7/15/2018

Every Member’s a Minister (Towel & Basin Theme)

 

 

True Christian faith goes to work for Christ just as naturally and automatically as a normal full-grown apple tree blooms and makes apples.  Jesus put it this way, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15:5).  We don’t have to work to be saved – Jesus has done the salvation work for us already, but let’s work our heads off because we’re already saved, and so many others aren’t!  You may think what I’m about to say is wrong (we can discuss it)… “Most of the people you see every day are not saved.”

 

So what is our work, your work, for Jesus?  The poet Edwin Markham said, “There is waiting a work only your hands can avail, so know, if you falter, a chord in the music will fail.”

 

I have good news and bad news… The “good news” is… the church is a sleeping giant.  As far as I know, all churches have Jesus on their side and have all the talents necessary to overcome any challenge and win any battles. 

 

And the “bad news” is… the church is a sleeping giant.  Surveying churches consistently shows most of them have only 10-20% of members active in a ministry…10-20% pulling the wagon, 80-90% in the wagon just riding.  One-half of those in the wagon have no interest whatsoever in doing anything more that attending, and usually don’t do that consistently.  Honestly, these folks will remain spectators no matter what we do.  Many “nominal Christians” – people who are Christians in name only – won’t do anything beyond attending an occasional worship service or church event, no matter what anyone says or does.  Some among them say they don’t feel led — the problem is they don’t feel the “lead” in the seat of their spiritual pants. 

 

Bono’s greatest challenge is to find a way to equip and release every member into ministry.  We need to turn Bono members into a “benevolent army.”  “Every member a minister is too much to ask,” you say?  Maybe, but shouldn’t we expect most everyone saved from sin by amazing grace to be involved?  So let’s pray for our 20% and keep on lovingly calling all others to help us do more kingdom work.  No doubt, Jesus’ call is to us all (Romans 12:1-8).  We need to teach everyone the Bible’s universal call to ministry…

 

Listen to Paul about it: (1) we’re all called by God to work (“I say to every one of you… according to the measure of faith given us…” v 3); (2) we have different gifts, so every member using his/her gift is important (“…we all form one body…” v 5); (3) every member’s gift is co-owned be every other member (“…each member belongs to the others” v 5); and (4) our personal ministry is guided by how God has made us (the overall message of the whole passage)

 

Look at the Old Testament theological basis…  Abraham served God, his family, and his neighbors.  Moses (God) commanded concern and care and service for others.  God’s men the prophets always preached caring for and serving others – "I want mercy; I don't want your sacrifices.  I want you to know God; that's more important than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)… "No, people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what the Lord requires: do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with your god" (Micah 6:8).

 

Look at the New Testament theological basis…  Jesus "…came not to be served, but to serve…" (Matthew 20:28].  He called His faithful followers light-shiners and salt-shakers (Matthew 5:12ff.).  He said the "greatest" in the kingdom is the "servant of all" (Mark 10:43).  He set the example for us by "giving his life as a ransom for many…" (Matthew 20:28).  He inaugurated working with towel and basin servitude by washing his disciples' feet after they had just argued over which of them was the greatest (John 12-13).  He described a great judgment scene and clearly tells us that God's basis to judge us will be in what we have done to comfort others by feeding, relieving hunger and thirst, etc. (Matthew 25).  Peter described Jesus for Cornelius by saying "…he went about doing good…" (Acts 10:38).  James says, "pure and lasting religion in the sight of god our father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us" (1:27).  New Testament Christians were ministers, ministers, ministers!  They gave financial assistance, hospitality, mercy, encouragement – consider the examples of Barnabas and Dorcas.

 

God has made us “precision tools for His kingdom work by giving us unique gifts and abilities (Romans 12), and with His gift of “different spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12-14)Paul tells us more… that “he [Jesus] ascended on high and gave gifts to men…” (Ephesians 4)God has always gifted His people.  He had prepared certain craftsmen for the constructing and adorning the tabernacle (see Exodus 31:1) and the temple (.  And since He is ever the same, He has given us our unique talents and more, He’s providentially led us through varied experiences that are unique to us: educational, vocational, spiritual, joyful and tragic… worked them into a pattern for our good (Romans 8:28), and sends us out into the world with them to use for Him.

 

Here’s a specific example… Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:1ff.).  Paul had special visions of heaven which might have led him to arrogance, so God gave Paul a “thorn” that, though Paul begged and pleaded, God never removed.  And humility became something very useful for Paul’s great ministry.   

 

What about our “thorns” and other “painful” experiences.  How many painful pasts do we have in this auditorium today – both in terms of bad decisions we’ve made (with consequences) or bad decisions others have  made (with consequences) or just the “hard knocks” of life?  No doubt, if we make any attempt to go to work for Jesus, Satan will remind us about our failures – our checkered, error filled pasts.  The right way to answer him is to remind him about his future. 

 

The Bible doesn’t say “God never wastes a hurt” but it teaches it.  In fact, He uses our weaknesses, our bruises, and our scars maybe far more than our strengths… if we function out of them, He gets the glory.  Absolutely, yes, God has prepared us all for use, for significance: “the servant in the kingdom is the greatest of all!”  So we always need a ministry dream dangling before us like a carrot before a horse.  Like Caleb, we need to spotting mountains and asking God to give them to us to conquer for Him. 

 

Did you know that living, moving churches renew their visions frequently?  They find one, focus intently, intentionally on it, and let nothing divert their attention from it.  Think of it like this: it’s one thing for a young man to have a single dream about a stunning woman he’s met, but it’s an entirely different thing if he starts dreaming about her every night!  Which one do you think will produce action?

 

Can we Christians not remind ourselves of who and what we are, whose we are?  We cannot be afraid to believe God – “remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you…consider the outcome of their way of life…  imitate their faith…” (Hebrews 13:7).  We are… not afraid to dream God’s dreams – no church can outgrow its vision (Proverbs 11:27; Isaiah 54:2-3):

 

“What would we attempt to do for God if we knew we couldn’t fail?” (cf. Ephesians 3:20).  We have to learn to stop asking, “Lord, bless what we’re doing” and learn to instead pray, “Lord, help us to see and do what you’re blessing.”  All goals should be based on what we believe God can do, not what we think we can do.  We haven’t really believed God until we’ve attempted things we can’t do.  Let the size God determine the size of goal.  It’s not “who do we think we are?” but “who do

we think God is?”

 

We must be willing to risk failure – Satan’s greatest tool against us is our fear of failure; his favorite words are “you can’t.”  Paul and Barnabas “…risked their lives for the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:26).  The “parable of the talents” teaches us that it’s not risking that is unfaithfulness.  There are two ways to overcome fear of failure:  (1) redefine it — the world’s definition and God’s definition are as far apart as God is from the world!  We must learn to live for an “audience” of One and for His approval.

 

We must take ourselves out of the comparing business — some are always doing better (which brings discouragement) and some are always doing worse (which might make us sin out of pride).  God hasn’t called us to be the “best” church in the world, but he has called us to be the “best that we can be” in this place and circumstance.

 

We must believe and expect good things to happen – “…according to your faith, it will be done…” (Matthew 9:29).  Our word “enthusiasm” comes from Gk. “en” = “in” + “theos” = “god”—so, “in god.”  In god (with enthusiasm) we plant and plow ahead and expect Him to make the crop (1 Corinthians 2:7).

 

We will always persist — we’ll never give up! – “no man, having put his hand to the plow, then looking back, is fit for the kingdom of god… if anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory…” (Luke 9:62).

 

We must have the disposition to outlast our critics – we’ll be criticized!  The most blessed ministries are the most criticized ministries.  We should be very slow to criticize who and what God clearly is blessing!

 

We can bank on it… we’ll have problems we can’t solve alone (planning, organizational, faith, people).  Yes, we’ll make stupid mistakes.  Of course, others will take the credit.  Who cares?  God does great things through people who don’t care who gets the credit (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:7).

 

I have come to see that great people are ordinary people who have an

extraordinary amount of determination – “though a righteous man fall seven times, he rises again.” (Proverbs. 24:16).  A man’s true greatness is determined by what it takes to discourage him and make him quit. 

 

Ministry is… God's greatest call to us because it is God’s only call to us!  No matter our gifts, or our circumstance, we can be like Jesus — doing kingdom ministry makes us like Him.  We can all "…go about doing good," shining light and shaking salt.  This is our chance to immerse ourselves into the "kingdom business" of Jesus.  No, we can't heal or do miracles, but we can serve – we can bless others as we have been blessed.  It’s also our way to a "revival" of servant-mindedness within the church and genuine "joy."

 

We will not be the church that we want to be until we believe that our status on judgment day depends every bit as much on our care for and service to our fellow man as it does on becoming a Christian a certain way, singing a certain way,  wearing a certain name, or taking the Supper at the proper interval… etc.

 

In serving we literally take on the mind of Christ.  We, too, empty ourselves for others' benefit (cf. Phil. 2:5-11).  What we can do to be of benefit to our "neighbors" is limited only by our sensitivity to them and our imagination in how to go about meeting their needs.

 

It has been said, "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”  That’s true of our Christian love.  It doesn’t diminish as we use it, it multiplies."  God works “by grace, through faith.”  Grace for me is God knowing every dumb thing we’ve done in the past and choosing us anyway.  Faith is us expecting God to do through us what He’s said He’d do.  No doubt, if we make any attempt to go to work for Jesus, Satan will remind us about our failures – our checkered, error filled pasts.  The right way to answer him is to REMIND HIM ABOUT HIS FUTURE.

 

Father, we’re ashamed when we think of how easily we let Satan take us away from our discipleship and defeat us in Your ministry work… he substitutes all kinds of good things in place of Your best… he tells us we’re weak and powerless and poor… he raises up critics to hold us back and hold us down… and tear down what we’re trying to build for You… he whispers from within that we can’t succeed and he shouts from without that we’ll surely fail… he produces all kinds of diversions to keep the army from the real battle… he tells us because of past failures and sins we’re too messed up to even think about being accepted and blessed by a perfect Savior.  Remind us, Lord, that by Your amazing grace, You have… saved us, called us, equipped us, and guaranteed victory not by who we are, but by who You are!

 

Because You have promised to never forsake us, put vividness in our dreams, put vitality in our days of work as we minister to You by ministering to each other and our world in the “Bono mission.”  We pray by the power and authority of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the Minister of ministers – Jesus Christ, Amen!