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. Open doors versus restless spirits




It is long weekend for many and I so wish all were here to be challenged by this sermon, but sadly I have discovered that these things we cannot control. There are just some sermons that I believe are slightly more important for all to hear.

We all know the concept, ‘open doors’. These are the words most often used by people as the basis for certain moves, activities or ventures. At times it works out and at times it does not. When the words ‘open doors’ is used in conjunction with ‘the Lord has given me open doors’ then we tend to believe that it is always doors to go through and that there will be no stumbling blocks in the way. Or when I make that claim, that I have no choice but to go through it. I believe that this sermon is extremely important for us as a congregation today, as well as for us as individuals and for me personally. It is going to provide checks and balances for decision making and our response to the outcome. But, let’s get into the text and then I will unpack it. Again, this will not be a full exposition, otherwise I need to commit a few sermons to this, but we need to get back to Ephesians.


2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (ESV) 12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. 14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

Let me break this text into a few logical arguments under appropriate points. The first point is then also the title of my sermon.

Point 1. Open doors versus a restless spirit.

The context of this text is not totally obvious in the text. But in it we see Paul speaking about Troas and Titus, he is speaking about open doors, the fact that he had no rest in his spirit, or no peace of mind, and that he went on to Macedonia. Now, we know the letter is to the church of Corinth, so all this is applicable to them.

I had the privilege of visiting Greece twice, and really enjoyed my trips to Corinth, as it helped me understand the book better. The church of Corinth by the way was the worst of all the churches, to the point that Paul says that they at times behaved worse than Pagans. Amazing today that this is the model church for so many. They were divided, they judged one another, they messed up their marriages, their communion was a farce, they were ignorant about the gifts, their services were disorderly, and they were loveless, and they judged the true apostles to be false and the false apostles to be true. Corinth itself is in the southern tip of Greece. If you go up the east coast, you come to the northern part of the peninsula called Macedonia where Thessalonica and Philippi are. To the east across the Aegean Sea that separates Greece and Turkey was Troas.

Now why is Titus such a big issue in the text. The simple reason being that Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian church which was not the easiest letter to write and now he needed a report back to see if the letter united him with them or divided him from them, and that report he would get from Titus. So, because Titus was not there he had no peace of mind as some Biblical texts translate it or no rest in his spirit according to our text.

I just love Paul. He has no religious facades. If he were to be theologically correct, or spiritually correct, then he needed to declare that the Lord had opened a door for him to Troas and there he will stay, come hell or high water, no matter the consequences. Come on people, open doors imply that – does it not? Paul does not think so. For him there was a balancing act between open doors and peace of mind.

Do we realise that God has given us many open doors and it is okay to go through all of them, but it is also okay to turn away from them due to your restless spirit. In 2011 I had a storm around my head, I was at war, I had enemies in this town who seemed to hate my guts, I resigned my previous church, and suddenly out of the blue, totally unrelated to my circumstances I received a call to a church in America as senior pastor of a church with app. 1000 members, 5 pastors on staff which would include me as the leading pastor, and the facilities to make any of us envious. How do you beat that? If you want to talk of open doors, this is it. Could I have used those open doors, could I have stepped through it and be blessed in ministry. Sure. But I had no peace of mind, as my primary motive would have been to escape my circumstances and to run from Polokwane due to fear of man. God had called me here, God had place me here with a purpose, and the irony is that it seemed that the doors were closing here.

Guess what? Five years later we are a growing small church, blessed with family that we adore, we are impacting thousands of people through our website. On Thursday afternoon at 16:50 we had 220 people on our site at the same time, and so far since its inception we have had 375 000 hits on our articles. Through debates, God has allowed me to impact atheists, agnostics and back sliding Christians and at times with over 15 000 people observing the debates. Just a while ago an atheist who became born again through this made a monetary donation to Logos Community Church out of gratitude to the Lord. We have churches around the world using our sermon material. Our sermons are translated to Punjabi in Pakistan, or at least they asked for permission to do so. So, what would make being the pastor of a 1000-member church more important than our small congregation in Polokwane? It is about Kingdom. Sure, there are challenges, but they are joyful ones. God is on the throne and He will remember His own. The importance for us is to rest in our spirits, to have peace of mind.

So, even though there was an open door for the gospel in Troas his heart was so troubled by the situation in Corinth that he decided not to stay but to keep moving to where he might meet Titus on the way back from Corinth.

So, should Paul have left Troas? Should you leave your open doors behind, should we as a church? Are you in the place where you should be? Is God going to keep the seeming open doors for Logos open, are we going to rest in our spirits. Well, Paul left, and because he did, we have this amazing portion of scripture before us. So, did Paul ever get to see Titus. Guess what? Right there in Macedonia he did. 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 (ESV)  5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.”

Look how God works. In a sense Troas, was open doors minus Titus, Macedonia was open doors plus trials. Troas was open doors with no rest in the spirit, Macedonia was open doors with no rest in the bodies. Let me teach you a great lesson here and this is my second point.

Point 2. Always conquerors in Christ in spite.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

The triumphal procession here was well known in that part of the world in those days. We all should know about the Roman Triumph, otherwise you need to start reading Asterix comics. When the Roman general conquered the enemy he would come riding into Rome in a way that demonstrates the triumph. Behind him would be the enemies that he conquered in chains, and his soldiers. There would be those running up and down the triumph shaking bowls of incense releasing fragrance into the air. Some commentators say that it was the priests doing that, but I am not so sure about that one as the church was not firmly established in Rome, for the state to recognize them. The General had the opportunity now to release his captives, kill his captives or make them slaves. The Greek word here for ‘triumph’ or ‘triumphant’ is 'thriambeuo' {three-am-byoo'-o}.


This word by the way is used in Colossians 2:15 (ESV) 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” In the same way Christ triumphed over Satan on the cross, and Christ in a real sense keeping the Roman metaphor in mind led the devil in triumph. Now, look carefully back with me in verse 14 as this can easily escape us. Do you realise that if you are in Christ, you have been conquered by Christ, and you are in this procession, worthy of death. He has all the right to kill you as by nature you are dead in your trespasses and sins, and the wages of sin is death, and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but like Paul, we are brought to faith and forgiven and justified and made a glad and willing servant of the greatest General who ever was.

So listen Christian, whatever we are facing, whatever we are working through, whether it is Troas with no peace of mind, whether it is Macedonia with imprisonment in Philippi, or opposition, we always have the great and glorious General who set us free and who leads us. Paul planted a church in Philippi in the home of Lydia the purple seller. We are His bond servants, but we are His brothers and friends, and joint heirs, because we were chosen for this before the foundation of the world. So, whether we as a church go ahead with our dreams or not, whether seemingly open doors become closed doors, or open doors with opposition, or peace, we rest in God, because God in Christ is the triumphant one and we are simply in His service.

All was not plain sailing for Paul with regards to Corinth. Some there accepted his authority as an apostle of God, others did not. Paul calls them sarcastically the ‘Super Apostles’. Their gospel by the way was not the same gospel Paul preached. 2 Corinthians 11:4 (ESV) 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” Nice opposition to have, right, but again God is triumphant and Paul is the servant. Are we not all servants of Christ, under rowers in the Galleys? Let’s be at peace Christian, because we know that we are firmly behind a victorious Saviour, and we trust in His purposes.

Paul did not live in fool’s paradise. So he chooses a metaphor to explain what he was going through and he has confidence that he belongs to a great victor, as a conquered enemy whose service to the great General is to suffer, to look weak in the eyes of man, to look foolish in the eyes of man and even to die for Him. So, Logos, we can claim nothing, all we can do is to trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.

This morning we sang some songs that touch on this. Such glorious songs. ‘Blessed assurance Jesus is mine’ reminds us that we belong to Him and we can be at peace. We sang ‘it is well with my soul’. My friend, that is a song that should assist you in having peace of mind. Then we sang ‘Still’. Remember the word. “Find rest my soul, in Christ alone, know His power in quietness and trust. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father you are King over the flood, I will be still and know that you are God.” People, the Great General is in charge, we will rest in Him and His purposes.

Point 3. How stinketh thou?

I chose the word ‘stinketh’ from the KJV where Martha tells Jesus that the body of Lazarus already stinkeths. It sound such a polite way to utter such a terrible word. Let’s get back to the context: “…, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Do you realise that to some people you smell like death, and to others you are the smell of life. Far too often we want to please all, and we cannot. Unbelievers will hate you, believers will love you, and some believers will even hate you, yes real believers acting in the sinful flesh. They will slander you, judge the motives of your heart, they will judge the things of your life that according to Corinthians 4 are in darkness which means hidden from their sight. They will lend their ears out to slanderers, which is one of the seven things God hates, and your very presence for them will be a smell of death. So the smell of death and the smell of life goes many ways. But the real issues here is that we are to God the aroma of Christ. The central focus of Paul here however is that our fragrance divides believers and unbelievers, but honours God.

Just think that with the Roman Triumph the smell of incense would be a horrific smell to those who will be damned, but to those who are in service of the conqueror and who are set free it will be the beautiful smell of life. Do you realise Christian that we are salt in this world, we are light to this world, but we are an aroma as well, but first to God.

Christ in His death was a fragrance by the way. Ephesians 5:2 (ESV) 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” So when Christ died for sinners, it was like a fragrant offering that was pleasing to God.

Those who reject Christ are already dead and damned in their nature so the smell of death leads from death to death, but those who embrace Christ are led from life, which is wrought by the Spirit who births them from above, and it leads from life to life, as we see the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. So, like Paul, God conquered us in Christ Jesus, and in Christ we are now a sweet smelling aroma to God, and as far as man is concerned opinions are divided.

Point 4. Our insufficiency.

You have often heard me say that Paul was the chief of sinners according to him, but I am the chief of chiefs. People I am not worthy to be in the ministry, as far as Nicki Coertze is concerned. I am a sinner saved by grace, and the fact that I am a sinner in a sense means I am not above reproach. Is anybody for that matter? It is so easy to point to the splinters in the eyes of others when we have beams in our own eyes. So, Paul knew that outside of Christ he was not worthy for ministry. Look at the last part. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” In a sense, none of us can serve. Can God trust Logos to be a congregation able and fit to take out His Word? Yes He can, for one reason only, and that is because we are commissioned by God, and what we do, we do in the sight of Christ and we speak in Christ. Our sufficiency is not based on our experience, our charismatic nature, our abilities, our Holy living, our achievements, our position before man. No, our ability and right to be church in Polokwane, and to touch the lives of many, and to point them to Christ is based on our sufficiency in Christ.

So, as we pray, and talk, and dream and give, and strategize, and work – we do it all in Christ, by grace alone, as we are not here to peddle the Word of God, but we are commissioned by God, and we work in the sight of God and we only speak in Christ. Let me just say something about Logos and this ministry. When Paul says he does not peddle the Word of God, he is simply saying that his goal is not money, but to be a fragrance of Christ to God. But I see more in that. Paul knew that the church does not belong to Him, it belonged to Christ. The ministry was not about Paul, and not about His Kingdom. It was about the Kingdom of God. So, therefore we speak from sincerity, we speak from God, we speak before God and we speak in Christ.

The transcendent Glory that we all quest for is not the things of God, it is not buildings and programs and objects and ceremonies and rituals. No, the transcendent glory that we quest for is a person, none other than the Living God, who leads us in triumphant procession. Our purposes are not our own Kingdom, but a Kingdom much greater. Our quest is not to own buildings, but to be owned by Christ as a living building. Sure there are open doors, there are opportunities, but whether Troas without Titus or Macedonia with trials, may we as far as Logos is concerned or as far as our own lives are concerned, rest in Christ alone, because in Him our hope is found, He is the solid rock on which we stand. We bow before no man, whether we smell like life or death to them, but it is before the throne of God above that we come with a strong and perfect plea to a Great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for us. Hallelujah! He is all we need, and we will continue, and all we do will be by the grace of God, for the glory of God, for the extension of the Kingdom of God. We will end this service by singing ‘In Christ alone…..’ and through it re-affirm our commitment to Him as His bond slaves in His service.


Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 1 May 2016.


Maybe the best song to summarise this song is that great oldie: "When peace like a river"