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”©

1 comment:

Even So... said...

This sermon was preached live on December 2, can hear it by going to our audio sermon page...just click on the link below the profile box...