May 10, 2020 The Mercy of God and the Gospel of Christ

The Mercy of God and the Gospel of Christ

Scripture reading: 2 Cor. 4:1-5

 

The apostle Paul writes about “this ministry.” The ministry to which he refers is the ministry of the new covenant. It is an apostolic ministry, but it is also the ministry of every follower of Christ. It is your ministry. It is my ministry.

 

He writes, “we do not lose heart.” Why does he mention losing heart? We all must have a heart for the ministry. I tell you, if you have never had a heart for the ministry of the gospel then you are not saved. It might be that you are fearful to speak the gospel yourself. It is not God’s will that you allow fear to dictate your failure, but it does happen. Those that allow the fear of man to direct their lives may still have a heart for the gospel. They can contribute money to the church, to evangelistic ministries, and they can pray for those that do proclaim the gospel. What I am saying is that if you have no heart for the gospel at all – you don’t do any of those things – then you are not saved.

 

We all must have a heart for the ministry. But one can lose their heart. Why might this happen? There might be several reasons,[1] but one is not seeing results from our efforts. This is a common experience in any endeavor. If someone were to take an Algebra class and failed it, they might take the class a second time. If they failed it a second time, they might take it a third time. If they failed it a third time, they would almost certainly lose heart.

 

When I was in my forties I had a couple of friends who played golf. They encouraged me to learn so that I could play with them. So, I took a golf class at the local community college and for three or four months I learned how to play. After the class was over, I went to the golf course with my two friends to play 18 holes of golf. I don’t remember their scores, but mine was 177! I lost my heart for golf. I’m sad to say that I never played after that.

 

It is the same with the ministry. One can talk to many people about the Lord and everyone you talk to is uninterested and does not receive what you have to say. It can cause you to lose heart.

 

Another cause of losing heart for the gospel is sin. Sin ruins everything, including your motivation to share the gospel. One is tempted to think, “Look at me! I keep disobeying the Lord. I am too messed up to tell anyone else about the Lord Jesus.” This is a common experience among Christians.

 

Paul alludes to this in verse 1 and the first part of verse 2:

 

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,

2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame[2]

 

He gives two reasons why he and Timothy do not lose heart. First, it is because of the great glory that characterizes the ministry. We covered this in the last two messages. The glory has not gone away! The same glory that was in the ministry 1950 years ago is still in the ministry!

Second, they had received mercy. This mercy has to do with their own sin. Mercy has to do with not giving a sinner what they deserve because of their sin. Sin deserves punishment to the one not justified and it deserves discipline to the one who is justified.

We know this has to do with their sin because Paul continues in verse 2, “But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame.” When you renounce something, it means that you give up something that you once had. We all sin. What the apostles did was that they did not hold on to their sin, neither did they dwell on their failure. They renounced their sin.

This is what we must do also. Sin always brings shame. Some sins bring more shame than others. Sexual sins bring much shame. Drunkeness brings shame. Although some sins carry more shame than others, they all bring shame.

The shame that sin brings is multiplied if others learn of it. But, even if no one knows about our sin, we do. We become ashamed of ourselves.

Not only does sin bring shame, but that shame can deter us from carrying out the Lord’s will. It can cause us to lose heart. The way the apostles did not lose heart was that they understood and believed in God’s mercy. They experienced his mercy!

We must know, along with the apostles, that God is a merciful God. Maybe we know it, but we need to be reminded of it. Not only is he merciful but his mercy is bountiful!

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[3]

God is rich in mercy! He saved us according to his mercy and he upholds us according to his mercy!

So, when you sin, do not lose heart. Remember and rejoice in the mercy of God. When you have sinned, you will sense remorse (unless your conscience has become seared by the frequent practice of sin [I Tim. 4:2; Eph 4:19]). In this remorse you can and should come to the Lord with confidence, not with doubt. You must come to the Lord with boldness, not with uncertainty:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [4]

The author of Hebrews here is writing about when we sin – we draw near to God with confidence because we know that we will receive mercy.

The Lord is only asking that we confess and renounce our sin. Then mercy is available and abundant.

Thus, Paul and Timothy did not lose heart because of their sin. Neither should you.

Paul continues in verse 2:

not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.[5]

The apostles were not crafty. They were straight forward. They told it like it was. They did not adulterate the word of God. To adulterate something means to corrupt it. To adulterate gold is to mix it with some inferior metal for the purpose of selling it at a price higher than its actual value. Likewise, to adulterate wine is to mix it with another kind of liquid for the purpose of presenting it as if it were wine of good quality. Even in the first century, some preachers adulterated the Word of God in this way. They added inferior things to the Word.

 

They manifested the truth. This simply means that they made the truth known. This is our calling, too – to make the truth known to others. When Paul writes, “commending ourselves to every man’s conscience,” he implies that the truth is made known not by words alone, but by the very lives of Paul and Timothy. There is something about the life of a person filled with the Spirit that sets our conscience at ease. J.I. Packer is a theologian and Bible teacher who is most well-known for his book, Knowing God. It was first published in 1973 and is already considered a classic. If you haven’t read this book, I very highly recommend it. Brother Packer came near to where we were living some 20 years ago and gave a three-week course at the local Youth With a Mission ministry center. Having read his book, among others, Josie and I attended. Not only did we enjoy his teaching, but we were deeply impressed with his living. We invited him to have breakfast with us the last weekend that he was there. He and his wife joined us at IHOP. There we talked for some two hours. I tell you, we felt like we were in the presence of an apostle. You could sense that he was filled with the Spirit! That was the power of a transformed life!

 

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,

in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they

might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.[6]

 

Paul had already written, in chapter three, that a veil lies over the hearts of those

who have not turned their hearts towards the Lord. Although Paul applies this to his fellow Jews in chapter three, all people have this veil over their hearts and God must grant both repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Eph 2:8). Here, Paul says that Satan, the god of this world, has further blinded the minds of those that do not believe. It is a double undoing. Man’s heart is turned away from God and his truth in its natural state[7] and the devil further blinds him to the light of the gospel.

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.[8]

Paul here is referring to the gospel. He had just said that Satan blinds minds so as people will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. The gospel is about Christ. What Paul preached as the gospel was Christ Jesus as Lord!

There is a false gospel that has gone out over the last 75 years or so. It goes by many names. For its proponents, it is sometimes called the “Free Grace gospel.” That makes it sound good because the gospel is because of the grace of God and God’s grace is indeed free. Its detractors have called it easy-believism. More recently, it has been called the forgiveness-only gospel or the fact-only gospel. It essentially says that one can believe in Christ as Savior but not have him as your Lord. You might be able to do that later. But this is not the gospel that either Jesus or the apostles preached.

Paul preached Jesus as Lord!

Arthur Pink, a great man of God who ministered in the first half of the 20th century, summed it up well:

“If He is not your Lord, then He is most certainly not your Savior. Those who have not received Christ Jesus as their Lord are deluded, and their hope rests on a foundation of sand.”[9]

We must turn from living and doing things our own way to living and doing things Christ’s way. That is what it means to have a Lord. Otherwise, you are just your own lord.

In that great prophetic chapter on the Messiah which predicted Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, Isaiah 53, our problem and need for a Savior is clearly stated:

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. [10]

 

We have all gone our own way and our way leads to iniquity. (Iniquity is a synonym for wickedness, or gross sin.)

In Judges, this is said about the Jews of that day:

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. [11]

This is said as a divine accusation, as a reproach from God. But why did everyone do what was right in their own eyes? The first part of the verse tells us:

“In those days there was no king in Israel.”

As brother Pink has well said: “Until Christ becomes your King (I Tim. 1:17; Rev. 15:3), until you bow to his scepter, until his will becomes your rule of life, self dominates, and thus Christ is disowned.”[12]

So many want to be saved from Hell, but they still want to hold on to their sin. But God will not save a person on their terms. To be saved, we must submit to his terms.[13]

Let the wicked forsake his way,

And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

Let him return to the Lord,

And He will have mercy on him;

And to our God,

For He will abundantly pardon.[14]

 

We must forsake our way and our unrighteous thoughts. We must turn to the Lord. Then we will receive mercy. Then we will receive forgiveness. But, if we seek forgiveness without receiving Christ as our Lord, we get neither pardon nor the Divine Guide that we so much need! We need a Lord because our ways are foolish and selfish. His ways are full of wisdom and the path to true blessing.

This is the gospel that Paul preached – Jesus Christ as Lord! There is no mercy received without the Lordship of Christ possessed.

Would you have mercy? Then, if you have not done so, bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. Receive his scepter. I am not asking if you attend church. I am not asking if you said some prayer a while back. I am not asking if you believed a set of facts, such as that Christ is the Son of God, that he died on a cross for the sins of those who believe, and that he rose from the dead three days later. Although one must believe those things in order to be right with God, just believing them is insufficient. (The demons believe those facts.) I am asking if Christ is your Lord in reality. If he is not, then the Lord requires that you do two things. He requires that you confess Christ as Lord, that is, that you publicly declare it. And, that you are baptized. Repentance (turning from sin) and baptism (both a public pledge to God [I Peter 3:21] and an identification with Christ’s death [Romans 6:3-4]) are the responses that God demands.

Have you publicly confessed him as Lord? Have you been baptized? If you have not, then do not delay. Confess him today.

If Christ is already your Lord, then do not lose heart. Take up the ministry that every follower of Christ has. It is making the truth known. Shine out the gospel by your words and by your life. You can do this when you renounce the hidden things of shame and receive with confidence the mercy of God. His mercy is available. Receive it and don’t look back.

 

 


[1] The Parable of the Sower mentions these.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 4:1–2). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 2:4–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 4:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 4:2). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 4:3–4). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 4:5). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[9] From the tract, Is Christ Your Lord? published by Chapel Library, Pensacola, FL 32505.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 53:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jdg 21:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] Is Christ Your Lord?

[13] Ibid.

[14] The New King James Version. (1982). (Is 55:7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.