This video and manuscript is from Trip’s General Session at the Legacy Conference 2013.
The theme of this conference is Soli Deo Gloria, or glory to God alone. That’s a great theme. And we want that perspective – that all the glory in the Universe belongs to God alone, to inform every single thing we do. During my time tonight, I want to think about how that informs our evangelism.
Telling people about Jesus seems to be one of those things that all of us know we need to do, yet all of us feel guilty about not doing enough. Am I right? Am I alone in that? Even just this past week, I was feeling convicted because a relationship I began to build with one of my neighbors has kind of started to fall off. I haven’t been as intentional as I should about building on that relationship, and continuing to try to tell him about Jesus. And it seems like I feel this way often. The question I want to ask is why? What heart perspective needs to be fixed? I need my mind to be renewed. I have to remember why I’m doing it.
Now there’s no doubt that evangelism is scary and hard and stressful. And that’s just what goes on in our hearts. What about how others feel about it? Trying to convince somebody that they’re sinners in need of a Savior and that Jesus is the only way, seems like the worst crime in the universe to our “tolerant” culture. It’s offensive.
So why should we preach the Gospel? We open our mouths and nobody wants to hear it. People hate us for it. People say we’re behind the times. People say we’re clinging to an old outdated book with outdated ideas. We live in a dark, hostile world. So why? Are we wasting our time
We gotta know why we’re doing it, or we’ll give up. Are we preaching the Gospel so we can force everybody to be like us? Is it because we’re bigots who think we’re better than everybody else? Is it because we all need some kind of hope to cling to and Jesus will do? No. We preach the Gospel because we want people to see the glory of God. And we see that glory in His Son.
If you walk away with one thing let it be that. We preach Christ so people can see glory.
Why does it matter?
Drug addicts get high because they don’t grasp the glory of God. Rappers blaspheme his name and put themselves on a level with Jesus, because they don’t grasp the glory of God. Young dudes in our communities shoot each other, because they don’t grasp the glory of God. Young ladies put their trust in relationships because they don’t grasp the glory of God. Depressed youth commit suicide because they have no hope, because they don’t grasp the glory of God. People go to hell because they haven’t seen the glory of God in the Gospel and trusted in Christ. Seeing the glory of God matters, and we want them to see it.
When we get a glimpse of the glory of God in Christ, we’ll never be the same. So let’s think about what it means to help people see God’s glory in a dark world, where people don’t even want to know Him.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to serve among people who hated him and his Gospel. We often imagine that Paul is sitting somewhere on the beach with his feet up philosophizing as he writes these letters. No, Paul lives in the real world with real difficulties – a world that was in many ways a lot more difficult than ours. And this letter is written in that context.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church is in many ways a defense and description of his ministry in the face of opposition. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)
If you’re a believer in the Gospel, you’ve been called to be a minister of the Gospel. So I want to look at Paul’s example and I want to point out four lessons for ministry in a dark world
I. Don’t Waiver Because of the Rejection of Men (1-2)
Rejection is difficult. We’ve all experienced it. It’s natural for people to be discouraged, and hurt, when they offer somebody themselves or something else and the person turns them down. From seventh grade boys asking a girl to a dance, to not making in to that college you applied to, to not getting that job you so desperately wanted, rejection is hard.
The Apostle Paul dealt with plenty of rejection and opposition in his ministry of the Gospel. So much so that in many of his letters he’s forced to defend his character and his methods and his message. His status was not undisputed.
Can you imagine being in Paul’s position? You went to Corinth, this pagan idolatrous place, and you preached the Gospel to them. You loved them. Yet now, some naysayers have sown seeds of doubt in their minds. Doubt about you, and your motives, and your teaching. That hurts.
But how does Paul respond? Look at verse 1.
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”
A. Don’t Lose Heart
Paul says he doesn’t lose heart. He’s saying he’s not discouraged despite the fact that he’s faced such opposition. He hasn’t gotten depressed, and given up, and thrown in the towel or found something else to give his life to. He hasn’t retired and decided to become a magician instead. Which is amazing, considering what this rejection was like. Considering everything Paul went through. From being imprisoned, stoned, rejected. Paul still doesn’t lose heart; which is exactly what we would be tempted to do.
Have you ever shared the Gospel with someone and had them reject it? I have. I can think of times when people said they don’t need God, or argued with me and told me God wasn’t real, or people who started to act weird and avoid me after I shared with them, even people who aggressively yelled at me and threatened me. How are you tempted to respond to that? Maybe you’d be tempted to fight, but I can’t fight. Most of us would are tempted to be discouraged, and give up. Who wants to keep running into a brick wall?
So when I read Paul’s words saying he doesn’t lose heart. I’m amazed. I want to know how he does it. Why doesn’t he lose heart? He tells us right here in this verse.
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”
Paul does not lose heart because of the greatness of the ministry that God has given Him. Right before this in chapter 3, Paul spends a bunch of time explaining the glory of the New Covenant ministry. The glory of being one of those on this side of the cross, who get to preach salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.
Paul’s encouragement comes from the ministry itself, not how successful he feels at any given time. He’s grateful He was chosen by God’s mercy to serve in this way. He feels privileged. In fact, he points out that this new covenant ministry is even more glorious than the old covenant ministry of Moses. And Paul knows that it is a mercy of God that he of all people would have this ministry. The man who hated the church and persecuted Christians.
As the people of God, our joy is not based on how people respond to the message. Our confidence in the Gospel is not based on how the people in our neighborhoods respond to it. It’s based on the glory of the calling itself.
It’s unbelievable that the people in this room take part in a ministry more glorious than the ministry of Moses himself. Do you grasp that? Because not only do see their not good enough, but we get to tell them about the One who is. We know exactly who that one is. We get to help people see the glory of God unveiled! We get to lead people into the presence of God.
Christians, we should not lose heart. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be grieved at the darkness of our world. I only mean that we shouldn’t be dejected and throw in the towel. They may reject the message, but that doesn’t make it any less glorious.
Don’t waiver. Don’t lose heart.
B. Renounce Disgraceful Underhanded Ways
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.”
Paul may have been accused of being dirty and self-seeking. His character had come into question. So Paul defends himself, saying, “No, we’ve renounced that. We’re not hiding things and being slimy in the way we operate.” He wants them to know he intends to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
It sounds a lot like what he said in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.”
Paul understands that Gospel ministry demands that we live our lives in a certain way. And when we don’t it compromises our ministry. He understands that we can’t proclaim the Gospel, and tell people to repent of sin, without living a life of repentance ourselves.
Look, if you’re sharing the Gospel with people, but those same people see your life is a mess, you’re working against the Gospel. They’re thinking this Gospel must not be as powerful as she says it is, cause she’s a mess or he’s a mess.
C. Don’t Deceive or Tamper With God’s Word
Paul then says, “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word.” Or as the NIV puts it, “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.”
Paul says, he refuses to be crafty or mess with the Word. He’s still defending the way he operates. Paul will NOT do anything that tampers with or changes or waters down the Word of God. Maybe it sounds like an obvious thing, but it’s really not so obvious.
I wish more preachers today would have this resolve, not to distort God’s Word. There’s too much foolishness out there. When you’re thinking about what church you should be a part of, make sure they’re preaching the Word. Make sure they’re not adding or taking away from it. Too many people have built a name for themselves by distorting God’s Word. Paul’s saying he won’t do it.
I know sometimes all of us are tempted to do it though. You don’t have to be a pastor or a TV preacher to distort the Word. What are some of the ways you may be tempted to tamper with the Gospel? Making it seem more palatable? Not talking about sin? Promising people things Jesus didn’t promise them?
It’s kind of like this. Have you ever been at a banquet or something and you sit down at the table and take a sip of the iced tea and it’s unsweetened? Don’t you hate that? Why does unsweetened ice tea even exist? Nobody likes that. So what do you do, you take like 18 sugar packets and try to make it sweet, because unsweetened tea is worthless.
In similar manner, people see the Gospel as unpalatable, not sweet enough to people’s taste buds. So they add to it. They figure as long as they don’t totally get rid of it it’s fine. They just want to mix something else in there with it, to make people like it more. This is a horrible thing to do! And it reveals how you truly see the Gospel.
You don’t feel the need to tamper with something unless you think it’s flawed or insufficient. Any attempt to mess around with God’s Word is an assault on Him and the way that He saves.
D. State The Truth Plainly and Let It Stand Alone
“But by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
The Gospel is enough. State the truth plainly and openly. It doesn’t do anybody any good to trick them into professing faith. Adding to the truth produces veils; it doesn’t remove them. If a woman has a beautiful face, why cover it with a veil? It doesn’t make her more attractive; it hides her true beauty. Don’t try to put make up on the Gospel so it will be cute. Let it loose that the true glory of Christ would shine through.
Even in the midst of rejection, we should not waiver. We should not live in a way that contradicts the message, and we should not change the message to try to make people like it. We should plainly preach God’s Word, because we want them to see the glory of the true God.
But it’s not so easy. So often it seems like they just don’t get it.
II. Beware the Work of Satan
We need to be aware of how Satan works. There are many misconceptions about him. Some people go to the extreme of thinking that Satan is basically all powerful. Everything that happens is a result of his great power, and he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it. Then there are some who go to another extreme. They falsely believe that Satan either doesn’t exist or that he’s powerless and inactive. Both of these extremes are lies and they are dangerous for us to believe.
The truth is Satan does have power, enough power that he works against Paul and his ministry. Listen to verses three and four.
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
A. Some Don’t See the Gospel
It seems that one of the criticisms against Paul was that he was hiding his message from some, that he was keeping some people from seeing it. Paul’s response is, if the message is hidden from some, it’s hidden from those that are perishing. What does that mean?
Paul is saying the people who can’t see the truthfulness of the message are the same people who are perishing. This is clear in 1 Corinthians 1:18 when Paul says, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” It looks stupid to them. There aren’t some people somewhere with spiritual sight, who live by faith in God’s promises, who will inherit eternal life, who also think the Gospel is stupid. Those people don’t exist.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10a)
This is not a game that we play. This ministry is a life or death ministry. Those who reject this message of the Gospel, reject God. And those who reject Him will perish and be punished forever.
B. Satan Blinds Unbelievers
But why can’t these people see? This is where Satan comes in. Paul calls him the “god of this world.” So it’s clear that he has some power, but not all power. He’s called the god of this world or this age, and only this age.
Now as we know Satan HATES us. Scripture says he prowls around the earth looking for someone he can devour. He’s God’s adversary (not equal), and the one who led us to believe lies instead of God’s truth. So what does Paul say Satan does here? Paul says these people that are perishing, or as he calls them, unbelievers, they can’t see because Satan blinds them.
This should be evidence of how amazing and important it is for us to see the glory of God. That one of Satan’s main goals is to keep us from seeing it. Satan goes so far as to blind us to make sure we cannot see the glory of God in the Gospel.
What is God’s glory? The glory of God is his weight, his beauty, splendor, majesty, greatness, and brightness. Also has a lot to do with His reputation, renown, and presence among His people.
Some of us think Satan’s main goal is to trip us up with a pyramid or one eye symbolism in a rapper’s album artwork. Look, Satan’s main goal is not to trick you into joining the Illuminati with a rap album. Satan’s main goal is to keep you from seeing the glory of God in Christ. And that’s what we want men to see. Satan works against us. Satan is our enemy and the enemy of the cause of Christ.
Satan doesn’t want us to be in awe of the glory of God. He wants us to be enamored with the glories of this world. He wants us to be tied up with money, and popularity, and perfect relationships, and success. Satan wants us to be so satisfied with temporary, earthly glories, that we don’t have time to look to the glory of God. But it’s not enough for him to distract us – he actually blinds us.
Have you been allowing Satan to blind you and deter you from looking at the glory of God? Are you chasing the glories of this world instead of the glory of God? If so, you are playing into his hand and doing exactly what he wants us to do. That’s why we as believers in Jesus, because we want people to see the glory of God, that they would trust Christ, and glorify God with their lives, preach the Gospel.
Some of us wonder why our world is so dark right now. Why people are so sinful, hateful towards one another, and hostile towards God. Well here’s the answer. They’re blind. Maybe you’ve been sharing with a friend or a family member for years with no progress and you’re tired. It seems impossible. We shouldn’t get frustrated and give up on people. If God can save you, He can save anyone! If God can save me, He can save anyone. They are blind, and they need to see. Help them see.
This also shows us that when people reject the Gospel, it doesn’t mean the message is flawed any more than it means a flashlight is flawed if a blind man doesn’t notice you shining it in his eyes. Blind people don’t see.
Don’t let rejection make you doubt the Word. The fact that blind men can’t see how beautiful the Mona Lisa is, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. We don’t base our opinions of art on men who can’t see.
C. Jesus Is The Image of God
Paul says Satan blinds them from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is why preaching Christ shows people the glory of God, because Jesus Christ is the very image of God.
Jesus is not just a prophet of God. He is not just a man sent from God. He is not just the Son of God. He is the very image of God. What does this mean? It means that Jesus, being God himself, is the perfect representation of the Father. If you want to know what God’s love is like, look at Jesus. God’s mercy? Look at Jesus. How does God feel about sinners? Look at Jesus. Jesus is God in physical form, a perfect image.
In the visible creation we see God’s works, but in Christ Jesus we have God himself, Emmanuel, “God with us.” The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is most sweetly conspicuous, because you are conscious that not only are God’s attributes there, but God himself is there. – Charles Spurgeon
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18)
So when men see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, they see God in His glory. Satan does not want them to see that.
We preach the Gospel so that men can see glory. And that glory is seen in Jesus.
So Satan has blinded men, what are we supposed to do? Satan is “the god of this world.” What are we supposed to do when he’s coming against us?
III. Embrace the Work of the Minister
One of the reasons many of us struggle with evangelism is because we misunderstand what we’ve been called to do.
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
Paul is saying, people reject my message because they can’t see Christ. And Christ is what we preach. They aren’t rejecting me, but Him.
A. Preach Christ!
As a minister of the Gospel, you have one primary task. Proclaim Christ. We get bogged down, and confused, and discouraged, because we get away from the main thing. Tell people about Jesus.
When you come into contact with somebody who’s lost, without hope, without God and you ask yourself what you should do. Tell that person about Jesus. That’s what they need. Yes they have other needs. But their main need is Jesus.
If you truly want men to see the glory of God, it does them no good to preach other things. Now that doesn’t mean don’t help people live their lives well, it just means Christ has to be at the center of that. If Jesus is not the foundation, the motivation, the fuel behind everything else we preach, what we’re doing won’t last.
What does it mean to preach Christ? We know from the rest of the text and elsewhere in the Scriptures that Paul is referring to the Gospel message. Paul said to the Corinthians “I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.” Paul means the message about Jesus and what He’s done and how He saves.
If you’re here tonight and you do not know that Gospel message, then that should be your goal before you leave. Figure out what the Gospel is and whether or not you believe it. At the core of this Gospel message, is the truth that God is holy, main is sinful, Christ was perfect and died for sinners, and He rose from the grave. And those who turn from sin and trust in Christ will be saved. That’s the message you’ve been called to preach.
You cannot save others. You cannot die for anyone. You cannot change anyone’s heart. You can only preach Christ. Don’t try to save them, tell them about the One who can. Don’t try to change hearts, tell them about the One who can. Don’t try to clean them up, tell them about the One who can.
Why the Gospel? Because this is how God has chosen people, when they hear the Good News. And it’s clear from this passage, that God’s glory is clearly seen in the Good News about His Son.
Just this past week, I heard two testimonies from believers in my church. These two people had very different stories. One was a drug dealer who was locked up. Another was a good girl, who hated God. Both of them had the Gospel shared with them many times. And they did not believe it. And you know what finally moved them to trust Christ? Someone else shared the Gospel with them. We never know when God is going to work, or how God is going to work. We just need to do our job. Tell people about Jesus, so they can see the glory of Jesus.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:5-6)
Some of us like to share our testimonies, which is good. But when the Gospel isn’t present we aren’t proclaiming Christ, but self. “I was a crackhead, then I wasn’t.” Thatʼs a nice story, but how can I be saved?!! Whether you mean to or not, that’s preaching yourself. We are doing the very thing Paul says He does NOT do in this passage. Please do share your testimony, but tell them the Good News that saved you.
B. Be a Servant To Those Who Need the Truth
In what ways have you been sharing the Gospel lately? Who have you been sharing with? What do you talk about when you sit in the barber chair, or when you get your hair done? What do you say to your neighbors or your coworkers when you get a few minutes to talk about things?
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
That word translated as servants, literally means slave. He’s saying I proclaim Christ as Lord, and me as your slave, for Jesus’ sake. That’s amazing. And it’s not the only time Paul says something like this.
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Corinthians 9:19)
Are you making yourself the servant of those who need to hear the Good News?
For somebody to hear the Gospel from me, does it have to be the perfect situation? I hope not. I want to be intentional, and even inconvenience myself that others would get to meet Christ.
Some of us are too busy. We work a lot, or we serve at church a lot, and we don’t ever spend time with non-Christians. I feel like that sometimes. But we shouldn’t leave telling people about Christ up to chance. We should build our lives around evangelism. Make sacrifices to tell other people about Christ.
I wonder who in this room is going to another country to share the Good News? There are people who don’t know. There are people who are blind. Where are the urban missionaries willing to go elsewhere?
We preach Christ, so men can see God. But what’s the point of preaching Christ if men are blind?
IV. Hope In The Work of God
If the world being evangelized ultimately depends on us, it is literally impossible. We can’t open blind eyes. All we can do is preach and love on them. Is God asking us to do the impossible? Maybe.
In Acts 26:18, Jesus says to Paul, “I am sending you to them, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
How is that possible? Man can’t do that. Listen to verse 6.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
A. God Creates and Recreates
Paul takes a second to remind us who God is. He wants to give us a quick reminder of His track record. This is not a God who’s trying to do something amazing for the first time. This is not a God who was born yesterday or even a million years ago. This is not a God who was created. This is not a God whose hands are tied by the so-called god of this world. The God we’re going to other people on behalf of is the same God who created absolutely everything from absolutely nothing.
If He can create all of creation with mere words, He can bring blind, dead men to life.
Blind eyes are no match for our God. Wicked minds are no match for our God. Dark hearts are no match for our God. He said, “Let there be light” once and He can say it again. That’s the point Paul is making.
The imagery he uses is like this. Our hearts are like a big room, that is pitch black. The walls are thick. There are no windows. There are no lamps. No lights. No doors for light to creep under. All this room has ever known is utter darkness. Evangelism is when someone stands outside of that dark room and screams Christ is Lord. But the light still doesn’t come on. They go to other side and scream, He died for sin and He is risen! Still no lights. And then another time the same News is shared, but this time the wrecking ball of God’s mercy smashes a whole through one of those walls and the brightest light you’ve ever seen shines through. That once darkened room is now as bright as any room could ever be. It takes God to do that.
Christian, if you’ve seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus, if you’ve turned from darkness to light, it is not your doing. It’s not ultimately the doing of the person who shared with you. It’s God’s doing. Only God can do that. While the god of this world blinds us from the glory of Jesus, the true and living God shines light into hearts and opens blind eyes. And He uses His Word to do it.
If your heart is no longer darkened how does that show up in your life?
C. Looking At Jesus Regularly With Gratitude
Do you grasp what God has done for you? A lot of us, including myself, are not passionate enough about evangelism, because we’re not grateful enough that we get to gaze at the glory of God in the Gospel. If we were more captured, and enthralled with our God and what we have in Christ, we would tell other people more. We tell them about shows we like, and good albums, and conferences. Do we tell them about Jesus? When we love something, we can’t help but share it with others.
Christian, take advantage of what God has done. Soak yourself in that Gospel, but God is still showing His glory off there, in the face of Christ. It doesn’t stop when you trust Him. Don’t try to move past the Gospel! It’s where we see God’s glory most clearly. It’s what all of Scripture points us to.
How God lavished His love on us. God poured out the riches of HIs grace on us. God displayed patience with us. God is showing Himself off. Blind men whose sight has been restored don’t walk around with blindfolds. You have eyes. So look.
When you’re discouraged, remember who you’re serving. Keep preaching the Gospel. We preach Christ so people can see glory.
Ministry in this fallen dark world has never been, and will never be easy. But we can learn from Paul. We can learn, first, not to waiver because of the rejection of men. Second, to beware the work of Satan. Third, to embrace the work of the minister. Fourth, to hope in the work of God.
What do I do if I’m not preaching the Gospel as much as or how I should be? I don’t want you to leave her discouraged. Look to Christ. I want you to leave here encouraged, at what God has done for you in Jesus. And motivated to tell others so they can experience the same.
There’s too much is at stake for us to walk around feeling bad for ourselves. Too much at stake.
There are only two options for us when this life is over. Those of us who have not put our faith in Christ, will perish. If we won’t change our mind about sin, leave it, and throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus, we’ll endure destruction forever.
But if we turn and trust in Christ, we get to see a glimpse of His glory now in the Gospel of Christ. And later, after He returns, all of us will get new bodies. And we will gaze at His glory in full, forever. That is glorious. There’s a lot at stake. Keep preaching the Gospel so men can see God’s glory forever.