Sermon May 3, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1443    Click here for audio worship.

May 3, 2020 2 Corinthians 1:18-22

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“God’s Yes!”

18As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19For 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. 20For 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. 21And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

 

  • A Fussy Church

We have been in this strange time and world of pandemic for far too long. That kind of world can easily drive us to become fussy and impatient and perhaps even forgetful of who we are in Christ. I have not seen that too much, well except perhaps on some media outlets where everything is presented as gloom and doom. Today I want us to pep up the positive attitude given us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to look at these five verses of Scripture that we might not be deeply familiar to us. I remember when I first heard these words of Paul and they seemed to be surrounded by plans being made and not kept and the church getting upset, and so they often get read over without much consideration. But these are some incredibly powerful and inspirational words placed in the middle of this update on Paul’s travels, experience, and attempt to visit them again. So, I want to focus in on these verses because I believe they will encourage us as we transition in the next few weeks to life “outside” as Jesus calls us to “come out!”

Paul had apparently told the Corinthian Church he would visit them while on his way to Macedonia. In fact he had planned two visits with them in order to continue teaching and sharing the gospel. But, his plans changed. Have you ever told someone something you were going to do and later your plans changed? We have all been there. Sometimes the people we promised get upset with us, sometimes angry, other times forgiving and just going with the flow. When the church found out about the change, they had apparently attacked Paul’s integrity. They must have become angry with Paul. A church with a short fuse!

  • Attitude Adjustment

 Paul does not get to visit with them, but he does hear a disturbing report about their reaction to his changed plans. With his second letter, one thing he addresses is their attitude. Paul asked them in 2 Corinthians, 17Was 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? 18As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No (17-18). Paul defends his integrity by telling the church that he was as true to his word as God is to God’s own word. He tells them that when he and Silvanus (also known as Silas) and Timothy preached and taught among them they did not present a careless “yes” on the one hand and an indifferent “no” on the other. They never wavered back and forth when they proclaimed Jesus. Paul did not waver between yes and no, did not speak truth and lies at the same time.

 

  • Finding God’s Yes in a World of No

 In fact his message was this: but in him it is always Yes. 20For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. The church had already received the good news of God’s “yes!” in Jesus Christ. What happened to the church? They move away from the joy of “yes” to the “no” reflected in their anger, disappointment, and accusations. They allowed the “no” of sin to enter in to their thinking.

There is often a hint of “no” in our attitudes when we question the possibilities of what God’s church can do. There are people who lean toward “no” before they think “yes” in any given situation – the pessimists of our lives. One says the cup is half full, while the pessimist claims it is half empty, and the worse case pessimists who asserts there is not even any water! He might be called something else. Sometimes we carry this negative attitude that puts a damper on anything and everything positive. Maybe you have been with a group or on a committee and it seems that every group has designated “no” officer. Can we do this? No. Can we do that? No. That is, until everyone else votes no, then the “no” officer votes “yes!”

There is an old story that tells of a man who was so ill tempered, so impossible to please, that everyone around him lived in fear and trembling. His wife would kindly ask him each morning how he wanted his eggs cooked. Just to be difficult, one day he said, “I want one fried and one scrambled.” When she placed the eggs on to his plate he got angry, and shouted, “You fried the wrong one!”

Everything with a person like that is “no!” - pessimistic, negative, hard to get along with. We have all probably known people like that who live with some degree of rotten temperament.

Paul reacted to the Corinthians who were acting like that, attacking Paul with a negative attitude because his plans had to be changed at the last minute. But Paul writes that they better clear up that attitude; there is no place for destructive negative attacks against fellow believers. Of course, Paul does not intend that we are never negative about anything. Certainly we say “no” from time to time, but Paul turns this opportunity to talk about the positive “yes” of God in Jesus Christ.

  • God’s Yes

 Paul tells the church that in Christ...it is always Yes. 20For 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.

Christian optimism is not ignorant of evil or violence or suffering in the world. There are times to say “no.” Christian optimism (and even realism) is in realizing that the message of the gospel, the message of the good news, is “Yes!” God’s “yes” is secured in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.”

God’s “yes” has been revealed from the beginning of God’s story with God’s people.

Can a man and woman too old to have children give birth to a son? Yes.

Can Hebrew slaves be delivered from Egypt? Yes.

Can a table be spread before one’s enemies? Yes.

Can a young shepherd stand against a giant? Yes.

Can a people driven into exile return home? Yes.

Can a child be born to a virgin? Yes.

Can a man be healed on the Sabbath? Yes.

Can one crucified and buried be raised from the dead? Yes.

Can the world be redeemed from sin? Yes.

Can the impossible be done? In Jesus Christ, yes!

Can God defeat COVID-19? Yes.

Will God call us out again? Yes.

The world will answer no to everyone of those questions. The world would not even entertain most of those questions.

In Christ the answer is yes. Yes. Yes! Yes is the word to the church, for the church, and through the church. In Jesus Christ we have a yes to life and yes to life eternal. Our outlook on life and the world is YES! Positive, optimistic, hopeful, assured, all made possible because of Jesus Christ. There is no place for the negative, pessimistic, despairing, hopeless attitudes that destroy the spirit of God’s people and the people around them.

 

  • How God’s Yes is Known

Paul lifts foundational promises of God’s “yes” in Jesus Christ in verses 21-22.

 

First, God establishes us in Christ. Christ died for us, cares for us, loves us, and because of that we can be assured of Jesus’ concern for us. We are set in Christ. Notice it is God who does this, not us. “It is God who establishes.” God has done it. God has given us a foundation, a home, a place of belonging in Jesus Christ. God is in the work of establishing: God established the heavens and the earth, God established a covenant with Abraham, God established kingdoms, descendants, land, the righteous, and God establishes us and confirms us in Christ. By being established in Christ we have received God’s “yes” in Christ, God’s favor, God’s stamp of approval.

 

Second, God anoints us in Christ. The literal meaning of the word “anoint” is “to smear on.” The Spirit of Christ is “smeared on us.” If you have ever worked with finger paints you know what it is like to smear paint. We smear the paint on our fingers and if we want to make a hand print we smear it all over our hands and then everything we touch gets paint on it. God has smeared the Spirit on our hands and feet and heart, the Spirit smeared in and on our lives. Everything we touch gets “painted” with the Spirit. We make an impression. We have been called to make an impression and that impression comes in a variety of ways...words, actions, reputation, character. , as 1 Peter 2.9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are anointed for the purpose of doing God’s work, to proclaim the gospel. In this anointing by God we have a “yes.”

 

Two more points are given within this anointing: God has put his seal on us and God has given God’s Spirit. Just as a wax seal authorizes a document when a king seals it, so God authorizes us in Jesus Christ to be his faithful people. In God’s seal upon our lives we have a “yes.” And not only that, but Paul says this is the first installment, a down payment on the life to come, our eternal life. There is more to come!

 

These four points – established, anointed, sealed, and given God’s Spirit, enable all of us in Christ to say, “YES!” Yes to God, yes to life, yes to life to come, yes to discipleship, yes to hope, yes, yes, yes. Positive, hopeful, looking on the bright side, optimistic. But it is much more than simple optimism. Our attitudes are fed by something more more radical that optimism...faith, hope, love. As you know Paul lifts these in his first letter to the Corinthian believers. Our “yes” attitude is rooted deep in God’s “yes”, the yes of promise, of Jesus, of a call to follow.

Sometimes we try to limit God. Sometimes we go into situations with a “no” in mind. We become pessimistic, lukewarm in faith, and we begin to believe God cannot change us or our circumstances – or, God forbid, we do not even think about God in our lives. So we do not ask God for a new future, a new possibility. We become trapped in our own negativism and we grieve the Spirit. We quench the Spirit. Our hearts harden. We devour others without even realizing we have chosen “no” over God’s “yes.” Hope is lost. Life is lost. Love is lost.

 

The good news is this: in Christ it is always “YES!” For in Christ every one of God’s promises is a “yes.” God makes the impossible possible. This is the God of whom Paul says, “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17). This is the God who gives life to barren women, freedom to those in bondage, sight to the blind, healing to the sick, hope to those in despair. Yes to life, yes to gifts, yes to love, yes to hope, yes to salvation, yes to newness, yes to endless possibilities. Let us consider an attitude of “Yes”. Yes with God, yes with one another, yes with ourselves, yes with work, yes with possibilities? Is it yes? Is it no? In Christ it is yes! God has put His “yes” within us in Christ, let us listen to God’s “yes,” receive God’s “yes,” and be transformed by the “yes” of Jesus Christ. We can make God’s “Yes!” our “Yes!” in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 
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