A PASTOR’S LOVE
- Pastor Mark Driscoll
- 1 Corinthians 16:1-24
- September 24, 2006
Father, we come first, acknowledging that there is only one God and that you are a good God and a loving God and a gracious God and a compassionate God and a God who knows every hair on our head and knows every day of our life and knows every thought of our mind. And so, God, we thank you for being so kind and so attentive and so interested in us. It is shocking and humbling the degree of affection you have for us and the pains to which you have gone to have a relationship with us. Not because we deserve it, but because you are so good. And we thank you for sending the Lord Jesus to live the life that we could never live; to die the death that we should have died; and to rise as our triumphant, victorious, Lord, savior and king – and so as we study is our hope and prayer and request that we would see Jesus in Scripture; that we would love him; that we would be about his business and kingdom work – and for that to happen, we invite you God the Holy Spirit to lead us, to guide us, to convict us, to instruct us and to reveal to us the Scriptures and we ask this in Jesus’ good name, amen.
As we get into it, we’ll start in Chapter 16, Verse 1. Will just get right to work tonight. And he talks about money right out of the shoot and I know that’s why you’re all here. You’re like, “I was hoping he’d talk about money.” Well, you welcome. I will. All talk about your money and I know you love to give it away, so I’m here for you. Verse 1. “Now about the collection for God’s people:” talking about giving money to the church. “Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one” each Christian, “should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.”
What’s the first thing on his mind? The money. So we’ll talk about the money.
Paul says that each Christian should give, and so we do believe that. If you’re a Christian you should give. The question comes, then, well how much? And Paul doesn’t say here. He says that on the first day of the week, you should set aside a sum of money and this is in line with the Old Testament concept of first fruits. He you give best to God. You give first to God, because God’s your highest priority and Jesus says where your treasure is, that’s indicative of where your heart is. So your money goes to that which you value. So if you give to God first, that means that god is the most important thing in your life. And if God never gets anything, then you would have to really ask, “Is God a priority for me?” Some of you then will ask, “Well, do you believe in tithing?” and the truth is we really don’t. We believe that the Old Testament tithe wasn’t just 10 percent. If you include all the feasts, festivals, offerings, tithes, it was actually more than 25 percent of gross income was given to ministry and so the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 says to give cheerful, sacrificial, and regular. Those are the categories of giving.
So cheerful, when you click it on the website all you write the check, you’re supposed to laugh deeply. It’s supposed to be fun. “Oh, this is so great.” So, you do that with cheerfulness. If you do it also would sacrifice, which means if you’re a college student, it may not be a very much and that’s a big sacrifice to you; and if you make a considerable amount of money, it may be a much larger amounts because that’s sacrificial for you; and lastly, it says to do it regularly, which means more than once every presidential election. So, those are the criteria that we would encourage you toward.
And what he says here is that the Corinthian church should give money to the church in Jerusalem. And the principle here is that as people give to their church, so churches should give to other churches. That all Christians, and Christian churches, should be generous and should help others.
He then goes on in Verse 5 to talk about the external demands on his time and so I’ll tell you what’s going on with me, like Paul told his church what’s going on with him. He says in Verse 5, “After I go through Macedonia,” so the issue is he started a church in Corinth, he’s moved on and he’s traveling, so he’s writing them a letter because he can’t be with them. I’m blessed to have vodcasts, podcasts, books, you know, technology, video. He had letter writing and that’s what he’s doing. He’s writing to the church in his absence. He says, “I will come to you” he’s gonna come back “—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.” Right, he wants to get some time with them. “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost,” and here’s my new life verse, “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” That’s my life.
Great opportunities and many critics, cynics, bloggers, and neatniks who like to pick apart everything I say. So, what he talks about is that’s as his ministry has grown, it has spread beyond just their church and he now has responsibility to many churches. He has to travel. He has a lot of external ministry that takes a lot of his attention and time,
So, you know, and when I go to travel, to be honest with you, usually before a travel, to get into a mild depression, usually a week or two in advance. I really love my wife and my kids and know when I’m gonna be gone and miss tucking them in bed and wrestling with my boys and snuggling with my girls and reading the Bible and praying with my family, it bums me out. It really bums me out and so I usually go into a minor funk before a travel and when I travel, I usually get sick. I have some inert your travel and I get vertigo pretty easily and so it’s not uncommon that I’m puking and sick and have motion sickness when I travel, and then I don’t sleep well in hotels, and I miss my family, and usually when I leave, my kids are crying when I’m leaving. I just – it, it just slays me. And then they’ll slip love letters and my luggage, so then I’ll get to the city and aisle unpack and I’ll get love letters from my, like, 9-year-old daughter and then I have a nervous breakdown, because she and I are super close and we write love letters back and forth to each other and I put them in her backpack and she puts them in my Bible and usually when I show up to preach, there’s a love letter from my daughter in my Bible and I cry and I read it and I – you know, and that’s the way it goes and, then usually when I get back there’s a mountain of work. So I don’t travel well and it’s hard but it’s something I feel like I’m supposed to do and also part of what’s taking a lot of time is media.
God has opened a lot of doors.
And, like Paul says, there’s a lot of opportunities to write, to speak, to plant churches, to communicate Jesus through the means of the media and we – I praise God for that – but, he says, too, that there’s a lot of people who oppose him. I get that. Man, if you Google or Technorati me, you I would think I have a part time job clubbing seals and drowning puppies. I mean, it’s unbelievable. People say the worst things about me. It’s like, “Really?” I’ve told my wife, “Just don’t, don’t read anything that set about me online,” because she, sometimes really takes it too hard and she, she just feels terrible, you know, the other day, it was like, “I can’t believe people think you don’t like women. I wish they could see you with me and the girls.” I’m like, “They can’t.” They can’t because I’m, I’m a husband and father and I’m not gonna do some reality television show where I put my family on TV, so you can all know I’m legit. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I know there won’t be blogs in Heaven and I just wait for that day when there’s no blogs. And in the meantime, you will hear some crazy things said about me. You will maybe read online just bizarre, weird things. Stuff I don’t even understand but you know, apparently, people with computers and free time and low IQs are active. That’s all I could say.
And the question is, is it all oppression? You know what? Sometimes people criticize me and they’re right. I’m not gonna say that there’s never been a criticism that was incorrect and sometimes, I do push it. I’ve not learned the art of subtlety. I feel like I’m a jackhammer for Jesus and so sometimes that is deserved, where people are like, “You were too intense. You were too overbearing. Your humor was a little bit sarcastic.” And sometimes that’s true. Not all the time but sometimes it’s true. So I won’t even tell you that all the criticism is undeserved. Learn the art of strategic ignoring and that’s a skill, just for your life has a general rule, you’ll find very helpful. You can ignore people. Oh, what a delight that can be. And I’m not saying if someone has a legitimate concern about me or the church or what we believe; or if they loved the Lord Jesus and know their Bible and want to give some advice that we don’t listen, but we strategically listen. If it’s just somebody who’s flaming and renting an off on some tangent, it’s okay to just do like Jesus said and love your enemies, right? Because it messes with their head and they get all angry and they yell and you say, “Well, I love you and so does Jesus and thank you.” Then they’re just freaking out and they have to deal with Jesus and with their own heart and their own attitude. And, as I speak, I’ve just learned that I can’t react to everybody who reacts to me, because then they react again, and then I react, and next thing you know, you’re in this endless loop and you get off your mission of loving people and pointing to Jesus and repenting of sin and loving your neighbors and we want to stay on our mission of loving our city, on our mission of loving our neighbor, on our mission of love eight of brothers and sisters in Christ and of loving our Jesus.
So, we don’t want to get into this defensive posture where we argue with our critics. We just love them and move on. So, I would just say, though, as many doors as God opens, there are an equal number of critics and cynics and people who would oppose that and that’s not unusual. It is, in fact, to be expected. So what is first on his heart? Paying the bills. Second on his heart, wisdom to juggle all of the opportunities. I would just ask for wisdom for me and my family as to what we can and cannot do.
His third issue, then, is to speak of leaders. As his ministry is growing, he needs an increasing numbers of leaders to rise up to help take from him some of the weight of the work. So he says in Verse 10, “If Timothy comes,” and Timothy is just this rock-solid, dependable, trustworthy, right-hand man of Paul, “[S]ee to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should refuse to accept him. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers. Now about our brother Apollos:” another rock-solid, great guy. Good Bible teacher. Gifted communicator. “I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.” What Paul is saying is this: Paul is saying I have so much going on, that not everyone can have access to me like they once did and what I have done, Paul is saying, is I’ve appointed good leaders, like Timothy and like Apollos, who love the Lord and work hard and believe the same things that I believe and they want to see the same things happen that I want to see happen and we’re serving the same Jesus and I need you to respect them and follow them as well.
Hebrews 13 says that you should respect your leaders; that you should submit to their authority; that you should make their work a joy and not a burden. And I’m not saying that every leader in every church is godly and worthy of respect but I am saying if they have good character and good doctrine and are working hard, come alongside of them to support them, not to criticize them, and to respect them; not to make their work a burden. They already have enough work to do. In his situation, that was Timothy and Apollos.
And what Paul is saying is when there’s good leaders like that, respect them, honor them.
And then his next point was on his heart next. It’s just, it’s just wonderful to hear what’s on Paul’s heart. These are the things that most pastors are thinking about. Money, leaders, opportunities to expand the Gospel. Dealing with critics and difficult people, and his next point is what is on his heart, is the men and I so appreciate this, because this is always on my heart.
And so he speaks from his heart to the men, and I love this, because earlier in the book, he told us that he has the heart of the father for his church. Okay, I what you men to know, I have a heart of a father. I may not have the age of the father, yet. I will one day, and I look forward to that day, but I have the heart of a father for the men in this church. Here’s what he says to his men. “Be on guard;” right? God’s men need to be attentive. They need to be aware. They need to be aware of the condition of their life and their family and their church and their world and they need to be – they need to be astute men, who have their eyes open, they’re on guard. “Stand firm,” you know what? If you have become a Christian, don’t waver. Don’t retreat. Don’t stop loving Jesus. Stand your ground. If you’ve decided, you know what? I’m going to be sexually pure and I’m going to one day get married and I want to treat my woman with dignity and value and respect and I’m gonna keep my hands to myself, stand firm. Stand firm. If you do get married, you want to love that woman your whole life and be faithful to her and serve her well and be like Jesus to her, and other people are going to make fun of you for that. People are already making fun of some of you guys. “Why do you gotta get married? Can’t you live with her? Sleep with her?” I mean, you know, you could sleep with her. Wouldn’t that be easier for you? Yeah, it would be but that wouldn’t be honorable. “What do you mean you can’t come play Texas Hold ‘Em? The money’s going into your kids’ college fund? Come on!” No. The kids’ college fund took the Texas Hold ‘Em money. The guys are gonna make fun of you for that. After work, they’re gonna say, “Let’s go to the strip club.” You say, “I can’t. I’m gonna go home and watch Veggie Tales with my kids.” They’re gonna make fun of you.
And that’s okay. Stand firm. Stand firm, okay? If you know the Bible, and you know what’s true, and you know what’s good, and you know what’s right, and you know what the father in heaven expects of his sons, stand firm “in the faith; be men of courage;” so many men, they wilt under pressure. Oh, hard time, difficulty. No. Have courage. Finish your degree if you’re in school. Pursue your career. If you’re trying to figure out how to pay the bills. If you meet a nice gal who loves Jesus, get to work. Some of you guys are like, “I don’t know what she’ll think.” Well it ain’t gonna be good you keep sounding like that. Get up. Run, Forrest run. Go get her. You know? “Hi, I’m so-and-so. Howdy.” I mean, you know, you gotta have a little courage. Some of you single guys, I mean, you don’t have courage. Have courage. Now, don’t be a stalker, but have courage, right?
“Be strong. Right, the ESV translation says “Act like a man.” I love that. That’s good right there. Be strong. I know some of you guys, like, “We’re not supposed to be strong. We’re supposed to be meek.” No, meek is different than weak, right? Weak means you don’t have any strength. Meek means you have strength and if you use it as needed for good, okay? If you’re gonna need to be strong. Temptation comes, you need to be strong to resist it. All right, and some of you guys, you grew up where the strongest guys in your neighborhood where the bullies, and the thugs, and the jerks and you said, “I don’t wanna be strong. Those guys are mean.” No, you need to be stronger than those guys, because somebody’s got to stand up to them. Right, you’ve got to be strong enough when you see a guy, even in this church, if he’s not being nice to his wife or his kids; he’s not working hard; he’s not being honorable; you need to have courage, you need to have strength, you need to have boldness.
That’s not how God’s men are.” And then he says, to “Do everything in love.” Gentlemen, not angry men; not violent men; not rude men; courageous men; bold men; men like Jesus.
Let me tell you why this is so important to me. We live in a culture that denigrates men and masculinity. It just does. Watch the average sitcom. The average sitcom with a married couple, the husband is an idiot. He just is. He’s the butt of every joke. He’s the gag. He messes everything up. He’s an imbecile. You know, half the time he’s a big, fat, lazy idiot and everybody laughs at him. That’s the average American sitcom. It’s funny. We make fun of men. You watch the average kid’s cartoon. The four-year-old kid is a genius. The dog can talk and problem solve and dad is an idiot. You see the theme continue. And so, bad things happen, dad can’t do anything, so the dog and the four-year-old save the day. That’s the average cartoon. And so, the message is continually sent, men are idiots. Men are imbeciles. Men are incompetent. Men don’t achieve or redeem anything, and men are good for jokes. That’s the world we live in.
We believe that God made us male and female, which is very good, and we believe that men are to be respected, and instructed, and exhorted toward holiness. I know so many of you guys, you didn’t grow up knowing Jesus as I did not. Many of you did not have a father. You do not know what it means to act like a man. So many of you guys, the dad you did have was not a godly, good man. Not a man you’d want to be like. I would give you one verse that Paul already gave us earlier in this same book and I would encourage every one of my brothers here to memorize it because it’ll change your life. 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul says that men are the glory of what? God. Men are the glory of God.
Gentlemen, when’s the last time someone told you that? I know you’ve heard, “You’re an idiot,” “You’re a young guy, you got no potential, you’re in college, what are you know? You’ve never done anything,” you know – you’re the image of God, gentlemen. You know, a 19-year-old kid walks into the church and he may be addicted to porn. He may be sleeping with his girlfriend. He may be drinking beer and getting drunk and blowing time and a total idiot, if but you know what we see – you know what I see? I see the glory of God. I see the glory of God that just needs to be cultivated and encouraged and nourished and instructed him exhorted and motivated and led. Absolutely. That’s what we believe. When you – I know so many of you with this last service are young – when you get up tomorrow and you look and the mirror, you don’t see an idiot. You don’t see a failure. You don’t see an imbecile. You see the glory of God, gentlemen. You see the glory of God. God made you to glorify him. You are his glory. God wants you to repent of sin, come to Jesus, be transformed, so that you are a well polished mirror that reflects something of your heavenly Father to the earth.
My wife, helping me raise my three sons and two daughters, she was having a difficulty early on with our sons because she would, sort of tell them what to do and they would get disrespectful, and it just did not go well. And she said, “I don’t understand. What am I supposed to do with the boys?” I said, “Boys, like men, need respect. They need dignity. They need encouragement and they need you to appeal to the best that is in them, rather than just nagging and yelling at them.” And as my wife appeals to their dignity and the glory of God that they are, we are seeing an amazing transformation in my boys to where they are, they are really wonderful boys who I really love, very, very, very much and enjoy very deeply.
Right, so for those of you ladies who are here – appealed to the dignity of your brothers in Christ. Those of you who are fiancées and wives, appeal to the dignity and glory that is your husband, and you mothers, appeal to the glory and dignity of your sons. I had this with my son, Zach, he’s only seven and he was acting up not too long ago and I sat him down. I said, “Zachie, God made you. You’re made in his image and likeness. You are a Christian young man. You are the glory of God and when I look at you, I see the glory of God. Will you repent and will you change and will you be the glory of God for me so that your daddy can see the glory of God in his son?” My son looked at me and he sort of, “Yes, dad, I will be the glory of God.” Seven-year-old boy.
Right, all of you men, especially you young man, you need to memorize 1 Corinthians 11:7. You need to know that you can be, you are the glory of God. You need not just be diminished and dismissed and discouraged and dissuaded and disrespected. We honor you. We expect you to be honorable. And we appeal to your dignity and your masculinity and your courage and your strength and the glory of God that you are and by God’s grace, we want to see men who are good men. So much of our city has dedicated its resources to dealing with the women that men beat and abuse and children that they neglect and molest and violate, and the crimes that they commit and so our Child Protective Services and our Social Welfare Network and our battered women’s shelters and our drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and our court system and our prisons and jails are absolutely clogged with men. I think one of the best gifts we can give to women and children is men who are like Jesus. Who were strong and courageous and do everything in love.
He goes on then to speak of some of these men. Verse 15, “You know that the household of Stephanas,” so this is a family where that dad is leading his family and the whole family has come to know Jesus and they’re all doing ministry together. They “were the first converts in Achaia, and have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas,” another guy, “Fortunatus,” another guy, “and Achaicus,” I hope I pronounced it right, another guy, “arrived, because they supplied what was lacking from you. They also refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve,” what? “Recognition.”
Yesterday, there was a guy in this church who married a single mother and adopted, is adopting her five-year-old daughter. That is wonderful. Yesterday, a five-year-old girl got a daddy. I mean, isn’t that the coolest thing in the world? A five-year-old little girl got a daddy. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that. I’ve got two little girls. I snuggle with them, write them love letters, take them out to tea, go for walks, feed the ducks. Little girls need daddies. There’s a lot of little girls who don’t have daddies. Maybe some of you will be their daddy. Wouldn’t that be great? Jesus was adopted. It’s a good thing. You know, there are men in this room who were single that have overcome pornography addiction and they’re walking clean. Those are good stories. There are guys in this room that have overcome drug and alcohol addiction and they’re walking in holiness and those are good stories to tell. Some of you guys I have absolutely honored your girlfriends and your fiancées and you’ve kept your hands to yourself and you’ve been exemplary, and those are good stories to tell. There are guys in this room who really love their wives, like Christ loves the church. The adore their wives and they’re one-woman men, absolutely as the Bible instructs, and those are good stories as well. There are guys in this church that are working two jobs to make ends meet. There are guys in this church that are doing a lot for the Lord in ministry. There’s a lot of good stories to tell.
I know the world is filled with sin and evil. I just wish I’d turn on the news one night and here, not this guy murdered this other guy, but this guy and that Jesus and nobody got murdered, you know? And I don’t – I mean, I know it’s true that I turn on the news and this kid got molested. I’d rather hear, “Hey, and today, you know, 20 kids got a Christian daddy because the men married the single mothers.” I mean, I just wish there was one night where I got to watch the news and hear stories about God’s men and not just all the evil in the world. Those stories must be told and thankfully, to be honest with you, there are many.
Now our critics, they go crazy on this. I’ll tell you who doesn’t complain – the wives of these men and the daughters of these men. They don’t complain. I have yet to get an email that says, “My husband is faithful to me. He works really hard. He reads the Bible a lot. He comes home for dinner. He kisses me and the kids. He snuggles with my daughters and writes them love letters. He wrestles with my sons. This needs to stop.” Right? We haven’t gotten any complaints. We get it from the outside, from people who, perhaps, don’t understand, right? In our heart, we believe one of the wonderful gifts we can give to women in children is men who are like Jesus.
He goes on, then, to speak about this issue of community, which is on his heart as well in Verse 19. “The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscila greet you warmly,” that’s a husband and wife team who do ministry together. If you’re married, what a wonderful thing it is to do ministry together. If you’re single, pray for somebody who wants to do ministry with you, wants to open your home and have a Bible study and, you know, have people meet Jesus in your house and pray in your house and have dinner in your house and build friendships in your house and – and that’s what this young family did, this – what this couple did. Priscilla and Aquila are a model married couple throughout the New Testament. They’re repeatedly mentioned. They’re very helpful to Paul. This is a godly husband and wife team. And he says, “So does the church,” also greet you, “that meets at their house. All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss” Affectionate introduction.
They have a little church that meets in their house. This is Biblical. In the early days of the church in Acts, we see that they got together by the thousands for worship at the temple courts and then they gathered in houses and they had little church in homes. Bible studies, prayer, meals, love, service, encouragement, support.
Now, he ends with a few things that are on his heart. He’s talked about the finances, the external open doors of ministry, the critics, the leaders who need to be raised up and respected, the men and how everything rises or falls with men doing their job; a community being built in homes as lives are changed and people are connecting around Jesus; and then he says in Verse 21, “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.” Now let me talk about this for a minute. There’s probably much to say on this verse. First thing I would say is that it’s curious that people will tell you that the New Testament was written hundreds of years after the eyewitnesses died and that its myth, legend, fable and folklore. Paul just tells us, who wrote this letter? He did. Who was Paul? A murderer of Christians. While what’s he doing writing Bible, pastoring Christians? He met Jesus and his heart was changed. His life was changed. He realized that he was a sinner and Jesus was God and Jesus lived the life he could never live, a life without sin, and Jesus died the death that he deserved to die as a penalty for sin, and Jesus rose to take away his sin and his heart melted and he loved Jesus for the rest of his life. He became a Christian. The moral of the story is, it’s less about where you begin and it’s where you end that really counts. Right, you may start as a person with all kinds of sin but if you meet Jesus, who knows? You could end up being used of God in significant ministry as Paul was. It’s wonderful.
The second thing I would say is that letter writing is a lost art form. I know many of you are young. For those of you under 20, letter writing includes paper, which can be purchased at most major stores and also, usually includes a pencil or pen and you actually right things on paper, which is different, I know, then text messaging and email sending and blogging and in our digital world, we’re not opposed to that. You know, we blog and email and text message, but when’s the last time you got a handwritten from someone who loved you? It’s probably been a while, hasn’t it? When’s the last time you wrote a handwritten letter to someone you love? I think this is an art form that Christians need to hold onto, letter writing. How great would it be – so many of you are single – if right now, you started writing letters to your future spouse? Maybe even journaling. That way, when you meet them, maybe that’d be the great wedding present, wouldn’t it? The stack of letters you wrote them before you met them. How you were praying for them. How you were resisting temptation for them. How you were on their – they were on your heart and mind. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful gift? How many of you ladies, that would be a nice wedding present? Your husband gave you, on your wedding night, a box of letters, said, “I loved you before I met you and you weren’t there to talk to, but I had much to say and you can catch up now, because you were on my heart. You know, there’s just a tenderness, sometimes, in letter writing that gets missed in emailing. It’s just not as intimate, you know?
I was talking to a friend of mine, he’s an older man and, years ago, he wrote his father a long letter listing all the things he appreciated about his dad and I think his dad actually passed away and as he was going through his father’s things, he found his father’s Bible and he opened it and there was only one piece of paper in there. It was very old. It was the letter from his son. He carried it in his Bible every single day. It was well-worn. He read it all the time. I write letters to my kids. I love writing letters to my daughter, Ashley. She’s nine. It means the world to her. I leave her little love notes and letters from her daddy. Slip them under her pillow. Put them in her knapsack. How great is it to be able to love someone in such a simple, practical way as writing a letter? Paul did that for his church because he loved them so much. It’s amazing that it would make it into the Bible. He told us in 1 Corinthians 14, I think it was Verse 37, that what he is writing is the Lord’s command. He knows he’s writing the Bible and he’s speaking for Jesus and I can imagine with their pastor traveling and gone, to get a letter from him probably meant a great deal to this little church. And it struck me this week, I actually have an experience that kinda gave me an insight into what this must’ve been like.
For those of you who don’t know, I like dead guys. I think that dead guys are the best mentors and heroes because they don’t disappoint, like a living people do. And so pick dead guys for your heroes and one of my heroes is a gentleman named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. You may have never heard of him. He lived in the 19th century in London. He was Reformed Baptist Bible preacher. Loved Jesus. One of the best preachers in the history of the church. He started ministry when he was a teenager. He grew a church to 5,000. It was the biggest church in the world in his day. He blessed a lotta pastors. He ran an orphanage. He was a pretty extraordinary man, used of God. He died at a young age. Lot of health complications, like gout, he suffered very seriously. I’ve read every biography I can find on him. My wife has read a biography on his wife and we studied his life a lot, just because he’s a guy who greatly inspires me and I have tremendous respect for him.
While there’s a pastor in Australia, who knows that next week is our 10th year anniversary and the week after that is my 36th birthday, and so he sent me a present, and he sent me a letter, they got this letter in the mail and I open it up. It says, “February 20, 1873.” It was handwritten letter from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. February 20, 1873. I literally teared up. It was like somebody put a crown in my head and named me Miss America. I was – I was like – I was just shaking. I was so happy. And so I’m sitting there, holding this gi- what a great gift! A letter from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And I thought, my goodness, what a wonderful gift this is and he – he talks about – he’s 39 years of age – and he talks about taking his church from the size that we are to 10,000, the exact season that we’re in and he says that he is, “staggering under the cares of the little nation that demands my perpetual supervision.” I’ve been meditating on that all week. He is “staggering under the cares of the little nation that demands my perpetual supervision.” Oh, that just spoke to my heart. He’s a couple years older than me, church about the same size. I feel like I’m staggering. I feel like this is a little country. You know, a little city in the middle of the big city. And I thought, praise God that Spurgeon took time to write letters. I would encourage us all to be about letter writing. So much of our new testament is actually letters. It’s Biblical for us to write letters to those that we love.
And then, he has three verses in conclusion. Would you think is gonna talk about? What do you think’s last? You always save the best for last. Jesus. Four times in three verses. Really, you know what? You know your pastor loves you when he talks about Jesus. That’s how you know he loves you. Here’s how he says it. It’s kind of funny, actually. Verse 22. “If anyone does not love the Lord” that’s Jesus, “—a curse be on him. [laughs] I kinda like that. And that’s, that’s pretty cool. Here’s what he tells his people. You’re in the church and we love you. But do you love Jesus? If not, a curse is on you. I’d tell you the same thing. I’d tell you, if you’re here today and you haven’t repented of sin and trusted in Jesus, God is angry with you, not happy. He’s far from you, not near. He is separated from you, not reconciled. Sin is a very serious thing to the holy and righteous God and if you don’t repent of sin and turn to Jesus, that’s the only way to get your sin forgiven, to get reconciled to God, have peace with God, then a curse is on you. You’re an enemy of God and you’re going to Hell.
I know some of you are saying, “Now, don’t talk about Hell. It’s scary.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s supposed to be scary, so that you don’t go there, right? I mean, the Bible talks about Hell as being excruciating, unending, eternal, conscious torment. Jesus speaks of Hell more than anyone. Say, “Don’t tell me about Hell.” I’m telling you about Hell, because I’d prefer that you went to Heaven. I’d like to tell you how bad Hell is so that you decide to walk with Jesus and have your sense forgiven and not end there. But if you are here tonight and you don’t know Jesus, you don’t love Jesus, then you are separated from God, sin really is the problem, Jesus really is the answer, okay? And I would be remiss, and I would be a bad pastor, an unloving pastor, if it didn’t tell you that the problem is sin and the answer is Jesus.
So then the next logical question is – well, how do you get your sin dealt with? He tells us. Verse 23. First he says, “Come, O Lord!” He’s waiting for the coming of Jesus. And then he says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” Hm. How do you get the curse lifted? Have you get sin forgiven? How do you get relationship reconciled? How do you get Hell traded for Heaven? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Boy, you know what? I’ve heard this since I was 19. That’s when I became a Christian. I never get tired of hearing it. Jesus loves us. Jesus died for us. Jesus rose for us. Jesus will give us eternal life, forgiveness of sin, reconciled relationship to God as a Christian and one another as the church. I have never gotten over the grace of Jesus. Jesus is not about karma and works in giving you a list of things to do so that he’ll be nice to you. Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did everything that needed to be done for you and I have to be acceptable in the eyes of God.
For those of you that are striving and straining to be a good person and pay God back, what you need is Jesus. He’s taken care of everything and he gives grace. That means we don’t deserve it, we do have some merit it. It’s a miracle, God has loved the unlovely. God has embraced the rejected. God has been kind to the hardhearted. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it this way that God made him who knew no sin to become sin so that in him, we might become in the righteousness of God. Martin Luther calls that the great exchange. My sin for Jesus’ sinlessness. My unholy life for Jesus’ holy life. My deserved death for Jesus’ everlasting life. My condemnation for Jesus’ salvation. My distance from God for Jesus’ intimacy with the father. Say, “What did I do to deserve that?” Nothing. It was done before I was even born. It’s a gift of grace. We would encourage you all to lean wholeheartedly into the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Do you know Jesus? Do you love Jesus? Do you sing to Jesus? Do you pray to Jesus? Do you read the bible to meet Jesus? That’s what it’s all about. He is an extraordinary God and I assure you there is none like him. And the grace of the Lord Jesus has been with us, has it not? Has the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in with you? Has Jesus changed your heart? Has he changed your mind? Has he changed your life? Is he even working in your life right now, to make you more like him? I know that he is, because he’s faithful and he’s been so good to this church and he has been so good to me.
And then here is Paul’s final word. “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” I say this not in a – not in a trite way, not in a patronizing way and I hope not in a manipulative way – it’s important that you know that I deeply love you. I deeply love this church. Deeply. I was up at 3:00 in the morning last night, praying for you.