Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Shall We Say as We Conclude Six Years Together? A Farewell Sermon to Binbrook Baptist Church

Below are the notes I uses in my farewell sermon to the church family whom I've loved and served for six years. . .

As I began to prepare for this week’s sermon I realized that this is our last ‘normal’ Sunday together with me as your pastor.
Natalie and I will be here for one more Sunday, but next week is a special week. Instead of Sunday School we will have coffee, muffins, and fellowship. Instead of our regular morning service, we are having our Sunday School Christmas Concert. Lord willing, I’ll share a 15 minute evangelistic devotional at that morning service. Then next Sunday evening, instead of our regular Bible study, we are going to intermingle singing favourite hymns with simply reading the Christmas story together. We’ll end that night in prayer together.
So next week is my last Sunday, but today is my last normal Sunday.
What does one say at the end of six years as pastor of a people he loves? I considered sharing a thank-you message, from Natalie and I to you all, for the ways you have been a blessing to us. That would have been a very appropriate message, but in the end I became keenly aware that the last thing you would have wanted was to hear a sermon about yourselves this morning.
Instead, I decided to take my cues from the Apostle Paul.
This morning, we are capping off six years of gospel-centered ministry together, and in Romans 8:31-39, Paul is capping off eight chapters of what may be the richest, fullest, deepest, exposition of the gospel in all the Scriptures. After eight chapters of relentless gospel, Paul steps back and asks a question: “What, then, shall we say in response to this”?
This morning we are asking together, ‘what shall we say as we conclude six years of gospel ministry together?’
In light of the things we have talked about for six years, what shall we say?
In light of the bad news of the gospel - the fact that when we use the Bible to evaluate ourselves, we are far more sinful and hopeless than we ever dared to believe. In ourselves we are sinners who were born into sin. We have sinful natures and we are by nature under God’s wrath, and are storing up wrath for the day of judgment. We indulge in sin or self-righteousness, and our lives are an offense to God. We can’t make this up. In ourselves we are hopeless.
In light of the good news of the gospel - that while we were still sinners, God sent his Son, born of a virgin, born under the law, to perfectly fulfill the law for us. Then, Jesus, God’s Son died the death under the wrath of God that we deserved to die. While we are hopeless in ourselves to placate q’s wrath, Jesus has done it for us.
In light of the reality that becoming a Christian is a trust transfer - from trusting what I do to make me right with God, to confessing that I can’t do anything, but trusting that Jesus has done it for me. This is the heart of the gospel: justification by faith alone.
In light of the effect of the good news on our lives: we are given peace with God, reconciliation to God, the reign of sin is broken in our lives and we are given power to progressively overcome remaining sin in our lives. Our standing in Christ does not depend on our strong grip on him, but on his strong grip on us. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in every Christian, every person who lays hold of Jesus by faith, and this Holy Spirit will raise every Christian to eternal life.
We groan for that day, but the Holy Spirit helps us, draws us close to God, intercedes in prayer for us.
Our sufferings in life are not worthy of comparing to the glory that is to come. God is a Father who orders the entire cosmos with an eye on blessing his people, who trust his son as Saviour.
Hardship in the life of a Christian is not punishment from God, but loving, fatherly discipline to bless them.
Those whom God foreknew and foreloved he also predestined, those who predestined he also called, those whom he called he also justified, those whom he justified he also glorified.
Our future glory is such a sure thing that God speaks of it in the past tense - because it is God who will bring us there, and God never lies and never fails.
These are the themes of Romans 1-8 and these have been our themes for six years together.
On this last Sunday morning together, let’s ask, then, with Paul, ‘What, then, shall we say in response to this incredible gospel?’
Let’s read together:
Rom. 8:31-39 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage begins with a question: ‘what then shall we say in response to this gospel?’ And it answers the question with another question: “if God is for us, who can be against us?’
The rest of the passage basically says something like, ‘actually, lots of things can be against us, but God is bigger than them all, and our salvation is more precious and sure than we ever imagined.’
As we conclude six years of gospel-centered ministry together, Natalie and I are stepping out into the unknown. Binbrook Baptist Church is stepping out into the unknown.
Romans 8:31-39 teaches that if you trust Christ as your personal Saviour, many things may be uncertain, but all of the treasures God has purchased for you are absolutely secure.
In the bit of time that remains, then, let’s walk through Romans 8:31-39 and notice two things about a Christian’s security in Christ:
1. Why Christians Are Secure in Christ
2. What Security in Christ Looks Like

1. Why Christians Are Secure In Christ - vv. 32-34
When I was a kid the idea of an all-powerful God was absolutely terrifying to me, and so was the idea of eternity. I went to church, I had a concept of God and eternity, but I didn’t have any way of knowing how I stood with this God. Intuitively I didn’t think my standing was very good.
We’ve seen in Romans that my intuition didn’t nearly plumb the depths of how hopeless my situation was.
When we talk about God we are not talking about our buddy, or the spiritual being we dream up. We are talking about the Lord of the Universe! This is scary business!
Every one of us here will stand before this God one day.
But if you are ‘in Christ’, if you trust Jesus as your personal Saviour, your entire standing with this God has changed!
Verse 32 - he didn’t spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.
It was God the Father who sent Jesus to die for you, to bear the wrath that your sins deserved, to transfer you out of death to life.
The same God who is big and all-powerful and scary, this God is the one who sent his son to die for you.
How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
The God we worship this morning is a God who loves to freely give good gifts. If the ultimate gift of all time was the gift of God’s Son, how will he not also give you and I all things?
But what about my standing with this God? How can I be sure I will hear a ‘well done’ by this God on the day of judgment?
At Hughson St. Baptist Church’s Christmas supper last Sunday night, Dwayne shared the story of visiting a dying man in the hospital. He said, ‘Dwayne, I’m scared’. Through the conversation Dwayne emphasized that if you trust Christ alone you have no reason to be scared. If you rely on your goodness, you have every reason to be scared.
So what about the day of judgment. What about charges being brought against you or I on that great and terrible day? What about those hidden sins from our past. What about the thought-life that only you and God know about?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. In other words, the very God who judges sinners is the same God who justifies sinners. And we’ve seen in Romans that this justification, this ‘not guilty’ declaration made by God towards sinners is a free gift. All we need to do is trust what God has done for us in Jesus.
On the day of judgment, the same God who provided for your justification, will pronounce you ‘not guilty’, not if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, but because Jesus’ sacrifice was his idea, and it was made for you!
V. 34 - who is the one who will condemn sinners on that day. The terrible truth is that at the final judgment a multitude of people will hear ‘get away from me, I never knew you’.
How do you really know that you will not hear those words?
Well, the same Jesus who will be the one who condemns also: 1) died for sins; 2) was raised to life for our justification; 3) is reigning at the right hand of God in power today; 4) is interceding for us.
If you trust Christ as Saviour this morning, right now, Jesus is showing his wounds to God the Father, and praying for you. He’s saying, ‘look at my completed work, my Father. I have paid for all of their sin. Treat John Penner with grace. Treat Ian Vaillancourt with grace. Treat Phil Cline with grace. Treat all who trust in me with grace, because I have purchased their eternity.
Why are Christians completely secure in Christ? Because the gospel was God’s idea, and Jesus, who condemns, is the very one who also died, was raised, reigns, and intercedes for every one of his own. What an amazing gospel!

2. What Security in Christ Looks Like - vv. 35-39
So, what does it look like to be completely secure in Christ?
The reality is, we live in a world full of suffering.
1) We have sin that remains in us that wants to pull us away from Christ. 2) The world around us opposes Christ and righteousness. 3) The devil is a real being with a legion of demons who work against God and the gospel. The world, the flesh, and the devil all mitigate against Christians.
As Paul continues in Romans 8:35-39 he paints an incredibly realistic picture of life in a fallen world.
What can come against us in this life?
Trouble, hardship - like when work is oppressive or uncertain.
Persecution - like when your life or health is in danger because you love Jesus.
Famine or nakedness - you may go hungry or unclothed in this life. Around the world this happens every day.
Danger or sword - wars, random acts of crime, terrorism, hate acts against Christians.
All of this can happen.
Then Paul quotes the Old Testament: 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
With the Old Testament Psalmist, Paul says that Christians, people who are justified by faith in Christ, who are totally secure in Christ, live in tension. Today is not pleasant, but eternity will be.
But in the face of this he concludes: we are more than conquerers, we are completely victorious, through him who loved us.
This is incredible. If you are not a Christian, you are completely dependent on luck and circumstances for security. Those odds are not good at all. Even if life does go smoothly, what will happen when you do finally die?
But if you are a Christian, in the face of radical suffering in this life, you are completely victorious. Through whom? Through him who loved us! The same God who sent his son to die, the same son who died, rose, reigns and prays for you today, this same God is the one through whom you are completely victorious.
If you are a Christian, nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Notice that Paul continually brings this back to ‘in Christ Jesus’. Your security is not in you. It’s not even in your strong faith. Its in God’s faithfulness to you in Jesus.
So, death or life - flip a coin. Whichever comes, you are secure.
Angels and demons - whether angels protect you or demons assault you, they can’t pry you out of God’s grip.
Present or future - Whatever is in your life now and whatever is to come, none of these things can take you out of the grip of Christ.
Any powers, height, depth - no spiritual being in the Universe, whether high or low, can take you out of God’s hands.
Anything else in all creation - since God is the creator of all, he is over all. There are a lot of big, nasty things out there, but none of them can separate you from God’s love for you.
As we read this list, remember that the Apostle Paul was not a casual commenter who lived in the midst of ivory towers. He writes of his own sufferings this way:
2 Cor 11:23b-28 I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
This was Paul’s life.
And the Roman Christians to whom he was writing were about to experience their fair share of suffering. Emperor Nero was about to begin an all-out assault against Christians, a few short years after they received this very letter from Paul. They would be torn apart by wild animals in the colosium, as a sort of sick entertainment for the watching crowds, they would be lit on fire and burned alive, human torches for the twisted Emperor Nero as he enjoyed entertaining at parties. They would be driven from their homes, jobs, security, familiarity.
How precious would these words in Romans 8 have been to them as they faced these things.
In the light of six years of gospel ministry together, and in the face of an uncertain future, it is my temptation to stand here and tell you that life is going to be a hammock by the beach for us all because we have Jesus. But Paul says to us, ‘suffering and hardship may come, but nothing can take you out of the hands of your God and Father’.
The absolute worst thing that can ever happen to a person is to have the Sovereign, mighty, God of the universe against them.
Paul says here that if you trust Christ, no matter what comes your way, whether it is death or life or divorce or marital bliss or peace or conflict, nothing can take you out of the hands of your God!
If the worst thing that can ever happen to a person is to hear ‘I am against you, says the Lord,’ and if that can never happen to a believer in Jesus, then what do you and I really have to fear?
The great preacher from the 1700‘s, George Whitefield once expressed his confidence in God this way:
“God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love, and a single eye, and let men or devils do their worst”.

As Natalie and I move out into the unknown, and as Binbrook Baptist Church moves into a time of transition with supply preachers and pulpit committees, may God give us the gift of this kind of confidence! God is faithful; he will do it.
Let’s pray to close. Sing: In Christ Alone

No comments:

Post a Comment