This last Sunday I said some harsh words in the sermon. I know I did. I was uncomfortable saying them. Some of those words were “If you don’t believe what Jesus said, you don’t believe in Jesus” and “if Jesus taught it, He believed it, and if you don’t believe what Jesus taught, you don’t believe in Jesus.” My stomach hurt saying these things, as well as others. Yet, as I prayed that morning, and as I was reminded by a 94 year old Sister in Christ after church: “I am accountable to God for all I preach and teach, so you need to continue preaching that truth, even if you’re not comfortable doing it!” Loved ones, I know the things I say often offend. Believe me, I am also offended! But that is why I know it is from God, because the offense takes place in my natural self that God is in the process of putting to death, and it is fighting, if you’ll pardon the expression, like hell to stay alive in me, while God, through Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Word is trying to restore me in to His image.
If I hurt your feelings, I feel terrible about it. Just now that I preach what the word says, and if I did not love you, I would only speak to you what you want to hear. I seek to be more like Jesus, and, in spite of what many have been led to believe, He often taught these very same things. Jesus didn’t often teach what was easy, He taught what brought men to repentance. Jesus didn’t come to heal the bodies of the sick, but to restore to life those dead in sin. And unless we confront sin, and unless we confront lukewarm attitudes, and unless we confront worldliness in our walk, we will never be like Christ. The purpose of the sermon is not to grow the congregation, that is the work of the Holy Spirit through the congregation. The purpose of preaching and teaching the word of God is to grow us in to Christ-likeness, to restore us in to the Image of God, and to work sin out of our lives.
If I hurt your feelings, know I feel sad about it. But also know I love you so much that I’m willing to risk your opinion of me to tell you the truth. I love you, God bless you, and may God every continue to shape you toward His will and His Image by the Holy Spirit and the truth of His word.
1 Corinthians 1:12-2:17
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
2For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.