As I recollect the past years’ preaching and teaching at Trinity, I am proud to say that during my tenure as pastor of the church, I preached from all the sixty-six books of the Bible. Very few pastors can say that, but I believe that the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, has a message for the church of today. In my preaching and teaching at Trinity, my goal was to make the message of the Bible relevant to the needs of the people under my care. Like the Apostle Paul, I can honestly say that I have not hesitated to proclaim to the members and friends of Trinity the whole will of God (Act 20:27).
During my first year as pastor of the church, I spent the year on Sunday nights studying the book of Genesis, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Then, at the request of the people, I also spent one year studying the book of Revelation on Wednesday nights.
Over the years, I preached through several books of the Bible, including Jonah, Habakkuk, 1 Peter, and Ephesians, just to name a few. I also preached series of sermons on Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, the Ten Commandments, the Twelve Apostles, the Beatitudes, the Apostle’s Creed, the Travel of the Ark, and many others. Recently, I began telling the story of the Bible, from creation (Genesis) to consummation (Revelation). We began with Genesis 1:1 and went as far as the exile. Time did not allow me to finish telling the beautiful story of redemption.
During my time at Trinity, I worked with a godly, committed, and loving group of people. Some of these wonderful folks have already gone to meet the Lord, others have moved away to other communities, and many others still remain at Trinity, serving God and ministering to the community where the church is located.
Today, in my last sermon at Trinity, I said my good bye to the church by paraphrasing Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesians (Acts 20:18-35). Before Paul left Ephesus to go to Jerusalem, he brought in the members of the church and spoke to them. His words summarized what he had done for the church there.
I modified and paraphrased Paul’s words to the leaders of the Ephesian church in order to say my farewell to the members and friends of Trinity Baptist Church:
I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from teaching at the seminary and pastoring this church. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for people-- the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.With these words, I said good bye to a wonderful church and to a wonderful group of believers who supported my ministry with their love and prayers. I left the church, but the work of God continues. The people who remain in the church will continue proclaiming the good news of Christ as faithful as ever. One minister goes and another comes, but the work of God marches forward.
And now I have come to the end of my work here because of retirement. I don't know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me a lot of work still lies ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus-- the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever have me again as your pastor. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.
So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock-- his church, purchased with his own blood-- over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as faithful leaders and workers of this church. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group may rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the many years I was with you-- my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.
And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and the needs of my family. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
And now, I commend you to the care of the Holy Spirit. May the LORD bless you and keep you, may the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you, may the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
And now that I have retired from the church, I will focus on my work as a teacher at Northern Seminary. I hope in the next two or three years to finish writing two books and continue blogging. The truth is: I just retired from the church, but my work in the ministry is not finished yet.
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Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Ministry, Preaching