A View To Pleasing God

I read an article this week 10 Bad Reasons To Be A Pastor. For the most part it was right on-target.

Even if we have the right reason (singular, not plural) for being a pastor—namely, that God called us—we can still battle discouragement over what is or isn’t happening in our ministry. I am convinced that much of this discouragement comes from listening to the wrong applause.

Chrysostom

John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom, a man very reluctant to answer God’s call on his life to enter the pastorate, wrote—

“Let, therefore, the man who undertakes the strain of teaching never give heed to the good opinion of the outside world, nor be dejected in soul on account of such persons; but laboring at his sermons so that he may please God, (For let this alone be his rule and determination, in discharging this best kind of workmanship, not acclamation, nor good opinions,) if, indeed, he be praised by men, let him not repudiate their applause, and when his hearers do not offer this, let him not seek it, let him not be grieved. For a sufficient consolation in his labors, and one greater than all, is when he is able to be conscious of arranging and ordering his teaching with a view to pleasing God. (emphasis added)

Our view must always be to pleasing God. It matters little whether humans hands applaud us or not. We must live, and preach, and discharge our pastoral duties solely for the applause of nail-scarred hands. If our Master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” what does it matter what anyone else says?

Bright Lamps

photoPastor, please carefully consider these words from Charles Bridge (1794-1869)—

“It is indeed a ‘neglect of the gift of God that is in us,’ to trifle either in the study or in the pulpit. God will bless our endeavors—not our idleness. Our Master, and our people for our Master’s sake, have a just claim to our best time and talents, our most matured thoughts, and most careful studies. To venture upon this infinite work of God with slender furniture, proves a guilty unconcern to our high responsibility.” 

These words remind me of Christ’s words at the end of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Luke 12): Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their Master to return.

We cannot be idle. Even our “down time” should be preparation time for renewed ministry.

Don’t neglect the gift God has given you to minister to others, to glorify Him, and to be a servant working to hear his Master say, “Well done!”

Preaching Christ

My dear pastor, please prayerfully consider these words from Charles Spurgeon, and allow the Holy Spirit to help you answer the question: “Am I preaching Christ crucified?”

C.H. Spurgeon“Let me very briefly tell you what I believe preaching Christ and Him crucified is. My friends, I do not believe it is preaching Christ and Him crucified, to give people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening, and neglect the truths of this Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and Him crucified, to leave out the main cardinal doctrines of the Word of God, and preach a religion which is all a mist and a haze, without any definite truths whatever. I take it that man does not preach Christ and Him crucified, who can get through a sermon without mentioning Christ’s name once; nor does that man preach Christ and Him crucified, who leaves out the Holy Spirit’s work, who never says a word about the Holy Spirit, so that indeed the hearers might say, ‘We do not so much as know whether there be a Holy Spirit.’”

—C.H. Spurgeon

It is so vital that we preach the full counsel of the Word of God boldly. Don’t be afraid of the reaction of those in your congregation. Rather, preach to hear Christ say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Servanthood

ServanthoodThis morning we wrapped up our series called Life Togetherwhere we looked at the one another phrases in the New Testament that related to the Church—with the thought of serving one another.

I think this 1-minute video from John Maxwell captures this thought about servanthood well…

From The Personalized Promise Bible we looked at this prayer that comes from the servanthood example of Jesus in John 13:13-17

Jesus is my Mentor and the Lord of my life. He has left me an example of the greatest servitude the world has ever known. I will do as he did and wash the feet of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will see the real good and benefit of others through humble service. With a tender heart of compassion, I will take the time to do good to those around me. Through this generosity of service and willingness to give of myself to others, no matter how humbling the service may be, I store up for myself favor upon favor, and blessing upon blessing.

Thursdays With Oswald—A Glorious Opportunity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald ChambersA Glorious Opportunity

     If you are a saint, you have a glorious opportunity of following the example of Jesus and being strong enough to decline to exercise your rights.

From Bringing Sons Unto Glory

He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. (Philippians 2:7)

“Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Saints, you have a glorious opportunity to go and live like Jesus.

Thursdays With Oswald—Sanctified Specimens

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald ChambersSanctified Specimens

     May God save us from the selfish meanness of a sanctified life which says, “I am saved and sanctified, look what a wonderful specimen I am.” If we are saved and sanctified we have lost sight of ourselves absolutely, self is effaced, it is not there. 

     …We are saved and sanctified for God, not to be specimens in His showroom, but for God to do with us even as He did with Jesus, makes us broken bread and poured-out wine as He chooses. 

From Bringing Sons Unto Glory

The Apostle Paul said it this way, “You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20, Amplified Bible). And he wrote later, “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world” (1 Corinthians 7:23, New Living Translation).

If God has changed you, don’t try to remain a specimen on the shelf, don’t posture and pose. In fact, stop thinking about how good you look because that only glorifies you. Instead, let God by glorified as you allow Him to use you as a living, breathing example of how He can totally change someone’s life.

Free? To Do What?

FreeWhen I’m working at the En-Gedi Youth Center every afternoon, the students love when our schedule says “free time.” To them: Free time = me time!

Is that how you see your “free time.” Is free time me time?

For a Christian, being free should mean something completely different.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Free time is not me time, where I get to decide what to do, when I want to do it, and with whom I want to do it. That’s actually slavery to our passions.

Freedom is the ability to quickly obey God in service.

Any time I delay in obeying God’s call to serve, I am really disobeying Him. If I call Jesus my Savior and my Lord, then He has freed me from the entanglements of sin so that I may quickly say “Yes” to His call to service.

I love the King James Version’s phrasing: a cloak of maliciousness. I am either obedient and serving, or I am disobedient and malicious. There is no middle ground.

No excuses. No cover-ups. I know I am free when I am quickly and readily answering God’s call to serve.

I Am Doulos

I am doulosIn this era of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, we are so concerned about connections, friends, followers, and likes. We self-promote and pray for popularity.

Well, I don’t think anyone is actually brazen enough to pray, “God, make me popular.” But we often live as if popularity was the answer to a prayer. We gain our status by who we know, what we’ve done, what we are doing, the places we’ve worked, the number of “friends,” “followers” and “connections” we have accumulated.

James wrote a book of the Bible. As he opened the letter he introduced himself. He could have said:

  • I am the half-brother of Jesus
  • I am the leader of the Christian Church
  • I chaired the Jerusalem Council

Instead he simply said, James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not even the servant, as if he were distinguished among others, but the indefinite article a servant. The Greek word here (doulos) means:

  • A slave
  • “One who gives himself up to another’s will for Christ to use his service to advance His cause among men” (Strong’s).
  • Devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.

Any connections, friends, followers, skills, talents, or opportunities I have are wholly God’s. He gave them to me so I could serve Him and serve others. I am merely a steward of what He’s given me—I AM DOULOS.

My desire for my eulogy and my tombstone: “He was a servant.”

I am living to hear my Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Pastoral Submission

What do you think of when you hear those words pastoral submission? We may not be on the same page about this yet. No, I don’t mean people in a congregation submitting to a pastor. I mean something deeper than that. Allow me to start with an usual verse for this topic. Paul wrote,

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face… (Galatians 2:11).

First of all, this is the proper way to handle an issue like this. Paul didn’t talk to others, nor run to the leaders in Jerusalem, but he went one-on-one with Peter.

Consider Paul’s relationship to Peter if there was a “corporate flowchart” for the First Century Church: Peter would have been Paul’s superior. Yet, Peter not only received this correction from Paul, but continued to speak highly of Paul.

Beginning in the first chapter of Galatians we see Paul’s level of accountability. He answered to God, but he also submitted to other church leaders. Not only that, but this verse (Gal. 2:11) tells us that other church leaders submitted to Paul.

When I know God has called me, and I am doing my work for His approval alone; and when I know God has called others, and they too are ministering only for His approval; then we can mutually submit to one another.

It’s not a top-down hierarchy in the church, except for Jesus being the Head and all others are below Him. All others (clergy and congregation) in the Body of Christ are on equal standing—no one is more important than any other. Therefore, as we submit to Christ’s Headship, we can also mutually submit to others in the Body.

What keeps us from doing this? Pride! We say, “What will others think of me if I submit?” Pastors think, “If I submitted to someone in my congregation, how could I ever lead this church? People will take advantage of me! No one will ever listen to me again!”

Not true!

When I am fully submitted to Christ, there is no stronger grounds for SERVANT leadership.

I don’t pastor to lead; I pastor to serve. 

I’m not building my church; I’m building Christ’s church. 

I’m not growing my followers; but followers of Jesus. 

Holy God, help me to know who I am in You. You have called me to pastor, so I am Your servant. Help me kill my pride! Help me serve and submit. Help me to build Your Church.

Thursdays With Oswald—Serving Like Christ

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Am I Serving Like Christ?

     The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . .—Matthew 20:28

     Jesus also said, “Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27). Paul’s idea of service was the same as our Lord’s—“…ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We somehow have the idea that a person called to the ministry is called to be different and above other people. But according to Jesus Christ, he is called to be a “doormat” for others—called to be their spiritual leader, but never their superior. Paul said, “I know how to be abased…” (Philippians 4:12). Paul’s idea of service was to pour his life out to the last drop for others. And whether he received praise or blame made no difference. As long as there was one human being who did not know Jesus, Paul felt a debt of service to that person until he did come to know Him. But the chief motivation behind Paul’s service was not love for others but love for his Lord.

     …The institutional church’s idea of a servant of God is not at all like Jesus Christ’s idea. His idea is that we serve Him by being the servants of others. Jesus Christ actually “out-socialized” the socialists. He said that in His kingdom the greatest one would be the servant of all (see Matthew 23:11). The real test of a saint is not one’s willingness to preach the gospel, but one’s willingness to do something like washing the disciples’ feet—that is, being willing to do those things that seem unimportant in human estimation but count as everything to God.

From My Utmost For His Highest

I cannot add anything to this brilliant observation. But I can tell you the parts that the Holy Spirit is really working in my heart:

  • …called to be a “doormat” for others—called to be their spiritual leader, but never their superior. God, help me to keep my pride in check.
  • The real test of a saint is not one’s willingness to preach the gospel, but one’s willingness to do something like washing the disciples’ feet. May I never shrink back from willingly serving at the lowest level of society.
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