Three final tests. 2 Cor 12:11-13:14. WBC 17 July 05 pm
We’re at the end of our series, now
- Paul has been having to justify himself… defend his ministry
- But he does so by humbling himself!
o While all the other ’super-apostles’ spend all the time promoting themselves.
I have to say- humility is SO powerful!
- (it’s one of my strong points! //// I jest!)
- but it IS. E.g. Fri pm Peter Doyle’s farewell service
o what is so powerful about him is his humility
Kingdom ways are so different to the world’s
- e.g.: the Young bloke screeching from the junction with windows down and music blaring out. In a "Vauxhall Corsa" no less!
o Why do we do it?
o Is anyone impressed?
- But the kingdom way is: "humble yourself under the Lord’s hand, and HE will lift you up"
But having utterly humbled himself, and been honest about his weaknesses, Paul does apply a test
- to himself
- the apostle’s test. Leader’s test
THE TEST FOR LEADERS
Signs wonders and miracles.
Oi, hang on! What signs, wonders and miracles?
- he is introduced to Corinth in Acts 18. And there’s no mention of any miracles there.
- Nothing in 1 Cor (apart from general gifts of the Spirit) or 2nd Cor.
Imagine miracles being such a normal part of your… church… evangelistic life that you don’t have to record them!
- they are simply ’taken as red’
- You only mention them at the end… when you have to… when you have to remind people what God’s done through you
Such were the apostolic days
Such HAVE been days since then
Augustine 5C says in his book ’city of God’ that "even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ. He cites a number and goes on to say he knows of so many miraculous healings that he says at one point ’what am I to do? I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work that I cannot record all the miracles I know... even now, therefore many miracles are wrought , the same God who wrought these we read of, still performing them by whom He wills and as He wills" Cited in Questions of Life by Nicky Gumble (Alpha)
And such are some days, now
- Africa, S America
- For all it’s oddities, and what it can do to people who get sucked unquestioningly into its culture- miracles are happening in the Synagogue. Undeniably
o = easy for me, as God’s called me to something far harder: bringing the gospel and power of God, HERE
So- the test for Paul… the verification of his Apostolic ministry… is the signs and wonders. AND the fact that they were done with great perseverance
- i.e., it wasn’t just an evangelistic campaign that swept in, hauled people to the front, saw some healings and then was gone (making dramatic claims of 1000s healed)
- he stayed. Years. S& W were the full and normal part of years of work among them.
- He persevered: he prayed long and hard for those who weren’t healed instantly. He stayed and followed up on those who needed more than just a ’heal them, Lord’. He stayed with… and brought Christ to… those who weren’t healed (as I’m sure some weren’t. 2 Tim 4:20 "Trophimus I left sick")
- He was around long enough to verify that many were in fact genuinely and permanently, long-term healed!
- He made it work in the local church
And the evidence was there in piles (piles of crutches and wheelchairs) behind him
"Wanna test my ministry", he says. "there’s the evidence. That I am an Apostle"
- capital A. Establishing churches and THE church. Writing scripture. Whose words/writings are definitive- in fact, disobeying them is tantamount to disobeying God (Gal 1:8,9, 1 Cor 1:37)
This bit is like the sermon I preached on apostleship in our series on Gifts of the Spirit (all available on one disk MP3)
So- there are no more Apostles like that. Capital A- as there is no more scripture to be written
But the ministry of apostle (or apostles with a small a) still exists
- those ’sent’
- establishing churches. Regional ministry and authority
And what of miracles? Well- those still happen, too, as they never only exclusively happened at the hands of apostles
- Philip and Barnabas did them as well (though it did mark out their status)
- And Jesus gave the ministry to 72… then said ’he who believes in me will do greater…’ and then passed the whole thing on to everyone in Mt 28:19
But do just note and retain that these things, big time, do seem to mark out special times and ministries… even though they are there in the general flow of church life (Jas + oil) and church history
- and we are not in a season where there are truck-loads, here
- PLEASE, lets just be honest about this. Otherwise we’re not ’in the truth’ and how can we be counted as honest when they DO happen?
o Do we have to lie/exaggerate to ’help God out’? Of course not! Can he not do it without our help (lies)?
So, let’s go a bit broader so we can apply this, today…. as I don’t regularly rub shoulders with apostles, do you?
- what test can you apply to the life of a leader as evidence that God is with them (besides CHARACTER & HUMILITY of course, which he’s been labouring on about)?
- = FRUIT (or should I say ’fruitfulness’, so you don’t confuse it with the fruit of the Spirit)
If God is there- there will be fruit. Fruit of the labour. Fruit in perseverance
So- with leaders- it "ain’t what they say" (ie ’baost’) that counts- it’s the fruit of good deeds that should trail behind them and be evidence. (1 Tim 5:25, 1 pet 2:10)
Well- that’s sorted Apostles and those with Authority in the church
- what about the rest of us? Same test? (Guaranteed disillusionment and depression!)
THE TEST FOR SELF
Measure yourself by the wrong ruler and feel small!
Of course, there should be fruit of ministry in all of our lives-
- but what test does Paul apply to THEM
13:5 he says "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise Christ Jesus is in you- unless of course you fail the test"
He asks them to test themselves. I guess we should do the same
- take stock and appraise our spiritual lives and health
- in the hope (no belief) that we will pass the test
- (God tests us in the hope that we will pass. Satan tempts us in the hope we will fail)
So- what do WE test ourselves against? What benchmark, ruler?
a) That you are in the faith
I mentioned this a couple of Sunday pm’s ago (when speaking about how Satan seeks to distract us from key things: Jesus, the Spirit, the gospel 11:4)
Do you know what you believe and why? Or are you simply a Christian with no foundation or knowledge?
- you feel committed (but truth is you don’t really know what to)
Do you know what the creed is- and where Scripture shows these things? Could you show about the deity or resurrection of Jesus?
- if not: are you serious as a disciple?
- Solution: books, Open College
Check that you actually know and believe the things that Christians do!
b) that you are bearing fruit… being fruitful
Oh yes, this is in there for US ALL as well. Not in the sense of ’you’re in trouble because you haven’t raised anyone from the dead recently’
- that’s not the test or fruit
- it’s fruit in a general sense: are you doing anything for God that bears fruit for His kingdom. (or is it all about YOU)
- it’s fruit in the sense of character/fruit of the Spirit:
o look at the things of 11:20ff that he’s frightened may make them fail the test
20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
Are these things active in my life…your life?
- then I might fail the test
o of salvation? I think not (though if you persist in them and grow in them who knows what fruit they might bear)
o of being what God wants you to be. Of showing that ’Christ Jesus is in you’
" because if He IS we shouldn’t act in this way.
Anyway- Paul trusts that they will not fail the test… and that they won’t think that he has either
- but he has no problem if they come out of the test shining and appearing ’strong and super’ and him ’feek and weeble’. If that’s the actual truth- he won’t deny it (13:8)
THE TEST FOR CHURCH
In closing I guess I might as well make 3rd point (…would be inconsistent if I didn’t….) out of Paul’s hopes for the church
- we could apply this as a test for US (together)
2CO 13:11 Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2CO 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints send their greetings.
2CO 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
I’m not so sure about the holy kiss bit (what’s the difference between a holy kiss and a normal one?- about 3 minutes!)
But I like the criteria, test for US. Are we doing this? Would we pass the test
- aim for perfection: go for gold. Seek to be the best for Jesus. Aim high, keep low (humble).
o Let’s go for it and not be cowardly/mediocre
- Be of one mind.
o Elsewhere, Eph 4:3 it says "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
" Actually= maintain.
" We ARE one. It is a given, assumed. You don’t make unity (in or between congregations)- we ARE one! You work at MAINTAINING IT
o Love one another. Yield, honour and give to one another so you…. we are of one mind and heart
" Don’t ever let it go
- Live in peace. Don’t be like some are in some churches: just people who stir up trouble all the time. Difficult, tetchy, self-absorbed
o I can honestly say: that’s not a problem here. You are focussed enough on the things that matter to be distracted from this hurtful rubbish
o But keep it! Watch out… and be aware.
o Live in peace and the God of peace will be with you
Let’s test ourselves. Maybe the Lord will have something to say (by way of a word)