Preaching to Be Forgotten and For God to Be Glorified (weekend repost)

What did Paul mean when he wrote of his “weakness…in fear and much trembling?” Clearly, Paul was connecting his preaching to these things (“…my speech and my message…”). I think that Paul’s words here are a much-needed correction to the celebrity culture within the Western church today.

The Apostle to the Gentiles stood before this church in Corinth as a weak man. He did not have the polish and trappings that the false teachers of Corinth had, and to many, this was a severe disadvantage. Although they might not say it this way, there are many who would imply strongly that the message is secondary to the method. If you don’t have a media empire pushing your message, then the world won’t listen and you’ll be ineffective. I wonder how Paul would have responded to that sort of thinking. Well, we don’t have to wonder because his Spirit-inspired words are given to us.

Read the full post here: Preaching to Be Forgotten and For God to Be Glorified

Preaching to Be Forgotten and For God to Be Glorified

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:3–5 (ESV)

What did Paul mean when he wrote of his “weakness…in fear and much trembling?” Clearly, Paul was connecting his preaching to these things (“…my speech and my message…”). I think that Paul’s words here are a much-needed correction to the celebrity culture within the Western church today.

The Apostle to the Gentiles stood before this church in Corinth as a weak man. He did not have the polish and trappings that the false teachers of Corinth had, and to many, this was a severe disadvantage. Although they might not say it this way, there are many who would imply strongly that the message is secondary to the method. If you don’t have a media empire pushing your message, then the world won’t listen and you’ll be ineffective. I wonder how Paul would have responded to that sort of thinking. Well, we don’t have to wonder because his Spirit-inspired words are given to us.

In his commentary on these verses, Alan Johnson clarifies what Paul is saying: “…[Paul’s] proclamation (wider than only preaching) of the “mystery” of God, namely, Jesus Christ as the crucified One, was in keeping with the sole focus on the cross because Paul consistently, deliberately presented himself not self-confidently but in self-effacement, not in strength as a “successful” person but in weakness and fear, with much trembling (v. 3).”  (Alan F. Johnson, 1 Corinthians, vol. 7, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2004), 62.)

Paul isn’t working to build his brand. He isn’t seeking to launch a well-strategized media plan that incorporates all the latest channels for all the up-and-coming evangelical elites. He isn’t buddying up to those more popular false teachers in order to share the limelight while justifying this as focusing on the majors and overlooking areas of disagreement in the name of “grace.” Nope. Paul is not about Paul. He unashamedly points to himself as a weak and fearful man. His words were perceived by the Corinthians as implausible and foolish–because that was what the unvarnished gospel sounds like to unregenerate ears. Paul didn’t seek to “fix” it.

And since Paul wasn’t trying to boost his own brand, he didn’t care what others thought about him so long as they saw Jesus. Paul was weak–he didn’t feign weakness to seem more spiritual. He was scared–but God was his strength. He wasn’t practiced and polished in his delivery, intentionally–so that people wouldn’t walk away impressed with this servant’s speech, but so they would walk away worshipping his God.

Paul focused on the cross in his life, message, and methods. In our glitzy evangelical world of super conferences, social media blitzes, and multi-books deals, we are all too often a faint shadow of this servant of God. May we join with George Whitefield in saying, “Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted.”

Sowing Seeds of the Flesh, part 1 (weekend repost)

Seeds are interesting things, and they are referred to a lot in the Bible. There is life in the seed, isn’t there? But like a can in your kitchen pantry that has lost its label, we sometimes don’t know what a seed will produce until it has sprouted and grown.

Read the rest of this post here: Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 1)

The Massive Danger of Success

“When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him.” 2 Chronicles 12:1

What a warning biblical leaders have in the example of King Rehoboam! The above verse shows the downfall of many, and O how the mighty have fallen!

When a ruler or leader becomes established and strong, it is then that so many no longer depend upon the Lord, but instead abandon Him for their own strength. King Uriah did this, and so did Hezekiah. David as well as Saul before him.

What a profound warning for all rulers and leaders! We all need to take heed, lest we fall when we think that we are strong and self-sufficient. How can we know that this is happening?

  • Our prayer life dwindles and even disappears.
  • We do not seek the Lord’s counsel when making decisions.
  • We put greater focus and dependence upon our strengths and push to the background our weaknesses.
  • We see victories as “ours,” even placing our achievements before others as memorials to ourselves.
  • We become driven and ruthless when dealing with others and grace disappears from our interactions with them.
  • We find ourselves less thankful to the Lord for using us as servants, and we become hungry for the applause of men, and even downcast when it doesn’t come.

These are a few of the symptoms of a servant who has become a king in their own mind. May we never forget that there is only one King whom we serve and Jesus is His name. The rest of us are but stewards and under shepherds by His grace.

The Glory of God in a Season of Pain

“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:20–27

The glory of God and the love of God are not in conflict with one another. Some theologians try to pit one against the other saying that the sovereignty of God (intimately tied to His glory) cannot override His love for humanity., and therefore the love of God willingly overrides His sovereignty so that God actually submits to the will of His creatures.

John 11 is an interesting test of this idea. In verses 4-6 it says, “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”]

In these verses we have the glory of God shown in His sovereign decision to allow the life of Lazarus to be overcome by death, with the divine purpose of God being glorified through His resurrection of Lazarus. To some Christians and many unbelievers, this is unthinkable—even monstrous. But this is because the unregenerate mind and the immature Christian mind attribute all discomfort, pain, trial, and even death, as only evil and that the only good that comes is from the avoidance of these things.

But the pain and suffering that occurs in this world is only a small part of the much bigger picture. And not only this, but the pain and suffering as well as the joy unspeakable that are available to humanity either through grace or denial of the offer of salvation are infinite. The present world and its pains and joys are only a small sampling of a greater reality that all of humanity shall experience personally one day.

Jesus, looking beyond the suffering and eventual death of His friend Lazarus knows that a greater lesson needs to be grasped and through the truth He will bring glory to His Father.

So, instead of rushing to the scene to be at His friend’s side, Jesus stayed two days longer to assure His disciples that Lazarus was dead and buried by the time they reached Bethany.

This means that when we are tempted to cry out “Why?” In our trials, we must not push aside the glory of God and begin to question the love of God. The Lord’s mind is vast and His plans are more infinitely complex that we can know or imagine; therefore we must never doubt His love.

Mary and Martha were correct in placing all of their hope in Jesus’ power to heal their brother. The issue was simply timing. Jesus could have healed Lazarus while he was sick (Jn 11:21-27, 32); or immediately after he had died; or long after he died in the future Day of resurrection (v. 24).

The sisters had hoped that the healing would be before his death, but after he had died, they found some comfort in the future resurrection when he would be raised from the dead.

But Jesus gave them immediate resurrection while also pointing them to the reality of the greater day of resurrection that they would still need to look forward to and hope in. We too must cling to this very same hope even without our own personal experience with an immediate healing or resurrection. Jesus proved to Mary and Martha, and by extension to us as well, that He is able to raise the dead—because He raised Lazarus from the dead, and He rose from the grave by His own power.

So the next time you find yourself doubting God’s love or not understanding how such pain could bring God glory, remember Lazarus. You might never understand God’s reasoning, but you must know this—God desires to be glorified and His love for us is infinite. Both are true and both are never super versed by His perfect plans.