Saturday, June 7, 2008

Are You a Faithful Minister?

Are You a Faithful Minister
Colossians 1:24-29
3 Qualities of a Faithful Minister

Scripture Introduction:

I am not too fond of suffering. I am assuming that none of you are. It is built in us to avoid suffering and pain. Yet, sometimes people willingly suffer. Sometimes people willingly take on pain. Imagine with me that I ask you to make a list of things that you would be willing to suffer and sacrifice for. What would be on your list? Would you be wiling to die for these things? Now let me qualify this a little bit. Whatever is on your list must also be what you will dedicate the remainder of your life on earth to.

I would imagine that your lists are pretty short. I would guess that right now you probably have friends, family, and many of you probably put Jesus. As we read our text tonight in Colossians 1:24-29 I want you to look for Paul’s list.


Sermon Introduction:

What would you say that Paul’s great passion is? Who would Paul be willing to die for and dedicate his entire life for? There really are two answers. One is the obvious one…of course we know that Paul’s main dedication, and the biggest place in his heart is for Jesus. Did anyone pick up on Paul’s other great passion? It is intimately related to Paul’s love for Jesus. If you love Jesus you will love what Paul loves. In fact if you do not love what Paul loves you have to begin to wonder how deep your love for Jesus really is. Let me give you an example of this. I am not a perfect example of this either; sometimes I am too selfish to be a good example. There are some things that my wife loves that I do not particularly care about. Like musicals, shopping for antiques, and going for walks. I have tried to grow to like these things as well because they are dear to my wife’s heart. Because I love my wife, I try to love the things that she loves. Actually, she is probably a better example of this than I am. She can tell you the quarterback for the Browns—I still think Bing Crosby is a black guy.

The thing that is dear to Jesus’ heart and thereby is dear to Paul’s heart is the Church. Did you write that on your list? I do not think that I would have. I would have written Jesus, but not His Bride. Something tells me that our hearts may not be where they need to be concerning this matter. If we really love Jesus, like Paul did, then we are going to love the Church like Paul does--and even more—we will love the Church like Jesus does. Not the building but the people. Not the structure or the organization but the mission, the fellowship--those with the self-sacrificing conformity to the shared vision of spreading the glory of Christ to the nations. The church is all of those that Paul made reference to in 1:18—all of the called out ones that have been redeemed and reconciled. All of us—warts and all. Jesus loves the Church, do you?

Let me bring you up to speed on where we have been in Colossians. The Colossians church is struggling with a group of heretics. These unbelievers are spreading a false doctrine through the church that seems to say, Jesus was great and wonderful, but if you really want to have spiritual life then do these things. Those that did not accept this heresy seem to have been getting discouraged. Paul writes to encourage them to press on and not give way to these damnable teachers. He begins by assuring the Colossians and letting them know how he prays for them. Then he lets them know what he prays for them, and this moves him into expounding on the glorious gospel. He prays that they may give thanks to the Father that has qualified them and delivered them; verses 15-23 are Paul explaining that. In verse 23 Paul urges them to remain steadfast and not shifting from the hope of the gospel. Then he qualifies what he means by gospel…that which has been proclaimed throughout all creation, and the gospel of which I, Paul, am a minister.
Paul is going to discuss his ministry with us tonight. That statement probably does not cause you to jump out of your seat for joy. Perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with you. There are two questions that this text (and maybe a couple others) will help us answer tonight. 1) Have you been given a stewardship? Or, to put that another way: Has God called you to be a minister? 2) Are you being faithful to God’s calling? We will try to answer the first question briefly and then give 3 qualities of a faithful minister to help you gauge whether you are being faithful to your calling.

When you think of the word “minister” you probably think of me, or Kevin, or another pastor. Most assume that ministry is reserved for those that went to college or seminary to become a minister. Most assume that ministry is what we pay the pastor to do. There is a sense in which certain men are called out to do special works of service. Look at Ephesians 4:11-12. It says that God does call out certain people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. I am in that list. You may not be. Now, notice what our task is? Verse 12, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” What is the work of ministry? The word ministry simply means servant. It is your service to the body of Christ, the church. It is my responsibility to prepare you for that work. This is one place in Scripture that answers our question. If you are a saint (that means a holy one—one that is called out by God—someone that is reconciled and redeemed) then, yes, you are called to be a minister.

You can learn about what one thing that everyone is called to do. One spot you can see this is in Matthew 28:18-20. You can write that one down. Tonight we are going to look at 1 Peter 2:9. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (this is describing who God has made us to be through Christ)…and now the why…”so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. Does that sound familiar? We learned a few weeks ago that this is exactly what God has done in the life of believers…called us out of darkness and into his light. What then are we to do in response? What is our service? It is to proclaim his excellency to the nations.

On the wall in my office you can see a typed sheet of paper that says, “My mandate”. It reads: So live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation. That is also your mandate. That is what it means to proclaim his excellencies to the nations. You can substitute some of your words. Perhaps God has not called you to write. Then you put the word administer medicine, or clean the house, or care for my child, or teach students, or play guitar, or crunch numbers, or practice law, or work at McDonalds, or plant turnips. Whatever it is that God calls you to do it is to be done to proclaim his excellency.

Now are you being faithful? There are 3 marks in this text of a faithful minister. Paul was a faithful minister. He ran the race. He finished the course. He stayed true to Jesus and His gospel. Certainly, Paul had his failures. He was human. But he was faithful. Are you faithful?

I. The faithful minister is called

If you are a Christian you are called. You can say like Paul, “the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship of God that was given to me for you.” The word there for stewardship means manager of a household. The idea is that God has given you something to manage (your calling—your ministry). You will be accountable to God with how faithful you have been to what He has called you to do. Sometimes it is difficult to discern that specifically. Let me give you four broad categories. I am convinced if you are passionate about fulfilling your duties in these four areas the specifics will work themselves out.

Called to proclaim

Notice at the end of verse 25 that Paul says he is called to “make the word of God fully known”.
This is one of those areas where your calling, and mine, is a little differently than Paul’s. There is something specific here about Paul’s calling. He was a woodcutter. He preached Christ in places where Jesus was never proclaimed. He had a unique ministry. But so do you. What you and I hold in common with Paul is that we are called to proclaim (in some shape and form) the word of God to people.

Notice all of things that Paul does not mention in this text. It does not say that he is called to build large churches. It does not say that he is called to put together a budget for the churches. It does not say that he is called to be in charge of the churches. There are tons of secondary things that a minister is called to. But the ultimate thing that a minister is called to do is be faithful to proclaiming God’s Word which reveals Christ. That is why our services on Wednesday night are centered upon Christ and His Word. This is what I am called to do. And in a different way this is what you also are called to do.

Do you see what this would mean for your life? Do you see that this means that you and I are not allowed to simply check in to work, do our job, and check out? We are not called to merely go home, eat supper, watch TV, and fall asleep. This is not what your life is about. Your life is about proclaiming the word of God to people. Making God known to others. Those that do not know God, and sharing in unfolding the excellencies of Jesus with other believers. Your life ought to be centered around the word of God. Is it? Are you being faithful in this? How can you faithful administer God’s Word to others if you do not know it and cherish it yourself?

Called to unveil

Do you realize the daunting task of Paul in this text? It is to make the word of God fully known. How in the world do you do that? And then Paul uses all these big terms like “mystery hidden for ages and now revealed to us”. And he speaks of the “riches of the glory of this mystery.” Do you realize how jam-packed that statement is? It’s as if Paul is saying that his task is to explain to everyone possible (difficult) how beautiful Jesus is (impossible). I am called to tell people about the greatest treasure this world has ever known; in fact this treasure is infinite in value and worth and beauty. How can you possible be expected to do that? And this is why I love Paul. He is both simple and complicated at the same time…which is in itself complicated.

Paul sums up his preaching and ministry beautifully in 1 Corinthians 2: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. That’s it. That is what Paul spent his entire life unveiling. This is the great mystery that was hidden for the ages that Paul speaks about here; the fullness of the gospel.

The great and majestic God that is the firstborn of all creation--the one that everything was made by, through, and for—this God, has became a man and he was crucified. But his death was not meaningless. His death was to make peace between God and His Bride, the church. As Paul has already said in Colossians, he has qualified you, he has transferred you from darkness to light, he has redeemed you, he has forgiven us our sins, he has reconciled us, and he will present us holy and blameless in his sight if we persevere. All of this is great and glorious, and now Paul extends it to the heart of our Christian life—Christ in you, the hope of glory!

The hope of glory (that means the hope of heaven) is Jesus Christ. The object of heaven’s worship is Jesus the Christ. In all of his majesty and splendor and radiance and holiness and beauty and greatness and transcendence and love and justice and mercy and grace and joy, all of who he is as the hope of glory; greatest treasure ever…God Himself…catch this…”in you”. This friends is the gospel and it is what Paul gave his life to unfold, and it is what Paul along with us will spend eternity unwrapping and relishing in. That this very God is so glorious and is so filled with love that He became a man, gave His life for rebel sinners, and his union with us is so personal and so scandalously intimate that we can say Jesus lives in my heart.

That is what you are called to unveil. The gospel. In all its brutality. Even though it borders on unbelievable, this gospel, unhindered, unadulterated, is what you are to proclaim; a bloody Cross, a bloody Savior, and a royal King that has risen from the grave. The minister is called to preach Christ, nothing more, nothing less. Is your life about unveiling the beauty of Christ? Are you unwrapping and relishing in the glory of Christ yourself? If not, how can you proclaim it to others?

Called to warn

Notice how Paul preaches Christ. He warns everyone and teaches them with all wisdom. Just in case you thought this was a nice cushy little mission, Paul throws in a bold and passionate word, “warn”. Why is a warning necessary? This word has “the connotation of confronting with the intent of changing one’s attitudes and actions”.[1]

You do not warn somebody and confront somebody unless there is a perceived danger. You are not passionate about changing someone’s attitude and actions unless you perceive their attitude and actions as detrimental to their soul. (At least you should not). The reason the gospel minister warns people is because to not embrace and treasure this gospel is damnable. That is why Paul is warning the Colossians. That is why he is teaching them the truth of the Gospel. That is why he is willing to be in prison as he is writing this letter. It is an urgent message and to reject Christ is to forsake your own life and spend an eternity separated from all that is good.

Just as a side note, this is why sometimes I may seem overly serious. This is why a minister ought to be grave in his preaching, or as one put it, preach with a blood-earnestness. This message is very important. To heed it is life. To reject it is death. Do you take the gospel seriously? Are you passionate about warning and teaching? Not simply warning, but also teaching? How can you teach if you do not heed the warnings yourself? Are you faithful?

Called to lead in holiness

Lastly, the minister is called to lead in holiness. Notice that the goal for Paul is to present everyone mature in Christ. What is in view is the final day when we stand before God. Ultimately we know that we will be presented clean and holy and blameless and pure before God if we remain faithful to Christ and His gospel. We discovered this two weeks ago.

Simply put a minister is not truly being faithful to his calling unless he is leading people towards holiness. You too must be holy. How can you lead others towards holiness if you yourself are marred with sin? Leading others to holiness is again leading them to Christ. Yet, let us not think this is passive. You must pursue holiness. Is your goal for other people that they might be holy? Are you concerned with making certain that your brothers and sisters in Christ are growing in holiness and love for Jesus? Are you concerned with being holy?

These are four broad categories to let you know if you are being faithful to your calling. There is another aspect to a faithful minister, to which we now turn.
II. The faithful minister is crucified

Turn back now to verse 24. This is a really difficult text. It is actually quite shocking. If you read it with any understanding you will shout out a, “what the heck”. First, notice the first part of the verse. Paul is saying that he is rejoicing in his sufferings. He is in prison as he is writing to the Colossians. And he is doing it with joy. Unfortunately we are not going to camp out on that point.

Now look at the second part of this verse. Paul is saying that somehow through his imprisonment (and probably overall suffering in ministry) that he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the church. What in the world does that mean? What is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? And how does Paul “fill it up”? It sounds like Paul is saying that his suffering is adding to Jesus’ suffering, and this is what he is actually saying.

There are a few different ways that we could interpret this. One we could say that Jesus’ suffering on the Cross was not enough to save every single person and Paul’s suffering is helping with that. That is obviously not the case. Paul has labored to show that this is precisely not the gospel—this sounds more like the false teachers view instead of Paul’s. Another interpretation would be that there is a total amount of suffering that Christians are predetermined to suffer. Christ is in that line. Paul is in that line. Imagine a bucket. It has a set amount of suffering that must fill it. Christ suffering added to the bucket. So does Paul’s. Another interpretation is similar. It says that Paul is simply saying that his suffering corresponds with Christ’s suffering. So that when Paul suffers Jesus suffers. Jesus suffered so Paul will suffer. If Christ really is “in you” then what happens to you happens to Jesus. Both of these views are possible, but not likely in the context. There are a couple of others but we will not dig into them. If you are really curious I will provide some more information afterwards.

I spent a fair amount of time looking over these various options and weighing them. The one I have settled on is John Piper’s view. I had to be cautious with this, though, because I have so much respect for Piper I did not want to be biased towards his view. So, I asked Pastor Kevin how he interpreted the verse. He had no concept of Piper’s view and he said pretty much the same thing. This helped me to have more confidence. In a quick way this is how Piper explained it:

Christ has prepared a love offering for the world by suffering and dying for sinners. It is full and lacking in nothing—except one thing, a personal presentation by Christ himself to the nations of the world and the people of your workplace. God's answer to this lack is to call the people of Christ (people like Paul) to present the afflictions of Christ to the world… In doing this we "fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ." We finish what they were designed for, namely, a personal presentation to the world of people who do not know about their infinite worth. But notice how Paul says this in verse 24: He says that it is in his sufferings and in his flesh—that is, his actual, suffering body that he does his share in filling up the afflictions of Christ. So Paul sees a very close connection between his sufferings and Christ's afflictions. What this means, I think, is that God intends for the afflictions of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of his people. God really means for the body of Christ, the church, to experience some of the suffering he experienced so that when we offer the Christ of the cross to people, they see the Christ of the cross in us. We are to make the afflictions of Christ real for people by the afflictions we experience in offering him to them, and living the life of love he lived.

At the end of the sermon in which that quote is found John Piper tells three stories of people suffering for Jesus’ sake. I want to tell you of a Masai warrior named Joseph. TELL THE STORY OF JOSEPH.

We know very little of this in our culture. We do not have to suffer for the gospel. Some of this is God’s blessing to us. And, sadly, some of this is because of our unfaithfulness. Are you willing to suffer for the cause of Christ? Are you willing to suffer for the Church?

It may not mean what it does for Joseph. It may not mean whips and scars. It might mean loneliness. It might mean poverty. It might mean sacrificing time and feeble desires. I very seriously doubt that we will be willing to die for Christ if we are not willing to live for him. If Christ holds no dearer place in your heart than a person, a computer screen, a controller, a relationship, etc. then we know nothing of what Joseph knew. If we are to know Christ deeply and if we are to proclaim him deeply, then we must suffer deeply.

III. The faithful minister is carried

Ministry is tough. It is tough for me and this is what I do all day. I can only imagine how hard it is to carry on your ministry without having 40 hours a week to spend in prayer and bible study. Your ministry and my ministry are tough to carry out. I have only skimmed the surface of what it means to suffer for Christ. All I know is that I am not being as faithful as I ought to be. I would venture to say that I am not the only one. Brothers and sisters I need to repent. God has been dealing with me on this for awhile now. This text confirmed it in my heart. Kevin’s sermon really spoke to me last week. I need to take the gospel far more serious than I do now. I need to love the Church like Paul did. I need to be more faithful in my calling. I repent.

This last point is encouragement to those of you like me that need to repent of not being faithful in your ministry. In verse 29 Paul says, “For this I toil (the “this” of course being everything we have talked about), struggling with all the energy that he powerfully works within me”.

The first part of this shows that Paul knew from experience what we often experience—this is tough and we really mess up at it. Notice the word “toil” and “struggle”. Those are not easy words. They are not fluffy. Struggling may not even be a strong enough word. The Greek word is agonizomai. It is where we get our word agony. That means that ministry causes tears. It causes strain. It causes sweat. We fall. We need times of repentance. It breaks our heart. Ministry makes men like Joseph. Yet, we are not left alone. It is not like this is God saying, here is your job go do it. Notice the end of verse 29.

The struggle and the toil is with the energy of Christ that he powerfully works in us. This means that Paul gets after it and gives everything that he has. He agonizes in ministry. But all the while he knows that his agonizing is done by the power of God working in Him. I do not fully understand all of the intricacies of what is taking place here. But I do know that often we either exalt man’s struggling at the expense of God’s power, or exalt God’s power in such a way that it cripples man’s toiling. Paul believes in both. As Sam Storms points out, “The presence of God's power does not preclude Paul's personal struggle or energetic striving or laboring. Rather, it makes it possible. God's power is not designed to eliminate our responsibility to work hard but to enable us to fulfill it. Paul is able to work hard because God is working hard. The latter doesn't destroy or undermine the former.”

So, brothers and sisters tonight I exhort you to labor faithfully in the ministry that God has called you to. Be faithful in proclaiming, unveiling, warning, and leading in holiness. Be faithful in the midst of hardship. Faithfully minister, as one that is crucified with Christ, and one that has lost his life for the sake of knowing Jesus. And do so not in your own strength as if you are bringing something to Jesus—but do so with the strength and the power of Christ so that He and not your receives all the glory for your toil.

[1] Melick, 242

1 comment:

ElderChild said...

Who is this 'christian' 'jesus'?

Truth is the name 'jesus' was first imagined some
500 years, or so, ago! Truth is that the name 'jesus'
was not spoken for some 1500 years after The
Messiah "ascended to His GOD and Father".

And The Messiah's GOD is The GOD of His Brethren
and The Messiah's Father is The Father of His Brethren.

The Messiah, "ascended to His GOD" and was the
"first-born of many Brethren", "The Beginning of The
Creation of The Only True GOD".

The Messiah('christ') is "the mediator between The
Only True GOD and man".

The Messiah's GOD given name when translated
into today's english would be Joshua. Should not
The Son of The Only True GOD be called by The
Name given to Him by His Father and GOD? Yet
His exalted title is The Messiah, The Son of The
Living GOD, for as there is only One True GOD,
so also there is only One True Messiah, Yahshua
(Joshua in modern day english)The Son of GOD!

The Messiah testified, "I ascend to My GOD and
your GOD, to My Father and your Father"!

Truth also testifies that the name 'jesus' was "imag"ined
just prior to what 'the god of this world' and his 'christianity'
declared to be the 'reformation'. That also was some 500
years, or so, ago.

Prior to the 'reformation' there was no letter 'j' in the english
language! Indeed 'catholicism' was reformed, in the sense
of being restructured and made to appear differently. The
various 're-formed' systems of religion were, and are, her
offspring! And they all bear the 'mark' of their 'god' 'jesus'!

Either they name one head of their three headed pagan
'god' 'jesus' or they make the one they call 'jesus' their
'god'. All are but harlot religions fornicating with 'the
god of this world' because they love this world, it's things,
and their own lives in and of this evil, wicked world!

"The ONLY TRUE GOD", HE Has No 'god'!

"Truth" Tesifies:
"The Messiah is The Son of The Living GOD"!
"catholic/christian" lies:
'jesus' is 'god' or 1/3 of a 'god' or an angel or ????

"Truth" Tesifies:
"Love your enemies! Turn the other cheek"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
fight and war in the flesh! kill your enemies ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"This world is evil!" "Come Out of her, MY people"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
we can change this world and make it 'better' ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"The WHOLE world lies in wickedness"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
there are righteous nations, the usa and others ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"Love not the world or the things of this world"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
love this world and thank 'god' for it's things ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"Pagans observe days, months and years"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
christmas, easter, halloween, 'good' friday, etc. ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"Serve The Only True GOD and HIM alone"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
serve family, country and their "imag"ined 'god' ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
GOD asks, "What building will you build unto ME"?
"catholic/christian" folklore:
various buildings dedicated to their "imag"ined 'god' ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"As The Messiah suffered so His Brethren will suffer"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
eat, drink, be merry, especially during x-mass season ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"GOD helps those who cry unto HIM for help"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
'god' helps those who help themselves ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"NO man has seen The Only True GOD"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
many saw their "imag"ined 'god' 'jesus' ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"GOD is Spirit and a Spirit has not flesh and bones"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
except for their "imag"ined 'god' 'jesus' that is ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"When you pray do so in private"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
pray aloud so that others might hear ;-(

"Truth" Tesifies:
"Swear not! Let your yes, be yes, your no, no"!
"catholic/christian" folklore:
put your hand on their 'bible' and swear to their 'god' ;-(

The Messiah testified, "That they might know YOU,
The ONLY TRUE GOD, and The Messiah, Whom YOU
have sent"!

The Messiah testified, "Love Your Enemies"!

Islam, Judaism, and that which calls herself 'christianity':

Religious systems of this world and all alike they are,
for they have fought and killed both near and far;

And then once a week or multiples times a day they pray,
and then as hypocrites begin each new day;

Days filled with deceit and lies,
for in their religious systems Truth cannot abide;

And so the fruit of death is born of their religious ways,
for life is but a pawn in the wicked game they play!

Multitudes have been seduced by " the commandments
and doctrines of men and devils"! Theo'ry'logy has bound
the common people in the chains of "strong delusion".

The Only True GOD has given HIS Call to all who are
held captive by this wicked, evil world and it's seductive
religious systems, especially the one that calls herself

"The mother of harlots", "catholicism", and her "protesting"
"christian" daughters, as well as today's "judaism" and
"islam", are but seductive harlots fornicating with 'the god
of this world'!

They believe in, and are authors of, death ;-(

The Only True GOD would have us "set our affections on
things above". HIS Children desire that which is eternal,
and have quit serving 'time' in the prison that is this wicked
world. HIS Children have heeded The Call to repent and:

"Come out of her, MY people"!

They have "Come out" of this wicked, evil world and it's
systems of religion for they realize that "the WHOLE world
is under the control of the evil one". (I John 5:19)

And a wicked, worldly "christianity" and "catholicism" are
reasons why "The Way of Truth is evil spoken of" ;-(
(II Peter 2:2)

Yet there is Hope!

For Miracles do happen!

Hope is there would be those who "set their affections on
things above", Heavenly things, for they will quit serving
'time' in the prison that is this world! Worldly systems but
feed "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride
of life" and such systems are of mankind's "imag"ination,
and mankind's "imag"ination is under the dominion of
"the father of lies", he who is "the god of this world", he
who is "d"evil spirit of darkness who genders but death,
destruction, perversion, and fear!

Heed GOD's Call and "Come out of her, MY people"!

Experience Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that
is of this wicked world....... francisco