LOOKING AT LIFE THROUGH DEVOTED EYES
In the last few weeks, the Lord has fed my mind and soul with examples of devotion to His work that have helped sharpen my perspective. It is so easy for us to lose perspective and forget why God has left us here on earth, be it short or long. I trust the following quotes will help you reevaluate the rest of your life and how you live it,as I have.
Counting the cost of following the call of Jesus to proclaim His gospel of grace is not worth comparing with the joy we receive. Will you and I look at the rest of our days through devoted eyes?
THE PRESENT PROOF OF RESURRECTION LIFE
Several times today, my mind went to other references that give proof that we have Christ’s life, resurrection life, in us. “But if Christ is in you…the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:10). How did the Spirit get connected with the life of Christ in us? Remember that Jesus explained to His disciples that He was going “to prepare a place for” them, but even though He was going away (ascending to the Father), He would “ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” (John 14:2, 16). He was speaking of the Holy Spirit who would be a continual witness in us of our resurrection life we have in Christ.In this same chapter, Jesus gives us another proof of our new life in Him. “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (14:19). Without the resurrection our faith is in vain (1 Corinthian 15:14). “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (15:20). Two things have taken place as a result of the resurrection; “God has exalted Him (Jesus) at His right hand as Leader and Savior” (Acts 5:31) and at the same time, Jesus has come to us by the Holy Spirit – “I will come to you…if anyone love me…My Father and I will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:18, 23). In the context of John 14, this could only be true if the Holy Spirit is living in us. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17).
I trust you are experiencing the presence and power of Christ’s life in you by the Holy Spirit in a greater degree in your spiritual growth. If not, please seek out a godly, biblical person who can help you through the Bible, or, send us an email at email@example.com.
ONE CROSS – JESUS’ AND MINE
There are so many who have written volumes about the cross of Christ that it would be foolish for me to pen more than what has already been written and said. Yet, I see a disconnect so often between the truth of the cross of Christ that is taught and written and how we live that truth. Let me explain what I am driving at by quoting a few references from Paul:
· “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.” (Galatians 2:20).
· “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).
I would never minimize Christ's death for us (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14). That is the basis of our salvation, eternal life, and relationship with God the Father as His children, waiting for our final exit from earth to our heavenly home.
But have we really understood fully the implications of our death with Christ? Do I really see myself as on the cross with/in Christ as crucified with Him? I was also buried with Him (Romans 6:4). The word “buried” means “bury together with”. Paul goes on to say, “In order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might walk in newness of life.” As if to make the point abundantly clear, Paul says the same thing in verse 5 to 11 and ends with a strong imperative; “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
While many argue that Romans seven is proof that we will always have a battle against sin in our lives; I conclude from Paul’s abundant testimony that what must control our thinking and behavior is by how we see ourselves as “identified or one with” Christ, as crucified with Him, buried and risen with Him, and walking in His life in me. The Holy Spirit has been given in us as the power to live in this new life. DO NOT GRIEVE HIM (Ephesians 4:30) or QUENCH HIM (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
ARE THERE TWO CROSSES?
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14). “The cross where Jesus died became also the cross where His apostles died. The loss, the rejection, the shame, belong both to Christ and to all who in very truth are His. The cross that saves them also slays them, and anything short of this is a pseudo-faith and not true faith at all. But what are we to say when the great majority of our evangelical leaders walk not as crucified men, but as those who accept the world at its own value, rejecting only its grosser elements? Are there then two crosses? Did Paul mean one thing and them another? I fear that it is so, that there are two crosses, the old cross and the new.”The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter.
Perhaps our greatest present need is to…call the church out to repentance or to judgment; “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). All who wish to follow Christ, the way lies clear. It is the way of death unto life.”
Tozer, A. W., The Pursuit of Man, Christian Publications, 1950, pages 52-54.
the highest priority
Writing from Burma in a letter to his grown-up sons who were studying in Worcester, Massachusetts, the first sent American missionary, Adoniram Judson, called them to a relentless obedience to God’s Word.“Go on, my dear boys, and not rest until you have made your calling and election sure. I believe that you both and Abby Ann will become true Christians, and meet me in heaven; for I never pray without praying for your conversion, and I think I pray in faith. Go to school, attend to your studies, be good scholars, try to get a good education; but, O, heaven is all. Life, life, eternal life! Without this, without an interest in the Lord of life, you are lost, lost forever. Dear Adoniram, give your heart at once to the Savior. Don’t go to sleep without doing it. Try, try for your life. Don’t mind what anybody may say to the contrary, nor how much foolish boys may laugh at you. Love the dear Savior, who has loved you unto death. Dear sons, so soon as you have a good hope in Christ that your sins are pardoned, and that Christ loves you, urge your pastor and the church to baptize and receive you into communion. They will hold back, thinking you are too young, and must give more evidence. But don’t be discouraged. Push on. Determine to do it. Determine to stand by Christ, come what will.”
Eward Judson, The Life of Adoniram Judson, 523. Also quoted in Francis Wayland, A Memoir of Adoniram Judson, vol. 2:307-308.
How earnest are you and I about the salvation of our loved ones?
THE LEADERS REWARDS
We have touched on some specific topics in the last few days dealing with leadership, some that might be more challenging than others. But in this blog I want to address the rewards that come from being a faithful, godly leader. Consider these points as they relate to the rewards of good leadership.
· Relationships formed of mutual trust, a common faith, and the unity of the Spirit build up and strengthen the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16).
· The fruit of investing in others who grow spiritually from your leadership (Philippians 4:1; 3 John 4). Because this is such an important point, I quote Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). This is a reward on earth that worth pouring our heart and soul into top quality leadership.
· Watching leaders we have mentored become effective in ministry (Philippians 2:19-20). For Paul to have such confidence in Titus that he could leave him on Crete and Timothy in Ephesus was in itself a huge reward. I have often said that my goal is to multiply leaders who can stand on their own and be more effectively used by God than myself.
· Knowing the eternal reward we will receive from our Master, Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Earthly rewards are wonderful, but they have no comparison to standing before Jesus, the Head of the Church and hear him says, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21).
My keen desire is that you take seriously the responsibilities of leadership so that your heart will be filled with the joy of Christ’s rewards. They do not come by taking short-cuts or cutting corners. They do not come by seeking the applause of people. They do not come by ignoring and disobeying the principles God has given in His Word. They come with consistently walking in fellowship with the Lord and receiving the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
LEADERS – EXAMPLE IN WORK ETHICS
Paul rightly set himself as an example to follow as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). This is why he said to the Ephesian elders, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me” (Acts 20:34). They had been with him enough to see his tent making skills and did not expect support from the local church. To strengthen this idea that Paul wanted to be an example to others in the church, he says in verse 35, “I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak.” He was even more specific about the conditions he faced in writing to Corinth; “To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat” (1 Corinthians 4:11–13a). This statement was not a complaint, but rather a proof of how genuine his apostleship was and that they should not be ashamed to follow his example. As I have traveled around the world, I have seen first-hand many who have never learned good work ethics, and as a result, those in the congregation have lost respect for their leader(s). In addition, they feel that doing any kind of ministry entitles them to be lazy and not properly provide for their own family. Please do not misunderstand my point. There are many in ministry who labor hard at the Lord’s work to the point of great sacrifice. They are the small exception.
Paul made this point clear to the Thessalonians; “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7–9).
This issue is never about our comfort or gain. It’s about giving a model to the flock that will represent Christ to each other and to the world in our manner of life and the way we work to support ourselves. There is not space in this blog, but Scripture is replete with teaching on how the follower of Christ should maintain a work ethic that reflects the character of God to others.
LEADERSHIP AND MONEY
In the last few days, several situations have come to my attention that show an absence of integrity relating to the handling and use of money. We could point to many other facets of a leader’s life that are a good barometer of what is happening in their spiritual walk with the Lord, but money is a quick revealer.
Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” (Acts 20:33–34). Having lived with these elders, they knew that Paul’s life was blameless in regard to handling money. They had seen him work day and night for their spiritual benefit and maturity.
What degree of integrity do you insist be reflected in your life and ministry? Are you free of covetousness? This reveals also how seriously you take your “calling”.
LEADERSHIP – A CALLING – NOT A VOCATION
One of the most heart-breaking things I have witnessed in nearly fifty years of ministry is how much money and personal power has blinded the spiritual eyes of leaders. Three times Paul wrote that he was “called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 15:9). He never mentions having served the Lord for the purpose of a salary (personal gain) or for a position of power or authority over others. This gets at the heart of why we are ‘in the ministry’.
Even though there is “authority” in the role of leadership, the way it is used is critical. Paul makes this very clear; “our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.” (2 Corinthians 10:8). This is the same attitude Peter takes in addressing elders regarding their role as shepherds; “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2–3). In the next verse Peter refers to Christ as the “Chief Shepherd” pointing to the necessity of every shepherd/pastor/elder/leader realizing that they must be under His authority before they can properly exercise authority over the flock.
The way the flock of God, the church, is cared for as a shepherd should,must reflect the calling from God. It is never approached as a vocation in worldly terms. Remember that we must represent Christ in the way we fulfill our calling so the people of God are connected to Christ, NOT US. The next blog will address the issue of money and how it can hinder the very purpose of our calling.
Sadly, we live at a time when biblical values are being tossed out by society and even the church. Those willing to stand true to biblical principles will find themselves more and more in the minority and criticized by the majority. Is this a new phenomenon? By no means!
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,” (Ephesians 6:14). The Victor is bringing HIS reward for you!
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