<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d16790134\x26blogName\x3dVoice+of+Vision\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://voiceofvision.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://voiceofvision.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d4634939867199867858', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Power In Words

because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
(1 Thessalonians 1:5 – ESV)

The word was made alive with power; it was not simply words. Although words are needed, those words need power behind them. I am not talking about a demonstration of some kind to back the words up, I am talking and Paul is talking and God is talking of power within the words themselves. A divine unction, the divine authority given to the word of God preached. The truth of the word is manifest through preaching (Titus 1:3).

The word comes with the Spirit, not apart from the word but within the word. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be any other divine manifestations when the word is preached, it means that apart from the Spirit the word will have no power when it is preached. We need genuine manifestations of the Spirit of God in our midst, but it all starts by the manifestation of the word of God in power. The word of God is where the power is, when the Holy Spirit brings it, and then people’s lives change, and that my friends is the sign of power. Falling down today is no good if you fall away tomorrow. Yes I want you to have a power encounter with God’s Spirit through the preached word today, but I also want you to have a joy encounter with God’s Spirit when the affliction comes tomorrow.

Paul and his companions proved what type of men they were, and the Thessalonians proved to others what type of people they were. People should be able to identify us as Christians, and Christians should be able to identify other Christians. They were convinced and if you are convinced your word will be convincing. The Holy Spirit convinces us of truth, and we live that truth, and then our words have the ring of truth and they are convincing. The power will be there, even if the ones we are delivering the message to are suffering affliction, and especially so.

Sometimes the preacher and the people sense that the word has been given a particular power, that peculiar unction, and they know and see that people are responding. Now I am not really speaking of isolated incidences, like during one sermon everyone started weeping, although there is that, I am rather referring to something happening over a period of time, that is what Paul is speaking of, the word was being engrafted into the peoples hearts it was getting through and it was being rooted in them. Yes short term in the moment results can be wonderful to behold, but more wonderful to behold is when they hold on to that word.

It is like with our missionary friends; those that are long term know that often short-term groups come in and sometimes they see dramatic results, sometimes not. But it is the six months later, the years later, the many years later when the village has come to know Christ, and the leaders worship God, and the people sing praises daily, this is when we know the word of Christ had been brought with power and received in joy, all by the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God.

When suffering continues but Christ reigns in their hearts, this is when a missionary has the most satisfaction in the work done. Of course they are there to be faithful no matter the outcome or temporal results, but it is a special blessing when they see joy in Jesus changing situations and making spiritual lives better. The power in their lives means they met the Power in the words.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday Sermon: The Mission Continues

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

The message of Christianity, that Jesus Christ is God and that we are a redeemed people, a changed people, mere sojourners in this life, serving our Lord and looking toward and waiting for our heavenly destiny, these things seem to be out of fashion in the church today. It would seem as if it is all about right now, a better life, a better situation, and the kingdom of heaven come to earth, but without any suffering, without any changed life, without any real credible witness. The message of hope in heaven, which brings faith and love for today, falls on deaf ears today. It isn’t enough, we are told. But it always was back in Paul’s day, and in some places on earth, it still is enough. The Christian life is about the power of endurance that stems from hope in Christ, and finding joy unspeakable and full of glory despite the troubles of this world, it is not about the joy of excitement or entertainment. It is about being convinced and living convincing lives. You may have received Jesus Christ as savior, but the mission of your life continues.

We are seeing a lack of fruit in Christians today, and a lack of fruitful ministry, evangelism, discipleship, hunger for biblical understanding and the knowledge of God, biblical holiness, and a lack of preachers who exposit the word of God. We settle for mere stories and are swept away by any and every fad that comes down the pike. We are trying any and every new method to bring forth fruit, but a strict focus on people and the “right now” to the exclusion of Christ and the hope for tomorrow isn’t what gets it done. The more we focus on our heavenly destiny the more we will see and experience the fruit God wants to bring forth from us. This does not make us a bunch of monks living in a Christian ghetto, with an “us four and no more” mentality. On the contrary, such a hope is not to the exclusion of being active on earth, but to motivate us to action on earth. We as Christians are to be living for today with an eye for tomorrow.

Of course there is a reason for this. If the bombs were dropping and people were dying and disease was spreading and pestilence, pollution and pilfering were proliferating and food and water were scarce and it was a crime to be a Christian, then hearing the message of “hold on I’m coming back to get you and you will see it was all worth it”, this message would be well received! It would be fresh and a comfort to hear it every week, every day, every moment it would be the one thing we would be able to cling to. Hebrews 13:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and verses like it would be our call to each other as we would have no other choice but to hold fast.

As it is we can see that it is not that things are so bad that the message doesn’t resonate, it is that things are so relatively good that we become complacent to this news. We grow bored with hearing this same thing every week, we don’t want to wait, and we want something more, now. We are so spoiled, so used to getting or being able to get what we want, and not used to having things take us completely out of any comfort zone that we have gotten used to. We have settled in, and settled for a less than robust Christianity. Any honest look at the contemporary church, especially here in America, reveals that we haven’t handled out supposed success very well.

The truth is that we value something more when we need it to sustain us. That is why Job says God’s word is more valuable than bread and so does Jesus. Food will keep you alive on earth, but God will keep you alive for eternity. His eternal life needs to be our sustenance right now. Even if things are relatively well, when we continue to realize the horrors of sin and the beauty of Christ we will continue to cling to Him and to be purified and we can continue to be stoked into lives of living flame for our Lord. If not, God must send suffering and persecution our way to help the light of Christ to shine through. That is the case with the church today.

Prosperity and popularity are not what produce fruit in the church; they produce make believers who aren’t born again. Persecution does not stunt growth it stokes it. The fires of persecution cause the fire of the Spirit to fan into flame, it causes us to rely on Him more, and look to Christ, and it stirs us up to stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. No we aren’t supposed to pray for persecution but pray for those who are being persecuted, and pray to stay humble that we might remain useful in the stewardship of all the good graces God has bestowed upon us.

Some brief background to this letter. It was during Paul’s second missionary journey. They were much persecuted in Thessalonica, and it followed Paul to Berea (Acts 17:12). This persecution actually caused the faith to be more precious to these people, as is always the pattern for true Christians. This is by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it comes about simultaneously while encouragement from other believers goes forth. We can see a parallel in Peter’s first letter to the persecuted people he was writing to.

1 Peter 1:6-9 –
Vs.6 ("in this" is verses 3-5)
Vs.7 (2 Peter 1:1 – like precious faith)
Vs.8 – 1 Thessalonians 1:6
Vs.9 – 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Vs.4 – Paul and his ministry companions know that God has chosen them because of how the word went out (vs.5), how it was received (vs.6), how it was modeled (vs.7), how it spread abroad (vs.8) and how it was reported back (vs.9). If you are a Christian you will spread the mission. To you your words may seem weak, but to others your life will truly speak.

Vs.5 – The word was made alive with power; it was not simply words. Although words are needed, those words need power behind them. I am not talking about a demonstration of some kind to back the words up, I am talking and Paul is talking and God is talking of power within the words themselves. A divine unction, the divine authority given to the word of God preached. The truth of the word is manifest through preaching (Titus 1:3). The word comes with the Spirit, not apart from the word but within the word. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be any other divine manifestations when the word is preached, it means that apart from the Spirit the word will have no power when it is preached. We need genuine manifestations of the Spirit of God in our midst, but it all starts by the manifestation of the word of God in power. The word of God is where the power is, when the Holy Spirit brings it, and then people’s lives change, and that my friends is the sign of power. Falling down today is no good if you fall away tomorrow. Yes I want you to have a power encounter with God’s Spirit through the preached word today, but I also want you to have a joy encounter with God’s Spirit when the affliction comes tomorrow.

Paul and his companions proved what type of men they were, and the Thessalonians proved to others what type of people they were. People should be able to identify us as Christians, and Christians should be able to identify other Christians. They were convinced and if you are convinced your word will be convincing. The Holy Spirit convinces us of truth, and we live that truth, and then our words have the ring of truth and they are convincing. The power will be there, even if the ones we are delivering the message to are suffering affliction, and especially so.

Sometimes the preacher and the people sense that the word has been given a particular power, that peculiar unction, and they know and see that people are responding. Now I am not really speaking of isolated incidences, like during one sermon everyone started weeping, although there is that, I am rather referring to something happening over a period of time, that is what Paul is speaking of, the word was being engrafted into the peoples hearts it was getting through and it was being rooted in them. Yes short term in the moment results can be wonderful to behold, but more wonderful to behold is when they hold on to that word. It is like with our missionary friends; those that are long term know that often short-term groups come in and sometimes they see dramatic results, sometimes not. But it is the six months later, the years later, the many years later when the village has come to know Christ, and the leaders worship God, and the people sing praises daily, this is when we know the word of Christ had been brought with power and received in joy, all by the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God. When suffering continues but Christ reigns in their hearts, this is when a missionary has the most satisfaction in the work done. Of course they are there to be faithful no matter the outcome or temporal results, but it is a special blessing when they see joy in Jesus changing situations and making spiritual lives better.

This is what we see in the following verses: Persecution (vs.6) / Pattern (vs.7) / Proclamation (practical words and deeds) (vs.8) / Produce (vs.9) / Perseverance (vs.10)

Vs.6 – Acts 14:22 / Philippians 1:29-30 – Now look carefully at this truth about the word. The word comes in the power of the Holy Spirit with conviction, and it must be received in the joy of the Holy Spirit with affliction. Do you see that? Comes with conviction, received with affliction. Comes in power, received in joy. The Holy Spirit gives you someone who is convinced of the truth proclaimed and it gives you joy despite the circumstances you hear it in. That is the pattern. Isn’t that the way, friends? How many times have you been downcast or under some stress, and you needed a word, and someone who seemed convinced about what they were saying brought you a word from the Bible that had the ring of authority to it? You sincerely follow the word, you do it, you are an imitator of it, because although you are in a crisis that word seems to have a touch of joy to it, like it is the thing you need to be able to endure. Having much affliction but still having joy is a supernatural thing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:48-52).

Why must we receive it with affliction? Because we need to remember that it is true in spite of the world, the message is overcoming the world. We receive it under such circumstances because then we truly need it; we receive it in spite of what our world looks like at the time. That word is right and then overcoming the world in our lives. We receive it and if we keep receiving it and believing it this will keep us overcoming the world (1 John 5:4). That doesn’t mean the bad stuff always goes away it means that even if the heat increases our purity will too. The fires of persecution only serve to stoke the fires of God in our lives, if we will believe.

Mark 4 describes the fact that we will receive it under stress because the world the flesh and the devil want to steal the word but these same circumstances, instead of stealing the word, they can be sealing the word. We will receive a newfound joy, one with deep roots.

The word also causes affliction because it challenges us at our heart level. There are always some things we just don’t want to change, but we cannot simply pick and choose which areas we are comfortable changing in. We are still our own authority if we do that. We cannot have the Master be our joy when we are still the masters of our own joy.

In speaking of receiving the word, Vern Poythress says this – Acknowledging Christ as Lord implies believing his instruction and obeying his commands. Confession of lordship becomes meaningless if we choose what we will believe and what we will obey. If we choose, we are, in the end, only obeying our own will. By contrast, discipleship implies having a clear word from the Lord, a word other than what we invent for ourselves.

Vs.7 – The word in your bible for example (vs.6) means they were transformed, the word means a model. That can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is where the religion is, not simply as we speak words on Sunday morning, but as we live lives unto God during the week. It is a wonderful thing to behold us all in unity and worshipping Christ, hearing His word and singing praise to His name and fellowshipping with people of like precious faith as we gather together as a church family. No doubt this is true. But it is also wonderful thing for other people who do not know Christ to behold our faith and life and devotion to Christ when they see us out in the everyday world. That is what makes it real to them, friends. When we have joy in affliction, when we have joy despite the mundane existence it might seem like we are in, when we truly become examples of what Christ can do through an ordinary life, when we do that God will anoint our words with power and our lives as praise.

Vs.8-10 – The word of the Lord here is both subjective and objective, the Lord’s word that He gives to be preached and the word about Him.

Their lives spoke the testimony of God working. They don’t have to say anything, kind of like I see someone I know from outside our church and they say something about a member of our church they met somewhere else; third person proclamation is beautiful. Your faith speaks even when you aren’t able to be there (Romans 1:8). You become the echo of God’s voice. Others see the truth and report it (Matthew 5:16). They see you burn and then they learn, they know you really believe what you say you believe. It is a manifest difference from the lives they lead.

How does it sound out? Most want to see the word power and then use that thought to conjure up scenes of healing and miracles and exciting demonstrations. But look what Paul says the power was for, for pressing on despite persecution, for enduring with the enduring word.

How does your faith sound out, by carrying placards decrying sins that sinners cannot help but commit? Or does it sound out in sweet melody amidst a world of sorrow, including personal sorrow, yet bearing witness to the marvel of Jesus Christ risen again and living in your hearts? Is it mere words or is it lived out in the world? Do people know it just by you saying it, or by their seeing it? Yes we should be saying it, but the only way they will hear it is if they are seeing it too. The life gives credibility to the words. Jesus said I am the Way the Truth and the Life, and the only way they will believe the truth is if they see the life. Do they see the Way in you? Do they see the Truth in you? Do they see the Life in you? Do they see the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ when they see you? Have you been born again?

When unbelievers whom God is calling to be believers see true believers suffering and still having joy in God, it is the wake up call for them that this is real. It is the manifestation of the fact that these Christian people are dead to themselves and alive to God and God raises them from the dead in sin to be alive in Him.

Jesus delivers us (rescues) (continual, present tense), from the wrath to come (future). Why the different tenses? Because we are always being saved from God’s wrath (Romans 1:18 / 2 Corinthians 1:10).

This is the word to you today, are you receiving it, do you believe you are being delivered even though you are down and out right now, do you believe you need to be delivered even though you are high and dry right now? Receive the word of your deliverance. Receive the word of your salvation. Receive the word of Jesus Christ today (Isaiah 40:8). The word is still going out, it is still being received, and it still brings hope. Jesus Christ is still saving souls, and still delivering us from sin, death, and hell. The mission continues.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ministry Fulfilled

And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
(Colossians 4:17 – ESV)

Why and how do we fail to fulfill our ministry in the Lord? Often we see our own fulfillment (enjoyment) as a prerequisite to fulfilling it. In other words, we won’t do it unless we are assured we will get something out of it. Sometimes, if we are trying to be pious or make ourselves feel as if we are rightly motivated, this means results. We see our fulfillment only if we feel we are fulfilling it. This may seem subtle but these are replacements for being fulfilled in Christ, and they are a means of self-salvation, in a sense.

Our failure to do it right, in the Lord, as unto God, for His glory, is due to our functional rejection of Him, our failure to relate what we do to what He did. Remembering Him frees our heart so we can change like we are commanded to. We don’t look down at ourselves but look up to Him. Now is not the time to get our eyes off of God. We must be on guard against mere moralism. Alistair Begg – the Gospel is not an invitation to imitate Jesus Christ, but it is an invitation to be transformed by Jesus Christ.

Unless we can see Him fight and win over the forces of ministry stress and ministry burnout and ministry rebellion and ministry rejection and all of that, then how can we fight the battle ourselves? But He has done it, He has fought and won the most important battles, and He has been our substitute, He has fulfilled that ministry perfectly, and now He empowers us to do ours. We can have a deep-seated security, knowing that we can continue to fulfill our ministry, because He has fulfilled His and He is helping us to fulfill ours, and He will never leave us nor forsake us in that call. That call always has something to do with the gospel, proclaiming it and living it out in whatever situations we find ourselves in, within our church community, and within own individual worlds, with words and actions.

If we were to fulfill our wildest dreams but do them without Christ it would do us no good. But Christ has given us the provision of His presence and we can fulfill our ministry to the glory of God, because it is not about us, but Christ in us. Look to Him and believe in Him and you will see to it that your ministry is fulfilled in the Lord. Then you will be able to say like the Apostle Paul said in Colossians 1:29 – For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. And 1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. And Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:20-21, and all those other verses swimming in your head right now will start to drive the point home to you.

If you are a Christian, God has already given you a ministry, and He has accepted you in His beloved company and approved you for this position of ministry. Only when you realize that will you be able to fulfill your ministry. God has already set His love on you, prior to your obedience, because of Christ’s obedience. Knowing that, you can have the heart to start and to keep going.

Only by taking our joy from His fulfilled ministry can we truly fulfill ours. If you are only trying to fulfill your call so that you will have a fulfilled life, you are not doing it for His sake, but your own. Without taking our joy from, seeing, and resting in Christ's obedience for us, we will never be obeying for the right reason, and not even truly obeying at all.

Look to Christ. Jesus has already seen to it, and even if we lose our ministry, if we lose our family, if we lose our wealth, if we lose our health, if we lose our wives, if we lose our lives, we will never lose our salvation!


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ministry Failed

And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
(Colossians 4:17 – ESV)

This verse commands us to exhort others to continually fulfill their ministry. It also commands us to be continually fulfilling our own ministry. However, that isn’t as simple as it sounds. It is impossible to always be fulfilling it all, practically and morally. We all reach impossible climbs, deep valleys, and dead ends in what we do. As well, how can we even see what others must do when we don’t even know what to do ourselves? How could we even muster up the courage to tell them to keep fulfilling their ministry when we are doing so poorly ourselves? How can we tell someone to go to it when we are having such a hard time even keeping our own head above water? How can we meet our obligations to others if we cannot even meet our own?

Even if we are able to reach a level of obedience and breadth or success in ministry, we still too often think this makes us good. In that case we are fulfilling ourselves by fulfilling our ministry and we are not truly obeying at all. Our lives aren’t praising Him they are praising our accomplishments. The more we think about this in depth, the more we realize that this is an impossible task. We cannot fulfill our ministry.

Jesus did fulfill His ministry, however. Christ is the ultimate embodiment of this principle and command. He encouraged and supported others, He fulfilled His ministry at all times, He did anything, and everything His Father commanded and wanted Him to do. John 17:4, 19:30 – the most important ministry has been done. Acts 2:32-33 – Christ has given us of the Spirit so that we can fulfill it.

So looking to Christ as always is the key. Our inability to do what must be done stems from our lack of belief in Christ as sufficient. We feel as if we have to fulfill our ministry or we fall from grace, but this is not the case. That is a self-righteous thing, motivated by fear and pride. However, it is not from fear and pride that we can move with Christ, but from humility and joy. Repent and rejoice in Christ, see Him as enough and then we can live as we ought.

Instead of seeing Him as some moral example we must see Him as our substitute, as the fulfillment of this command, and Paul and Timothy and others as the example, as they saw Christ as substitute, not just at the Cross, but also as our daily clothing. We must wear the garments of grace or others won’t see Christ as all sufficient and beautiful, they will only see us as great, and their lives as miserable. If our lives don’t point to Christ, they point to perdition.

Just because you feel as if you are doing all that you have been called to do is no reason to feel smug. If your life says to others, “look what I am doing for Christ”, or “look at all Christ has done for me”, and yet if it does not say, “look at how beautiful Christ is” then I tell you that you are not fulfilling your ministry, the ministry is simply fulfilling you.


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ministry Received

And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
(Colossians 4:17 – ESV)

We need to understand ministry as something received, not something achieved. It has been given to you and it is your job to see to it that it gets fulfilled. We shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Luke 14:7-11), anything you have you have received (1 Corinthians 4:7) but we also shouldn’t think less, you have received something, and you must fulfill the ministry you have received. If you don’t know what your ministry is, start by encouraging someone else in what theirs is.

All true ministry is done “in the Lord”, not in yourself, you cannot do it alone. In Christ you are significant but not special. Some want ministry only because it makes them feel special, or they go about looking to show that they are special. Other people will help affirm your call, don’t go looking to do that yourself. Some want to show you how their ministry is mystical, and some don’t want ministry unless it means they are higher than others. These all have a self-esteem problem but the answer isn’t to boost their self-esteem but boost their esteem for God and to boost their esteem for others (Philippians 2:3). It is not about fulfilling ministry for the sake of doing it but for Him. That can be more subtle a problem than you may think.

This is not so much calling on duty in ministry as calling on devotion in Christ. The ministry may be to other people but it is in the Lord, and it is Him we are looking to, not to other people’s approval of our ministry, or certain results. You are not saved either in the ultimate sense or even in the temporal sense by pursuing the fulfilling of your ministry; if you are a Christian then you have already been saved, that is why you can fulfill it. It is unbelief, fear and pride that stop you, but you cannot simply wave your hand and send them away, can you? Indeed, we are not trying to get you to try harder; we are helping you solve the problem by applying the gospel to it.

It all comes down to God; this verse is to be seen through the lens of Christ. It may seem as if it is basically about what we must do, and tell others to do, but it is really about what Christ has done. If we see this verse as only instructions on what we are to do, without seeing Christ as having already fulfilled something, then Jesus only serves as an example for us to follow. In the Lord – without relating this to Christ it only becomes moral commands to try hard to do or achieve. Only when we see that Jesus has already fulfilled His ministry, the main ministry, then can we see to it that we fulfill ours. If He had not, we could not, but because He has, we can. His victory has been accounted to us, He has won the war, and that is why we can proclaim the ultimate victory despite the heat of battles.



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Keep Pouring

And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
(Colossians 4:17 – ESV)

See that you – We are to keep seeing to it, it is a present tense command for us to be active. You are to be one who says but also one who sees. You must say to the Archippus in your life to see to it, and like an Archippus you must see to it yourself. You have an obligation to say to others to see to it and to see to it yourself.

Fulfill – This is to be a continuous action, we are to keep making it full. This is not a one-time event; you don’t give it to people and then give up on those people. The kingdom of God works like the crop of corn, the blade, the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. Notice that this implies that ministry is not so much about potential but about the process. It is an ongoing thing that you keep filling up. You are personally being poured out as you are pouring into others. 2 Timothy 4:5-7 – Do the work, fulfill your ministry, keep filling it up, you may keep getting poured out but you can say as Paul that he fought the good fight and finished the race.

The Ministry – We all are called to minister, and we are all saved to serve. Not everyone’s ministry is leading or teaching, but everyone’s ministry is their own life, to others in their own world, to their family, to their church. Everyone is an evangelist at some time. Also, those called to teach and preach must be ministered to, and there may be seasons of sitting down.

When we see that we are to continue to fulfill ministry, to keep doing it, to keep filling it up, it reminds us that ministry is more about process than instant progress. This means both the ministry you have in general, and the ministry you do specifically. Both are a process. Now certainly we have teachable moments we look for, but transformation is much more process-oriented than crisis-oriented, more eventuality than event. There are incidental encounters but growth in grace in any area is an ongoing thing.

If you are looking to minister, remember this. Instead of looking for a magic bullet or a miracle cure, or that one big breakthrough, which is usually just an emotional release, look for the long haul. It is more about truth encounters than power encounters. You are planting the word of God, and it is a seed not miracle grow. Keep pouring into others, keep being poured into, and keep filling up your ministry.



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 24, 2007

Speak Up

And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
(Colossians 4:17 – ESV)

Paul knew the trials, the ups and downs of being in ministry, and he consistently kept an eye out to exhort and encourage his ministry disciples and partners. You see this when you study 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Ephesians 6:18, and in many other places. The idea of exhorting and encouraging one another in our walks and ministries fills the New Testament.

So who’s to say the words? The letter to the Colossians was to the whole church at Colossae, all the members, and all the members were to speak to Archippus, maybe not each one individually, but the sense is that anyone has the right. The church speaks to the leaders for encouragement as well as the leaders speak to the church. This is not about being presumptuous in telling others what they “should” be doing, but to encourage each other as to those things we all need to be doing. To encourage those already doing something specific to be able to fulfill it, and for those looking to do something particular to make sure they are looking to the Lord and encouraging them with your pledged support.

So we are to encourage not just in general but also specifically, to individuals. We all have a ministry of encouragement, and it is important, and it is commanded. The writer of this letter, the one and only Apostle Paul, even he needed encouragement. At the beginning of his ministry he was aided by a man named Barnabas, whose name means son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). He helped Paul when no one else would, and the Bible says he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith (Acts 11:24), but he doesn’t get mentioned as much as some others we speak of. I’m sure that isn’t bothering Him in heaven right now.

Some scholars say he wrote Hebrews – think of that, one of the greatest books in the Bible, and perhaps the greatest one setting forth the supremacy of Christ. Barnabas may have written that and wasn’t even recognized for it. Whoever did write Hebrews is not recognized but what they did was and is still effective for God. You may not be like Paul or you may not be like Barnabas, you may not be the one who is recognized but you still have a ministry, and we all have an obligation to say to others to see to it, to be an encouragement to them.

Everyone has times when they need some encouragement, and sometimes we don’t know where it will come from. God has a way of sending someone around to say something that lifts us up when they don’t even know how or why it means so much to us, or even that their words meant anything special to us at all. Glory to God, it is a beautiful thing when that happens.

We should definitely develop an attitude of encouragement. However, having said that, let’s not be too hasty to try and be everyone’s encourager if that is not what we are called to do. Yes you will be called to be an encourager to someone and sometimes, but not everyone is always to speak to everyone about their issues. Hearing empty worn out words from someone we know doesn’t really understand or isn’t actually concerned is like putting salt on a wound. People like that just want to show off their supposed compassion and spirituality. See to it that this isn’t you.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just a Thought

When you don’t believe
You can be deceived
That’s when you already are

Think about it; is this you? Things you once said you would never do, now you do, you look for ways to do them, and you burn with passion for them. We think we can sin, and still be in our right minds, but we don’t see sin as sinful as it is. Every sin you commit affects your mindset towards sin itself; every little bit ruins a little bit of your mind.

Now, put that thing down...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels:

The Bitter End

…some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
(Daniel 12:2 – ESV)

We must get rid of all bitterness. It is crucial to realize that the basis for all our actions in this regard must be what Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross. We can be free from bitterness because Jesus paid for all my sin, and for all the sin done to me. If you keep bitterness, it will keep you: It will keep you from . . .

1) Happiness (Ephesians 4:29-5:2) It is easy to recognize when somebody else is bitter. You can see it in the eyes and in the lines of the face – even if the person is young. You can see it in their mouth, and you can see it when they're smiling or laughing. They are bitter and you can see it. You can hear it in the tone of their voices. You can hear it when they protest that they are not bitter. They might seem happy one minute and then any old thing sets them off, and they magnify every little problem into some gigantic catastrophe or emotional nightmare. The bitterness is central and pervades everything. They may say, “well, I am just sick of” . . . well of course you are . . . if you keep biting into bitter fruit you will keep getting sick.

Look at the text. You must let Christ “put it away”, which means expiate (pay for, atone for, satisfy the debt) it. This text isn’t talking about gritting your teeth and bearing it, it is about giving it to Christ and letting Him bear it. The Greek for “be put away” is an aorist passive imperative. A one-time event, that you receive, and it is a command. In other words, God commands you to let it go.

See the reason we can do this, in verse 32? Let Christ do the work, if not you are holding on to it and you will have to pay for it. Either you let Christ satisfy the debt and you become satisfied in Him, or you hold on to the debt and Christ doesn’t pay it and neither can the other person or you. Like verse 32 says, Christ has paid for it and you must let it go. If you keep trying to fight for your rights you are struggling against God, and no wonder you aren’t happy (James 4:6 / 1 Peter 5:5). A bitter person is not a humble person, they are grieving the Holy Spirit, and so they will not be Christ like, they will have no peace, they won’t be happy, and their fruit will be rotten.

2) Holiness (Hebrews 12:14-15) Jesus can’t live big on the inside of you in a house full of your rotten fruit. Matthew 5:8 – your heart is not pure that is why you see evil – You cannot see the Lord working in other people or other situations because bitterness colors all you do. Luke 6:45 – if there is venom on your lips, there is poison in your heart. James 3:11 – coming from the wrong fountain.

Of course everyone has had an argument, dispute, or falling out in a way with someone. Did it ever happen and then, after awhile everything seems okay, maybe even for a long period of time? Did you ever wonder why that one day, suddenly, one little thing happens, and there is an explosion of bitter emotion? It is as if all the past came forward to the present, attached itself to this little thing, and exploded into a major conflagration, as if the original event never died down. Well that is exactly what happened, the original event was only avoided over time, but time cannot heal this wound, bitterness begins to rot, and becomes a root, and the Greek here in this Hebrews text says that its fruit springs up, that is, it happens suddenly.

Make sure you catch that: it is pictured here in this passage as a quick process; the root is ready to produce instant fruit. Time can make bitterness seem invisible, but it is like a time bomb waiting to go off. If you don’t allow Jesus to take your bitterness, it will spring up again and again. It won’t just go away, bitterness is the foe that won’t let go. It’s keeping you from God’s best.

Holiness is being “wholly other,” and holding on to bitterness is what the world proscribes. You may think you have a right to be bitter, but the Bible does not grant anyone the right to be bitter. The Ephesians text says to get rid of all bitterness. The world says stand up for your rights, but Jesus didn’t stand up for His did he? You see no matter what has happened to you, no matter how you have been wronged, you must get rid of bitterness.

Christmas time is where we celebrate the Incarnation, Jesus taking on human flesh and coming to earth. But Jesus didn’t come to liberate us from our social situation, He came to liberate us from our sinful situation, and bitterness is a sin that will keep you from God. Your bitterness can be forgiven, but only if you give it to God. It cannot be forgiven if it hasn’t been given. 1 Peter 5:7 – you mustn’t care about it anymore! You must drop those chains.

3) Heaven (Daniel 12:2) Bitterness is just resentment that has been held on to. It has become rancid and rotten. It is kept in and it gets worse. There is a connection between bitterness and hatred, and a very clear biblical identification between hatred and murder. What I am saying is that hurt can lead to murder. Some might object that this teaching is too strong. But the strength of it is from the Bible. Many are deceived that they have believed in Christ, but you cannot hold on to bitterness and Jesus at the same time. Christ leads us to repent of our bitterness against God, and our bitterness against other people. Jesus said if you don’t forgive other people you will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). He was not giving some requirement for salvation. He was saying that those who are forgiven become forgiving people themselves. If we do not forgive we become resentful, of other people, of life, and of God. Resentment leads to cynicism, which leads to bitterness, which leads to contempt, and contempt leads to hell, in which Jesus said there would be the “gnashing of teeth”.

Are you going to stay bitter or will you get better? Some people will hold on to their bitterness until they come to the bitter end.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rags to Riches

…being knit together in love, to reach all the riches…
(Colossians 2:2 – ESV)

What we allow to be woven into the fabric of our lives determines what our spiritual wardrobe will be like. Whose “designer label” are you wearing these days? I mean this spiritually, of course. Is Christ sewing you with His thread? Are we being knit together with one another, bound and stitched together into Him, and with each other, and therefore strengthened in our walk with Christ, and strengthening others in their walk? Or are we allowing foreign fabric to be stitched into our clothes? If so then the pattern of our lives make our garments look as though we do not belong to Christ, but we look more and more like the world.

What does your covering look like, are your clothes representing Christ, or are you just claiming the name but wearing another brand? Are you cheering for one team all the while wearing the uniform of another? When we insist on wearing a certain type or brand of clothing then we show what we value and where our treasure is. Spiritually Christ demands that we find our value, our wisdom, our treasure and our worth and wealth in Him.

For the Christian this is the only way to come to full assurance, and a more full understanding of God’s will and God’s ways. Because of the surpassing worth of Christ (Philippians 3:9) we have been woven into spiritual wisdom and wealth. We dare not try by ourselves and by means outside of God to patch ourselves up, but instead we must be wearing the garments of grace, adorning the gospel of God. We are all but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) but when Christ sews us together in His love we become a beautiful garment of grace, we go from rags to riches.

We have said this before regarding marriage, but it applies to church life and all relationships as well; you can’t be knit together without having to be twisted and turned and united. You have to get all bent out of shape to be conformed to the image of Christ. The scarlet thread is the blood of our Lord Jesus. That is what is binding us together with Him, and with it we must be bound together with each other. You could have an individual life that is like a beautiful quilt, but if you are not being woven together into the larger tapestry then you will just be different cloth, and eventually one cloth will be jealous of the other, and the split will happen because their was no common fabric in the first place. It will be about individuals and not about Christ, and that fabric will wear thin on others and wear out all by itself.

Part of this life is about the struggle itself, not just the victory or the supposed defeats we have, but the times when we feel the tensions of this life, the twists and turns and tests and things that weave us into Christ and with one another, or they separate us; like a loose thread, ready to be cut off. We should praise God that we are even able to struggle, as we can see Him with us in the midst of the storms of life. It was about Him being there and struggling with us, to show us He is there, not always about getting through to the other side.

All who are woven into the fabric of Christ will make it though eventually, and even if you fall down He will still bring you through, but we must always remember it isn’t where we are but where we are headed. We may not get healed today, but we will be tomorrow. We may not survive today, but we will be in glory tomorrow. We may not like our brothers and sisters in Christ too much today, but we will rejoice with them as we see Christ tomorrow. Yes we want things to work out sooner than later, but if they don’t remember that Jesus was with us all the while, and He will deliver us safely home, home to heaven, where we have an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and reserved for us who have been woven into the fabric of faith.

Jesus is where it’s at, and if you stay stitched you stay enriched. Apart we are tattered and torn, but together in Christ we can understand that we have gone from rags to riches.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Single Issue Voter

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
(Romans 3:28 – ESV)

Paul anticipated what critics might say and then answered the charges. In perhaps similar fashion, when speaking of the glory of the great doctrines, you might hear someone say something like this. “Well this all just too abstract for me, what does doctrine do for me right now, how can I get a grip on what it means for today?” Okay, lets “go there”.

Let me start by saying that doctrine is the tool that helps you grow. It is a process, and it becomes applied as we live out life, not as we take them like a pill, but as we plant them like a seed. We see the doctrine, and what it says about Christ and about us, and we meet that with our faith, and it blooms as fruit in our lives. We don’t just look at it and then write it down or fill out some form, we believe it and become conformed into His image, from glory to glory as we see and believe it more and more (2 Corinthians 3:18).

It happens best within the context of a local church community but it is not an impersonal thing, but a very personal thing where the great doctrines make a great difference in our everyday living. And these particular doctrines are all-important, not only for our justification, but for our sanctification, our growth in grace, and we must understand that Jesus is the source of your life, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). Now let me just bring these doctrines right into your personal life right now, okay? So how does this filter out into giving God glory in my life? I’ll just apply this to one area that many have trouble with, perhaps all of us at times.

Many people measure their spirituality based solely on their self-control in one area or another. If they are “being good” in that one area that they are struggling with, then they feel spiritual, if not, then they feel like a failure spiritually. It is all or none, in a sense. It can be hard to help people find balance when they gauge the health of their relationship with Christ on a single issue – such as their sexual purity, anger issues, their thought life, or something else. Now we don’t want to give license to licentiousness or to excuse or encourage a lack of effort to control the self life, but instead of thinking solely about one issue as a measure, consider the whole life, are you advancing anywhere at all, in many areas, perhaps even in most areas?

If you are a “single issue voter” this may be why you fail to see your relationship with Christ as it is, a growing and complex dynamic of repentance and faith, based on His works, His love, His steadfastness. When a single issue carries so much weight the guilt and shame of failure can overwhelm a person. It also may be the reason why you neglect other areas, and as a result the whole life, spiritual and otherwise, suffers. Pay attention to your failings, sure, but don’t give them any more weight than they ought to have, and keep thanking God for the victories He has given you, and pray for more, all the while counting on this fact: it is not what we did, it is what He did that counts. The single issue has been forever settled in your favor.

Yes the sin is a problem, but it can lead to a greater problem because it can lead to more failure. The greater tragedy is not the failure of the individual sin, but when it leads to the failure to get back up, to be so swept away with guilt and shame that we let it bring us back down, away from any chance of victory. We settle for settling into a rut of routine spirituality, thinking that this is all there is, and we let the devil win, keeping us from becoming more solid in other areas as we lose the fight with this one issue. However, we must realize that the mark of faith is not that I don’t fail but that I do fight.

God makes a way where there is no way. There was no way for a man to be perfect and the Law pointed that out. By the deeds of the Law no man will be justified, but by faith in the person and works of Christ any man may be justified. This is the one necessary thing to salvation; you see it is God who is a single-issue voter, and He always wins the election. Have faith.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Above the Law?

He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
(Romans 3:30 – ESV)

Although we are not under the Law we are not above it either, but rather we are more in tune with its spiritual components, a heart circumcised to believe and obey, trusting in Him and glorifying His name through our obedience; not being saved by it but being saved we fulfill it. Justification does not mean to be righteous or to make righteous but to declare righteous, for the Christian we are declared righteous based on the perfect righteousness of Jesus the Messiah. He has fulfilled the Law for us and by our faith we establish that fact.

The Law still has purposes, for the non-believer and also for the believer. It is designed to lead people to the gospel of Christ (Galatians 3:19-23) and also to indict what is not in accord with the gospel (Galatians 2:14). Using the Law lawfully (1 Timothy 1:8-9) means using it to convict people of living out of accordance with the gospel. It is for those that don’t know it and for those that should know better. That is why we use both, we give the Law to the proud and grace to the humble, both Christian and non-Christian.

Through faith or by faith means that our faith is not the ground or that we are saved on account of our faith, but that it is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). God is absolutely holy and just, and so any justification, any declaration of righteousness, any acquittal of guilt, must be on a just basis; it must be right to do so. The penalty of the Law had to be satisfied and Christ paid that for us, and so God declares us righteous not on some whim, but because of Christ, and it is a just declaration. We are guilty but Christ pays the penalty, and then God is just in justifying the ungodly (Romans 4:5), declaring us righteous, because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21).

As we see in Romans 3:24-26, the substitutionary atonement is the reason we can be justified by faith. It is faith in the person of Jesus and His finished work on the cross. With the wonderful doctrines of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith you can rest assured of your salvation, and as you cling to Christ in faith, you can conquer those voices that tell you tomorrow morning that you are a hopeless case. You don’t have to remember the names of the doctrines to remember who and what they are about. Jesus Christ dying for your sins and giving you a right standing before a satisfied God. By abiding in Christ by faith, you are not above the Law; in Christ you have fulfilled it.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 17, 2007

Anti-Establishment Clause?

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
(Romans 3:31 – KJV)

Paul says none of our own works can save us, and that the Law has no power to save because men are unable to keep it. Because of this he had been accused, wrongly, of promoting a “religion” which had no morality. In answering this, Paul says that we don’t abolish the Law but that by our faith we actually establish it. How can this be, you might ask?

What he means by this is very important, because he also says in Romans 10:4 that Jesus Christ is the end of the Law to all who believe in Him. So they might say he is abolishing the Law, but Paul says we establish it by faith. That is an amazing statement, and what does Paul mean we establish the Law when he says we aren’t justified by it? How can Paul say we establish the Law when he also says we don’t have to do it? Again, how can these things be?

He means that we establish the purpose of the Law, to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:21-24). He means that by our faith we establish that the Law is righteous, but that it cannot provide righteousness because of the weakness of mankind (Romans 8:3). We establish that its demands must be met, but that we cannot meet them. We establish that it cannot be met apart from faith in Christ, who did meet them (Matthew 5:17). We establish that people of faith now pursue the spirit of the Law by faith, as those who are already justified, and not by works, in order to be justified. By faith we establish the power of the Holy Spirit who is living in, and we can now be living out the spirit of the Law, as opposed to the mere letter, as Jesus spoke of it in the Sermon on the Mount, not in order to justify us, but to show the fruit of being justified.

We live in the love, the acceptance, and the justification that Jesus provides us as our safety, our satisfaction, our rest, and our all in all. Jesus fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the Law, and we establish that fact in our lives and in our world by our faith. Faith does not produce disobedient, lazy Christians; it produces obedient, loving Christians who follow Jesus by the Spirit from the heart. Romans 13:8-10 – love is the fulfilling of the Law. In other words, love fulfills or establishes the Law. And where does love come from? It is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and the fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of faith.

Being justified by faith is not an anti-establishment clause for religion; indeed it establishes the true religion. The Law points to that fact and we establish that fact by faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday Sermon: See To It

Colossians 4:17

Your understanding of the supposed size and scope of your role doesn’t determine the level of involvement by God in your life, work, and ministry. It matters to Him. It is important to Him, and He can be fully engaged with you as well as everyone else on the planet for every single second you and they are alive, all at the same time. He is God after all, that’s what He does. He is fully involved in your personal situation. He will see to it that He holds up His end; He exhorts all of us to see to it that we fulfill our assignments.

Paul showed that God has concern for your individual assignment. See to it means it never really ends; it is an ongoing commitment and process. Our lives are to be a living fulfillment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To fulfill it means you are to keep making it full (2 Timothy 4:5). He is fully involved with you; He wants you to be fully involved with Him. Whatever it is, God will see you through it, and you will see God through it.

We see here that the people in the church at Colossae were to help Archippus. The church is to help each of its people fulfill their ministry in the Lord. Ministry isn’t simply full time preaching or teaching, or missionary work. The scriptures are not just for the so-called clergy but for the laymen as well. We are all ministers and missionaries of the gospel, full time, with our lives; whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Seeing to it means being involved in a local church setting. Archippus would not have heard this exhortation read out loud to him had he not been there to hear it! Perhaps Archippus had a visible public ministry, and had not been fulfilling his duties, and so needed to be reminded of his obligations. However, we must also realize that while it may have seemed embarrassing to him or heavy handed by Paul to single him out in front of the church, it might also have been for Paul to make sure the Colossians recognized the calling and ministry Archippus was given from the Lord. In any event, the truth that is clear is that Paul wanted to make sure Archippus got the encouragement and support he needed from the church body.

God wants to make sure we all get that, we all have a ministry in the Lord, whether a visible or vocal public service or an unseen but just as vital role in God’s kingdom. Whatever the case may be, we all need one another in order to continue to fulfill it to the fullest extent. In this seemingly insignificant verse we see that God doesn’t hold anyone or anyone’s ministry as insignificant. God wants all of us to help each other be fully committed to continually fulfilling our ministry, and expects all of us to be equipping one another with the ammunition of encouragement. The supposed lone ranger Christians out there will eventually run out of bullets.

Christ is worth knowing to the fullest extent possible, and may we always be striving to learn and love Him more, even as we come to understand His love for us all the more. That is the key. Now we will unpack this verse and being to see Jesus Christ through it. If you think you’re doing all you can and should for God, don’t be smug about this one little verse; as we unpack it you will see that there is more luggage in there than meets the eye.

And say – Paul knew the trials, the ups and downs of being in ministry, and he consistently kept an eye out to exhort and encourage his ministry disciples and partners. We saw this when we studied 1 Timothy 1:3-7, and also 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Ephesians 6:18, and the idea of exhorting and encouraging one another in our walks and ministries fills the New Testament.

So who’s to say the words? The letter was to the whole church, all the members, and all the members were to speak to him, maybe not each one individually, but the sense is that anyone has the right. The church speaks to the leaders for encouragement as well as the leaders speak to the church. This is not about being presumptuous in telling others what they “should” be doing, but to encourage each other as to those things we all need to be doing. To encourage those already doing something specific to be able to fulfill it, and for those looking to do something particular to make sure they are looking to the Lord and encouraging them with your pledged support.

To Archippus – So we are to encourage not just in general but also specifically, to individuals. We all have a ministry of encouragement, and it is important, and it is commanded. The writer of this letter, the one and only Apostle Paul, even he needed encouragement. At the beginning of his ministry he was aided by a man named Barnabas, whose name means son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). He helped Paul when no one else would, and the Bible says he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith (Acts 11:24), but he doesn’t get mentioned as much as some others we speak of. I’m sure that isn’t bothering Him in heaven right now.

Some scholars say he wrote Hebrews – think of that, one of the greatest books in the Bible, and perhaps the greatest one setting forth the supremacy of Christ. He may have written that and wasn’t even recognized for it. Whoever did write Hebrews is not recognized but what they did was and is still effective for God and He will reward it. You may not be like Paul or you may not be like Barnabas, you may not be the one who is recognized but you still have a ministry, and we all have an obligation to say to others to see to it, to be an encouragement to them.

Everyone has times when they need some encouragement, and sometimes we don’t know where it will come from. God has a way of sending someone around to say something that lifts us up when they don’t even know how or why it means so much to us, or even that their words meant anything special to us at all. Glory to God, it is a beautiful thing when that happens.

We should definitely develop an attitude of encouragement. However, having said that, let’s not be too hasty to try and be everyone’s encourager if that is not what we are called to do. Yes you will be called to be an encourager to someone and sometimes, but not everyone is always to speak to everyone about their issues. Hearing empty worn out words from someone we know doesn’t really understand or isn’t actually concerned is like putting salt on a wound. People like that just want to show off their supposed compassion and spirituality. See to it that this isn’t you.

See that you – Keep seeing to it (present active imperative). You are to be one who says but also one who sees. You must say to Archippus to see to it, and like Archippus you must see to it yourself. You have an obligation to say to others to see to it and to see to it yourself.

Fulfill – Continuous action, keep making it full, not about potential but process. 2 Timothy 4:5-7 – Do the work, fulfill your ministry, keep filling it up, you may keep getting poured out but you can say as Paul that he fought the good fight and finished the race.

The Ministry – We all are called to minister, and we are all saved to serve. Not everyone’s ministry is leading or teaching, but everyone’s ministry is their own life, to others in their own world, to their family, to their church. Everyone is an evangelist at some time. Also, those called to teach and preach must be ministered to, and there may be seasons of sitting down.

When we see that we are to continue to fulfill ministry, to keep doing it, to keep filling it up, it reminds us that ministry is more about process than instant progress. This means the ministry you have, and the ministry you do. Both are a process. Now certainly we have teachable moments we look for, but transformation is much more process-oriented than crisis-oriented, more eventuality than event. There are incidental encounters but growth in grace in any area is an ongoing thing. If you are looking to minister, remember this. Instead of looking for a magic bullet or a miracle cure, or that one big breakthrough, which is usually just an emotional release, look for the long haul. It is more about truth encounters than power encounters. You are planting the word of God, and it is a seed not miracle grow.

That you have received – Received not achieved. It has been given to you and it is your job to see to it that it gets fulfilled. Luke 14:7-11 – We shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought, anything you have you have received (1 Corinthians 4:7) but we also shouldn’t think less, you have received something, and you must fulfill the ministry you have received. If you don’t know what it is, start by encouraging someone else in theirs.

In the Lord – Not in yourself, you cannot do it alone. In Christ you are significant but not special. Some want ministry only because it makes them feel special, or they go about looking to show that they are special. Other people will help affirm your call, don’t go looking to do that yourself. Some want to show you how their ministry is mystical, and some don’t want ministry unless it means they are higher than others. These all have a self-esteem problem but the answer isn’t to boost their self-esteem but boost their esteem for God and to boost their esteem for others (Philippians 2:3). It is not about fulfilling ministry for the sake of doing it but for Him. That can be more subtle a problem than you may think, so we will dig a little deeper in a moment.

Now I want you to begin to realize something. All of this is “in the Lord”. Having said all we have said and seen all we have seen, in this sermon I am not so much calling on duty in ministry as I am calling on devotion in Christ. The ministry may be to other people but it is in the Lord, and it is Him we are looking to, not to other people’s approval of our ministry, or certain results. You are not saved either in the ultimate sense or even in the temporal sense by pursuing the fulfilling of your ministry; if you are a Christian then you have already been saved, that is why you can fulfill it. It is unbelief, fear and pride that stop you, but you cannot simply wave your hand and send them away, can you? Indeed, we are not trying to get you to try harder; we are helping you solve the problem by applying the gospel to it. Let’s take another look and do that.

WHAT YOU MUST DO – we must tell others to continually fulfill their ministry and also be continually fulfilling our own ministry.

WHY YOU CAN'T DO IT – it is impossible to always be fulfilling it all, practically and morally. We all reach impossible climbs, deep valleys, and dead ends in what we do. As well, how can we even see what others must do when we don’t even know what to do ourselves? How could we even muster up the courage to tell them to keep fulfilling their ministry when we are doing so poorly ourselves? How can we tell someone to go to it when we are having such a hard time even keeping our own head above water? How can we meet our obligations to others if we cannot even meet our own? Even if we are able to reach a level of obedience and breadth or success in ministry, we still too often think this makes us good. In that case we are fulfilling ourselves by fulfilling our ministry and we are not truly obeying at all. Our lives aren’t praising Him they are praising our accomplishments. The more we think about this in depth, the more we realize that this is an impossible task. We cannot fulfill our ministry.

HOW HE DID IT – Christ is the ultimate embodiment of this principle and command. He encouraged and supported others, He fulfilled His ministry at all times, He did anything, and everything His Father commanded and wanted Him to do. John 17:4, 19:30 – the most important ministry has been done. Acts 2:32-33 – Christ has given us of the Spirit so that we can fulfill it.

NOW, THROUGH HIM, YOU CAN DO IT – our inability to do what must be done stems from our lack of belief in Christ as sufficient. We feel as if we have to fulfill our ministry or we fall from grace, but this is not the case. That is a self-righteous thing, motivated by fear and pride. However, it is not from fear and pride that we can move with Christ, but from humility and joy. Repent and rejoice in Christ, see Him as enough and then we can live as we ought. Instead of seeing Him as some moral example we must see Him as our substitute, as the fulfillment of this command, and Paul and Timothy and others as the example, as they saw Christ as substitute, not just at the Cross, but also as our daily clothing. We must wear the garments of grace or others won’t see Christ as all sufficient and beautiful, they will only see us as great, and their lives as miserable. If our lives don’t point to Christ, they point to perdition. Just because you feel as if you are doing all that you have been called to do is no reason to feel smug. If your life says to others, “look what I am doing for Christ”, or “look at all Christ has done for me”, and yet if it does not say, “look at how beautiful Christ is” then I tell you that you are not fulfilling your ministry, the ministry is simply fulfilling you.

Why and how do we fail to fulfill our ministry in the Lord? Often we see our own fulfillment (enjoyment) as a prerequisite to fulfilling it. In other words, we won’t do it unless we are assured we will get something out of it. Sometimes, if we are trying to be pious or make ourselves feel as if we are rightly motivated, this means results. We see our fulfillment only if we feel we are fulfilling it. This may seem subtle but these are replacements for being fulfilled in Christ, and they are a means of self-salvation, in a sense.

Our failure to do it right, in the Lord, as unto God, for His glory, is due to our functional rejection of Him, our failure to relate what we do to what He did. Remembering Him frees our heart so we can change like we are commanded to. We don’t look down at ourselves but look up to Him. Now is not the time to get our eyes off of God. We must be on guard against mere moralism. Alistair Begg – the Gospel is not an invitation to imitate Jesus Christ, but it is an invitation to be transformed by Jesus Christ.

It all comes down to God; this passage is really about Christ. It may seem as if it is basically about what we must do, and tell others to do, but it is really about what Christ has done. If we see this verse as only instructions on what we are to do, without seeing Christ as having already fulfilled something, then Jesus only serves as an example for us to follow. In the Lord – without relating this to Christ it only becomes moral commands to try hard to do or achieve. Only when we see that Jesus has already fulfilled His ministry, the main ministry, then can we see to it that we fulfill ours. If He had not, we could not, but because He has, we can. His victory has been accounted to us, He has won the war, and that is why we can proclaim the ultimate victory despite the heat of battles.

Unless we can see Him fight and win over the forces of ministry stress and ministry burnout and ministry rebellion and ministry rejection and all of that, then how can we fight the battle ourselves? But He has done it, He has fought and won the most important battles, and He has been our substitute, He has fulfilled that ministry perfectly, and now He empowers us to do ours. We can have a deep-seated security, knowing that we can continue to fulfill our ministry, because He has fulfilled His and He is helping us to fulfill ours, and He will never leave us nor forsake us in that call. That call always has something to do with the gospel, proclaiming it and living it out in whatever situations we find ourselves in, within our church community, and within own individual worlds, with words and actions.

If we were to fulfill our wildest dreams but do them without Christ it would do us no good. But Christ has given us the provision of His presence and we can fulfill our ministry to the glory of God, because it is not about us, but Christ in us. Look to Him and believe in Him and you will see to it that your ministry is fulfilled in the Lord. Then you will be able to say like the Apostle Paul said in Colossians 1:29 – For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. And 1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. And Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. And Ephesians 3:20-21 – Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

If you are a Christian, God has already given you a ministry, and He has accepted you in His beloved company and approved you for this position of ministry. Only when you realize that will you be able to fulfill your ministry. God has already set His love on you, prior to your obedience, because of Christ’s obedience. Knowing that, you can have the heart to start and to keep going.

Only by taking our joy from His fulfilled ministry can we truly fulfill ours. If you are only trying to fulfill your call so that you will have a fulfilled life, you are not doing it for His sake, but your own. Without taking our joy from, seeing, and resting in Christ's obedience for us, we will never be obeying for the right reason, and not even truly obeying at all.

Look to Christ. Jesus has already seen to it, and even if we lose our ministry, if we lose our family, if we lose our wealth, if we lose our health, if we lose our wives, if we lose our lives, we will never lose our salvation! Wherever you are and whatever God has called you to, see to it.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tithing on a Tightrope

For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
(Luke 11:42 – ESV)

How many times have you wondered, or heard someone else wonder if they were supposed to “tithe” based on net or gross income? Well, without even considering whether or not the tithe is a New Testament ideal, we need to discuss something. Regarding your giving, the “net or gross” question shows you are in the wrong ballpark altogether – it is not a question of a duty to be discharged but of a devotion to be discovered (2 Corinthians 9:7).

You don’t have to try and find out exactly the line where you need to start, most are doing that so as to know what they can avoid doing. Its like the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, not so he could know who to love, but so he could know who he didn’t have to. The same happens when it comes to the matter of giving to the church. It’s not that people don’t want to give too little, it’s that they don’t want to give too much! You could give whatever it is that you feel is your “obligation”, and discharge your “duty” and God still not have your heart. You are commanded to give, but even if you found some imaginary line where God was happy with, it is only a start, not a finish (Luke 17:10).

Okay, now, for those of you just looking for a fight: does the New Testament teach that we must tithe? No, it doesn't. But let me tell you that it does teach that we should give and that we should be cheerful givers. Those that want to wrangle over not having to give or about some imaginary line or limit are not the most cheerful people to be around.

It is about faithfulness, but the bigger item, and the one that you never seem to hear the preachers and teachers talk about, or when they do you go temporarily deaf, is that giving is also a matter of worship. Not obligation, like, “you better give off the gross, dude, or God’s gonna be mad.” No. Giving is worship.

If we love a sports team, we watch their games, we pay to see them at the stadium, we buy their souvenirs, and we wear their apparel, which we paid for. We even dress our little kids in their little team clothes. We wear the shoes that the big stars are wearing, and we learn all the new buzzwords and catch phrases of those whom we worship.

Now follow me here, and realize that giving is a form of and a part of worship. It doesn’t mean that every thing we give to we worship, but what is put foremost in our minds, that thing we will give our utmost to. Think about sports teams that you see people love and how they defend and promote them, and don’t you just wish we would do it for Jesus? We root for them even when their season isn’t going so well. We praise them when it is, and we aren’t ashamed of it when they lose a game, we speak of how they will eventually bounce back. We give our money, our time, our energy, and our devotion. Where we give is where we worship. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). How can you say you don’t have to give and still believe that God has your heart?

I’m not asking you to give more money. Giving more doesn’t necessarily mean you are more devoted. It isn’t the quantity but the quality. So if you are down in cash this month but have an extra amount of time, then give what you have to give. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), what do you talk about the most, Jesus or the football team, or your favorite movie star, or hit song? Whatever it is that has the majority of your attention, that is what has your devotion. What do you think of first thing in the morning?

Let’s get practical, then. Don’t give the church the money for your light bill, but don’t neglect the church just to buy a fancy new light fixture. Own stuff; don’t let it own you. Better yet, realize that you don’t own stuff; it is on loan to you. We do not need to debate whether or not tithing is commanded or even recognized in the New Testament; all that is doing is wrangling over a disputed idea (1 Timothy 6:4).

It isn’t a matter of doctrine; the truth is that for many the simplest way to be disciplined is by giving the first 10 percent right off the top, and that is why we see this principle used in the church today. We don’t have to argue, but if you were to look at those that would teach “against” tithing, or those who try and justify why they don’t need to give you might be surprised at what you see and the lack of discipline in their lives. If you are giving more than 10 percent but not “tithing” per se, wonderful, but in any event make sure you are honoring God by giving Him your heart, and that would include your wallet.

Sowing out of a desire for gain will get you the gain all right, but it won’t be what you expect (Galatians 6:7 / 1 Timothy 6:5-10). Don’t use tithing as a means to an end, the end being your own desire for wealth (Ezekiel 33:31). Don’t turn tithing into a work and don’t use giving to the church to dismiss your obligations to the IRS or from taking care of your sick relatives or paying your bills and think that God is pleased with this, He isn’t (Isaiah 29:13 / Mark 7:6-7).

The concept of giving in the New Testament is not some rule we have to keep in order to keep God off our back or to curry favor with God, but so we will put first things first, and God will help us take care of the rest. It shouldn’t make you give less, but want to give more.

Giving is a blessing not a burden, but please don’t give out of compulsion. You can’t give because you feel forced and expect God to understand. As long as you see it as a burden it will not have the effect you desire. God knows your heart, and you can give and give and give, but if you don’t do it out of love, it will profit you nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can give without loving but we can’t love without giving.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pictures Lie

I see men as trees, walking
(Mark 8:24)

It has been my experience that in many churches and circles of church folk, conferences, and the like, there seems to be a prevailing notion that needs to be dismissed out of hand. Too many times we are confusing illustrations with good sermonizing, in other words, we feel like a good illustration means the preacher proved his point. Friends, get this and get this good: Illustrations are pictures not proof. And despite popular opinion and cherished cliché, yes indeed, pictures can and do lie, quite often, in fact.

Pictures can and do lie because of our interpretation of them, we do not see things clearly, as the man in our text did not. We may not have the whole picture because it was manipulated. Some ministers give us bad pictures because they are using a carnal camera, or we see things out of focus through the lens of licentiousness.

Sometimes we don’t really have the big picture, only a small fraction of what is going on. How many times have we acted on incomplete evidence? Why do you think they tell the people in court to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? How many times have you seen something that looks like it is really what you need or want, but you found out that what you see isn’t always what you get? Paul Harvey has made a career of telling us the “rest of the story” behind events we thought we knew.

Of course, I just used some illustrations, didn’t I? We must remember, and not get carried away by the clever pictures someone paints for us. A scene is not a story, a frame is not a film, and a little information isn’t the whole situation. Proverbs 18:17 (NIV) says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” Just because something sounds good or looks good doesn’t mean it is good. We should be like the Bereans who were examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11 – ESV).

Illustration and analogy can be effective tools in helping us understand the richness of what we are hearing or reading, but they cannot replace the simple truth. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). If you cannot understand something without a story, learn to dig deeper. It will take time, but it will yield treasure. Then you can bring others to the deep truths of the bible with illustrations of your own, and lead others to discover for themselves the riches of God’s grace. Don’t let somebody steal your heart with a Kodak moment, get the truth from God’s Word for yourself, after all, pictures lie.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

About That Change

remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
(Acts 20:35 – ESV)

I am sure that everyone in their lifetimes has been the type of person who sees someone else get something good, and they feel like that person doesn’t deserve it, or that they deserve it more than the person who got it, or that they just wish someone would give them something like that, or notice them, or well, you know what I mean. We have all had to deal with being that way at one time or another, but have you ever met someone who is perpetually like that? It can be an emotionally draining experience to have to be around someone who is always looking out for someone getting something more than they feel they have. You know the mantra: “I never get to go.” “I never get invited.” “I wish I could have something nice like that.” On and on it goes. They are always looking at what someone else has been given, and they always have the same old song playing in their jukebox…woe is me, I never get anything that good.

Now for some who are like this, I’ll have to admit something, it truthfully does seem as if they are left out, left behind, or left alone, they don’t receive some of the good things others seem to always be getting. They truly don’t seem to receive too much in the way of favor or blessing, in a sense. Ah, but that is where we can see the problem; this type of person doesn’t know HOW to receive. It starts by being glad when others receive goods things. The pie of life doesn’t have a limited amount of slices. God is able to make all grace, whatever you need, abound to you (2 Corinthians 9:8). You need to learn to receive. It starts with giving thanks.

The truth is that if you are looking for chances to despair you will notice that there is always someone getting something you don’t have. You should realize that there is always someone getting something you don’t want either. And you need to stop looking around at what everybody else is getting and start realizing all you have, even if it is close to nothing it is still something and you can and should and indeed you must be grateful for what others get, it is good for them. Stop worrying as if you won’t be content until these cosmic scales of fairness you dream of even out for you. Let me tell you they never will.

Instead of bringing your misery and envy to everyone, start being thankful for the grace others get. Considering your situation, nothing about that will change until you change your thoughts about that. Give others your gratefulness and perhaps you will start receiving something other than their displeasure. Include gratefulness for the good things that others receive and then perhaps you will start receiving good things yourself.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Labels: