Friday, July 29, 2016

EmmDev 2016-07-29 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Servants

This one is a bit late today - I wrestled with it - I'm speaking to myself as much as to anyone else.....


For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.      (2Corinthians4:5)
Although we looked at this verse as part of yesterday's passage, it bears re-visiting.

Unfortunately some people are eager to preach for the wrong reasons:

  • They like to be the centre of attention.
  • They like to call it "their ministry".
  • They like to tell endless stories about themselves and what they are doing for God.
  • They rely on their charismatic personalities to "hold" the crowd.

But Paul defines preaching very clearly:

  • It is about Jesus, through Jesus and for Jesus' sake.
  • And we have to have the heart of a servant.

Let's look at these more clearly:

Firstly, faithful preachers point towards Jesus and portray Him not only as Saviour and "God of the Gaps" but as LORD. This means tackling uncomfortable issues and being willing to push comfort zones and confront hypocrisy, idolatry and sin. It also means that God's gracious love is celebrated and lifted up. They will do what they can to help people see Jesus. This doesn't mean that they never use a personal illustration - people relate to personal illustrations - it is just about focus. Where does the spotlight land?

Tony Campolo tells the story of a man in London man who, after hearing one of the other great Christian orators of the day, was overheard saying to a friend, "What a preacher! What a preacher!" The following week, this same man, having heard Charles Spurgeon, was overheard to say "What a Saviour! What a Saviour!"

Secondly, faithful preachers are also willing to serve. They're willing to help with behind-the-scene tasks and they don't compete for the spotlight. They don't have a "speaker's fee" (which doesn't mean that we shouldn't look after those who faithfully and diligently preach God's Word.) Their lives demonstrate that Jesus has the first priority and that they love the people they serve.

Bill Hybels talks about his dad who faithfully ministered to a group of handicapped women on a regular basis - although he was a very competent businessman who could have spoken to big and sophisticated audiences Bill's Dad was content to share with these women who he loved and served over a long period of time. As a young boy Bill felt awkward and embarrassed about these women who would come and speak to his dad who showered them with care and affection but was later inspired by his father's selfless love for them.

Not all of us are involved in preaching.

  • But we can encourage those preachers who point us to Jesus. There is a difference between constructive feedback and ego-feeding compliments and flattery. If a preacher helped you see Jesus more clearly - you could say to them "God used you today - I saw Jesus more clearly."
  • We can also be careful not to put people on pedestals. Some churches publish the preaching roster and attendance waxes or wanes depending on who the preacher is - this shouldn't happen. We should do our best to hear the message in spite of the messenger.
  • We should pray for our preachers regularly.

Why not pray for Sunday's preachers right now?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

EmmDev 2016-07-28 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] Veiled minds

Veiled minds

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.      (2Corinthians4:3-5)
As Paul has been reflecting on the privilege of ministry, he returns to his image of the veil as he considers those who resist the gospel. Throughout his various missionary outreaches there had been those who resisted the gospel - Paul is quite pragmatic about this: They were not resisting him because he was not preaching himself, but Christ.

As we proclaim and preach the gospel there will be those who don't "get" it. They just can't see the glory of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus the Son of God.

Why is this?

Paul explains that their minds have been veiled by the "god of this age" who is none other than Satan, who, by leading Adam and Eve into sin, plunged this world into chaos and spiritual darkness and became, for this present age, the "prince of this world."

As the prince of this world, Satan causes us to be obsessed with the things of this world: materialism, pleasure and power. God is always inviting us to know Him - The beauty of the sunrise, the bounty of His provision and those nudges in our hearts are His constant invitations to us to know Him better. When we resist the invitations of God in our lives, our minds become "veilable" and the evil one throws a veil over our hearts so that we cannot see the glory of God's grace. And the saying becomes true - "there are none so blind as those who will not see."

The Good News, as we saw in ch.3 is that if we turn to Christ the veil can be taken away. So, Paul's conclusion is very simple: Let's be absolutely sure that we are preaching Christ and not ourselves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

EmmDev 2016-07-27 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] The keys to ministry

The keys to ministry

Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.      (2Corinthians4:1-2)
All of us have a ministry. God calls us to share His love and goodness with the world so that His Kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven. It's not only ministers and church leaders who have a ministry - all of us have a ministry. Making a difference in your family, your workplace, and your community is a ministry.

But how do we execute and act on this ministry?

Firstly we must understand what ministry is. The Greek word that Paul uses is diakonia (from which we get "deacon") and it means to serve. Ministry is not a title or a status. Ministry is about serving. It is about doing what the Master wishes for those He loves.

Secondly we don't possess this ministry - we haven't earned or deserved it. It's a gift that comes from the mercy of God. I really worry when I hear people cling to ministry as a status. We can never really say "MY ministry is xyz..." Paul uses the participle form of "have". One should really translate "therefore since through God's mercy we are ones having this ministry..." This puts "having" in the weakest possible sense. Ministry is much more about the God who gives ministry to us than about us who "have" it. God could use the angels to make this world a better place or He could do it all by His great power, but He chooses to share this work with us.

Thirdly, because this ministry is His and not ours, we don't lose heart. We do our best and leave the results to Him. We don't take too much ownership of success or failure. We just do what He asks.

Fourthly, when we are secure in the fact that this is God's ministry and not ours we are less tempted to try and get things done by "hook or by crook." Secrets, shameful ways, deception and distortion are not God's tools of the trade.

Fifthly, it is not our status or position that needs to be put on display, but our lives that are lived in line with the Scriptures that people - whether they agree with us or not - will see God's Word lived out in our lives.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

EmmDev 2016-07-26 [Treasure in Clay Pots (2Cor)] No fading!

After a long winter break EmmDevs resume...

No fading!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.      (2Corinthians3:12-18)
At the end of last term we started considering a powerful analogy that Paul uses to describe the lasting hope and impact of the gospel on our lives. He uses the Old Testament story of how Moses' face would shine with radiance of God's glory. This would happen because Moses had spent time with God.

The Israelites were filled with awe (at first they were too afraid to come near him) and Moses had to reassure them. But this glory faded and to save face (if you'll pardon the awful pun) Moses would wear a veil so that the people wouldn't see the glory fading. When next he spent time with God, His face would glow again.

This veil, partly for fear and partly for pride, is still on people's hearts today. The sad thing is that this veil not only prevents the wearer from being seen, it also prevents the wearer from seeing.

When we turn to God and receive His gift of salvation, the veil can be taken away and two beautiful things happen:

Firstly, we don't have to be ashamed of fading glory - brokenness and failures are not what it's about - we're not perfect, but our Saviour is. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. He is at work in us and we will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus: I don't have to be ashamed - He's the One who shines in me and He's at work.

Secondly, we can see clearly. The tragedy of Moses' story is that he didn't realise that instead of wearing a veil, he could have acknowledged that the glory wasn't his and that by being in God's presence he would shine again. When the veil is taken away we realise that He is all we need. Max Lucado's beautiful story about Punchinello portrays this so clearly.