Calvary Road Baptist Church

“POOR CHRISTIANS, GREAT CHRIST”

Second Corinthians 3.2

 

 

Have you heard that the economy is in a downturn, or have you been living in a cave for the past few months? Because of the crisis, and the resultant fallout on companies that are cutting back or going out of business, the unemployment rate is said to be going up. More and more people are out of jobs, and those looking for jobs are finding them harder and harder to come by.

Though looking for work has never been particularly easy, it has become much more difficult now that so many companies require that all applications and resumes be submitted online, thereby greatly reducing the likelihood that you will be able to make use of your best asset when job hunting, which is your personality. The very best way to look for employment is networking, to know someone who knows someone. If you know someone who knows someone, you have already overcome one of the obstacles to securing employment, which is the person-to-person connection that is so valuable, but which is also so frequently missing these days.

Add on top of the person-to-person connection a letter of commendation, and you have just about guaranteed the one thing you ask for in searching for a job. You want the guy who does the hiring to focus his attention on you, to consider your qualifications and how good a fit you would make for the position that is open, and then makes a thumbs up or thumbs down decision. The difficult achievement, however, is creating that important moment of consideration with the guy who does the hiring.

Do you realize that is what Christians want to achieve with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ? There is so much misinformation out there about Christianity and the Lord Jesus Christ, so much antichristian propaganda and vitriol, that God has devised a plan for placing in front of each person a letter of commendation that he will read, so he can thoughtfully, carefully, and attentively consider the claim that Jesus makes to each man and woman. Is that not all you want from a prospective employer? Of course, you want the job. However, you know you will eventually get a job if you can just arrange for the guys who do the hiring to seriously consider you. Guess what? The guy is more likely to seriously consider you if you can manage to get into his hands a letter of commendation from someone who knows you describing your suitability, pointing out your strong points, and suggesting how the company will benefit from hiring you.

This is not completely unlike a guy who does not go to church. He is not rabidly antichristian or anything. It is just that he is a busy guy, with many things to do, and not a lot of time to get things done. Besides, he sees no particularly great need at this stage of his life. So, what does God do in an attempt to encourage the guy to at least consider Jesus Christ? He sends him a letter of commendation.

This morning, we spend some time looking at the letters of commendation sent to people God considers to be very important, people God wants to seriously consider and to thoughtfully reflect upon His Son, Jesus Christ. On the back of your bulletin, or in your Bible if you prefer, I would like you to take note of Second Corinthians 3.1-3. When you locate that portion of God’s Word, please stand and read along silently while I read aloud:

 

1      Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?

2      Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

3      Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

 

I do not want you to consider that you are looking for a job and you write a letter of commendation for the person doing the hiring to consider. Rather, look at another use for a letter of commendation. The God of heaven wants you to reflect upon His letter of commendation, so that you will give serious attention to His Son, Jesus Christ.

Why should you give Him serious attention? Just a couple of reasons: First, He is the Son of God who actually created this universe and all that herein is. Second, He was born of a virgin two thousand years ago and suffered the death of the cross in fulfillment of many Old Testament predictions made centuries earlier. Third, He rose from the dead three days after He was buried and then ascended to heaven, where He is presently. Fourth, He is coming again to this earth some day. Finally, He actually saves sinners from their sins, rescuing sinners from the just punishment we all deserve for sinning against God.

Three main points suggest how to make best use of the letter of commendation God has delivered to you:

 

First, CONSIDER THAT THERE ACTUALLY IS A LETTER OF COMMENDATION

 

That is, after all, what the Apostle Paul is referring to in the passage we just read. He strongly asserts that his readers do not need a letter of commendation from him, just as he does not need a letter of commendation from them. After all, they already know each other. They already have a relationship with each other. They are already Christians. However, not everyone is a Christian. Not even everyone who thinks they are Christians is truly Christians. Especially for those people who have never seriously considered the claims the Bible makes about Jesus Christ, Who He is, what He has done, a properly written letter of commendation can be most helpful.

Before you suggest that the Bible is God’s letter of commendation for people to read and think about when they ponder whether or not they need or are willing to consider Jesus Christ, keep in mind that the Bible is a pretty difficult book to read. For one thing, it is rather big. For another thing, it is quite complicated for those who are not familiar with it.

The reality is, and Paul owns up to it in our text, Christians are the only Bibles some people will ever read. That is the reason why Paul pointed out to his readers that they were God’s letters of commendation to those around them who were not Christians. That is correct. The only persuasion some people will ever be exposed to to think seriously about Jesus Christ is the person they know who claims to be a Christian.

I sure hope that person who claims to be a Christian really is one, otherwise a guy would be looking at and considering some fraud, which would do more to turn people off Christianity than to encourage them to seriously consider Christ. Have you ever taken note of some churchgoing guy and thought to yourself, “If that’s Christianity, I want no part of it”? That was my feeling for many years before ever considering the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.

Perhaps your letter of commendation is your wife. Maybe it is your daughter. It might be a guy you used to work with, or maybe even a neighbor. Whomever it is, that Christian you know is, in a very special way, a letter of commendation sent to you by God, Himself, to encourage you to consider His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Next, LOOK AT A BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATION WITH ME OF A COMMENDATION LETTER

 

A letter of commendation is supposed to encourage the person who reads it to seriously consider the person talked about in the letter. Though we lack the time to read the passage, in Genesis chapter 24, we find Abraham using a servant as a kind of letter of commendation, in a manner that is strikingly similar to Paul’s description of the Christians he wrote to in our text:

Abraham was very old at this point, his wife Sarah had recently died, and he was concerned that his son Isaac be married to a suitable bride, but that she not be a daughter of the Canaanites. Therefore, he dispatched an unnamed servant to the land of his birth to secure for Isaac a bride.

At the end of that long journey, we find the unnamed servant arriving in Mesopotamia, at the house of Rebekah’s father. After attending to all the cultural niceties, Abraham’s servant gets right down to the matter at hand and begins talking to Rebekah about two men she did not know, the great patriarch, Abraham, and his son, Isaac.

Of course, the servant of Abraham did more than just talk about his master and his master’s son in glowing terms designed to impress and to sway Rebekah’s opinion about them. He also provided visible evidence to substantiate his claims of their greatness. Then he put the question to Rebekah. Would the young woman come with him by caravan and return to the Promised Land to become the wife of Isaac, his master’s son?

Understand what this servant was doing. He was, for all intents and purposes, the letter of commendation sent by Abraham to Rebekah on behalf of his son. He was the instrument Abraham devised to persuade Rebekah to seriously consider becoming the wife of a young man she had never seen, and had probably never heard of. Rebekah was faced with the most important challenge of her life.

As she pondered the facts at her disposal, consider what was important and what was not important. Did it matter to Rebekah what the unnamed servant looked like? Did it matter to Rebekah whether she thought he was a particularly likable guy? What Rebekah no doubt realized, because she made the right decision, was that the single thing about the servant that was important was whether or not he was credible, because the central person in her considerations was the one she had never seen, Abraham’s son Isaac.

Rebekah would spend the months of travel learning a great deal about Isaac from the unnamed servant. However, that was another function of the servant. His first function, to serve as a human letter of commendation to persuade Rebekah to seriously consider saying yes to Isaac’s proposal of marriage, has been fulfilled.

That, my friend, is how Christians are supposed to be letters of commendation, epistles “known and read of all men.” It is not our job to make up anyone’s minds for him. Neither is it our responsibility to twist anyone’s arms. Our task, our privilege, our great honor, is to be used of God to encourage people to consider Christ, to ponder His person, to evaluate His claims about Himself, and to be His boosters.

 

Third, And Finally, A SERIOUS CONSIDERATION

 

I have oftentimes said that church is the ultimate democracy, and that people vote with their feet every service. Since Christ died for the church congregation, there is an inseparable bond that affixes the Lord Jesus Christ to congregations of His followers. Therefore, one cannot be for Jesus Christ in any meaningful way while voting against His church congregation with your feet. For that reason, let me make mention of four things that people do consider, when the fact of the matter is that God wants people to limit their consideration to His letters of commendation:

First, there is the physical plant. My, but are church buildings not impressive these days? Great architectural wonders, costing millions and millions of dollars. The question, however, is whether or not such religious edifices should be considered at all when deciding where, or if, you should go to church and worship God. To be sure, there was a time when God sought to impress His people with gold and silver and impressive buildings. A thousand years before Christ, Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was certainly impressive. However, those days are long since gone. In the new era, when Jesus left heaven’s glory, it is significant that the One born King of the Jews was not born in a palace, but in a manger in Bethlehem. Neither did He wear regal robes. The only crown He wore while He walked the earth was a crown of thorns, placed on His head by those who crucified Him. To be sure, centuries after Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven men began to build great cathedrals and expensive buildings to impress people with. However, such things began to appear only as significant error crept in. Throughout history, those who have been faithful to God’s Word have maintained the importance of worshiping in places that were simple in design, and not built for ostentatious display.

Next, there are the people. I understand that folks are impressed by impressive people. However, God’s plan is not to impress folks with impressive Christians, but to impress folks with His Son. You never saw the Apostles wearing priestly garb. It should be remembered what Peter said to the beggar in Acts chapter 3: “Silver and gold have I none.” It is one thing to wear a business suit to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, but it is quite another thing to pretend a superior holiness by wearing crimson and silk. Imagine the unnamed servant of Abraham traveling all that way to impress Rebekah with his credentials, with his appearance, with his intelligence, and with his virtues. No. His concern was to impress Rebekah with his master and his master’s son, not with himself. This is why Paul writes First Corinthians 1.26-29:

 

26     For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27     But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28     And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29     That no flesh should glory in his presence.

 

To be sure, there are some congregations filled with very impressive people. However, such has not been God’s usual way of showing the world how impressive His Son is. Not many wise, and not many noble. We are just ordinary people who have an extraordinary Savior.

Third, there is what I call packaging. It is sad that people concern themselves more with the wrapper than they do with the contents of the spiritual package, that they are wowed by dazzling singers and Hollywood-type dramas, while the bread and butter Christian who brags on Jesus is relegated to the status of an also-ran. Our music is wonderful. Solos and other kinds of special music are also nice in its place. Many use stages with special lighting instead of a simple platform and a pulpit. High tech amplification and transmission also has its place. However, in each age people have shown decided preferences for the way they want content to be packaged. Jews, for example, required signs, while Greeks sought after wisdom, First Corinthians 1.22. Paul gave neither what they wanted. He did not yield to the demand for packaging. There are folks who will not consider attending our church because of our facilities, because we do not “produce” our worship services, and because I am not theatrical. Sadly, for all their concerns, they seem to have little concern for the content of our message.

Instead of packaging, the Apostle Paul delivered the truth by means of preaching the glorious gospel of our wonderful and majestic Savior, Jesus Christ. This is because God has made it very clear how He wants the truth concerning His Son “packaged.” That “packaging” is declared in scripture to be the preaching of the gospel. In First Corinthians 1.17-18, the Apostle Paul writes:

 

17     For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

18     For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

 

I realize that a great disparity exists between the Christians of Christianity and the Christ of Christianity, but I would not have it any other way. Do you realize what a pathetic savior Jesus would be if the Christians they encountered always favorably impressed people?

Excuse me, but the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to deliver sinners from their sins. He came to rescue the perishing and to care for the dying. Thus, you should not expect to see some great person when you encounter someone who claims Jesus as his savior, but someone who, but for the grace of God, would be a terrible mess, and even with God’s help is really not all that much.

At our very best, we hope to be like the unnamed servant of Abraham as he spoke to Rebekah, to draw people’s attention off self and on to Christ. Our aim is to divert and distract people away from a building, or performances, or dramas, or me, and to instead shine the light of truth on the blessed Savior.

Therefore, we who worship in a less than imposing physical plant, in which are gathered several times each week a motley gaggle of believers, who pay little attention to the kinds of packaging that impresses so many people by attempting to imitate the more skilled practitioners in Hollywood, seek instead to direct our attention to preaching Christ, the risen Son of the living God, who conquered sin, death, Hell, and the grave, and who is someday coming again.

Would you consider Him?

May we commend Him to you for evaluation?

We believe that when He is thought upon, and when His message is pondered, His sheep will hear His voice and will know Him, and will follow Him, and He will give unto them eternal life.

That is what Calvary Road Baptist Church is all about.

We are a place where letters of commendation gather to recommend the Savior, and we want you to come back again and again.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org