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The Call of Service

February 23rd, 2017

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)

The Apostle Paul was clarifying for young Timothy the motivation of Christian service - and this applies to lay people and ministers alike, in fact, it applies to all that we do for Christ in our worship, devotion, service, behavior, obedience, prayer, witness, and lives. The motivation is to be nothing other than love for Christ that comes “from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

False motivations: For lay people and for ministers there can be many false motivations. Among many there is simply the motivation to appear intelligent or educated. Many people receive little respect at their work place or among their family and friends, so they seek respect in the church. They wish to appear wise before others. In the verse above we read about those who devoted themselves to myths, genealogies, and speculations. These had to do with the Gnostic heresy of the First Century church, that had speculated on a long mythological genealogy of Christ. It might be impressive for someone to be able to rattle off names of mythical (not biblical, like Matthew 1) names of fictitious beings, but this was not from God.

There are also motivations of financial rewards, but, honestly, these seem not to be so common because, frankly, there is not so much money in Christian work. That is not to say that there is none, however, and some, such as Marjoe Gortman, did find a way to manipulate people in the name of Jesus to give him a lot of money. But there are motivations for service in the name of Christ just for the sake of our old sinful nature, and not for the glory of the Lord. So, lust, pride, and every evil thing can come from anyone in church leadership who is there for nothing other than selfish ambition: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16 ESV).

And there are other inferior motivations: Some serve Christ and desire positions of leadership out of guilt or pressure from their parents. Some service Christ and in the church because they know how to do it and are simply comfortable in it.

It is important to recognize these false motivations because even when we are motivated by the truth, we might still receive some of these other “rewards” and desire them. But we should see them properly that the respect of others, the financial rewards, the affirmations of parents and others we respect, or the sense that we are involved in a good and noble work - none of these should be the reasons we serve, nor if they are taken away should they be the reasons we stop serving. I have known a number of people to quit the ministry simply because they did not receive the support of people that they thought they would receive.

True Motivations: The true motivation for service is love for Christ “that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul in His first epistle to young Timothy did not dwell on the injustices of ministry for Christ, or even the difficulties that the minister will face from the hands of Christ’s people themselves, rather his focus was upon the grace of God that had been directed to Paul. He wrote: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16 ESV).

Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). And in the context the meaning was clearly laid out that the disciple who is aware of how great the Lord’s mercy and grace to him are, will love Christ the greater and will serve Him the more sincerely.

A sense of personal call is also an element of sincere motivation for service. It must be coupled with love for Christ, along with this sincere conscience and genuine faith. The call is the inner sense that God has spoken to us personally and called us to serve Him in the Ephesians 4 sense, as a pastor-teacher. The call should be confirmed by the body of Christ, and not just claimed when the body of Christ cannot see or sense evidence of the call.

An awareness that salvation is found in Jesus alone: Another true motivation is the confidence that Christ is the answer for the needs of the world, that salvation is found in Him. We are not the answer, but He is. It matters little or nothing for me to be recognized by others, but it matters greatly for Christ to be recognized. Paul called himself and the others who served with him stwards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1).

Christ calls us to be servants, stewards, bond-slaves, but He has also called us friends (John 15:15) and even His brothers (Rom. 8:28-29). These are the motivations for service. Whether we are respected, obeyed, followed, rewarded, or admired really means nothing. The only admiration a true disciple should long for are the words of Christ: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

1 Timothy, Spiritual Leadership, discipleship , ,

The Privileged Calling

November 10th, 2016

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. (1 Timothy 1:12)

I have formed a good habit over the years, that when I experience frustrating situations, I read and re-read 1 and 2 Timothy.

Like everyone else I am tempted when dealing with frustrating people to respond in a less-than-gracious spirit. James said, “So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). So anger does not make things get better, only worse.

But how should we consider frustrating and difficult circumstances in life and ministry? Some times we can see the hand of Satan directly involved, but not always. Often it is a misunderstanding and a bit of immaturity, mixed in with a stressful situation or two, and - Boom! - the perfect storm.

Paul wrote these two letters to a younger Timothy whom he had mentored. They are both filled with advice as well as doctrine, warnings, and encouragements. But I was struck today as I began reading, how the Holy Spirit gave to Paul the exactly right place to start. He started with humbly thanking and praising God for the privilege of having been entrusted with the responsibility of Christian ministry.

What a powerful place to start!

Our tendency is to start with accusations, excuses, expressions of frustrations, personal defenses against accusations, etc. But Paul starts right where we need to start - the privilege of the call.

How amazing is it that any of us is called into Christian ministry! We are all flawed vessels, and even though Paul had some right to claim the title when he called himself the “chief of sinners” - after all he had persecuted the church - at the same time we all feel woefully inadequate. I suppose everyone of us who serves the Lord in any capacity feels like a fox that God sent to watch the hen house.

“Does He know me?” we ask. “Does God know my heart, my past, my weaknesses?”

Of course, the answer is, “Yes. In fact He does - did, does, and always will.”

And that is the privilege - to be a name-bearer and a message-proclaimer - we bear His name and we carry His message. The word “awesome” is over used in today’s world, but it definitely fits here - the entire idea is filled with awe.

Jeremiah complained to God for the hardships of his ministry - and he had much more to complain about than most of us do - imprisoned, rejected, eventually martyred. But at the end of the matter he said that God’s Word was like a fire in his bones and he could not help but speak it.

There is a privilege for having that fire. There is a privilege for knowing the message of God so intimately and deeply that it burns in our hearts.

But this is true on some level for every Christian. Service is a privilege because we bear His name - “Christian!”

So let us stop complaining about what we go through and the challenges we face until we have stopped for a moment a marveled in the privilege of the calling. It is a call to know His grace, to receive His forgiveness, and to know His truth. When we leave this off, when we forget about this aspect of life and service, then we get bitter and angry. But if we can begin here and stay here, rooted in His amazing grace, this incredible privilege, grateful and praising Him, then the rest seems easy.

Spiritual Leadership , ,