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A Ministry of Power

Sermon by Kris Decker on Aug 7, 2016

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

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Well good evening! I bring you greeting from Central Carolina Presbytery and I am honored and grateful to be here tonight and to fill this pulpit. It is a great privilege to be here for Tree and Jeri Lyn. And I will refer to him as Tree which I think you do as well, is that correct? So there’s no Andrew tonight; it’s Tree, right? Well, this evening it is a great privilege to be a part of this service and to open the Word of God to you. It is no small thing for a man to speak on behalf of God and to speak His words to God’s people and I don’t take that lightly. And so I want to pray and ask God’s help because what we’re going to do here in a minute is to break into God’s Word that is spiritually understood, because it is spiritual, and we need the Spirit’s help, do we not, to understand spiritual things? Andrew is undertaking the incredible task of preaching God’s Word to whoever would listen and I am going to ask God’s help not only for us tonight to understand His Word but to preach and then to pray for Andrew at the end that God would bless his ministry among us. So would you join me in prayer as we go to God’s Word?
 

Father, we come to You now in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we ask You to help us tonight to understand spiritual truth for we cannot do that, we cannot understand this truth apart from the Spirit’s help. And so we implore You, we invite You, we invoke You, Holy Spirit, to come and to attend to our thoughts and meditations of our hearts and to the words of my mouth. And we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

If you would take a pew Bible and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 1 through 5. It is on page 952 and 953 in your pew Bible if you don’t have one with you. And in this passage, this is Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. We believe that Paul spent about eighteen months establishing that church and it had a lot of different troubles – many diversities. It was known for its sexual immorality and its religious diversity. And so Paul writes this letter to try to help the church understand exactly what they are to be doing as the church of God. And in chapter 1 he lays out very clearly that the church must depend upon the wisdom of God and the power of God, not on men’s wisdom. So would you join me now and let’s read God’s Word?

1 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 1 through 5:

“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling, my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.”

May God bless the reading of His Word.

Now in this beautiful passage, we can hear the heart of the Apostle Paul as he speaks about his ministry among the Corinthians in Corinth. And Paul mentions four characteristics which he attempted to practice himself of a ministry that fosters faith not in men’s wisdom, but on a demonstration of God’s power. And here are those four characteristics that I’ll be talking to you about tonight. There’s an approach to people that comes with humility. There’s an attitude of resolve. There’s an admission of weakness. And then there’s an aim, a specific aim, at a demonstration of God’s power, not men’s wisdom.

Now before I begin, Andrew I want to remind you of a couple of things. Number one, your dad would be very proud of you. I love you! Your mom, your sister, and your brother are proud of you. And as proud as we are of you, the Lord Jesus approves you, loves you, and has equipped you my friend, my brother, for this. And to be a part of it, I’m humbled and I’m honored that you would ask me to bring a message to you and to your people here and to the people that you will pastor. Now with that out of the way, which I would save my tears maybe for later, a ministry of power is what every pastor hopes for. And by the way, every believer, as a believer in Christ, is a minister of the Gospel. We are part of the priesthood of believers so this is not just for Andrew Triolo or the pastors at this church. This is a message for all of us because we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and we are to proclaim God’s glory and His majesty and His Gospel to the whole world. So this is directed at Tree but it’s for all of us.

  1. An Approach to People That Comes With Humility

So let me just remind you firstly of this first characteristic of a ministry of power and that’s that you would approach people with humility. C. S. Lewis says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” And if there’s anything that will help you think less of yourself it’s ministering to youth. I’ve done it for twenty-five years and they will make sure you know where you stand. Ministering to middle school kids I often say is like walking into a room full of puppies. They’re oblivious to almost all of what you say and if you get close to them they’ll wet the floor and leave you to clean up the mess! Ministering to high school kids is much like walking into a room full of German Shepherds. They’re looking for every weakness, they can smell it a mile away, and they will eat you alive.

Tree’s Experience at Christ Covenant

It reminds me of Tree’s first event with us at Christ Covenant as an intern. You know where I’m going with this! So Tree was so excited. He worked so hard to raise his support to get all the necessary paperwork out of the way to be an intern and we were having a middle school even which he was assigned to our middle school pastor, Matt Smith, and the first thing they did was go outside and play a game of squirrel tag. Now squirrel tag is basically like duck-duck-goose on steroids. So you have kids laying in a circle and they chase each other around. If you’ve ever seen two squirrels chasing each other around the bottom of a tree or up a tree, that’s basically what it is. And so they’re outside, it’s cool, I believe it’s in the middle of winter, and they’re chasing each other around. They’re laying on the ground, grass flying everywhere, and Tree is just chasing kids. It’s his first night, he’s so full of energy, he can’t wait to be here and he’s finally got his opportunity. And he gets in there and he starts chasing all the kids. And we go back inside and it’s much warmer inside and he’s sitting there and he starts to get lightheaded and he’s sweating and one of the young middle school boys says, “Tree, are you okay?” He said, “No.” He gets up, runs to the bathroom, and Tree’s lunch left his body! And you could say Tree gave it all that night! He came right back in and jumped back in! But the point I want you to know is, in all the years that I’ve known Tree, which I saw him come to Christ as a sophomore in high school on a fall retreat, I’ve seen him grow up as a man, as a Christian, I’ve seen him meet his lovely wife. I got the privilege of doing their premarital counseling and marrying them and now I’m here; just another beautiful step along the way. Tree has given it all and will give it all. He’s been approved and is ready for this task with the Lord’s help.

Paul’s Great Humility

But I want you to notice, back to our text here, that Paul approached the Corinthians with great humility. Notice what he says there again in verse 1. “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquent speech or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling.” Now, remember, Paul was very well educated, well spoken. He was no slouch. He was a good leader and he was a good pastor. Yet he humbled himself as he came to speak to the Corinthians. He didn’t come in going, “I’m here. Can everybody line up and hear me now?” He came with great humility as he approached the Corinthians and as he came to them. I’m reminded of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 5. “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our confidence comes from God.”

You see, the truth that every good pastor knows is this. Good preaching, good ministry is not successful because a pastor is eloquent, wise, or fearless. Powerful ministry is built on the foundation of humility that seeks the Lord for a daily demonstration of His power so that people’s faith would not rest on the minister but on the power of God. Andrew, this is the approach I’ve seen you take many times with students. You come humbly. It’s part of who you are. It’s why I love you so much. Remember, you as a pastor in this church need the same grace and demonstration of God’s power in your life as they need in theirs. Humility, when approaching people, starts with a humility as you approach God. So as you come before Him and pray and seek His leading, come humbly before God.

The Humility of Abraham

I’m reminded of Abraham when he speaks to God about the destruction of Sodom. And he says in Genesis chapter 18 verse 27, “Then Abraham spoke up again, ‘Now that I have been so bold to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes.’” And if you remember the story, Abraham continues to talk to God – fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, ten – and in each one of those conversations, Abraham says something like this. “Please Lord, don’t be angry with me now. Now that I have been so bold, I am nothing but dust and ashes, let me speak to you once more.” Do you hear the humility as Abraham approached the Lord? And it translated into his humility as he approached people.

You remember in Exodus chapter 3 when God speaks to Moses and calls him to go to Egypt to set the people free? Moses says in Exodus chapter 3:11, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And one of my favorite stories is about King Hezekiah. He and the people of Jerusalem were saved from Sennacherib, King of Assyria, and the people grew wealthy and prosperous to the point of pride. And Hezekiah became sick but he did not humble himself before the Lord and God’s anger burned against the people. And in 2 Chronicles chapter 32 verse 26 it says, “However, Hezekiah humbled the spirit of his heart and the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.”

And then you know the Lord Jesus humbled Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, so we have a great example that we humble our self before the people and there is great power in humbling yourself when you come to be a pastor. So first of all, we have the approach to people with humility.

  1. An Attitude of Resolve

And this leads to our second point of a characteristic when there’s a powerful ministry and that is, there is an attitude of resolve. Notice what Paul says. He resolved to “know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” John Piper says that “Christ died to save us from hell but not to save us from the cross. He died so that we could be glorified, but not to keep us from being crucified. ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily.’ For the Christian, the cross of Christ is not merely a place of substitution; it is also a present place of daily execution.” So as you proclaim the Gospel of Christ and as you think about resolving to know nothing but Christ Jesus and Him crucified, I want to remind you, Andrew, that a pastor’s life is one of daily dying. John 12:24 says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies it bears much fruit.”

So why would Paul make this his single resolve in his ministry to the Corinthians? I think it’s pretty clear. It’s because Paul knew that only Jesus Christ could be the answer for the problems that the people have because Jesus when He is lifted up, the Bible says He will draw all men to Himself. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that anyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. And then in John 12:32 Jesus says, “And I when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” Richard Pratt, in his commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, says this. “The crucifixion, the way of salvation, was the most offensive dimension of the Gospel and it opposed the human arrogance of Jews and Gentiles. But, it was nevertheless the power of God for salvation.” And if you notice, if you turn in your Bible just a little bit, one page before, you will notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 18. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” So Paul knew, as he came to the Corinthians, the thing that he must focus on, the attitude of resolve that he must have is, “I will lift up Christ and Him crucified because there is no other solution to a broken and sinful world.”

So the first two parts of a ministry of power are this approach to people with humility; then there’s the attitude of resolve that Paul had to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

  1. An Admission of Weakness

And then thirdly, there’s an admission of weakness. Notice what he said in verses 3 and 4. “I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Every spiritual leader must be willing to admit his weakness because every Spirit-filled leader knows that they are weak and frail. Anything less is a sham. We are all broken because of the fall and we will not be made whole until Jesus Christ comes back. In Dan Allender’s book, Leading With A Limp, he says this. “The leader’s character is what makes the difference between advancing or decentering the moral, confidence, and commitment of an organization. The truth about confession is that it doesn’t lead to people’s weakness and disrespect. Instead, it transformed the leader’s character and earns greater respect and power. This is the paradox of leading.” And here he mentions the core assumption of the book. “To the degree you attempt to hide or disassemble your weakness, the more you will need to control those you lead, the more insecure you will become, and the more rigidly you will impose, prompting the ultimate departure of your best people. The dark spiral of spin control inevitably leads to people’s cynicism and mistrust so do yourself a favor and your organization a favor and don’t go there. Prepare now to admit to you and to your staff that you are the organization’s chief sinner.”

Paul Admits His Weaknesses

That’s powerful! And Paul wasn’t afraid to admit his weakness. He came with weakness, fear, trembling, inability, stumbling, and unpersuasive words because he knew that within himself there was this gaping void of what was necessary to build the faith of God’s people. Paul knew he needed a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. And every pastor, if they’re worth their salt, will beg God for that demonstration of power because we don’t have it in ourselves. You know Paul had detractors in his ministry. If you look at 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 10 it says, “Some say his letters are weighty and forceful but in person, he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” That’s in the Scriptures. We don’t think of the Apostle Paul often as being described in that way, right? We think of him as being powerful and persuasive and having eloquence. I happen to believe that was because the Spirit demonstrated His power through Paul’s writing and his weakness and through his words.

So with that in mind, let me jump to the fourth characteristic of a powerful ministry. First of all, we have the approach to people with humility, then the attitude of resolve to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, the admission of weakness that every pastor should be willing to do. If the apostle Paul wrote down for all of eternity in the Word of God that is eternal his weakness, then Tree, admit your weakness. I know you; you have a few! But they’re not overcome-able because in our weakness God’s power is perfected.

  1. An Aim at the Demonstration of God’s Power Not Men’s Wisdom

So lastly, the fourth characteristic of this ministry of power is an aim at the demonstration of God’s power not men’s wisdom. As I thought about what I would say this evening, this passage came to mind. The sermon title took a while, but I came up with the idea of this ministry of power because that’s what I think every Gospel ministry, Gospel pastor wants – is a ministry of power. And in our day of celebrity pastors, what we need is a fresh demonstration of the power of God so that people’s faith do not rest on the pastor and are not built on the pastor alone, but on a demonstration of God’s power.

The Power of God in the Preaching of John Bunyan

And as I thought about that, I thought of who may have exemplified a ministry of power. And right away the man who came to mind, he’s been dead a long time, was John Bunyan. Remember, he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. He wrote over sixty other books. Bunyan was an uneducated metal worker, or a tinker as they called them. He was in prison for twelve years because he would not stop preaching. He would not say, “I will stop preaching the Gospel.” So twelve years he spent in prison which he could have been released. All he had to do was say, “I’ll stop preaching.” And he said, “No, I won’t.” And God used him in a powerful way.

The amazing thing about Bunyan was that he was not educated but yet his preaching and his ministry had tremendous power. He was converted in 1655 and at his conversion, he was asked shortly after that to go and exhort the church, which he did. And in the midst of that exhortation, a preacher was born, a pastor was born. So much so that his biographer, John Brown, says this. “When the country understood that the tinker turned preacher was preaching, they came to hear his words by the hundred and that from all parts.” It also is recorded that when a day’s notice was given that John Bunyan would be preaching, twelve hundred people would show up at 7 o’clock in the morning before people would go to work to hear him preach. That’s an amazing thought, it is not?

When the King of England, King Charles, asked probably the greatest Puritan theologian, John Owen, “Why do you go hear the uneducated tinker preach?” this is what John Owen said. “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.” So Andrew, my prayer for you is this. Is that your message and your preaching would not be with just persuasive words and with wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that the people you pastor might not have their faith rest on you and your wisdom but on a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

Would you join me in prayer?

Father, we do commit Andrew and Jeri Lyn to You and to Your grace. Lord, we so want to see a man on fire. We so want to see a movement of revival in our country. We want to see a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, that men would be converted, that the nations would be reached, that disciples would be made, that God’s people would be equipped to do the work of ministry, and that the Gospel would cover the face of the earth, the knowledge of God would cover the face of the earth as the waters cover the sea. Lord, it has been a privilege and I’m grateful to You that I have known Andrew all these years. Thank You for his conversion. Thank You for his sanctification. Thank You for his persistence and diligence through many difficulties that we can’t even mention now, and obstacles to come to this point. He has persevered, and God I am so thankful that You have not let him go. Lord, bless him in this ministry, bless him in this church. We commit him to you now, in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people said, amen.

©2016 First Presbyterian Church.

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