The Confident Christian

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/2/2021

The Apostle Paul is a master of metaphor. We saw this last Sunday, as we concluded 2 Corinthians 2. It was customary for Roman General, after they had conquered some mighty foe, to hold a massive parade. The general, with all vanquished foes tied in chains, would be caried down the main street toward a Great Arena. The citizens of the city would light incense, filling every corridor of the street with the aroma of victory. To the people of the city the aroma signaled victory; But to the captives that same aroma signaled certain death, defeat, terror. Once in the arena the captives would be put to their death.

The Apostle Paul likens the lighting of incense to preaching. Our job as Christians is to fill the streets with knowledge of Christ’s victory over sin and death. If you’ve ever lit incense, you know how it overpowers every other aroma in its space. Our preaching of Christ’s victory on that cross, in resurrection, ought to fill the air of every space we occupy whether public or private! It ought to penetrate, permeate, and just hang in the air!

In 2 Corinthians 2:16, Paul asks, “. . . Who is adequate for such things?” I’ll give you a tip to understanding Paul. Whenever he asks what seems like a rhetorical question, he usually answers it! Paul’s question is “Who is competent… who is sufficient… who is qualified… who is equal to the task of preaching Jesus?”

The short answer is probably none of us. I can tell you that from the first day I started preaching I’ve always felt incompetent, insufficient, unqualified, ill-fit. Who am I, or who are you, to tell others about God? So this brings us to our topic this morning. What is our basis for preaching—for sharing knowledge of Jesus?

Our Basis for Confidence (for Preaching) is Gospel Sincerity. There is an unfortunate chapter break at the end of 2 Corinthians 2! In 2 Corinthians 2:17 he says, “For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.”

We’re competent to speak for Christ if our motives are pure. We must understand that in everything we say and do were are speaking as if sent from God himself, and if speaking a message on behalf of God himself. I think of many warning about false prophets in Scripture, that any prophet who presumes to speak on behalf of God, but who instead speaks lies, should be put to death. It’s no small thing to declare anything on behalf of God. So many preachers today are declaring peace, peace where there is no peace.

And notice Paul’s concern about how money corrupts religion. There are those who “peddle… market” the word of God for profit! Jesus of course warned about the “hired hands” who shepherd the flock for money. They have no loyalty to the flock, no loyalty to the cause of Christ. When real danger, or hardship threatens, they run! How many preachers would keep preaching if there wasn’t any money in ministry? Is preaching just a job, an occupation, a show, a truly for-profit business running under the guise of not-for-profit? If you look, pastors do quite well. So do many missionaries, including indigenous missionaries. Even the Apostle Paul at times fund himself abundantly supplied. More often than not, the servant of God can find himself or herself well-caloried, well-funded, well-attended.

But Paul is just getting warmed up. In 2 Corinthians 3:1 he asks, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you?” What ever is Paul talking about? He is pointing out the fact that there are all these preachers coming out of the woodwork at Corinth with certain “pedigrees”, and “letters of recommendation.” Some things never change! “So-n-so comes highly recommended by so-n-so esteemed institution, or esteemed individual, or esteemed background.”

What ought to drive us is one thing and one thing only. 2 Corinthians 2:17, Do “. . . we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.” My definition of gospel sincerity is that we understand the life and death gravity not only of speaking as from God, and before God. But that we also understand life and death gravity of the gospel itself. People are being saved or people are perishing on the basis of their response to the gospel. We’re not playing games. We’re not peddling, and pining, and posturing for worldly success. We’re on a life and death mission to save souls. Such gospel sincerity and clarity is the bedrock of ministry.

Our Basis for Confidence (for Preaching) is Spirit Transformation. Here comes another powerful metaphor! In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 Paul says, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Last week we were the aroma or incense of God filling people’s nostrils everywhere with knowledge about Christ. Now, Paul is saying, “you are the ink out of my ink pen! You are the ink out of God’s ink pen! You yourselves are a walking, talking, living and breathing letter… a fully alive, in the flesh, epistle!” Our basis for having confidence before God is the transformation that’s happening in our lives. The Holy Spirit is inking you… permanently tattooing you.

I’ve noticed in recent years how tattoos have become mainstream. Young people get inked to express themselves, to create an identity, to make a statement. I started contemplating this idea. We know what it looks like when one human “inks” another. But what does it look like for Holy Spirit to ink person? What does it mean for Christ Jesus to write, author, ink, create our identity, make a statement, or make us living and breathing epistles to be known and read by others?

1. God’s Spirit inks our speech. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul says, “Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

2. God’s Spirit inks our temperament. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

3. God’s Spirit inks our character and personality. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

4. God’s Spirit inks our thoughts. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 Paul says “What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived—God has prepared these things for those who love him. Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God.”

5. God’s Spirit inks our failures. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul says, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

6. God’s Spirit inks our abilities. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Paul says, “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God works all of them in each person. 7 A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good: 8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of tongues, to another, interpretation of tongues. 11 One and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.

7. God’s Spirit inks our weaknesses. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 God tells Paul, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” And Paul says, “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul is saying, “Guys, the ink of God’s Spirit has spilled all over you, it’s spilled all over us! It’s spilled over our speech, our temperament, our character, our thoughts, our failures, our abilities, our weaknesses.” Something miraculous, of divine origin, and divine character is unfolding in in our midst. It’s just the sort of things God promised through Moses, Ezekiel, Jeremiah… God is writing or inking our hearts. If you have Gospel Sincerity, and Spirit-Transformation be confident!

Our Basis for Confidence (for Preaching) is Kingdom Competence. I love what Paul says next, and I’ve found it to be true all these years I’ve served Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6a, “Such is the confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 It is not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. 6 He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Don’t you just love that! God makes us competent. Whatever excuse we might make ultimately doesn’t matter. When we offer ourselves to God, he gives us the ability, the words, the wisdom, the courage, the strength… whatever is needed. When I was younger I struggled with a speech impediment. I could get my “S’s and Sh’s squared away. It shattered by confidence. It wasn’t that public speaking filled me with terror… it was that carrying on everyday conversations filled with terror. I was paralyzed with social anxiety. People would laugh at me. In college when I took preaching classes, I got low marks. I’d cling to a manuscript fearing I’d mess up. Even today, the anxiety persists.

So why do I preach? (1) Gospel Sincerity. The gospel is matter of life and death. I can’t be silent, no matter how tortured my preaching may be. (2) Spirit-Transformation. How could I not be part of what God’s Spirit is doing in me and you? I can’t sit in the pew, it’s an adrenaline rush to be God’s instrument. (3) Kingdom Competence: God’s got me. I don’t have to be spectacular for God to speak through me… I just have to faithful!

Someone once wrote: What an amazing truth: every Christian is an epistle of Christ being read by all men! You are writing a Gospel, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do and the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithful or true. Just what is the Gospel according to you?

Scripture Verses

2 Corinthians 3:1-6; 2:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:9-11, 6:9-11; 12:3-11; Galatians 5:22-23

Worship Playlist

Great Are You Lord by All Sons and Daughters

This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell

Study Questions

  1. What does it mean to have God's writing on your heart instead of on tablets of stone?
  2. How do you allow the Spirit of God write on your heart so you have a life-giving competence to minister to others? Ask God to work through you for His life-giving purposes.
  3. Who has been reading your living, breathing gospel of Christ?

Apply It!