A Fume Or A Perfume?

A Fume Or A Perfume, which do you want to be?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

12 When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. 13 But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

17 You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.

INTRODUCTION

Tonight scripture  comes from Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul left from Jerusalem went due North then cut across Asia Minor [Turkey] to Troas on the Aegean Sea. Troas is located on the Northeastern side of the sea just South of the Hellespont. It is a hop, skip and jump from Traos to Macedonia. The voyage has  series of islands with the center most point being the Samothrace.

I have struggled to organize our material but finally came up with an outline that will guide me through tonight’s thoughts. We are going to examine Paul’s ANXIOUS MIND, God’s AMAZING GRACE and our AWESOME TASK.

I. PAUL ANXIOUS MIND

Paul is expecting to see Titus at Troas but he does not show up and Paul is visibly upset. Paul became anxious; so much so that he is dysfunctional. A door of opportunity is open before him but he lacks the presence of mind to enter. He is worried sick over the Corinthian situation. So much so that he has no peace of mind. He becomes so obsessed with anxiety over the Corinthian situation that he does not seize the opportunity to evangelize Troas. This is so not like Paul. Under normal circumstance, a team of wild horse couldn’t stop him from evangelizing.

I am so thankful for the book of 2 Corinthians. This book reveals a human side of Paul that we would not know otherwise. Although worrying is a sin and is stimulated by lack of faith, Paul confesses his anxiety and lack of peace, so much so that he was rendered dysfunctional. I glad the moment of weakness is recorded because I have many such moments and it encourages me to know that the same thing happened to Paul.

Worry is similar to grief in that it is a sign of love. Parents who love and care for their children, worry about them. When you run into a parent that does not worry, it is because they do not care. When I was a teenage and young man, my Mother had a curfew and it was mid-night. I heard kids say more than once, “I don’t have a curfew, I can stay out all night if I choose.” They were actually saying, “My parents don’t care…they are not waiting up for me.”

I understand that we are not to become or remain obsessed with anxiety but I think a little anxiety every now and then is a good sign. I know one thing for sure, I can relate to Paul. I know that anxiety hinders study, sermon preparation, devotional time, bible study, evangelism and mission. We will never produce our best until we relax. This is why recreation is so important to people who have stressful jobs–our creative juices, the inspiration is not going to move in a tense body.

So I realize anxiety can work against us but in Paul’s case it was a definite sign that he cared deeply about the church at Corinth.

II. GOD’S AMAZING GRACE

When I first read tonight text, I saw Paul’s anxiety clearly but I did not see God’s amazing grace. After reading the passage 20-25 times and reading every commentary I could get my hand on, bingo, I saw it and then I thought, how could I not see it? Paul is a bit distracted and discouraged but then the thought of a Roman General came to mind and he realized that he was a part of General Jesus conquest.

When a Roman General had a great victory or conquest of additional territories, the Emperor would do a parade in his honor; something similar to our ticker tap parade. The parade would feature the general leading the procession riding in a gold chariot. The General would be followed closely by his sons, then his officers, then the priest burning incense, then the captives. It was a big deal in Roman culture. The incense would be a fragrance to those who were allied to the General but it was be an odor, a stench to the captives. The parade would end at the Circus Maximus and then the captives would be thrown into the arena with wild beast.

Jesus is the conquering general [King] and we are members of the royal family. We follow him as He leads the way. In Christ we are more than conquers. Jesus won the battle; He is the victor but those of us who follow Him get to walk in victory with him. Just as the family of a general would have nothing to do with the battle, yet get to celebrate the victory. It is a beautiful picture of GRACE. We walk in victory because of what Jesus did in our behalf.

Paul said, “Not only do we walk with HIM, we are the incense.” We are a ‘perfume’ to the believers but we are a ‘fume’ to the unbelieving. To believers we are a pleasure, to unbelievers we are a pestilence.  The key is to understand that we are marching in the victory of Jesus.

III. OUR AWESOME TASK

I like the question raised in verse 16…who is adequate for such a task as this?

The word ‘adequate’ is hikanos which is used 45 times in N.T. It is the same word John the Baptist used when he said, “I am not fit to baptize You.” In reference to the Roman Centurion, it is translated ‘worthy.’ It is also translated sufficient and enough in size, time, length. Paul answers his own question in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6…

We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit.

Getting the gospel to the world is a monumental task. To be honest with you, it blows me away. Had God said to me personally, “Jack, your task and yours alone, is to get the gospel to the world,” I would have collapsed in despair. Thank God it is not my personal charge but that given to the church. Even so, it is still an AWESOME TASK.

Are we up for the task? Are we adequate? No, a thousand times no, but God via His grace and Spirit will enable us; He will make us adequate.

I heard a story many years ago about a preacher who went to a town in the mid-west to do a revival. It was a small town of lest than 20,000. The First Baptist Church was located on main street just across from stores and businesses. The pastor had a visitation in the day and the revival services at night. Each day when the members came for prayer and assignment, the pastor had cards prepared and he handed one to each prospective visitor. On one of the visitations, a mentally challenged man came in for the prayer meeting and visitation but the pastor ignored him. He didn’t think the man had enough sense to go visiting so he never gave him a card.

You or I would have gotten our feelings hurt: we would have went home and never returned for visitation but this man was unimpeded. The towns leading rebel and church hater ran a furniture business almost directly in front of the church. The mentally challenged man, walked across the street and went into the store. The man was in the middle of a sale but our friend interrupted him, he said, “John, would you like to go to heaven.” John was very irritated that he had been interrupted and embarrassed by the question; he said abruptly, “No, I don’t want to go to heaven!” But before he could say more, the intellectually challenged man said, “Well, go to hell then!” Then he turned and left the store. The businessman was furious. He was much more angry with the pastor and the church than he was this simple man. He tried to finish his sale but he kept hearing the man’s voice be replayed in his mind….”Well, go to hell then!” As the day progressed, the voice became more frequent and it was driving the businessman crazy. By night time, the voice was tormenting him and no matter what he did, the voice kept coming back…”Go to hell then.”

He had no peace. When he began locking his business and getting ready to go home, he noticed people gathering at the church for the revival service. Mysteriously, he was lead across the street and went into the service, sitting on the very back row. By the time the invitation came around, he was broken and contrite, he went forward under heavy conviction and gave his heart to Christ.

The pastor was in shock. Before presenting the man to the congregation, he asked. “John, what prompted you to come tonight?” John told him the story…The intellectually challenged man that you sent today said something that I could not shake. He asked me if I wanted to go to heaven and I rudely said, “No,” to which he said, “Go to hell then.” I have not been able to get that voice out of my head all day.

The story may shock you but it doesn’t me. It is not our ability that works, it is our availability. It is God who works, God who enables and He can use anyone He chooses. I attended the COLS a week or so ago. It was the celebration of the life of a simple man. He was an Ag teacher. A small man physically with a low voice. I had a hard time understanding him. I doubt that he had any evangelistic training in his entire life but he loved people and he knew how to relate. He would go get his pastor or a staff member and carry them to someone he was praying for; he would initiate the conversation and then after a few minutes say something like, “I brought my pastor with me, he has a few words he want to say,” then he stopped talking and went to praying silently. Many of his converts were former students. I would not dare anyone to imitate this man but it would be great if we had folks who would follow his example. I met this man at the church I served in college; got to work with him 18 months. I had never saw anyone like him before or since.

Folks, it does not take degrees, training institutes, diplomacy, eloquence or intellectual brilliance to witness for Christ; it simple takes a desire to be used and willingness to go. It is God who enables, convicts and changes lives. The intellectually challenged man did not change the furniture salesmen’s life , Jesus did.

Advertisements

Luke Five

Luke 5:1-11, NLT

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

INTRODUCTION

I love the stories in the gospel of Luke. Any story involving Jesus is exciting but these stories are not for mere entertainment: each story has a message. Within this story, we discover a lot of principles that the church should be practicing. We live in a lazy culture. People do not work as hard as the use to. We are pampered, spoiled and we want everything the easy way but missions and evangelism demand work, hard work. Today, we are going to talk about things that the modern church works to avoid.

The first thing I want you to notice is that Jesus is not in the synagogue. He is not inside a church building. Some many people have the idea that church takes place in the building but Jesus was at the lake and they had real church. I’m not saying that we should all meet at the lake next week but I am not saying we shouldn’t. There are always more people at the lake than in our buildings. It might not be a bad idea to take Christ to the lake but that would be work and we don’t like work. You might say that PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT TO JESUS THAN BUILDINGS.

The second thing I want you to notice is that Jesus preached on the banks of the lake and then got in boat and taught the people. Literally, in the Greek, the word for preach or teach is not in the text. Literally the text reads, “the people crowded around Jesus to listen to the word of God.” One thing sure, He was communicating the word of God. Traditionally, we Baptist have had bible study and then worship [preaching]. What if the NLT has it right: what if Jesus preached first and then had bible study? Would we be willing to follow Jesus patter if it went against the grain of our tradition? One thing is certain, COMMUNICATING THE WORD OF GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TRADITION OR SCHEDULES.

A third thing I want you to notice and this requires no stretch of the imagination. OBEDIENCE PRECEDES WORSHIP. I never heard the term “Worship Wars” until two decades ago but there is no doubt about it, churches are divided over worship styles. It is really nothing new, there were wars to get hymns and hymn books incorporated into worship. But worship style is not the issue; our problem is disobedience. We study the word of God, but we do not put it into practice. Our spirit of obstinacy and disobedience kills are worship. Disobedient people cannot worship Yahweh; they cannot glorify Jesus they can’t get into worship because of their disposition. This problem of disobedience has lead to narcissistic worship. We are not worshipping God, we are worshiping ourselves and using God’s name as a cover for our self-will.

Two things I want you to notice: [1] Jesus outrageous command and [2] Peter reluctant obedience. Peter was a fisherman by trade: Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth. There is no place to fish around Nazareth. Peter has been on the lake all his life. The command makes no sense to Peter who is confident that he knows more about catching fish than a carpenter. But, Peter does exactly what Jesus says even though he doesn’t understand why He said it. It is after Peter obedience to Jesus command that he falls to his knees and cries out, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”  If Peter had not obeyed, there would have been to awe and worship. Peter saw the deity of Christ and at the same time saw his wretched depravity. Peter fell to his knees without a worship leader telling him what to do. His worship was real: He knew he was in the presence of God. We have great services and I enjoy them but do we worship? Do we sense the presence of God they way Peter did? Do we fall to our knees and cry for mercy?

There is something else I want you to notice: FOLLOWING PRECEDES DISCIPLESHIP. There are no self-willed disciples. A disciple lives for his master. He has no will. His master’s will is his will. A disciple lives to serve. In the body of Christ you cannot lead until you learn to follow. Look at the text,  “they left everything and followed Jesus.” Discipleship demands absolute surrender.

One more thing: Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” Would you say that Jesus was talking about EVANGELISM? Here is the problem we are facing: we are too lazy and to indifferent to fish. Fishing for men is hard work: first there is TRAINING, rigorous training. Then there is the incredible PATIENCE it takes of fish because some days they are not biting. Then there is the DICIPLINE: You have to fish when you had rather be doing something else. Which had you rather do, go out to eat or go to the gym and work out? It takes a fourth thing: PASSION. You have to fish until you love to fish whether they are biting or not. Evangelist Junior Hill use to take his mother to the creek and leave her for the day. She would sit on a 5 gallon bucket and fish all day long. Junior said, “It didn’t matter if mama caught fish or not, she always wanted to go back because she love fishing more than catching fish. Catching fish was a bonus but she was going whether or not she caught fish.”

What if every true believer in the congregation got one person on their heart and began praying for that person’s salvation and made themselves available to share their faith? Do you think it would change our church? In a sense, there is no problem that Evangelism will not cure.

Max Lucado tells the story of two men taking their sons on a fishing expedition. When they reached the mountain lake and set up camp, it was time to go to bed. When they woke up the next morning, it was raining so they stayed in the tent and played cards hoping for a better tomorrow but it rained the second day also and the cards got boring and the gear was getting wet. Everyone was getting ill with each other; the boys started fighting and the dads followed suit so they loaded up and went home. The moral of the story is WHEN FISHERMEN DON ‘T FISH, THEY FIGHT.

Jesus’ Ten Principles of Evangelism

Text: Matthew 10

INTRODUCTION

A fire that is not spreading is going out. A church that is not evangelizing is dying. Through chapter 9 of Matthew, Jesus has been center stage and the disciples have been spectators. Jesus does the preaching, healing and they watch. It has been a wonderful experience and they have been awed by His teaching and His miracles. In Chapter 10 everything changes: Jesus puts His disciples on center stage and He steps over in the wing. He puts them to work doing the same things He has been doing. I am sure they were anxious and if you had takes a poll, I would bet that the majority would have preferred that Jesus remain on center stage, do the work and let them watch. We all enjoy watching Jesus work. However, Jesus was not satisfied to see His disciples enjoy watching Him work, He willed that they get involved in the work themselves. Could anyone do the work as well as Jesus? No! But by sending them out in two, Jesus covered 6 times the ground that He could cover by Himself.

Jesus did not send the out without instructions and that is what I wish to talk to you about today. In Matthew 10…Jesus taught at least 10 Principles of Evangelism and I wish to share those 10 principles today…

  1. We must be CALLED and COMMISSIONED by Jesus….[10:1] Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. This is not a general call, it is personal…Here are the names of the twelve apostles:first, Simon Peter, then Andrew, James (son of Zebedee), John (James’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus,Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot. I hesitate to say that you cannot do the work of evangelism unless you have a personal call because there have been charlatans who have lead people to Christ by using the scriptures but it would be extremely beneficial to have a relationship with Christ.
  2. We must GO to the lost Sheep. [10:5-6] Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. Note the word Go. Jesus did not rent an auditorium and have a conference on Evangelism or worship, He sent His disciples out; He commissioned them to GO! You can’t spell gospel without spelling go; you can’t spell God without spelling go. In the Great Commission, Jesus said “Go ye therefore.” The liberals do not believe in going. They believe in letting your light shine and attracting. How many lost people have come to you lately and told you they were attracted by the light. How can a blind man see the light? The Reform crowd do not believe in going. They believe in bible study and worship. You stay doctrinally pure and the elect will come to you. One tiny problem, do you see that taught by Jesus in Matthew 10? When it comes to going, Baptist can make more excuses than Carter has liver pills. I ask an evangelist who was preaching a revival at our church to stop by and share his testimony with a lost man who I had witnessed to but couldn’t seem to make any headway. He went right by the man’s business every day of the revival but would not stop. On the last night, I ask him again if he stopped and this is what he said, “I didn’t feel anything in my spirit telling me to stop.” I said, “You don’t need anything in your spirit telling you to stop, Jesus has already given us a command to go; we don’t need more than His command.” While I’m on the subject, the deeper lifers are just as guilty as the Calvinist, their excuse is “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” Go back and read Matthew 28:19-20, and see if Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, all that have the gift of evangelism, and make disciples.”
  3. We must stick to the MESSAGE. [10:7]… Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. We are couriers, messengers and our job is to share with them what Jesus tells us to share. He not only sent the disciples out, He told them what to say. He will give us the message if we are willing to go.
  4. We must be willing to MINISTER [10:8]…Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.  We have to be willing to meet needs, to touch people at the point of their pain.  If we are too proud to stoop, we will make poor evangelist. If we try to evangelize without ministering, we look like hypocrites. If all we do is minister and never evangelize, we are failing to met the primary need and our reason for going.
  5. We must be GRACIOUS and GENEROUS [10:8]…Give as freely as you have received! God has generously given us all things. Our salvation was a gift of grace. We are never more like Christ than when we are giving. Christian ministry that turns a profit is ill motivated and those who do it will have to give an account. We must be willing to give of ourselves and our resources.
  6. We must DEPEND on the LORD completely. [10:9-10]…“Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed. Dr. James Kennedy once said, there are two main reasons why Christians don’t evangelize [1] They live a compromising lifestyle that cripples them with guilt [2] They give in to their fears. I think Dr. Kennedy hit the nail on the head. People are fearful when it comes to totally relying on the LORD and that is what you do when you Go out to evangelize. Jesus said, When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Seldom do we know what we are going to say and seldom do we use what we have rehearsed, the Holy Spirit will help us. I have been amazed time and time again at how the Holy Spirit works when we go out in faith.
  7. We must work with the RESPONSIVE. [10:11-12 ]…“Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. When you enter the home, give it your blessing. If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. Some 40 years ago I served a small church in rural Mississippi and I had now famous Evangelist help me in a revival. I worked him to death as we visited in the day time and he preached at night. About middle of the week, he said “Jack are trying to reach people who are not interested and you are wasting your time.” My first response was, he is out of line and there is nothing impossible with God. I always thought you went after the most notorious sinners in the community but he had me on age and experience and I listened to all that he had to say. He gave me instructions on what to do. I had been bowing my head and praying during the invitation. He told me not to bow but to look and when someone raised their hand, that is who we would go see the next day. This church ran 42 in Sunday School and we had 7 Professions of Faith that week.
  8. We must not worry about RESULTS [10:13-15] If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day. The first Revival that I preached was in Good Springs, Alabama. I think it was August of 1970 and the pastor and I were visiting in the community before the service. He carried me into the home of an elderly man who was bedfast. The old man was lonely and welcome company as long as you talked about what he wanted to talk about. Bill had chatted with him for a while and I was getting anxious so I asked if I might share some things from the scripture. I was shocked by his response, He said, “You may not. I do not believe anything in that book [pointing to my bible] and I do not want to hear it.” I said, “You don’t believe in heaven or hell?” He said, “You see that out there [pointing through his window at a graveyard next door], that is where I am going and that is as far as I am going.” He said some other things that we just a cold and hard. I dismissed myself. The Pastor was not ready to go but I left and waited in the car. I did not take my shoes off and slap them together, I didn’t think to do that but that basically what I was doing. We are not responsible for the results, our responsibility is to share the gospel in love.
  9. We must expect OPPOSITION. [10:16] …“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. Jesus did not promise that it would be easy. No one delights in being thrown to the wolves. First, we have to trust Him to take care of us because we are putting ourselves in a defenseless position, a sheep in a pack of wolves has no chance apart from intervention. Jesus said we must be shrewd like snakes and as harmless as doves. You can’t interchange these metaphors…snakes are not harmless and doves are not shrewd. A snake shrewdness is in its ability to avoid its enemies and capture its prey. Snakes are fast and slippery. They are hard to pin down or to catch. I have to confess that I lack this shrewdness. I miss a lot of opportunities to witness because I am not shrewd enough to approach the person that I want to witness to. On the other hand, we have to be gentle like a dove. I have no doubt that this is a weakness on my part.
  10. We must not give in to our FEARS. [10:26]…“But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you.” [10:28]…“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [10:29-31]…What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Count them: three times Jesus said “Don’t be afraid”. This is the only principle that He repeated three times. Why do you suppose Jesus repeated Himself on this particular subject. It might be that our greatest problem is fear.

CONCLUSION

I have confessed that I am a poor witness. I do lack the shrewdness of the snake and the gentleness of the dove but that does not excuse me. We are all as children of God commanded to witness to our faith. There are no excuses. I will listen to your confessions but not your excuses. I have none and neither do you.