Finally, Brethren, Farewell!
This is my last message in The Moody Church News as Senior Pastor of the church. I want to use Paul’s words in the last chapter of 2 Corinthians as the basis for this message. Of course, I must point out that the conditions in the Corinthian church do not parallel those in The Moody Church! How I praise God for the unity of heart and the devotion to the Word that we have in our fellowship.
But the spiritual principles Paul deals with do apply to us, just as they did to the believers in Corinth. In Paul’s “farewell message” to the church, he gave four exhortations, and I want to share them with you.
1. Examine yourselves! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
There is a tendency when a pastor leaves for the church to examine him and his ministry. In fact, the Corinthian Christians had been very critical of Paul! The Apostle was not afraid of criticism; he was willing for his life and ministry to be open to all men. Ultimately, my seven years of ministry here at The Moody Church will be examined by the Lord, and I trust I will not be found wanting.
But Paul is concerned that they examine their own hearts to be sure they are saved and living in the will of God. He was not worried about His reputation, but about their character and ministry. “Prove your own selves!” he admonished them. That word “proved” carries the idea of metal tested by fire. There will be testings and trials in the days ahead, but through it all, we can prove to others—and to the Lord—that we are faithful believers.
2. Be perfect! (2 Corinthians 13:11)
This word “perfect” does not mean sinless. It carries the idea of maturity and adequacy. The word is translated “mending nets” in Mark 4:21. Sometimes we believers get “worn and torn” in the everyday demands of life, and God has to “mend” us.
Doctors used this word to describe the setting of a broken limb. Paul prayed for the Corinthian church that the members of the body “might be perfectly joined together” (1 Corinthians 1:10). If a Christian sins, it is our task to “restore” that person the way a doctor would set a broken bone (Galatians 6:1-2).
This word also means “to equip an army for battle.” In the navy it meant “to fit a ship for voyage.” The local church is an army, and it must be equipped for battle. We have a precious cargo, like a ship, and we dare not set sail without adequate preparation.
In other words, when Paul wrote “Be perfect!” he was saying to the church and to us: let God fit you for your ministry and equip you for service. Christ gives gifted people to minister in the church that the church might be equipped (Ephesians 4:11-16). It is the Word of God that equips us for life and ministry (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Apart from the Word, the church cannot do the job.
3. Be encouraged! (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Literally this statement means, “Let yourselves be admonished!” In other words, “Don’t be discouraged. Listen to God and He will encourage you!”
When a pastor leaves a church, there is bound to be some discouragement and apprehension. We have mixed emotions as we obey God’s will, and there is opportunity for Satan to discourage the faint-hearted. But we have every reason to be encouraged!
To begin with, God has been working in our church and He will continue to work. There will always be men in the pulpit who teach and preach the Word and who have a burden for souls. We have a fine body of church officers to lead us, and there always will be many people praying.
It is so important that we not get our eyes on a man, but that we keep “looking unto Jesus.” Often you have heard me say, “I am no man’s disciple, and I want no man to be my disciple.” In my ministry of the Word week by week, I have sought above everything else to point you to Christ. Anyone who says he is leaving The Moody Church because Pastor Wiersbe is leaving is saying that my ministry to him has failed! I trust no one will respond in that way.
Be encouraged! The best is yet to come! God still has much work for The Moody Church to accomplish! As a member of The Moody Church, I will continue to pray, give, and serve as the Lord enables me, because I believe in the ministry of this church.
4. Be united! (2 Corinthians 13:11)
“Be of one mind; live in peace.” “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). There were carnal divisions in the church at Corinth, and these divisions hindered the work and hurt the testimony of the church.
One reason for the divisions is given in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4—the members of the church were too attached to human leaders. “I am for Paul—I am for Cephas—I am for Apollos!” As human beings, we are prone to have personal likes and dislikes—even in the ministry of the Word!
Whenever a church family considers a new pastor, you hear questions like: “Do the young people like him?” “Will he love the elderly people?” “Will he promote missions?” “What kind of music does he like?” “Will he support the camping program?”
Now, I am not discounting these questions, or the importance of a pastor “fitting in” as far as the total church ministry is concerned. But we must beware lest we consider a pastor from a narrow point of view. No man, no matter how gifted or godly he may be, can do everything or please everybody.
The calling of a new pastor ought to be a motivation for unity, not an opportunity for division. This is why Paul adds to his exhortation “…and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” If all of us are walking with the Lord, in faith and prayer, and if we are loving one another, then there will be a sweet spiritual unity in the church family during these demanding days.
So, Paul admonishes us to examine our own lives to be sure we are the best Christians possible. He tells us to be perfected and equipped in spiritual life and ministry. He says, “Be encouraged!” God is still on the throne no matter who is in the pulpit! And he cautions us to be united in love and peace.
How is this possible!
His benediction gives us the secret: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all!”
Jesus Christ—the Father—the Holy Spirit!
What more do we need? What more do we want?