Thursday, May 28, 2009

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Closing Sermon by Ian Hamilton

Closing Sermon – Ian Hamilton

2 Corinthians 4
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, 1 we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants 1 for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, I believed, and so I spoke, we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

It is in 2 Corinthians that Paul reveals quite deeply his heart and soul. He is battling against false apostles, against questions of his authority, and you can sense the intensity and humanity of the language of Paul from the beginning of the letter. The is a note of sanctified frustration. He feels deeply and keenly the slanders that have been raised against him and his ministry. As you read from chapter 2:11 on you can see him seeking to vindicate his ministry, but at the same time he is also seeking to encourage his own heart in in God.
In chapter 1 and 2 we hear of his struggles, his burdens, his experiences of opposition of the wiles of Satan. He knew struggles. Struggles much like we face. Struggles of inadequacy, of opposition, and more.
Twice in chapter 4 he wrote, “We do not lose heart.” Paul had many reasons to lose heart. Much opposition, the weightiness of his calling, and the opposition inside and outside the church.
Then Paul describes himself and other gospel ministers as “jars of clay.” What a description. What a way to speak of those called to gospel ministry. But, that is the reality out of which we live our live in Jesus Christ. We are jars of clay who belong to the God man who is glorified clay.
So why doesn't Paul lose heart? First of all because of the greatness of the ministry God has entrusted to us (v1). It is amazing how easily we can lose the sense of the greatness of the ministry we have received from Jesus Christ. How can it be? This is an amazing ministry. Paul tells us in various ways what this ministry is.
It is the ministry of a new covenant. That covenant that the prophets spoke of. That new covenant of the Spirit not of the letter. We are men at the end of the ages who have been called out and brought into this astonishing privilege that prophets look into with astonishment and amazement. This is what we have been called to do.
Further, it is a ministry of righteousness. If the glory of the ministry of condemnation had glory, how much more the glory of the ministry of righteousness. We stand before people every week to speak to them of a message revealed from heaven, incarnated in Jesus the Son, and in him God has provided righteousness in this righteous one. We know that, but we need it impressed on us day by day by day.
This ministry is a ministry of the light of the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It is a ministry to declare the glory of Christ who is the image of God. The one who is glorious above all. In our frail jars of clay we are called and ordained to make him know.
In this Paul is in one sense encouraging and reassuring himself about the sheer privilege of what God has entrusted to him. This treasure of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Brothers this is the ministry the Lord Jesus Christ has call you to, has called me to. We need to understand it is a ministry that is our by virtue of our being ministers of the great minister Jesus Christ. Our minister is not only a reflection, but more so an overflow of his ministry. The great pattern that marked his ministry was death and resurrection. There is an inevitable cross like pattern to all Christian ministry. Paul is reminding himself that all he has faced is because he has been united to Jesus Christ the minister of the new covenant. That ministry has been stamped on him and all ministers of the new covenant. Death works in us, but life in you.
That is the principal pattern of New Covenant ministry. Peter tells us not to think it is strange when trial come upon us.
Martin Luther stated, “Those who are in the teaching office should teach with the greatest faithfulness and expect not remuneration but … expect death, violence, and danger.” How many young men would be pressing to be in the ministry after words like that.
[Stepped out]
We don't deserve better. We are hell deserving sinners, but we HAVE receive mercy. We have received mercy, and God is pleased to use us. What an amazing thing. In that mercy he gave us this treasure of making him known. In our weakness. We are sad clay that God has come to in mercy.
This is to show the surpassing power belongs to God not to us. This is not new, think of Gideon. Death works in us, and life in you. Some face inexplicable trials, and all we can say is with Jobe, “It is the Lord.” But even this is in his mercy to make known the knowledge of his glory in the face of his son.
Every time we stand before the congregations we serve we are doing the most significant thing in the cosmos. And, of all people we are debtors who have received unfathomable mercy. The sovereignty of God is not first disclosed as a doctrine to confess, although it is, but for God to disclose his grace. His is sovereignty that is bathed in the glorified compassion of the man of dust.
We have been privileged beyond language. Maybe you feel the utter utter weakness of your person in ministry. Brothers our weakness is held in the strong keeping of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In him we are weak, but we are strong. God is pleased to take puny men and have his voice resound in them and through. We do not lose heart. We have received mercy. And even when it seems we will we have one who is at the right hand of the Father who intercedes for us and comes to us in the power of the Spirit in our wretchedness.
May God help us to be faithful ministers of Jesus Christ.

NOTE: I had to step out during this sermon, so my notes are missing parts of it.


homo unius libri said...

Thanks for posting your notes from the Banner. I miss the fellowship and the great teaching I always found there. Maybe next year.

Scott Nichols

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