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1224. Sufficiency from God

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
April 7, 2022 7:00 pm

1224. Sufficiency from God

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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April 7, 2022 7:00 pm

Dr. Stephen Hankins continues a seminary chapel series studying the book of 2 Corinthians with a message titled, “Sufficiency from God,” from 2 Corinthians 3:1-6.

The post 1224. Sufficiency from God appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. BJU Seminary Professor Dr. Stephen Hankins will continue the study in 2 Corinthians, and the title of his message is, Sufficiency from God. I'd like to invite you to turn in your New Testament to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verses 1 through 6. This is the next paragraph in this section about apostolic ministry that we're going to be focusing our attention on. When you started in seminary, you started on a journey. That journey has a destination, hopefully, and that is confidence for your future ministry. Confidence that in whatever place God leads you, you'll be able to serve effectively for His glory. Your ministry confidence makes a great deal of difference.

It really matters. But how are you going to react when, as a youth pastor, parents begin to criticize you because of the way you're handling their kids? Or when a few individual influential women in the church are not confident that you're really an effective example or counselor to other women as a pastor's wife? What about the day when a fellow staff member complains to the senior pastor that, in their view, your preaching and teaching is really quite weak and you're not appropriately prepared? Or when a leading, very outspoken deacon says that he's convinced that your ministry at their church is over and that there are a lot of other people in the church who feel that way also? Or when families in the church just don't like you? How could that possibly, reasonably happen? Someone as good-looking and as affable and godly as you? But it will happen.

Over irrational jealousy, over because you remind them of someone they don't like or have had a bad experience with or someone they would rather see in your position than you are in their position. How will you react to these things? Will you wither up with hurt feelings and see your ministry confidence just evaporate? Well, if you look at this paragraph, which we haven't read yet, you'll notice immediately that it's very autobiographical.

Paul's talking about himself, talking about his experience with the Corinthian believers. So in the spirit of the author, I'm going to go just a little autobiographical here for just a moment and take you along with me to an experience I had early in ministry. Actually, I was just three years into my full-time teaching ministry here at the university.

I was 27 years old. I had a young family. And God had opened an opportunity for my wife and our little baby and I to go three and a half hours up the highway every weekend to a church in a semi-rural setting in North Carolina that had about 160 active member attenders and about 325 people in a K-12 Christian school. It was a wonderful experience, a great opportunity to serve. I'd met the pastor of that church when leading a ministry team from the university and he graciously, as a guy in his late 40s, early 50s, had opened the door of opportunity for me to be his associate pastor on Friday through Monday in the wee hours of the morning.

And it was a wonderful experience. I'll always be indebted to him for that opportunity. But six months in, I received a late-night phone call from the chairman of the board of deacons telling me that the pastor had left a letter of resignation on the desk in his study and had gone to a neighboring state to look for employment. It was difficult to locate the pastor, but the next week I received another call, this time telling me that the pastor had returned to the community, that he was on the psychiatric floor of a neighboring hospital in a larger community. And so when I arrived that weekend from ministry, I went and visited him, of course.

He was not in good shape. Shortly thereafter, he was released from the hospital, and it was then that I learned that he had actually returned from his employment search to the community to try to persuade the wife of the principal of the Christian school with whom he had had a affair to leave with him so they could go off and live together by themselves away from their spouses. Well, what would you do? There was nothing that could be done but follow what scripture commanded. So I went to the pastor and I talked to him. I begged him to repent of what he had done and what he was doing. It was initially to no avail, but then I went with others, with deacons, and we pled with him and begged him to be restored to the Lord. And God broke his heart, and he did repent. And in a service not long after that, on a Sunday morning, after I preached a message on forgiveness, he read a letter of repentance to the congregation in person. And a letter was also read of repentance from the wife of that principal of the Christian school. They subsequently experienced what was an incredible outpouring of love and support and forgiveness from the people of God in that assembly.

I mean that very morning. They literally rose up out of their seats and came as a group and encircled this brother and prayed for him and encouraged and supported. Both couples, the pastor and his wife and the principal and his wife, remained together. They left the area and went to seek other employment.

So what was the long term outcome of that experience, that crisis? Well, unbelievably, no people left the church. No parents withdrew their kids from the Christian school. The spirit of unity was astonishing in the assembly.

It was simple. We simply followed scripture and God honored that in a remarkable way with a spiritual impact in the hearts of the people. That was a tremendous ministry confidence builder for me as a young man. There had been a great spiritual impact on the hearts of the people in that church. And for some of those people, that even continues to this day in that ministry, which thrives and prospers even as I speak. But within a few months after that morning service, now I'm serving as the interim pastor while we're looking for a senior pastor of the church. Satan launched an attack against me and it came through the complaints and slander of a very young deacon and a few others he had recruited about some imagined slight I had committed against him. And something happened to me. I found I experienced a deeply shaken and seriously weakened ministry confidence. I was not used to people complaining about what I did in service for Christ, especially in light of what had transpired in the ministry there.

This was really quite a shocking thing, very disturbing and upsetting to me. Well, in time, that problem resolved itself. Things worked out well. The church remains strong.

And as I said, they've prospered and they've gone on, of course, to call a full time pastor now for many, many years, as was planned from the beginning. But my overreaction to the criticism, the wrongful criticism of that young deacon and the others brought something polite in me. It revealed something to me that needed to be corrected. And that was my basing of my confidence in ministry on the opinions of other people. This was a problem. It was a flaw in my ministry philosophy. And I had to address it.

I did address it. And this morning, I want you with me to address this for yourselves from this passage of scripture. Your ministry confidence for the future really matters.

It is extremely important. And we need to determine what the sources of true ministry confidence are as we look at this passage of scripture. Now reading it together with me, do we begin again to commend ourselves or need we as some others epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men. For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to Godward. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. Now the first thing I'd like us to observe from this paragraph is that our ministry confidence, as you serve in whatever local church ministry, missions, evangelism that you're called to, is not based on human approval.

This ministry confidence cannot be based on self-commendation as part of human approval. Look at the very first verse. Do we begin again to commend ourselves?

It's interesting he says, again. You see, there had been this problem before with the Corinthians. They knew the proof of Paul's ministry, and he had said to them in his first epistle, listen to these words from 1 Corinthians 4, 15, and 16, For if ye were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet ye would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel, therefore I exhort ye, be imitators of me. Paul had been down this path before, and he had commended himself legitimately before to them. He had been their faithful example as a shepherd, as a pastor, a father in the faith.

He had reason to have confidence with reference to them. But Paul had written in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 in his 15-faceted description of love, that love does not brag and is not arrogant. And he was not about to start down that path now. He wasn't going to go down that path again with the risk of seeming to do that. And you know, sadly, men and women, we all face the challenge of allowing the testimonies of ministry to others to devolve down into really what could be called bragamonies, not testimonies, about how God's hand is so uniquely upon us in ministry.

We really must avoid this. And Proverbs tells us in the spirit of Solomon and his heart in 27-2, Let another man praise you, and not your own lips, a stranger, and not your own mouth. Ministry confidence is not based on self-commendation. And ministry confidence is not based either on the confidence of others.

This is all part of human approval. Look at verse 1 again, it says, For need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Paul had a really healthy, very healthy spiritual independence about him. His ministry confidence was not based on the words or assessments of other people about his ministry. As I said, he had been through this before with the Corinthians. We look to them in 1 Corinthians 4 in verse 3, But to me, it's a very small thing that I may be examined by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even examine myself, he says. Yes, men and women, our own hearts are so treacherous and so deceptive that we often cannot even come up with a correct evaluation of our own motives for what we do in ministry. Let alone others coming up with a right assessment of that. Paul was wholesomely unconcerned about the approval and the commendation of others toward him.

Is that your heart? Ministry usefulness and fruitfulness is not about a self-cultivated reputation with others. It's not about your network of ministry friends who approve of you. It's not about manipulating your spiritual image with others through social media as you make posts about your spiritual life and work.

It's not about currying favor with other people by being a sycophant, a brown-noser. In other words, a flatterer of other people because of some favor and advantage you think you will gain spiritually by being that way toward others. No, we are not looking for glory from others. We are looking from the glory that only comes from God. Jesus said in John 5 44, How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? There's a most remarkable statement by Paul in 2 Thessalonians in chapter 1 verses 11 and 12 where he gives a description of his prayers for them. He says, To this and also we pray for you always that our God will count you worthy of your calling and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you and you by him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to glorify him and he will choose whether to glorify or honor us through the fruit of our ministry. So confidence in ministry does not come from self-commendation. It does not come from the commendation of others.

We are not looking men and women at all for human approval. That has got to be left behind. You have to wash that by the grace of God out of your mind and your heart. But our ministry confidence will be affirmed. Affirmed by the transformed lives of other people. Ministry confidence comes through a letter of affirmation that is written in our own hearts about the transformed lives of others.

See this in verse 2? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts. There is an internal private inscription, a letter by the Holy Spirit about the transformed lives of others, of certain ones you have served. And after you serve in ministry for a while, these letters get written, not on paper, not digitally, but in your memory, in your thoughts, your heart. You know and they know that your life has impacted them in immense ways, permanently. And there is no denying it. God has used you. And this is a source of great confidence to you and encouragement of comfort to you in ministry as you serve.

And it's vitally important for you. One day, these letters of commendation in your thoughts and your memory will include your own children, your wife, your grandchildren, and your sons and daughters of the faith and in ministry that you have influenced. Whenever you think of them, your heart will soar with joy. You'll smile.

You can't help it. It's proof positive that God has used you in ministry to impact others. You've impacted them. You're aware of it. And they are aware of it. What has happened is real.

You know it. And there is no denying it. And you come away praising God. But you know there's something else about these letters of affirmation. They're not only in your own heart. But the verse says that they are known and read of all men. Ministry confidence from these letters of affirmation may be known and read by all men, by many others.

In other words, these letters become very public letters. When you serve others, the Spirit will work in them and their life will be transformed. And it will commend your ministry because people will know the ministry in effect you've had in their lives.

Every one of those people will be like a letter commending your service because of the Spirit's transforming work in them. And it's not a work like being carved in stone as the law of God was or written by ink, letters of recommendation by men in writing. No, it is a real transformed life. You know, you look at a guy or you look at a girl and you ask yourself, is she a woman of God? Is he really a man of God? Well, you look for the evidence. And what is the primary evidence? It is the transformed people through their ministry.

They are each letters of commendation of your ministry. Now, for example, and bear with me, I'm thinking of Dave right now in Ohio. I'm thinking of Gary in North Carolina. I'm thinking also of Steve in Pennsylvania and others like them. They are all wonderfully fruit bearing pastors today.

But that was not always so. It took a long time serving them as a pastor, teacher, disciple, maker, mentor for this to be the outcome. But they are letters and they are read of all men. I can't explain to you at this point in my life and ministry the joy that I experienced from that and that awaits you as a result of your service to people in the future when your letters are known and read of all men. There is no joy like it. But in the process of all this letter writing that we do in the hearts of men on the lives of people known and read of others, we come to one glorious and inevitable conclusion and that is that our ministry confidence is found in God alone, not in ourselves.

How does that happen? Well, ministry confidence, we see in verse 4, is found through Christ as we seek Him and walk with Him and commune with Him and the Father. Verse 4 says, In such trust have we through Christ to Godward. You know, it takes a while in ministry to really believe Jeremiah 9 23 as it's quoted in 1 Corinthians 1 verse 30 and 31 that the Lord Jesus alone is the one who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. It takes a while in ministry, remembering daily and seeking according to Hebrews 4 15 and 16, His grace and His mercy which will sustain us on a daily basis.

It takes a while in ministry according to John 15 5 as Jesus put it. That as we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will bear much fruit, but without Him we can do nothing. There must be a Christ focus, a Christ dependence, an hourly communion with Him.

It gives us the power and the possibility of bearing fruit for the glory of God. True ministry confidence is found in the Lord Jesus Christ through His Spirit. It is found in rejecting ourselves as the source of confidence in ministry. See that in verse 5? Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. Let me ask you a question. Do you hear ministry self adequacy or self confidence in 2 Corinthians 4 7, the very next chapter where Paul wrote, Do you hear this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves?

No. You don't hear self adequacy and self confidence there because it's not there. Do you hear that self adequacy or self confidence in 2 Corinthians 12 9 and 10, where the Lord Jesus said to Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. And most gladly, therefore, will I rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. No, our ministry confidence comes through Christ. Our ministry confidence comes through rejecting self confidence and self adequacy. And men and women, to crown this, to cap this off, the apostle says to us that our ministry confidence is found through the Holy Spirit's work through us. See that in verse 6? Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. This is the Spirit of the living God at work in us, sent by Christ. The Spirit of Christ, sent by the Father, the Spirit of our Father, into our hearts to work mightily.

Look with me at the end of verse 6, it says, But the Spirit giveth life. Yes, the Spirit gives life power to our hearts for regeneration, Titus chapter 3 verses 5 and 6 says. The Spirit gives us the power of life for daily personal transformation, as 2 Corinthians 3 verse 17 and 18 says. The Spirit gives the power of life in our prayers, as Romans 8, 26 teaches. The Spirit gives the power of life for light and understanding the Scripture, to understand the riches of our inheritance, according to 1 Corinthians 2, 12. The Spirit gives the power of life for bold witness, as Acts 1, 8 says. And the Spirit gives power for life for preaching the truth, according to 1 Corinthians 2, 4.

And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Now I want to step just for a moment, as we're concluding, back into church history, to look at a towering example of ministry confidence. But there's a reason I want us to look at this character in church history, because 129 years after his death, you will still immediately recognize his name. There are few in church history who have received the commendation or condemnation of others like this man.

His stable ministry confidence, in both cases, is why we're looking at him for a moment. Charles Spurgeon was that mid-19th century pastor of the first megachurch of the modern era, a metropolitan tabernacle in London. He preached for over 35 years to crowds of 5,000 people twice every Lord's Day during that period of time.

It was three and a half decades when England was the superpower of the world and London was the capital city. His sermons were published weekly, surrounded the globe, were translated eventually into 29 different languages. This essentially self-educated, though privately and home-educated as well, man, became the pastoral and theological giant of his era, authoring 140 titles and one of them a two million word, seven volume set called the Treasury of David. Spurgeon's influence was and still is profound today. But now today, few remember that in 1888, just three years before his death at the age of 57, while still serving, while still preaching to 5,000 people in the morning and in the evening in the metropolitan tabernacle, that Spurgeon was publicly and officially castigated, censured and rejected by the British Baptist Union of Pastors because of his defense of biblical purity and orthodoxy. But he remained faithful until his death at 57 in 1891. How did he endure with the same confidence and boldness and ministry to the end in spite of that unbelievable condemnation which happened at an annual meeting where there were 2,007 votes, 2,000 against him and seven for him?

So when you read his biographies, men and women, you come away with only one conclusion. His true ministry confidence was found in the power of his work through the Spirit of God alone, whose work was clear and undeniable in him. And that is where your confidence in ministry must come from. So in the words of the writer of the Hebrews, therefore, do not throw away your confidence which has great reward. Your true ministry confidence really matters. Find it in God the Spirit alone. You've been listening to a sermon from BJU Seminary professor, Dr. Stephen Hankins. Thanks for listening and join us again tomorrow as we continue the study in 2 Corinthians on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-10 08:44:02 / 2023-05-10 08:53:29 / 9

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