Archive for October, 2018

Christ’s Gifts

October 24th, 2018

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Eph. 4:11-13

Have you seen yourself as a gift of God?

Here God says that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers were gifts, given to the church to build her up. He continues to call people to serve Him, pastors are called by the Spirit and affirmed by the church to this day, as are missionaries and evangelists. (Whether apostles and prophets still are is a matter of some debate – a topic for another time.) I am one of those random people who has been called and enabled by God to serve Him as a gift to the church of Jesus Christ, to every believer and to every group of believers.

But let us remember that God has only one class of Christian – believer and child of God.  So what applies to the pastor – that he is a gift to a church – also applies to every Christian in some form or another – that we are given to one another to strengthen and encourage one another. This principle is proved in many places in scripture, but perhaps the clearest is the Great Commission: “Teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19).

Certainly there is the possibility of misuse, neglect, and even abuse in such an arrangement. But still the principle stands: that we are given to one another for the upbuilding of each other’s faith. Have you become God’s gift to someone else? You may be given the gift of encouragement, or of helping others, or of being merciful. Or perhaps of leadership or administration, or of healings – but none of these gifts is given for people to merely gain attention for themselves. They are gifts to be used for others.

And, the amazing thing, is that as we use them to help others, we find joy and meaning in life. As we let Christ receive the glory and the credit, as we take a backseat as though we are nothing at all (and truly without Christ we are nothing), then there is the holy “rightness” that seems to settle over our souls.

Scholars take this passage in different ways – and Paul’s quotation from Psalm 68 has led to many discussions – but I believe Albert Barnes has the best and most logical interpretation, that as Psalm 68 describes the glory of God inhabiting the Tabernacle and Temple, so Ephesians 4 describes the glory of Christ inhabiting the church, His temple here on this earth. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Cor. 3:16).

The church of Jesus Christ is a holy creation of God. God sees it in light of what it shall become in eternity, and we should also see one another in that light – not in light of our failures, which are many, but as captives of Christ, freed from the dominion of sin and brought into His glorious and eternal kingdom of grace and life.

Daily Devotions

Unworthy Servants

October 17th, 2018

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ (Luke 17:10)

The human heart is incredibly fickle and selfish. To maintain commitment to Christ in the face of rejection and frustration is what we are called to do – and we know this – yet we are weak and find it so difficult to do. Like Peter on the night of the Lord’s arrest, the mighty in the Lord often fall due to a simple aloneness, or a criticism by a simple person, and a lack of encouragement.

We are often like people scaling mighty mountains who find that the greatest test of endurance is from the sand that has accumulated in our shoes and rubbed blisters.

We are willing to serve unselfishly so long as we can be guaranteed some personal feeling of emotional thrill. We are willing to labor unknown and unsung so long as we can see some progress in the work. We are willing to go the extra mile, take up our cross and follow Christ, and deny ourselves so long as we can be promised some “down time” to do what we want to do.

The giving of demands to God on any level, whatever it is, is precisely contrary to the spirit of servanthood. Servitude to Christ is not a negotiable matter. We are prone to say, but surely the Lord knows our hearts, he knows that we need encouragement. We can quote the scripture, “For he knows how we are framed, he remembers that we are only dust” (Psalm 103:14). And this is true, of course, but the servant must leave the timing and nature of these encouragements into the hands of God.

It is entirely reasonable that we who serve the Lord, who bring life, grace, hope, and joy to the lives of others, should expect to receive it ourselves: “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25). In fact, we can take each of these rewards that we hope to experience here – the awareness of fruit-bearing, the personal sense of joy and the favor of the Lord, even the rewards in terms of financial and material matters – and find scriptures that promise these things (John 15:16; 2 Peter 1:8; Luke 10:5-11; Matt. 19:29). Yet these are also grace gifts received through faith.

The servant has no position of negotiation with the Master. He must take the promise of the Lord and hold on to it, trusting that in the right time and in the right way the servant receives His reward. Perhaps it will be here on earth from time to time, and certainly much reward will wait until heaven, but all of these earthly rewards pale in comparison to the greatest of all rewards – the reward to simply hear the Lord say, “Well done!”

Remember others have endured much worse and still found the means to rejoice. Remember the encouragement of Paul:

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:16-18)

Burnout, Spiritual Maturity