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.
8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.
9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.
10Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
11 Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you.
12There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us.
13 I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!

INTRODUCTION

E.G. Rupp said, “The Christian church stands or falls on the integrity of its ministers.” I think the criticism that hurt Paul most was that which casts doubt on his integrity and impugned his motives. That Paul’s opponents would accuse him of lacking integrity was bad enough but what really hurt, was the Corinthians piling on. Paul says, “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.  In everything we do, we show or demonstrate that we are true ministers of God.”

How do you test the quality of a product or a person? You run a series to test: you apply pressure, to see if there are flaws, cracks, leaks, weaknesses, etc.

Barclay believes that Paul primary concern is to show himself to be a sincere minister of Jesus Christ. To offer proofs, he shares what Chrysostom calls “The Blizzard of Troubles.” Paul introduces this section with one of my favorite words, found in verse 4,We patiently endure  [hupomone] troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.” It is translated patience in the KJV but the NASB always translates it “endurance” so as not to confuse it with makrothymia {Slow to anger} which is also translated patience in James 5:10 by the KJV. Makrothymia is displayed by self-control, it is the opposite of quick tempered. The AV translates it “long-suffering” except in James 5:10. Hupomone is the tough, tenacious, I will not quick spirit. It is the ability to stay under the burden, the pressure and to hold firm. Burdens can be hard to bare and irresponsible people just drop their shoulders and chunk the burden to the ground. Hupomone is the ability to stay under the burden and bear the pressure.
I really like what John Chrysostom,  Archbishop of Constantinople, said about the word hupomone…“It is the ability to bear things is such a triumphant way that it transfigures them and transmutes {to transform in nature or substance} them. Hupomone is the root of all goods, mother of piety, fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken and harbor that stands fast in time of storm. It is the queen of virtues, the foundation of right actions, peace in war, calm in the tempest and security in plots.” Then Barclay adds, “It is courageous and triumphant. It is the ability to bear up under pressure when all else is giving way. It is the alchemy {Formula for taking one or more substances and changing them to something else} which transmutes tribulation into strength and glory.” [We will come back to this in the conclusion]
What are some of the test we need to endure to become strong in character; to become men of integrity?

Paul mentions 9 and they come in sets of three

I. TRIALS OF A GENERAL NATURE [Go with the call] 

[v.4] In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.

  1. Troubles: [Thlipsis] NLT –troubles, NASB–afflictions, NKJV–tribulations. All are good. The word thilipsis comes from the image of the wine press: it means to be caught between two immovable forces, to be squeezed, in a tight, to feel pressure from every side. Life is all about pressure, some manage it well while others do not. There is pressure in every profession I suppose. I know there is in Athletics and to some degree in politics. There is a lot of pressure in the ministry. One of the greater pressures of the ministry is unrealistic expectations which other impose on their pastor. If you need a lot of sympathy, encouragement and coddling, you don’t want to be a Baptist preacher. If you cannot stand scrutiny or criticism, you need to avoid the ministry. It has never been easy and it is not getting any easier.
  2. Hardships: [AnagkēDistress: must needs, of necessity, desperate needs, needful. Matter of fact, the KJV reads ‘necessities’ and NKJV reads ‘needs.’ The NASB, RSV, NIV, ESV and NLT translate in ‘hardships’.
  3. Calamities: [stenochōria] KJV, NKJV and NASB translate it ‘distresses’. ESV and NLT ‘calamaties.’ A Calamity is an event causing great distress or damage. Barclay suggest that these calamities are the cause of much of our anxiety. They can cause us to have spiritual claustrophobia because it seems that the walls are coming in on us.

II. THE SPECIFIC PROBLEMS THAT PAUL ENDURED [Inflicted by others]

[v.5] We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs….

  1. Beatings: {plēgē} stripes. For Paul, physical suffering was a part of the call, he expected to be persecuted. The church always does better in times of persecution. Prosperity has never been a friend to the body of Christ.
  2. Imprisonments: {phylakē} Clement of Rome tells us that Paul was in prison no less than seven times. Barclay: There have always been those who would abandon their liberty rather than to deny Christ. Thank God for men like Paul. Much of what we enjoy today is a result of what these men suffered.
  3. Angry Mobs: {akatastasia} ‘Tumults.’ John Wesley was mobbed at Wednesbury and barely escaped severe injury. George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, was mobbed inside a church building by professing Christians. They almost killed him and would have had they gotten him outside. I am not a passivist but to attack a man over his views of war is not Christian. Today, the mob [masses] ignore us or mock us. We don’t do anything to stir them up.

III. THE SELF DISCIPLINES THAT GO WITH THE CALL

[v.5] We have…worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.

  1. Labor: [kopos] a beating, a beating of the breast with grief, sorrow,

    labor, trouble, weariness from labor. The word kopos was used to describe a person who was worn out, depleted of energy, spent. The Christian minister uses body, soul and mind in his work so when he gets tired, he is really tired. Sunday night is my favorite part of the week. I don’t do as much now as in my earlier years but I get just as tired. As a matter of fact, I have to rest on Sunday evening before preaching on Sunday night.

  2. Sleeplessness: [agrypnia] Sometimes are minds are so troubled that we cannot sleep. Sometimes we are in such discomfort that sleep is impossible. As a young preacher, I stayed up all night before my Sunday activity. I laid down but did not go to sleep. I have gone for as many as three nights without sleep. I sleep 5-6 hours now. Would I like to sleep 8-9? Yes, I would but I can’t. I’m in a bad habit presently: I go to beg from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am and get up at 7:00. There are times when I can study all night or pray most of the night but those are rare occasions. Generally, I lay in the bed with my eyes closed. I prefer sleep but I have learned that rest can keep me going. Will this get better when I retire? I hope! Deadlines make me anxious and anxiety can keep us awake.
  3. Hunger: [nēsteia] To hunger from fasting. I can fast a meal but it doesn’t do me any good because I make up for it the next meal.You can tell by looking at me that I don’t fast regularly or in the right way. I have always struggled with fasting. In the past, when I fast, I think about food constantly. The purpose of the fast is not to think about food, it is to focus on prayer…these two go together. I can do one or the other but not both, not right. Fasting always gives me a headache and then I end up in bed with a pillow tied around my throbbing head. So I have tried to fast from other things such as the internet. I did a three day fast from the internet last year. I dreaded it but it turned out good. I have fasted from TV and games. The bottom line: I am not a good example on fasting but I do not discourage it.

CONCLUSION

Let’s get back to this word Alchemy. If I understand the word, it is a chemical or lab word involving the use of one or more substances to make a new substance. So here is Paul’s formula: you take trouble, hardship, calamity, beatings, jail time, angry mobs, total exhaustion, sleepless night and hunger and put them together and the process results in STRENGTH and GLORY.

Moral Evil

Scripture: Luke 11:24-28, Matthew 12:

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there and that person is worse off than before.”

As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!”

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

Matthew 12:44-45

Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order.

Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

INTRODUCTION

John MacArthur says, “It is better to be immoral than to be moral without Christ. Morality and religion are soul numbing deceptions.” Personally, I agree! Morality can hinder a person from seeing their need for Christ. This is why drunks, prostitutes and tax collectors responded to Jesus when the Pharisees did not.

Repentance [sweeping the life of all uncleanness] is dangerous without faith in Jesus. It is not enough for a man to reform. Reformation without transformation leads to pride and bigotry. Actually, it creates a void which Satan will take advantage of. Jesus comes in by request because this is the way He wants it: Satan will come in without a request. You invite Jesus into your life but you don’t have to invite Satan. A good moral life is an invitation to the devil.

I. MORALITY BLINDS PEOPLE TO THEIR NEED FOR JESUS

  • The Pharisees are a classic example: they were the most moral people of the day. Yet they saw absolutely no need for faith in Jesus. In their strict morality, they rejected One who was truly moral and the only One who could save them from their sins.
  • Growing up I had a friend who was very moral. I never, in all of my life, remember hearing him say one word of profanity. He never cursed, never used God’s name in vain, never talked about people, never lost his temper. I often wondered if he was even tempted to sin. He became independently wealthy, eventually divorced his wife and seldom if ever attends worship.
  • My track coach in college was one of the best men I’ve ever known. Again, I never heard him swear, curse, used God’s name in vain. I only saw him lose his temper once. I assumed he was a Christian because of his character. We were driving home from a track meet and it was getting close to midnight on Saturday night. Every one in our vehicle was asleep except the coach and myself. I said, “Coach, it is going to be tough getting up in the morning for Sunday School.” He said, “Not for me, I don’t go to Sunday School.” I said, “Its going to be tough to get their for worship,” [11:00 a.m. in those days] and he said, “I don’t attend worship either.” In shock and disbelief, I said, “Coach, you never go to church? and He said, “Never.” I said, “Coach, have you not been saved?” He responded immediately, “No, not really. I went to church as a child and I know what you are talking about but no, I have never been saved. I think about it and I plan to do it someday but not today or tomorrow.” I talked to him more but to no avail, in less than ten years he would die while having an hearth cath at what is known as Trinity Hospital in Birmingham.
  • The hardest people in the world to reach are good moral people and the woods are full of them.

II. MORALITY WITHOUT CHRIST BREEDS CONTEMPT AND PRIDE

  • There are good moral people who never darken the door of a church. They do not see the need. They measure their lives by ours and they feel satisfied that they are better than we are and they may be right. What they don’t understand is–“They are not good enough.”
  • Good moral people become proud of their morality and goodness just like the rich young ruler. With this pride comes self-righteous and the results is a moral tyrant. These people infiltrate our churches and drive pastors insane. They are arrogant and impossible to lead. You think about it: how many churches today are facing problems due to immoral people? The bootleggers and drunks are not the problem. The problem is good moral people who have never repented. They have joined our churches on the bases of their morality and we accept them because their behavior is better than ours.
  • When we get proud, Jesus rips us out of the frame. We get a trip to the woodshed but they get no such rebuke because they do not belong to Christ. Their pride goes unchecked. They are arrogant and conceded and everyone knows it except them. They are blinded by their own pride. They strain gnats and swallow camels. They worry about about by-laws than lost souls. They are more concerned about control issues than ministry and compassion. 
  • Something truly amazing is happening today: the REFORM movement which feeds on moral superiority has one telling characteristic: it breeds pride and contempt. If you think that God loves you more than others: that makes you special and certainly more important. I can spot one of these dudes from a mile away. They love to preach David’s imprecatory Psalms where David curses his enemies and wishes them doom. One of those is Psalm 5 where David says that God’s hates evil doers. There is one tiny problem, David did evil himself and long after he wrote this Psalm. Jesus says in Luke 11:13 [speaking to His disciples}, “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” So even Jesus refers to us as evil. BUT proud, arrogant preachers do not see pride as evil and yet nothing is more evil than pride. Right in the middle of pride is the I [ego] seek glory for itself.
  • These arrogant preachers call for others to repent but they never repent.

III. MORALITY WITHOUT CHRIST LEADS TO EMPTINESS

  • When I finally surrendered at age 19, one of my concerns was my life style. How could I give up all the things I loved and remain happy? The devil had been feeding me propaganda daily…Jack if you follow Jesus, your life will be boring, dull, and empty. The devil is a liar. My worries never materialized.
  • REPENTANCE is not enough, nor reformation: we need faith in Christ and transformation. It is not enough for us to STOP doing bad things, we must be come obedient to Christ and do GOOD things. {Barclay} To have a pretty garden, fill it with flowers. Don’t leave space for weeds. The devil does not abhor a vacuum, he loves them and will take immediate advantage.
  • When I surrendered at age 19, my life became filled with ministry activities. I preached or sang at the nursing home at 9:00, then headed west to a little church I served while in college. Sunday School at 10, worship at 11 then dinner with one of the members. Play a little touch football with the young folks, go visiting, preach again at 7:00 and then the 20 mile drive home. I’ve leave on Sunday mornings at 8:00 and get home around 9:00 or 10:00. I had no time or space for evil.
  • If you were to take Jesus out of my life: I would be just another Pharisee. Jesus is the difference maker. You may be moral. You may be good but if you don’t have Jesus, you will be left empty until the devil fills your life with worldly things. These worldly things will not satisfy.

CONCLUSION

As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!”

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

This sounds like high praise but Jesus didn’t take it that way. The woman was simply admiring Jesus. She was giving Him lip service and that is not what He wants. You can admire Jesus without surrendering your life to Him. HE DOES NOT WANT TO BE ADMIRED: HE WANTS TO BE OBEYED.

When was the last time you obeyed Jesus?

The Sweet Exchange

SCRIPTURE

II Corinthians 5:21

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. [NLT]

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. [NASB]

INTRODUCTION

Growing up in the middle of the last century, I had a legendary uncle by the name of Charlie. As children, we simply knew him as Uncle Charlie. Looking back, I am sure he was about my present age [66] when I came to know him. He was a great uncle, my grandmothers baby brother. He lived at Bridgeport, Alabama which was about half-way from our home to Chattanooga, Tennessee. As kids, we loved the trip to Uncle Charlie’s. He seemed to be a rather jolly man, he cut hair for a living and called himself a preacher. Our image of Uncle Charlie was all positive and my parents did not tell me the truth until I was grown.

In fact, Uncle Charlie had been a pistol. He married a woman, got her pregnant and then skipped the country. A few months later, he came home, got her pregnant again and then disappeared for a second time. You will fine this hard to believe as I did, but she let him come back for a third time and he got her pregnant for a third time and then skipped the country for good. This time, he did not come back. The poor woman raised the three children by herself. She never received one dime of support from our infamous Uncle Charlie. My grandmother and others tried to help but those were tough times. I am thankful to say, the woman raised the children but they never knew their father. He did try to establish a casual relationship with them after they were grown but they wanted nothing to do with him and who could blame them. I was at his funeral and none of his children were present. I knew of only the three but there could have been more.

Some men are like Uncle Charlie, they bring nothing to the table. They are bums and deadbeats. They are more than willing to get a woman pregnant but once the child is conceived, they want no part of the huge responsibility of raising the child. These irresponsible men, known as characters, take what they can get and then get out of Dodge. They are masters at evading responsible. It still happens today. Men marry and then refuse to provide for their wives and children. They want to hunt, fish, play ball and spend time with the guys but they leave all the responsibility of parenthood and providing to the wife and this eventually takes its toll on the woman who was not created to provide, protect and manage the home. This is not to say that some women do not do a stellar job at managing everything because some do but it is not the perfect design.

Folks, we do not want to see ourselves in this light but when it comes to our relationship with Christ, we are like a deadbeat husband, we bring absolutely nothing to the table. We have nothing to offer other than our honest confession. The only thing we can give Jesus is our sin and shame and the amazing thing is that he is willing to take it.

We give Him our sin and shame and He gives us His righteousness. F.B. Meyer calls this the GREAT EXCHANGE and he wrote a book, “THE CHRIST LIFE FOR YOUR LIFE” on 2 Corinthians 5:21. F.F. Bruce calls it the SWEET EXCHANGE.

When it comes to this text: I think there are some things we must acknowledge. To acknowledge is to accept or admit the existence or truth of something. It is to confess, to agree, concede, admit or recognize said reality. There are several things in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that we must acknowledge.

I. JESUS IS SINLESS–SON OF GOD

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

  • Isaiah 53:9–He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.
  • I Peter 2:22–He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.
  • I John 3:5–And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in Him.
  • Hebrews 4:15–For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

The virgin birth is a fundamental Christian doctrine and it cannot be denied. Jesus was born of woman but not from the seed of a man. We all know that children are conceived by the seed from the male but in Mary’s case, she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Did she feel anything? Was there any sensation? I don’t know: I doubt it but it is immaterial, doesn’t matter. Jesus is the proof of the pudding.

What this means is simple: Jesus did not have Adams blood coursing through His veins, He was born without a sinful nature. Although Jesus was tempted by sin or to sin by the devil himself, Jesus did not think of sin the way we do. He had a pure conscience which none of us can boast about and we know that anyone who pretends to have a pure conscience is lying. {If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. I John 1:10}

The Old Testament teaches Lev 22:21 (NASB)When a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. A holy God demands perfection.

John 8:46, Jesus said to the Pharisees…“Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?  We live is a crazy upside down world which shows little respect to Jesus. Most think of Him as a good teacher or revolutionary but can anyone explain why no one, not even one, found fault with Him during His 33 years. Not even the Pharisees could find a fault. Pilot, the Roman governor, could not find one single fault. Why? Because there was NO FAULT TO FIND. It is hard to find something that is not there.

So: acknowledge with me that JESUS IS THE SINLESS SON OF GOD!

II. JESUS BECAME A SACRIFICE [OFFERING] FOR OUR SINS

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

  • Isaiah 53:6–All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on Him {Jesus} the sins of us all.
  • Isaiah 53:10But it was the LORD ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when His life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD ’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
  • I Peter 2:24He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.
  • Hebrews 9:28–Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

On the cross, Jesus literally became sin for us. He took all our sin and shame upon His own person and suffered like a vile criminal. He didn’t only take our preferred sins such as greed, gossip, jealousy, envy, vain ambition, lust and selfishness: He took the most vile sin imaginable. Jesus knows what it is like to feel guilty. There are sins that we love but there are sins that we loathe and do not want to be associated with. We tolerate lust for women but we loathe lust for children. Pedophilia is loathsome, disgusting and intolerable. Jesus didn’t just feel the guilt of an adulterer, He bore the shame of a pedophile.

I am a history buff and I do love to watch War movies during the Memorial Day weekend. I was watching a documentary the other night about the Nazis. I was not aware of the fact that they starved Holland. That set up a blockade and didn’t allow food to come in: people died by the thousands. When the allies got there, they said the starving bodies were like skeletons with skin and breath. Some were still alive but they appeared to be ghost. Their eyes could focus but they were too weak to talk. 

One America soldier said, “It shook my faith. How could God allow such atrocities to happen? I didn’t lose my faith, eventually, it became stronger but I could never erase the image of those starving people from my mind. It will haunt me until the day I die.”

Jesus felt the guilt of Nazi murderers. Jesus felt the guilt of hate filled Muslims who primary goal in life is to destroy other humans, namely Jews and Christians.

Chris Tomlin says it best–We’ll never know how much it cost to see our sins upon that cross.

Will you acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins

III. WE BECOME RIGHTEOUS BY GRACE

[This is the most difficult thing for me to acknowledge]

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. NLT

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. [NASB]

There is a wonderful passage in Romans 8 that tells us about God’s purpose…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself. And having given them right standing, He gave them his glory.

The world is confused about SALVATION. We think in terms of being saved from out sin and from hell and this is as far as some people get but there is much, much more. God did save us from something, namely self, sin and hell but He also saved us to something, namely Jesus, righteousness and heaven. God’s intended purpose for you is for you to be righteous like Jesus. He is accomplishing this purpose through Jesus Himself. The only way we can be saved is by grace. We cannot deserve forgiveness or love. The only way we can become holy is by grace, God is going to make us righteous through Jesus.

Whereas, we are instantaneously forgiven of our sin, we do not become righteous in an instant, not in the sight of others. We become righteous to God instantly due to His foreknowledge but in time and history, it is a process. The NASB translates the verb, “Might become,” which speaks of a process. We are not righteous [in view of others] but we are becoming righteous.

The NLT states it in a slightly different way, “We are being made righteous.” Sanctification is God’s doing, just like justification. I can no more sanctify myself as justify myself. This is totally a work of grace.

What if a person declares: “I don’t want the righteousness of Christ, I just want forgiveness. I don’t care to be like Jesus, I just don’t want to go to hell.” I would imagine that the church is filled with just such people.

What can we do about such an attitude? My solution or answer would be to “Tell the truth.” No man can come to Christ and get salvation without repentance and faith. I am very afraid that a lot of professing Christians have never repented of their sins. Authentic faith takes place only after repentance. There is no real faith without repentance of sin. We have far too many people relying on a past experience. I don’t care what kind of experience you had, goose bumps on goose bumps, bright lights with angelic music, if you had no sorrow over your sins, you are unrepentant and the proof will be in your present attitude. I preach to people every Sunday who never move. They don’t sing, clap, celebrate and they don’t repent. I have folks that I have never seen come to the altar and we are talking 37 years. If you haven’t repented of a sin in the last 37 years, something is wrong. I had to stop and repent during my quiet time this morning.

Dr. Graham believes that the majority of church members in America are lost and he may be right: the majority is certainly carnal. Their salvation is not working out. There is no visible evidence that they are saved. Several years ago, we had a young man who came to the altar every service. He was struggling with assurance and we tried to help as best we could but I don’t worry about those who struggle with assurance nearly as much as I do those who are cock sure but never display one ounce of humility or repentance. I know preachers who do not have a spirit of repentance.

You cannot get the Son without the Spirit and the Spirit bestows a spirit of repentance. If you do not have this spirit of repentance, then obviously, you have never repented.

Not only will a true born again person have a spirit of humility and repentance; they will, by grace, have a desire to be like Jesus. It is one thing to admire Jesus yet another to want to be like HIM. Jesus was fearless and I suppose we would all like to be fearless but Jesus was also holy: how many of us want to be holy.
By grace, God is going to make us holy. In exchange for our sin and shame, you and I will get the righteousness of Christ. He got our very sin and we get His very righteousness. He didn’t take a part of our sin and we will not take a part of His righteousness, we will get it all. How is this possible?  It is a God thing and all things are possible with God.
Paul said is Galatians 2:16….Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

Jesus by grace will make us right with the Father. Are we there? NO! But we are to take encouragement in God’s purpose more than in our progress. God says we are going to get there and share in His glory and I believe it.

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory. [Colossians 3:3-4]

CONCLUSION

Mary is a good example of our salvation: regeneration, sanctification and glorification. Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Unaffected by physically senses, she in time knew that a person was indwelling her. First, she was given God’s word to believe but eventually, there was visible evidence. Jesus grew in the sanity of Mary’s womb. He became bigger and bigger until He came out. Her motherhood was undeniable. What began in a seemly small way, invisible to the eye became grand and glorious. Who did this? Who is responsible for the INCARNATION? You know the answer: Mary didn’t pull this off, nor did the Jewish Religious Establishment. This was the work of God. Impossible, you would think but not with God.
Jack Bailey, becoming righteous, impossible! You would think but with God all things are possible.