Last Will and TestamentPosted: June 25, 2012
THIS WAS MY FAREWELL SERMON AT CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH, OSHAWA! (You can listen to the sermon at Calvary Baptist Church)
After just hearing the story about the martyrdom of Lady Jane Grey, who lasted only nine days as queen, and Pastor Rick said awhile back that this service was my funeral, I am wondering what you are all trying to tell me. Are you being like the prophet Agabus who in Acts 21 took the Apostle Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles”? Is the road ahead only marked with suffering? If so, I welcome it with joy. This should not be a surprise to the people at Temple Baptist Church, some of who are here tonight, because they told me that they need to change or they will die and I reminded them that we need to die, starting with me and then we will change. Remember, death always precedes resurrection! So tonight I am happy to give my last will and testament. One writes their will and testament before they die so if you see me kicking around for the next couple of months, I’m not leaving quite yet.
A last will and testament usually involves giving instructions and bequests an inheritance upon one’s death. My instructions and bequest of an inheritance are not significant (most of you know how frugal I am making a half chicken dinner at Swiss Chalet feed my family of six and before some of you think that we’re starving our children, I just want you to know that some of our children eat like birds pecking at their food). However, Jesus has instructions for us so tonight I want to take you through a passage and parable that doesn’t get much press time. As I prayed about what to say as some of my final words to you, I sensed that I needed to go back to some of Jesus’ final words to His disciples. Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 17:1-10! This passage may seem like a smattering of thoughts with no cohesive point to it. What is Jesus getting at here? After studying these verses, I believe Jesus is describing what it means to be His servant. In this passage Jesus uses a prediction, a caution, an instruction and a motivation to convey what it means to be His servant. So here is the question for you: Do you want to be Jesus’ servant? If so, Jesus gives you a:
PREDICTION – You are going experience lots of deadly traps. Jesus says in verse 1, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come” (NIV) or “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come” (NASB). That word stumbling block is the root for the word from which we get “scandals.” I am not predicting scandals for you, Calvary though churches do go through them. “Scandals” or “stumbling blocks” “refer to a death trap which is baited so that when the bait is touched, the stick holding the bait springs the trap.” Being a servant of Christ is dangerous. Satan wants to take you out. Your association with Jesus means the world will hate you. Just this week as I was engaging atheists in a Skeptics Symposium, and I was reminded just how much people despise God. Jesus predicted we would be hated on account of him. (John 15:18) Jesus is giving us advanced notice of the traps and dangers like one of those road signs that warn of impending trouble ahead. Isn’t it so much better when you are not surprised? This is why the first thing that Pastor Rick told me on my first day – no surprises! That has served me well.Calvary, there is danger ahead – I foresee temptation and persecution around the corner. WILL YOU STUMBLE? Just the other day my son had to give one of his oral presentations to his Grade 3 class. He usually gets great grades on these presentations thanks in part to his mother, who is the best speaker in the family, and who helps coach him. One day, his teacher, who is a Christian, was not there and there was a substitute teacher filling in. The assignment was to present his favourite story and describe the story and why it was so important to him. Josiah chose the story of Jesus turning water into wine. (I’m not sure why he likes that story so much, maybe because he thinks it is so peculiar to turn water into wine when our family doesn’t drink the stuff.) We asked him when he got home, how it went and he said in a typical Grade 3 boy response, “Good.” We probed further and apparently his classmates asked lots of questions. One of them being why did Jesus change water into wine? To which Josiah answered, “To show that he was the son of God.” We’re not sure how well this went over with the supply teacher since the grade that was handed back was a C, and his regular teacher made note that it was graded by the supply teacher. I think that was Josiah’s best grade all year and I was very proud of him. It is dangerous to serve Jesus but it is more dangerous not to serve Him.
CAUTION – And here is the caution and why it is more dangerous not to serve Jesus; Jesus warns at the end of verse 1 and then verse 2, “but woe to that person through whom (the deadly traps) come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Jesus’ strong caution to us is that we do not cause others to sin, especially “little ones.” Those little ones are those younger in the faith which conveys both physical and spiritual immaturity. Sometimes in our efforts to think that we are serving the Lord, we are actually causing others to stumble, especially little eyes and ears taking it all in. Though I don’t want any of you to sin, one of the gravest sins is to create an environment, where for the supposed sake of truth, there is much fighting and disunity within the Body. I have witnessed churches which have lost a whole generation of young people due to their fighting when they thought they were serving Jesus. However, in reality they were serving their own agenda. Calvary, God has blessed us with ministering to all generations. We have been entrusted with young people, children and new believers. Do not cause them to sin or go astray through compromising the Gospel with rules or self-effort! Do not cause them to sin or go astray with inconsistent behaviour to the commands of Christ! WATCH YOURSELVES! Instead of inconsistency, be full of grace!
INSTRUCTION – Apparently, Lady Jane Grey’s executioner asked her forgiveness which she granted him before doing his duty. Even a dying servant of Jesus must be full of grace. This is why Jesus requires, “If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (v. 3-4) Forgiveness should mark out Calvary Baptist Church. Forgiveness should mark out Temple Baptist Church. Revival will only occur when forgiveness is sought and received. Why? Because we are servants of Jesus! N.T. Wright comments on this verse, “When you forgive someone, you are making yourself their servant, not their master.” You are saying that you are no longer going to require that they must pay. Remember what the last part Proverbs 22:7 teaches, “the borrower is servant to the lender.” Debts enslave you. This is true physically and spiritually. However, when you take the debt that others owe you to the Cross of Jesus who paid not only for the debts you owe but those debts owed to you, you can truly serve people. You are no longer trying to control them; wanting them to pay you back for the wrong they committed; the loss you incurred. And as a servant of Jesus you will need to keep forgiving and keep showing grace. As Warren Wiersbe says, “You need to develop the habit of forgiving.” Jesus is in the habit of forgiving. He forgives and forgives and forgives. His mercies are new every morning. Why does He forgive? The answer is found in the peculiar response of the disciples, “Increase our faith!” Wiersbe wonders why the disciples have not asked to increase their love instead of faith. However, forgiveness requires faith! When you forgive, you are trusting in the promise that God will take that offence against you and uproot it from your heart and plant it in the sea where it will be seen no more. (v. 6) We have mulberry trees on the church house property. They have deep roots, which is why they are likened to those offences and sins committed against you. But when you come to Jesus even with a little bit of faith and renounce that sin it is like the deeply rooted mulberry tree that is removed not to be seen again. That happened in Meaghan Hickey’s life when she forgave others who hurt her. It was gone! My friend Dennis Wiedrick teaches, “Sin does not evaporate.” It is true! It must be dealt with and the Good News today is that it has been dealt with at the Cross if we will take it there and let the blood of Jesus cleanse and purify from all unrighteousness! When we forgive we are saying I am trusting Jesus’ promise of grace and healing. Forgiveness requires faith; which leads to our motivation!
MOTIVATION – The motivation that Jesus provides is in the story of the dutiful servant in verses 7-10. Often we serve thinking about reward; what we have earned today. In the case of the servant who just gets in from the fields, he was not to adopt the McDonald’s philosophy a few years ago, “You deserve a break today!” The servants in Jesus’ day weren’t expecting their master to prepare a gourmet meal while they enjoyed a refreshing shower. No, the servant was to keep working even if he was tired. Rest comes when the Master says so. As Darrel Bock comments, “Given our past, we have no right to negotiate with God about the conditions of our service.” The assignment should matter less and less to the servant of Christ and the desire to please the Master more and more. Ploughing, planting, harvesting, tending sheep or feeding the Master’s guests are all equally valid assignments in the Kingdom of God. If you are always worried about a position or operating in your strengths, your identity will always be wrapped up in what you do rather than you belong to – Jesus! We are slaves to God bought at the great price of God’s Son. “We can never put God in our debt.” We may think God owes us but He owes us nothing but Hell. Now, we must eliminate a reward mentality from our thinking. “Our attitude should be that we have only done our duty. Obedience is not a matter of merit (though God does honor it), but of duty. We do not have the right to pick and choose what to obey.” But don’t we get rewarded? If you study the Scriptures, the rewards that are given are often a surprise. They are bonus! The reward is God Himself! (Gen. 15:1) And this answers the final question: what inheritance do we receive? Ultimately, God Himself! As a father, I can sometimes tell that my kids would rather have my stuff than me. Daddy, can I get this gum at the store? Daddy, can I borrow your iPad? I know I do the same thing to God when I want His stuff more than Him. This is why this message is so important – serve like you already have been rewarded because you have – Jesus has been given you. Serving like you already have been rewarded invokes thanksgiving. We serve out of gratitude. In summary, servants of Jesus are going to be offended, but they should not offend others instead habitually forgiving by faith and dutifully serving out of gratitude. Let me conclude by giving thanks to God for I am only an unworthy servant. I don’t deserve forgiveness on the Cross of Christ but I have received it. And on top of that, God gave me you as a church to serve. Wow! I am grateful for:
1) The Church – I was 27 when you invited me to become your Adult Ministries Pastor. That was crazy because I was barely an adult myself and you were asking me to oversee you. However, taking a chance on a young guy communicated something very important – the young are valuable contributors to our ministry here. I praise God for such courageous and strategic thinking because you may have noticed that instead of losing the young, we have gained them back. I love you all, at every age, but I’m particularly jazzed about the coming days because I see our Young Adults having such passion for Jesus Christ.
Thank you church for how you have loved me and my family. One of the things you can be proud of is that my kids love coming to Calvary because they are here a lot.
I also need to thank my Partners in Prayer who faithfully pray for me each week! In coming days, pray extraordinary prayers. Pray extra! Believe God for BIG things! Plead for revival!
2) The Leaders – This includes our Adult Ministry leaders past and present in Men’s and Women’s Ministries, 5Alive, Socials, Adult Sunday School, Small Groups, Young Adults, Library and Integration. It has been an awesome privilege to work alongside our Adult Ministries Leaders who are all gifted and capable leaders many of them whom oversee ministries that are larger than most churches in North America. I also want to thank the tremendous Ministry Staff and our Deacons through the years. I am so thankful to God for the strong and godly leaders that He surrounded me with.
3) The Pastors – Pastor Dwayne, I consider it an honour that you would trust me with your interior life (heart and mind) about life and ministry. Pastor Ken, who was my first deacon partner, has been such a loyal friend. Pastor Steve, thank you for teaching me to become a better leader and even more importantly, thank you for helping me and my family worship the Lord. My first Sunday here brought tears to my eyes as I could tangibly feel the presence of the Lord in this house! Pastor Kelvin, I will always remember those Monday nights after playing basketball before you became a pastor that we prayed on our knees. I think that the posture prepared you for surrender to our Master when He called you to be a pastor here. And Pastor Rick and Lyn, how do I say thank you for 23 years of influence.Templeis getting a lot of Rick Baker. Your mentoring, sermons, and most of all, sharing your heart and mind with me through the years is one of the great gifts of God in my life.
4) My Friends from outside of Calvary – I would also be remiss if I didn’t publicly thank my prayer group of Bruce, Vic and Bernie that has met for the past 10 years to hold each other accountable. I wouldn’t even be here without you. You were all seasoned Lead Pastors twenty-five years my senior and yet you always treated me with respect and acceptance while still challenging me with holiness. Bernie, it has particularly been a privilege to walk with you through the home-going of your beloved Irene. I don’t know how people get through life without a small group of believers. The groups that I am involved are a tremendous sense of encouragement and joy in my life. And then there is Jon Thompson who saw things in me that no one else saw and has been used by God to free me of a lot of things that were weighing me down. I’ll never forget how you came to see me unsolicited to pray with me during a difficult day because you were prompted by the Holy Spirit despite the fact your wife was in labour with your only son. You incarnated the love of God that day!
THANK YOU EVERYBODY! LET’S MAKE MUCH OF CHRIST! THANK YOU FOR HONOURING US BUT WE ARE ONLY UNWORTHY SERVANTS WHO HOPEFULLY HAVE DONE OUR DUTY!
 R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 863.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London:Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 203.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 243.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 441.
 Wright, 204.
 Bock, 440.