On the Plains of Moab Blog
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October 30, 2013, 1:50 PM

The Foolishness of Preaching



It is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."  Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:19-25 ESV).

The "foolishness" of preaching.  Ah, yes.  I think of this quite often, particularly on those Sundays where there seems to be tumbleweed blowing through the sanctuary.  There ARE better things to do on Sundays.  Sleep in.  Go to the park on a beautiful day.  Afterall, we don't HAVE to be in church to worship, now do we?  Preaching is just so lame when we compare it to the wide range of superior communication available out there.  Most of the preachers in the pulpit today are just so-so communicators.  They preach because that is all they know how to do.  It is all they want to do.  Weird people!

But really.  Think about it.  Preachers proclaim that God has spoken.  These words of God are written down in a book.  More incredible.  Still.  The words of God written say (unashamedly) that God became one of us.  He lived among us.  He died for our sins.  He conquered the grave.  He lives forevermore while making intercession for us.  He sent His Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and to open the eyes of our hearts that we might believe in Him.  Big, Big Picture!  What God started in the Garden of Eden will find final fulfillment in the New Heavens and New Earth when He comes back again.  That's when 1 Corinthians 15 says that God will be all in all.

I get paid to stand up each Sunday and tell you about that stuff.  Sometimes, it is done well.  Sometimes, it flops like a tattered flag on a windless day.  Often, I have to remind myself that I work for God; particularly when we are low in numbers.  (Don't believe any preacher who says they aren't emotionally impacted by Sunday turnout.  We are, after all, sinners just like you!)  However.  It is not my message.  It is His message.  How mind blowing it is that He entrusts this precious message to silly human messengers!




October 21, 2013, 8:30 AM

Can We Talk?


My, what a day yesterday.  From Sunday School to Worship, very challenging.  To begin the day, we were discussing chapter seven of the Westminster Confession, "God's Covenant with Man."  I must say, I know what "covenant" is; but, when you are trying to teach it, it is tough.  To begin with, the two categories taught in this chapter, "The Covenant of Works" and "The Covenant of Grace" aren't even explicitly mentioned in the Bible.  They are inferred, more or less, much like the concept of the Trinity.  But, in both cases, these descriptive terms describe well what we know of God (Trinity) and how He operates with us (Covenant).  Solidly Reformed, Biblically based concepts.  Nevertheless, hard to teach!  I am afraid I wasn't of much help to my fearless class yesterday.  I need to bring my "A" game for them next week as we move on to chapter eight, "Christ the Mediator."

In the pulpit with King Amaziah.  One word:  Exhausting.  An extended portion of Scripture, the entire, long 25th chapter of 2 Chronicles.  On top of that, it is so easy to get sidetracked with the blood and guts of ancient warfare.  Especially the part where Amaziah captures the multitudes of the Edomite army and executes them in an extremely inhumane manner (2 Chron. 25:12).

Usually, when I am reading narratives such as this one from the pulpit, I want to stop and scream, "Please hang with me!  There is something we need to get here.  Don't tune out because you are turned off by the violence."  The Bible records the actions of sinful men (and women).  We are sinful.  We live in a fallen world.  The Bible doesn't sweet-filter life.  And just because something is recorded in the Bible, doesn't necessarily mean that God is advocating every single behavior reported!

The lives of the kings we are studying in this sermon series have much to teach us.  About Jesus and about ourselves.  As in yesterday, Amaziah's half-hearted-ness ended up in heart-ache not only for the king; but for his people as well.  The king's passion or lack of passion for God always had far reaching consequences.  This is why we make much of King Jesus.  Oh, what our King has done for us by His perfect obedience to His Father's will, keeping covenant perfectly on our behalf.  By contrast, King Jesus is so unlike the other sons of David, like Amaziah and Jehoshaphat and Solomon and even David himself.

I think the point that I wanted to make yesterday was that King Jesus has secured for us our eternal standing and blessing before God, through faith.  However, the principle played out in Amaziah's life still holds personally for us... and even corporately:  Half-hearted obedience still brings heart-ache to the child of God and the church of God. (This is true even as Jesus has done the "heavy lifting" for us.)

Still, I know that was a hard thing to get across yesterday.  You may not know this about preachers, but we usually know when we are not going to make full sail long before you may draw that conclusion!  That was yesterday for this preacher.  As I said, what a day yesterday!

Oh well, there's always next week.  Speaking of next week, we will be looking at the reign of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 30:1-13; 26-27.  The title will be "The Homecoming."  Can you figure out why?




October 14, 2013, 8:29 AM

Post-Script



I have just realized that I did not make a connection yesterday that I perhaps should have made.  I said from the beginning that I would be looking at the kings of Judah for a reflection of Jesus; how in some small way they foreshadow the coming of the Greater King David.  Alas, I don't think I will be able to draw such a neat parallel with each king.  For instance, with King Jehoram, he was such a wicked and bad apple that when he died, it says, And he departed with no one's regret. (2 Chron. 21:20 ESV).  Ouch!  Now, that's bad.  Move over Eleanor Rigby.  Interestingly, Jehoram was the son of good King Jehoshaphat.  I guess that acorn fell in the next zip code!

However, with Jehoshaphat, I see where I may have missed a good opportunity to make such a comparison.  Jehoshaphat, as a good king, demonstrated godly humility for his people.  He did indeed have strength.  He did indeed have military capability should he have chosen to use it.  He may have even pulled it off heroically.  But, he did not.  He relied instead on the strength of the Lord.  And he was vindicated.

I see this as well with Jesus in the great hymn found in Philippians 2:5-9 - Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.... (ESV).

Missed opportunity.  It was there!

Jehoshaphat, in a small way, demonstrated how a good king leads the way for his people.  Humbly.  I am taken, as well with the way the Chronicler presents the flow of the king's reign.  I did touch upon this yesterday.  The opening of his reign with a battle and the closing of his reign with yet another battle.  The first battle, he blew it in relying on his strength.  The second and closing battle, trusting the Lord for strength.  I love the way the writers of Scripture arrange their narrative to draw out the truth that needs to transform our hearts.




September 23, 2013, 7:59 AM

And Another Thing


As I listened to the ending of the sermon yesterday, I was putting my head in my hands and saying, "Oy vey."  Oh, the things I should have said there.  Here's how it went down:  "Now of course, we all know that David had feet of clay as well.  He was not always the king he was called to be.  Nor was his son, Solomon (the wisest man to walk the face of the earth), nor Solomon’s son; nor any other son of David that followed up until the exile.  And yet, from the Chronicler’s point of view, it will be a king from David’s line who will fulfill the needs of not only the nation of Israel, but of the entire world.  When we look at Saul, we know that we need the greater David.  We need Jesus.  You have heard the Word of God.  I ask you to consider it so very well.   Amen."

I did not make it clear that JESUS was/is that greater David to come! (There, I said it clearly!)  In context, the Chronicler was using the inglorious demise of King Saul to reinforce the legitimacy of and divine approval of David's claim to the throne; but we must keep in mind that Chronicles was written to the generation after the exile.  There was no son of David leading the rebuilding effort in Jerusalem for them.  There was no king in Israel at this time.  Really, there was no king until Jesus came along nearly 400 years later!  The Chronicler, it seems to me, was re-fueling the messianic hope to that post-exilic generation with his reminder that the throne was given to the son of Jesse and reinforced with the subsequent mostly positive portraits of David's successors.  David's line was re-affirmed as God's choice in the hearts of the people.

My thinking here is that the subsequent accounts of the kings of Judah in 2 Chronicles will touch upon the faithfulness and heart for God that will be fulfilled only and ultimately in the greater David to come in Jesus.  Of course, the original post-exilic hearers of Chronicles didn't (couldn't) see Jesus here.  However, they do hear that they are God's people - still God's people -- and that they need to be about the business of re-establishing the temple and worship in Jerusalem and in the Land.  There is also optimism that the line of David is still alive and a very real possibility.  Another son of David will arise and assume the throne if they are faithful.  That's my take.

This is why I made the overblown claim about the key to understanding the message of the Bible being tied to getting what the Chronicler was doing with his lead-in of Saul's demise.

For us, I think that we are kind of like that post-exilic generation.  Jesus has long since ascended to the right hand of the Father.  Life is not always easy.  We get lost often in our own troubles and doubt.  However, we are reminded and exhorted in the New Testament that we are still the people of God and that our King will return soon.  In the meantime, we are to be about the business of maintaining the right worship of God and reflecting His glory to the world.

Oh, well.  There's always next week!




September 9, 2013, 12:33 PM

Monday Morning Quarterback



So, we are off with a new sermon series in Chronicles.  Seeing that I did not really do an introductory sermon, I think it is probably a good idea for some of those kind of thoughts here on Monday morning.

Many Bible readers, when they come to the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles, decide that they don't need to read these two books, and skip on to Ezra and Nehemiah.  There are a couple for reasons for this skip.  First, Chronicles begins with a mind deadening 9 plus chapters of genealogies!  Who wants to get a heavy dose of the "so-and-so begat so-and-so's"?

Another reason that Chronicles gets jettisoned is that to the casual eye, it just looks like a repeat of 1 & 2 Kings.  Same history.  Yada, yada, yada.

Big mistake on both counts to skip over Chronicles.  The genealogies do have a purpose:  The story is not exactly the same.  And, Kings & Chronicles have some historical distance along with distinct purposes.

First things first.  The book of Kings was written to God's people in Babylonian exile.  The purpose of Kings was to explain why the people of God were sent into exile.  In service to that aim, the writer of Kings uses the Judahite kings to demonstrate how they failed to keep covenant, and how the people blissfully followed them in their disobedience.  David, the man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22), is portrayed as a good, but flawed king.  For example, his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba and the broken relationships within his own royal family with Absalom.  And Solomon, the wisest man ever to walk the face of the earth?  My, how he crashed and burned!  (How many wives and concubines there??)  David and Solomon's successors do not fair any better.  Some good, but mostly (really) bad.  This, Judah, is why you were sent into Babylonian exile.

The book of Chronicles, on the other hand, is written to the people of God after they have come out of exile.  They are back in the Land.  The writer of the books, usually called "the Chronicler," wants to encourage them to remember who they are.  They are God's people.  They are the ones who are the legitimate heirs to the covenant promises. Now, get to work.  Rebuild the temple!  Restore right worship!  Be my people!  In service to that aim, the history that that the Chronicler records is mostly positive.  Gone are the accounts of Bathsheba and Absalom.  David is a good king.  Look to David and follow his example!  Look to Solomon and follow his example!  Roughly half of the Chronicler's accounts of David and Solomon center around their work on preparing for and building the temple.  They were kings who understood the heart of God.  The other kings who follow David and Solomon are equally portrayed in a more favorable light -- even the wicked king Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:1-20)!

And... The allegedly meaningless genealogies that lead off the book have their purpose in this grand scheme.  You see, the genealogies connect the now returned nation of Israel to the wilderness generation.  The generation that was the recipient of the Mosaic Law and the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The people, now back in the Land, can see where they came from.  They can see who they belong to.  They can see what their purpose is.  They ARE the people of God.  Genealogies don't lie!

One final tidbit of introductory material:  Chronicles, in the Hebrew Bible, is the very last book in that canon.  It is a positive note to end on.  A note of exhortation to the people of God.  It is a book that, like Revelation in the New Testament, draws from a number of Old Testament books to weave it's theological history of the nation, and leaves the door wide open for a greater David to come in the future (i.e. Jesus).

I think that my strategy for the remainder of the sermons will be to take a snapshot look at some of the significant kings in Chronicles, to examine how they meet this theological purpose of the Chronicler.  But also, more importantly, how they prepare us for and point to the David to come, the ultimate King of kings yet to come. (i.e. Jesus).


One penultimate note on this Monday Morning Quarterback session.  Please do note that due to the recent tweak on our church website, it is now possible to make the sermon manuscript available on the audio download page.  I know that for many, there is a preference for the written message.  Saves you from having to hear my nasally voice.  (You don't know how envious I am of Steve Brown of Key Life Network, one of my preaching professors in seminary.  His deep, rich bass voice in his "Think Spots" are Sinaiatic:  "I'm Steve Brown. You think about that.")  Now, you can just click on the Word link above the summary of the sermon on the audio page.


Now the ultimate and final thought.  Another cool feature tweak on the webpage.  Whenever you see a Scripture reference anywhere on the website, all you have to do is move your mouse over the Scripture reference, and walla!  You will get an immediate pop-up with the ESV text.  Great feature from our host.  Enjoy!




September 3, 2013, 8:41 AM

Nothing to do with the Sermon



This has to do with Sunday School!  Beginning a new Sunday School class on the Westminister Confession of Faith this week.  Meeting in the Fellowship Hall weekly.  I invite you to join us at 9:45 am if you've ever wondered what Presbyterians believe.  (Or, at least, what they've cherished historically.  We will incorporate the Shorter & Larger Catechisms into this study as well.

If you're convinced that studying the Confession is a waste of time, consider these five good reasons for undertaking such a study from Carl Truman (from his book, The Creedal Imperative.

1) Confessions delimit church power.  …This is what stops churches from becoming cults: clear and open statements about where church authority begins and ends, connected to transparent processes of exercising that authority.

2)  Confessions offer succinct summaries of the faith.  The church with a good confession and a good catechism has a ready-made pedagogical tool for instilling the truth into its people.

3) Confessions highlight that which is of importance.  A good, elaborate confession provides the church…with a fine resource for teaching the people about what really matters and why.

4) Confessions relativize the present and connect us to the past.  …The use of creeds and confessions is one intentional means of connecting ourselves to the past, of identifying with the church of previous ages, and thereby of relativizing our own significance in the grand scheme of things.

5) Confessions fulfill a vital part of Paul’s plan for the post-apostolic church.  …Without a ‘form of sound words,’ [the church] would drift from her theological moorings, losing touch with her past and with other congregations in the present.  A ‘form of sound words,’ a confession, [is] crucial for maintaining both continuity with the apostles and unity among the Christians in the present.




September 2, 2013, 1:45 PM

New Sermon Series Beginning!



An adventure in 1 & 2 Chronicles.  Bet you haven't heard a series on THAT part of Scripture!

 




August 26, 2013, 11:13 AM

Monday Morning Quarterback


I've just finished listening to yesterday's sermon from Lowell Sykes a second time.  As I listened, I could feel his passion for the Gospel.  There was nothing in that sermon but Jesus Christ from start to finish.  It occurred to me as I gave it a second hear, that in the times in which we live, it is considered somewhat rude and arrogant to presume to speak so authoritatively about eternal matters.  Especially so since it seems wise and beneficent in the mainstream eye to rather invite everyone to write their own cosmic script.  But Lowell preached Jesus Christ yesterday.  He was right -- this is a life or death matter.  I am grateful for his ministry and his word.




August 25, 2013, 2:58 PM

Vacation!



So, I have a day off.  And what happens?  I walk towards the kitchen first thing this morning to feed the dogs, and then, I am struck with this incredibly sharp pain in my back.  I end up on the floor groaning.  Man, getting old is not for sissies, as one of my elders likes to say.  (Thanks, Aubrey.)  But, THIS is my day off.  And I WANT to worship.  This is the Lord's Day, NOT my back's day!  3 Aleve's and 2 hydrocodones later, I am gingerly easing into my car to head over to First Presbyterian Church Roanoke with my family.  Let me tell you, when I finally made it inside and parked in the pew; I looked up and I almost had tears in my eyes.  I made it!  It was not easy.  But, man ole man, it was so worth it to get to church.  It felt good.  And I felt nothing but joy.  There was no other place that I would have rather been at 11:00 on a Sunday morning.  And, in God's Providence, if I were "working" today, I don't think I would have been able to preach.  The back was very brittle this morning.  But my heart was so ready for worship.  Thanks to Bob Smith and the family at First Church for the hospitality.  Godspeed to those Saints as they seek their new denominational home.  Thanks as well to my elders and Lowell Sykes for holding down the fort this morning at New Hope.  I just listened to the service, and I am thankful for the Word that was proclaimed along with the beautiful music -- and the children's sermon.  What a delight.

I am back in the pulpit next week with a dream to share with you all.  Let's come back strong next week.  Too many empty seats in the last two weeks.  Let's worship the Lord.  Nothing more important.  And, I mean, there is nothing more important.  Period.  Exclamation mark.




August 18, 2013, 12:40 PM

Sermon Text: 2 Cor. 2:14-16



An Aroma of Christ  Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cameron Smith

During my sophomore year at college, there was a student on my dorm floor who was apparently averse to any form of personal hygiene.  The guy never took a shower.  He never washed his clothes, and quite frankly, he didn't smell very pleasant.  For me, it wasn't so bad.  All I had to do was hold my nose when I walked by him.  But for his three poor room-mates , they were truly suffering.  They dropped hints.  They kidded him almost mercilessly.  But to no avail.  To this guy, he thought he was just fine.  He saw no need for change.  Finally, when it got to the point it was ready to blow up, one night, several guys on the hall conspired to get him out of bed and throw him in the shower, along with all of his clothes.

This is a great illustration for the Christian life.  You, just like our Pigpen in college, go about your daily business, most of the time not giving much thought, if any, to the way you interact with others; or how you handle yourself in public.

What are the words you use in casual conversation?  What kind of driver are you when driving around town?  How do you talk to a customer service representative when that rep is rude?  What kind of a jokes do you tell?  Or laugh at?  Do you find it irresistible to spread a little gossip here and there?  How do you do your job?  What kind of worker are you?  What kind of co-worker are you?  For you students out there, what’s your reputation in school?  And the really big smell of them all, how do you handle yourself when you are in personal distress or something has gone wrong, or you've been mistreated, or you've gotten bad news?

When I am in public, I do not normally like people to know that I am a minister.  I have been embarrassed on several occasions when I was wearing my LU shirt or a shirt that I used to wear advertising the fact that I served as a chaplain at Florida Hospital.

Tell me true, would it puzzle your colleagues, neighbors or classmates if they knew you were a Christian who attended church on a regular basis?  What kind of “smell” or "aroma" are you giving off?

In our Scripture reading this morning from 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.  As Paul is writing to the congregation in Corinth, he launches into a doxological note during his discussion of his frustrations with this difficult church:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the [sweet] aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  And who is equal to such a task? (NIV).

Even though Paul is talking primarily about himself, you are included too.  You’re life -- in good times and bad times, but for the most part, during bad times -- is to be an “aroma of Christ [pointing to/ magnifying] God….”  And so I ask, do you stink or are you an aroma of the sweetness of Christ?

If I could put it mildly, the congregation at Corinth, quite frankly, needed to be thrown in the shower in the middle of the night.  It was a church that was full of problems.  Corinth at that time was comparable to New York City or L.A. in that it was very cosmopolitan – culturally, on the cutting edge.  And it was this uncritical, cultural influence that was so evident in the life of this congregation.

From the opening verse in the Corinthian letters, it’s painfully obvious that they were a factious, quarreling bunch.  From 1 Cor. 3, we see how they battle over personalities in the church.  They were bringing lawsuits against each other (1 Cor. 6); a son was sleeping with his father’s wife and the congregation didn’t seem to think anything was wrong with it (1 Cor. 5)!  Instead of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, they were showing up drunk, turning the love feast into a gluttonous affair.  To make matters worse, the poorer members of the congregation were being excluded from the feast (1 Cor. 11).  And speaking of the poor among them, these Corinthians had promised Paul that they would take up a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem; but apparently had gotten off track with that project.  And so Paul had to sternly admonish them to finish what they had started (2 Cor. 8).  Worship services had degenerated into shows, with some getting up and showing off by speaking in tongues, and in addition, demonstrating that they knew very little of the nature of spiritual gifts! (1 Cor. 12-14).  And then, to make matters worse, there arose some teachers who taught what Paul called a “different gospel,” and again, the church couldn’t even tell the difference between the true and the false (2 Cor. 11)!

Is it any wonder that to be called a Corinthian at that time was an insult?

And so coming back to our doxological note in 2 Cor. 2:14-16 to this wayward Corinthian congregation, Paul uses sacrificial language to describe his (and their) ongoing relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to teach them something very, very important about the Christian “walk.”

The language of aroma and fragrance is right out of the playbook of Leviticus.  The various sacrificial offerings were said to be a sweet aroma arising from the altar into the nostrils of God.  They were pleasing to him, as you and I are to be!

To drive his point home, Paul mixes his metaphors.  Along with the Levitical language, he brings in the imagery of the ancient Roman practice of the triumph parade:  But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession.... (v.14).  Here, the Roman army, returning from war victoriously, would parade through the city with their prisoners of war in tow.

Sweet smelling incense was burned on a grand scale so that it filled the air to delight the senses.  The climax of the spectacle was when the prisoners reached the center of the city, they were then executed.  The sweet smell of incense was the smell of victory to some, while for the prisoners; it was the odor of death.

Paul calls himself a “prisoner for Christ Jesus” (cf. Eph. 3:1; Philemon. 1:1, 9).  The apostle's experience is likened to that of the doomed prisoners in the triumph parade in that he is “dying” every day as he preaches and lives out the Gospel.  Paul is being used in a mighty way even through his weaknesses and setbacks to display the glories of Christ in his life.  Paul is a servant of Christ, being used in all circumstances.

In 2 Cor. 11, Paul speaks of his journey in this triumph parade of life.  In contrast to those who think he’s cursed of God because of his extreme hardship, he says, I speak as if insane-- I more so [a servant of Christ than my detractors]; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (23-28).

And yet, through, in and by all of this, Paul’s life is “a fragrance of Christ to God.”  God uses this frail, imperfect, mortal man and his trials to impact and change the world!  To those who hear and obey, it is aroma that brings life.  To those who reject this message; it is the aroma that leads to death.

Let me ask you, do you see your Christian calling to be a fragrant aroma to God through this lens of sacrifice and obedience modeled by both Jesus and Paul; indeed, the godly example of every man and woman of God recorded in the Scripture?

We are talking about self-denying, selfless service, being inconvenienced; suffering reproach for doing what is right; risking embarrassment in witnessing to Truth in a sea of relativity and uncertainty; praising God in all things, good and bad; following in the footsteps of the one who gave his life for us.

I think the Church has, by and large, lost this core message.  Some Christians seem to think – and I recognize that I’m painting a picture in the most general terms -- that being a Christian is about what you can get from God.  They turn the Bible into a simple cause and effect “owner’s manual.”  It’s primarily about what God can do for you!  He’s the “cosmic bell hop.”  If things are going well, you’re blessed – but if things start to go wrong in your life – where are you God?  Why are you doing this to me?

Suffering and discipleship aren’t mutually exclusive terms!  Consider Paul’s words to his protégé, Timothy:  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:8-9).

There’s one final, important thing that I want to point out to you this morning.  Speaking of this charge to be a sweet “fragrance of Christ to God”, Paul adds this:  “And who is sufficient for these things?” (Who is equal to such a task?)

The answer is nobody – apart from Christ!  It is Christ in you and through you that works these things:  In health or illness; in strength and infirmity; through liberty and in oppression.  Christ makes you worthy so that your efforts are never in vain.  (1 Cor. 15:58) Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

And so, I ask you once again:  What do you smell like?  Are you in Christ, a sweet, fragrant aroma of salvation penetrating the mundane; challenges of life as we know it?   Amen.


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