Our Weakness, His Grace

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:1-11, NLT

1 This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord.
2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows.
3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know
4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
5 That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses.
6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,
7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Introduction

Boasting is a temptation we all face, I suppose. I know that for me personally, it is a temptation especially when my labor or achievement is overlooked. Anytime we get into a rivalry, a competition, boasting becomes a huge temptation. I am an Alabama fan but I do not like the song they sing when they win. Its not rubbing salt into the cut. Paul was at a disadvantage. First of all, he was not in Corinth to defend himself from the accusations made by the false teachers. Most false teachers are highly gifted with very good oratorical skills. Generally, they are smooth talkers with winsome personalities. It is very likely that one of the things they were boasting about was their ecstatic experiences, their dreams and visions. This is a big deal in the Eastern world. Here in the West, we talk a different view. I personally don’t put much stock in ecstatic experiences, dreams, visions, speaking in tongues, etc. There are highly subjective, they glorify the flesh and the people who promote and glory in them are either nuts or highly unreliable. I will take a soul winner any day over a person with ecstatic experiences.

Transition

Tonight, we are going to look into Paul’s ecstatic experience and the conclusions that he reaches in regards to experiences verses God’s grace and power.

I. PAUL’S ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE

Paul says it took place 14 years from the writing of this letter which would put it between his escape from Damascus and his being called to Antioch by Barnabas. It could have happen while he was in Tarsus. Some Jews believe in seven heavens with the earth’s atmosphere being the first. The third heaven was know as Paradise. A paradise is a fenced garden like Eden. Some people believe that Paradise is a heavenly version of Eden. It may have been an out of body experience in which Paul saw and heard things that are indescrible, things you cannot express in words, things too sared to utter.


I’ve never had an ecstatic experience, no dreams, no visions, no out of body experience of any kind. But I have experienced some things that I cannot put into words. I have heard things uttered that I cannot repeat. One reason I can’t it that I cannot remember exactly what was said but no one would understand if I could remember. I am comfortable with the belief that these things should not be discussed. I’m not comparing my experience to Paul’s, I’m simply saying I understand his position that these things are not to be discussed.


Whatever the ecstatic experience, it could have left Paul inflated with his self worth because very few others if any had such an experience. God saw immediately that the ecstatic experience could become a source of pride and that brings us to point number two:

II. PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH

Look again at verse 7, And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.


The Greek word for thorn is skolops and it means a pointed wooden projectile like a splinter or stake. I like splinter. This rules out a birth defect or a handicap. Paul got the thorn or splinter after he had the ecstatic experience. It was given to him expressly to keep him humble. Splinters are painful and annoying but they are not fatal. I get splinters all the time and I usually have my wife extract them when I get home or come in from the outside.


Robert Tasker points out the many views or speculations as to what the thorn/splinter was and there are many conjectures:

  • Luther believed it was the persecution of the Jews who dogged Paul’s steps and were present everywhere to undermine and sabatogue the Apostle’s work.
  • Calvin believed it was doubt and depression and the temptation to give up the apostlic work.
  • The Catholic church has always held the view that it was carnal temptations: those faced by choosing to live a celibate life.
  • Chrystom believe in was a physical deffect, something about Paul’s appearance that made him unattractive.
  • Tertulliam and Jerome believed it was severe headaches, possibly caused by malaria.
  • Some believe it was eye trouble, again caused by malaria which was very common in the Mediterranean world. 
  • Some believe it was epilepsy.
  • Some believe it was an eye diease.

F.F. Bruce says it was something that came on him after his ecstatic experience and something that was painful to the flesh [body] not the old fleshly nature.


Whatever it was, it was:

  1. It was an instrument used by God to prick the flesh and burst the bubble of the Apostles’ arrogance.
  2. It was a messenger from Satan to buffet Paul [to buffet is to strike with the fist]
  3. It was a teacher and Paul rejoices is the lessons taught. Primarily that God strength is exalted in our weakness.

III. PAUL PRAYER “TAKE IT AWAY”

Three times Paul ask God to remove the thorn, splinter and each time God said “No.” Sometimes we struggle when God says “No” or nothing at all. No one like suffering. We always want God to take the suffering away. I have no idea what the thorn was but I can understand Paul’s distress. None of us want to endure pain or persecution. I don’t think Luther’s suffestion that it was the relentless persecution of the Jews is all that far fetched. They were a thorn in his side. I would certainly ask God to remove them. Whatever it was, God did not take it away for a reason. The reason was to force Paul to depend on HIM. When God puts us in helpless circumstances, we have no choice, we have to depend on HIM. This brings us to our final point…The ANOINTING.

IV. PAUL’S ANOINTING

Verse 9 really caught my attention, Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

The word power, dynamis, dynamic explosive power is used twice in verse nine. I think this is the key. In verse 10 Pauls says, That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul had learned to glory in his weakness because when he was weak, God was strong in him. The dynamic power above is associated with the Holy Spirit. When Paul was weak, God’s anointing power was strong on him. When do we experience the anointing, the filling of God’s spirit? Can a man filled with himself, be filled with God’s Spirit? God’s anointing power works better when we are weak because when we are weak, we realize our need and our dependance on the LORD.

Paul had learned to celebrate his weakness because He had seen God use it over and over again. In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul said, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. {RSV} I like that, the Holy Spirit is a transcendent and illuminating power, he is the light in the lamp, the glow in the dark. When the anointing power of the Holy Spirit is upon us, people see it and God uses it for His glory. It is really not about our oratorical skills or even our spiritual gifts. Who convicts of sin? Who changes lives? Who leads us to repentance and faith? It is the power of the Holy Spirit.


I like the story of the usher who prayed the same prayer every week, he would pray, “LORD give our pastor unction.” The preacher got a little irritated and so he asked the good brother, “Can you tell me what unction is?” He said, “No, but I can tell when you have it and when you don’t.” I am telling you, the unction is what we are missing. We want to be strong, polished, eloquent but those things accomplish nothing for God’s kingdom, we get the praise for these things but when we are weak and helpless, the Holy Spirit anoints us and God gets the glory. No one would dare give us glory due to our visible weakness.


This is why Paul said, bring on the insults, hardships, the persecution and the troubles: these things will humble me making me feel helpless and then God will use it for His glory.

 

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The Prodigal {Part 2}

Scripture: Luke 15:17-24

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.
23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

INTRODUCTION

In introducing today’s message, I want to repeat some things I said last week. This is a story of a loving Father who had two rebellious sons. One was overtly rebellious and the other was covertly rebellious but neither, in the beginning of the story have a good relationship with their loving Father. This story, the most famous story Jesus told is a chiasm. It is a parallel and systematic poem of a sort that has a structured scheme, a mirrored pattern. We will say more about this is the last message.


It is also an allegory which means it is not literally about a father and two sons. Jesus is appealing to the Pharisees and they are represented in this story by the elder brother. The Father is God and the Prodigal is the Gentile, the sinners, the outcast in Jewish society. If you miss this, you will miss the basic message of the story.


Yet, within the story, there is amazing theological truths. This story is like a deep mine, the deeper you dig, the more precious the stones, the gems of truth. Today, we are going to look at the nature of REPENTANCE through the eyes of our LORD.


I. REPENTANCE IS COMING TO OUR SENSES

{V.17} When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!

The FALL OF MAN left us with a concussion. Sin has fouled up our thinking. There is a certain insanity associated with sin. If a person is thinking clearly, they think long term, they think about consequences but the prodigal had made a rash decision without thinking about consequences. He was thinking about his independence, his freedom and he may have even thought he was in a quest to find himself but the opposite happened. Think about this boys decision: think about what he gave up in order to pursue his rebellion.
  1. He had a loving Father 
  2. He had security
  3. He had status, position, authority of sonship
  4. He had responsibility
  5. He had privilege [son of a wealthy benevolent father]

The boy traded all of this for a chance to sleep with harlots. You tell me just how intelligent a decision he made. Sin is crazy, it is insane. Just look at our behavior in America and for proof:

  1. We kill babies and call it Pro-choice. Pro-choice for who, not a good choice for the baby. We have Supreme Court Justices and college professors who still refuse to acknowledge that the baby in the womb is a human person. These people are ignoring scientific data that proves home human these babies are and yet we keep killing them. Tell me this is no insane!
  2. Then we have women wanting to be men and men women: some are so mixed up they don’t what or who they are. The Bruce Jenner thing is insane, it is crazy. Men marrying men is nuts. Same sex marriage is insane.
  3. Not to mention the craziness of drugs and what it can do to destroy your life.

Jesus said, This boy finally came to his senses, many translations say “He came to himself” and it is a more literal translation. The Greek word is heautou, a reflexive pronoun that means himself, herself, itself or themselves.

There is a great theological truth here: pursuing your lust will never help you find yourself. Sin will actually destroy any chance you have at becoming who you really are. The boy had no real identity a part from the FATHER. He was just a prodigal, a spendthrift, a whore monger, a nobody, a poor broke dirty pig pen slave. You are never going to know who you are a part from CHRIST.

I like all the translations: the NIRV reads, “Then he began to think clearly again.” Isn’t that great. Sin had clouded his thinking so he did in fact came to his senses and he also returned to being himself.

II. REPENTANCE IS A CHANGE OF MIND

{17-19} At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

NOTE: He Changed his mind about….

  1. Home where there is comfort and security
  2. Father who is loving merciful and kind
  3. Sin which is against heaven and man
  4. Himself unworthy of the Father’s love

Jesus nor the bible ever glorifies sin. You do not have to pursue your rebellion to know that you need grace. I am an elder brother and you will understand in weeks to come that this is a confession not a boast. I was afraid to go to the far country. I was afraid to sleep with harlots. I don’t know anything about wild parties or night clubs but I understand grace just as much as any prodigal. How can that be? God has revealed me to me and the only thing that kept me from the far country was my fear of HIM, it was not goodness. I have slept with harlots in my mind, I have thought long and hard about licentious living. Plus my pride, arrogance and self-righteousness are more loathsome to God than a prodigals overt rebellion. 


You don’t have to experiment in sin to know grace. Trust me, the truly repentant Prodigals never encourage others to follow their footsteps.

III. REPENTANCE IS PRECIPITATED BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD

{Romans 2:4} Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?


The Prodigal did not repent because he became good, he came to his senses and realized that his Father was good. The boy was well aware of his own condition. He was starving. Not only was he touching the unclean swine, he was even tempted to eat with them. He was filthy, hungry, broke, forsaken and lonely. He had no dreams, ambitions or goals. He was at Wits End. He had exhausted all of his resources and he had no where to turn other than to his merciful father.


As he meditated on the goodness of his father in providing for his house hold and even hired servants, he decided to go home, through himself at the mercy of his father. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance, not our goodness. We don’t have any goodness. All our goodness is stained with a selfish intent. We are as broke as the prodigal. We are poor, dirty, filthy, depraved sinners and we deserve death and hell, not love and forgiveness.

IV. REPENTANCE IS A CHANGE OF MIND THAT LEADS TO A CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR

Notice the Prodigals resolute language [v.18-20]…I will go home…I will say to my father…I have sinned…I am not worthy to be your son.


When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?  Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.

True Repentance always produces radical change. If you are not changing, you are not repenting.


The Prodigal was a changed man. He returned to His Father but as a new man. When he left, he was proud, arrogant, selfish but now he comes home humble, broken and ready to serve. Wow! What a change. He went from wanting to be served to willing to serve, willing to do whatever his father commanded.


Folks, you cannot fake repentance. The Father we repent to knows if our repentance is genuine.

CONCLUSION

Would you repent today? Of what you say?

  1. The death of Christ
  2. Your selfish and proud ways
  3. Your attitude toward people

The Prodigal Son

Scripture: Luke 15:11-24

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.
23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

INTRODUCTION

Jesus was the master at telling stories and this story is the most famous story Jesus told and quite possibly the most famous story in all of literature. It is much more complicated than you think. One of my relatives, Kenneth E. Bailey, a Presbyterian scholar fluent in Arabic and a specialist in Middle Eastern Literature points out something that you and I would never see. This story is poetic. This story is called a chi-asm, it is written in a certain pattern ABCD-DCBA and then the parrallel [elder brother] ABCD-DCB but the last A is missing. Jesus did not finish the story. There is a reason why and we will get to it later. We could spend weeks on this story but we are going to try to get it into three or four messages.

There are three main characters in the story but today, we will focus on the Prodigal Son…

The Prodigal represents the overtly rebellious and the Gentile. In either case, it represents those who are repulsive to the orthodox Jew or the Jewish Religious Establishment of Jesus day.

I. THE PRODIGAL’S WILLFUL REBELLION

Unlike his older brother, he does not hide his resentment for his father. He approaches him and asks for his inheritance early. The younger son said to his father,”I want my share of your estate now before you die.” In other words, he is saying “give me my inheritance early.” 

To his credit, he was not sneaky. The older brother was the pretender, not the Prodigal. He was open about his defiance and rebellion. He made no effort to hide his sins.

The Prodigal wanted his independence. He wanted to be free of any restraints. He did not want to live under the authority of his father, he did not want to be accountable to his father or even to live in his fathers presence. He wanted to be absolutely free of his father which is why he moves to a far country. It didn’t want any attachment that would make him feel guilty.

II. THE PRODIGALS SHAMEFUL REQUEST

  • It was shocking request. It was not customary for a child to ask for his inheritance while his father was living. Because the Father had two sons, the younger would inherit one third of the estate at his Father’s death but he didn’t want to wait. This was a shocking story to the Pharisees, “How dare a son treat his father in such a way!”
  • It was a shameful request.  Jesus was telling this story to the Pharisees and they were enraged by the younger sons behavior because he was bringing shame on his father. What kind of son says to their father, “I wish you were dead.” This is basically what the boy is saying. He publically humiliated his father.
  • It was selfish request. The AV reads,“Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” The flesh is impatient. It wants what it wants when it wants. This is the essence of sin. The motto of the flesh is “give me and I want.” The young man wanted his money and he wanted his way. He wanted his independence and he wanted to live an undisciplined life. He did not want to live under the authority of his father, he did not want to be accountable to his father or restrained by his father. He didn’t want his father to be present. It didn’t want any attachment that would make him feel guilty.

III. THE PRODIGALS RECKLESS LIVING

The Prodigal was under the illusion that he could sin without paying the consequences sohe wasted all his money in wild living.” The Greek word for ‘wild’ is a-sō-tōs. It must be a tough word to translate because everyone translated if differently. 

  • AV-Riotous
  • NKJV-Prodigal
  • ESV-Reckless
  • Holman-Foolish
  • NASB-Loose
  • NIV-Wild

The Greek word means to act in a prof-li-gate or dissolute way. To profligate is t0 give in to self-indulgence, cast off all restraints. It is a life without discipline. The same word also means wildly extravagant and licentious. Licentiousness is self-indulgence in sexual sins. So the elder brother may have been right when he said, “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him.”

The word wasted in verse 13 is the same word for a farmer sowing seeds, it means to broadcast or to disperse. The prodigal was squandering his inheritance. He was recklessly spending money on things that have no significance. He was literally throwing money into the wind. But he had given no thought to what would happen after the money was gone. Rebels refuse to look at the big picture–to think long term. {Halmark Movie}

IV. THE PRODIGAL’S GENUINE REPENTANCE

To his credit, the Prodigal does repent which is more than we can say about his brother but he did not repent until he came to his senses. Sin messes up your mind. It keeps you from thinking straight. Sometimes we have to get caught in some uncontrollable circumstances before we begin to think. We have to hit rock bottom which is what the boy did.

The kid is in a foreign country which means Gentile, he spends all his money and than a famine hits. Famines are tough if you have money but they are fatal to those that are dead broke. The boy attacked himself to a farmer who sent him to feed the pigs. The AV says he’joined’ himself to a local citizen of that country but the Greek word is the word for glue. He glued himself to this man but the man didn’t care anything about him. MacArthur believed that the man wasn’t even paying the kid because the boy was starving.

He was starving literally and figuratively. He needed food but he also needed friends and he didn’t have any, not even one. No one cared anything about him. Suddenly, having a  loving, caring father means something to this wayward child. In this dirty pig pen, he begins to think and pray. Then he came to his senses, he had a change of mind, a radical change of mind about everything.

  • He changed his mind about sin– Once sin had allured him but not anymore. He sees sin for what it is…black and evil. Sin is a weight that will carry you down. It will carry you further than you want to go and keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin is a downer!
  • He changed his mind about work.
  • He changed his mind about home.
  • He changed his mind about His father. 

CONCLUSION

Both sons were rebellious, both sinned against their father but only one repented. In the final analysis, there are only two kinds of people: those who repent and those who do not. Remember, the essence of sin it that you do things your way: the elder brother was serving the father, but he was doing it his way. He needed to repent as much as his kid brother. Unfortunately, he did not see his sin, only the sins of his brother. To repent, you have to see your sins.

Lostness

Scripture: Luke 15:1-10

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
3 So Jesus told them this story:
4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.
6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
8“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?
9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’
10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

INTRODUCTION

The Jewish Religious establishment divided the world into two groups: Jews and Gentiles. A Gentile is simply anyone who is not a Jew. But within the Jewish community, they had another division. There were the Religious Jews, referred to as the ‘righteous’ and the sinners, those who did not adhere to all the religious laws and customs surrounding the law of Moses. The tax collectors, prostitutes and many others came under this category of “Sinners.” To the orthrodox Jew, both terms Gentile and Sinner were derogatory slurs.


The Pharisees for example had no dealings with Jews who were  classified as sinners. They did not do business with them, they refused to associate with them; they didn’t even speak to them or acknowledge their existence. The stories Jesus tells in Luke 15 are revolting to the Pharisees. They have no concept of a God who loves sinners.


Jesus, on the other hand, loved sinners and even ate with them. This was highly upsetting to the Pharisees.


TRANSITION

In leiu of the Pharisees harsh attitude toward sinners, Jesus tells three stories. Three different stories but they all three have things in common.
  1. First of all: all three are about things that are lost

  2. In all three stories there is someone concerned about the lost

  3. In all three, there is rejoicing when the lost things are found

BUT, there are differences in the stories as well and that is what we will focus on this morning.

I. THE LOST SHEEP 

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.
6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!


Sheep are dumb animals. They are not intelligent like a dog or cat, they cannot find their way home because they have no sense of direction. Sometimes the sheep just put their heads down and wandered from the flock inadvertantly. Sheep are not known for being rebellious: the goat is a symbol of rebellion. The sheep gets lost because it wanders aimlessly and carelessly from the flock and the shepherd.


The truth is: we don’t know exactly how the sheep got lost but it doesn’t matter. It is possible that the shepherd was a bit careless or just not paying attention. The reality is that the sheep is lost and it doesn’t matter how it got in this position. The problem is the sheep is in a perilous position. Sheep are basically helpless. They do not know how to fight and they are not fast on their feet. They are vulnerable to almost any preditor and are helpless when attack by woves, mountains lions or bears. The lost sheep is in danger and the sooner it is found the better. Since this dumb animal has no sense of direction and cannot defend itself, someone has to go looking for the lost animal and it this case it is the shepherd.


There is an urgency with the shepherd because he knows the animal is in danger. He/she does not wait for morning, they go immediately searching for the lost animal. Shepherds were good trackers and as long as they had light, they could track a sheep.


When the shepherd finds the lost animal, he brings it home to an anxious community. When they see the rescued sheep there is rejoicing. Many of these ancient communities derived their living from the flocks. Recovering a lost sheep was a big deal. The sheep is helpless lost and must have a savior.

II. THE LOST COIN

8“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?
9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’

10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”


The coin is an inanimate object. It can neither lose itself or find itself. When a coin is lost, it is someone’s fault other than the coin. Perhaps the coin fell on the floor or got stuck in the recliner. In either case, someone lost the coin. It is someone’s fault.


Again, the reality is that the coin is lost. Assigning blame is not going to help you find the coin. At this point, you get a light and sweep the house, looking dilegently for the coin. If a hundred dollar bill comes up missing at your house, what are you going to do? You will have everyone in the house looking for that $100 dollar bill.


The coin didn’t do anything to become lost, nevertheless it was lost. We are born sinners. We do not have to do anything to get lost. We are children of Adam and he was a sinner, this makes us sinners also.

III. THE LOST SON

When Jesus gets to the third story, the lost son, several things change. The Father does not seek the lost son, not in the active sense. The sheep was careless, the coin was helpless but the son was rebellious. He was willfuly lost. He wanted to be lost. He choose to be lost, it was his own doing.

CONCLUSION

  1. If you are lost, it doesn’t matter how you got that way or who is at fault. Being lost is a perilous position and you do not want to endanger your soul by remaining lost.
  2. Jesus loves sinners and He is actively seeking YOU today. His purpose in coming to earth was to seek and save the lost. [Luke 19:10] Jesus died for you, to save you from your sins. His blood was the sacrifice that atones for sin and John said {I John 2:2} not only your sins but the sins of the whole world. No matter who you are or where you are: Jesus died for you. He wants you to be saved.
  3. A word to those who are saved: The Jews were religious but that is not enough. Jesus made it clear in the greatest two commandment that we are to [1] Love God with all our heart, mind and soul and [2] Love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. The Jews were failing on both counts. This was nothing new. Amos sums up the problem in Amos 5:21-24 {NIRV}
21 The LORD says, “I hate your holy feasts. I can’t stand them. I hate it when you gather together.
22 You bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings. But I will not accept them. You bring your best friendship offerings. But I will not even look at them.
23 Take the noise of your songs away! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 I want you to treat others fairly. So let fair treatment roll on just as a river does! Always do what is right. Let right living flow along like a stream that never runs dry!

 

 

Boasting In Weakness

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:28-33

28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.
29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?
30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.
31 God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying.
32 When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me.
33 I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.

Sermon

I am a pastor, Paul was a missionary and there is a difference. The difference is seen in verse 28…Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. The difference is between the singular “Church” and plural “Churches.” Paul was deeply concerned with all the churches he had planted and this would be a considerable number. My concern for the past 37 years has been Danville Baptist Church. In a small way, I can identify with what Paul is saying. There is no escape from your responsibility. No matter where you go, the concern for your flock is on your mind.

The burdens a pastor bears range from sympathy to anger. Paul felt the pain of the weak and hurting and he burned with anger when some of his flock were being multilated spiritually. There are two interesting Greek words in verse 29. The Greek word for lead astray is skandalizō. Sound familiar doesn’t it. From this word we get our word scandel. The second word is pyroō like in pyromaniac. Pyroo is the Greek word for burn. So Paul’s emotions ranged between weakness [empathy] and anger. Either extreme can be draining emotionally.

I don’t think it is necessarily a super natural gift but I do feel people’s weakness. I feel the same helplessness they feel. I do admit that the problem the Judaziers posed doesn’t seem to be as real today. It burned Paul up to see his converts being lead astray by false prophets who were teaching a doctrine of works. I do know the frustration of seeing a member of the flock being lead astray but it has been rare for me, not the norm. It is a helpless feeling. I lost a very good friend in this very way some years ago. I man came into our church under the guise of being good person but he was divisive and he intentionally poisoned the attitude of a very close friend. He was so convincing, that my friend believed everything he said. It hurt me deeply but there was nothing I could do.

So Paul has a problem. He wants the Corinthians to love him and empathize with him. He so desperately craves their admiration that he has stooped to boasting just like the false teachers. But in the later part of Chapter 11, we see a shift as Paul seems to come to his senses, he will continue to boast but he has decided to boast about his weakness.

By boasting about his weakness, God can get glory.

In order to change courses and set the record straight, Paul tells about a humiliating experience. It is the kind of story that a proud man would not tell. The false teachers would never incriminate themselves. They would not tell a story that made them look small but Paul did just that.

Paul was saved on the way to Damascus so it was in Damascus that Paul was confirmed as a believer. It was here that he first witnessed to the Jews at the synagogue. Paul did not go back to Jerusalem for a while. He left Damascus and went down into Arabia where he spent some time in seclusion and some time preaching the gospel to the Nabataens and this may explain why  King Aretas would want Paul arrested. It is very possible that the Jews conspired with Aretas to capture Paul. Luke tells us in Acts 9 that the Jews were looking for an opportunity to capture Paul.

Paul was saved from King Aretas and the Jews but not in a spectualar fashion. Paul was put in a basket, like the ones used to empty garbage and let down through a window in the wall of the city. The basket used was about the size of a bushel basket: it was not tiny but neither was it large. A full grown man could not possibly get inside this basket. This and many other things, like his name, have lead us to believe that Paul was a tiny man, possibly a dwarft. John Chrysostom, a fourth century church father believed that Paul was tiny and hunch backed. He believed that the twisted spine was his infirmity. No one knows for sure but I am firmly convinced that Paul was a tiny man. It fits his profile.

No one is going to brag about their smallness, unless they want God to get the glory. The story of Paul’s escape from Damascus highlights his smallness and God’s greatness. The story had two sides: one was humiliating but the other was glorious.

I have wrestled with this concept for years: how can a man sincerely boast about his weakness? Was Paul sincere when he boasted about his weakness? At one time in my life I doubted the words of Missionaries who always said, “What we need most is your prayer.” I doubted until I became a short term missionary 6,000 miles away from home but that trip healed me of any doubt.

Likewise, there was a time in my life when I doubted Paul’s sincereity; how can a man brag about his weakess? How can one glory in his weakness? After all, weakness is weakness. I do believe that Paul was sincere. I do believe that he reached a point where he could boast in his weakness.

One of the things that has to happen in a believers life is total abandoment of the flesh and its ways.

You have to get to a point of such deep sorrow, grief and frustration that the only thing that matters is the glory of God. For me personally, it took what the old preachers called, THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. Dr. Adrian Rogers had a great message on this subject and I had it on tape but I have either let some one borrow it or I have misplaced it. I tried to reorder but the second version was not as good as the first. The dark night of the soul is a time of doubt {John the Baptist} where you question everything and there seems to be no light. I made the mistake of having a Calvinist preach a revival. I didn’t know it at the time and I had used a couple in the past that didn’t do any damage but this guy had 50% of our members doubting their salavation. It took me weeks to get things straightened out. He used John 2: Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them. [This is verse 23 and the first line of 24 but you have to read the entire verse to get the context] He emphasised over and over that profession of faith in Christ meant nothing. Faith is Christ is not the issue, it is His choosing us. The people that Jesus is referring to in John 2 believed that Jesus could be the Messiah but they did not trust Christ personally and Jesus knew it. You have to read the entire verse. They were admirers but not converted believers.

Everything is based on faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Even God Himself is invisible. You cannot relate to HIM a part from faith: it is impossible. How many times did Jesus say, “Believe?”

  • “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” {Mark 1:15}
  • “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” {Mark 5:36}
  • “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” {John 3:36}

Yes I would prefer to tell you that I’ve never had a doubt but that would be dishonest. I have doubted my salvation, my call to preach, my call here, my motives, etc. I got to the point that I threw in the towel and just said, “Lord, I don’t know, I believe, my faith is in Jesus but I don’t have assurance, not perfect assurance and I am weary of thinking about it. One thing is certain, you will get glory one way or the other, to You be the glory.” When I reached that point of desperation, I got peace. The good that came from it was that I ended up thinking about His glory more than my own personal good.

Job had the same experience and so did John the Baptist. So to answer the question, “Yes, I believe Paul sincerely gloried in his weakness because even in his weakness, God got glory. We want God to use our strength but He gets more glory by using our weakness.

Conclusion

I am going to wrap this up with a story that I have used often. It illustrates perfectly how God uses our weakness. I was doing a follow up visit on a 16 year old girl who had made a profession of faith in the little church is East New Orleans where I was serving. She lived with her parents in a trailer park just a few blocks from the church. She was not at home but her mother was and she answered the door. I told her who I was and why I was there and she informed me in no uncertain terms, that her daughter did not need saving. She was visibly upset by my words and my presence. I was a bit taken back and began my retreat but before I departed, I thought I should get a witness in so I told her, “Everyone needs to be saved.” Then I quoted some verses out of Romans or tried to, in truth I made a big mess, nothing came out right. As I pulled back out into the highway to leave, I broke down and sobbed. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had made a fool of myself or so I thought.

You can imagine my shock when I got up to preach the next Sunday morning and there sat that little lady and she still did not look happy. I preached a sermon on judgment which I thought would set her off again. When I gave the invitation, she stepped out and came forward. I was very nervous, she still looked angry to me. When she got to the altar she said, “You were right, everyone needs to be saved. I have sinned and I want to be saved.” We looked at the scripture, then prayed and she was saved. She was literally transformed before my very eyes and I never saw anger in her face again. I will be sending her a Christmas card in a few weeks. She is 92 and lives in the western part of New Orleans in a retirement home. She is still smiling. I know for a fact that God uses our weakness. I don’t want to be weak, I don’t pray for God to make me weak but I know He works through our weakness and by so doing, He gets the glory.