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Not dear unto themselves

March 4th, 2013

But frankly I do not consider my own life valuable to me so long as I can finish my course and complete the ministry which the Lord Jesus has given me in declaring the good news of the grace of God.

Acts 20:23-24 Phillips Translation

The passion for Christ consumed Paul and should consume us as well. His desire was not so much to accomplish things for Christ – though that was certainly part of his vision for his life – but to know Christ intimately. All accomplishments for Him – such as “completing the ministry” of preaching Christ where He has not been proclaimed – flowed from that passion to know Him personally and deeply, and were not “stand alone” goals of his life. He had been claimed by Christ and sent on a mission for Him, but the claiming took precedence over the mission, as it should for us as well.

Anyone who measures his Christianity by statistics is looking at the matter in the wrong way. I matters little how large the church is we attend (or, in which we serve as pastor). It matters little the rate of growth of the Christian work to which we are called. Response and growth are natural components of the work of the Spirit, but as stand alone factors they are not important.

Both of these – the size and growth rate – can simply become ways in which we can make our lives seem dear unto ourselves. We want to see what we are about, to measure our Christian experience, and it can all go back to the desire to seem important. Whenever we think, “I deserve a good church!” or “I want my name associated only with Christian success,” we are making our lives dear unto ourselves. Every athlete wants to win, but I can think with admiration of many great athletes who played on teams with losing seasons, during team “re-building” years waiting for that future chance to again have a winning season. If we count our lives as dear unto ourselves we will never do such things for Christ. It will always be about us, about our careers, or our associations, or our reputation – how we look and not how He leads.

And sometimes even devotion to duty can come into conflict with our relationship with Christ. I can think of a father who told his son to work on a task until he returned – they were painting a shed – and then they would go to get some ice cream together. The father returned and the son had not yet finished painting and felt uneasy about quitting the job. Was his commitment to the task or to be with his father? The father helped him finish and then they went together – a great fatherly example. We can in some way think the son’s attention to his duty was admirable, but even more admirable was the father’s patient tenderness to help the son and to draw him back into his relationship.

How often have we reacted like this to Christ. We have been so busy with the work of the Lord, that we have limited time for the Lord of the work. But in heaven all we will want to hear is “well done, good and faithful servant,” coming from the mouth of our Lord. Beyond that all attention to our service or our associations will be meaningless. We will not be seated closer to the throne because we have our statistics to point to.

And I have noticed that sometimes the pressure we put on ourselves to excel and achieve makes us mean-spirited and impatient. Thank God for people who want to achieve things for Him, but whenever that desire becomes more important than knowing Him, we will have made our own  lives “dear unto themselves” and the power of the Holy Spirit will no longer flow through our lives.

The life of Christ flowing in us and through us should always be paramount. Knowing Him is always what life is about – and what ministry and church should be about. If we would follow Him, we must know Him, and He will lead us to where He wants us to go – just as He led Philip out of the revival in Samaria to meet a random Eunuch in the wilderness.

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