Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fulfill your Ministry

 "There are plenty of believers dreaming what they might do, but far fewer saints simply doing what they should do." - John Macarthur

In the first post, we dealt with the fact that, as Christians, we have work to do.  Good works, that is, works that are not worthless, as the so called 'good' works we did in our own pseudo righteousness, before our salvation.  The question naturally arises, ' what good works exactly?.'  Do I need to enter the ministry?  Make or join programs at my church?  Take care of people's material needs?  Do I need to work according to my perceived gifting in certain areas?  Unlike many other faiths (if not unlike all of them)  we don't have to be in an official position, like that of a pastor, bishop, monk or youth leader, in order to do truly good works.  Nor is spiritual work exclusively done in the shadow of the church building.   

Unlike other religions, our 'call' to the work of the Lord is not usually something that calls us to come out of our current vocation, rather it is a call to work for God in our present job.  Whether our profession is that of a carpenter, businessman, senator, painter, mother, writer, electrician…etc.  Doing whatever God has given us to do, in whatever sphere God has given us to do it.  "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.  This is my rule in all the churches. " (1 Cor 7:17)  This is something that has fascinated me in thinking over these things in the past few years.  Truly 'Spiritual' work is not merely reading your Bible and praying every day or going to church every Sunday and participating in the programs there.  Our spiritual work will mainly take place in our everyday lives, working with whatever my position in life entails.  One's  spiritual work may be doing the dishes, cleaning the fridge, talking with siblings, working on an essay, emailing someone, talking with co-workers, doing school,  working on a roof, fixing power lines, building a house, instructing other people…etc.  Our spiritual work may seem monotonous, but monotony does not make it outside of God's will.

If we have an opportunity to go into another profession, then we may of course take it.  Paul even told those who were slaves: "Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)"(1Co 7:21 ESV)  Work with the opportunities God has given you.  But don't believe that you are not doing spiritual work until you can get into a certain profession.  If you are working towards an occupation, be it that of a pastor, teacher, nurse, technician…etc.  don't lose sight of the opportunities God gives you in your current sphere, your current position in life.  Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to serve God.  And we want to fulfill our calling with excellence.  Not simply doing a 'good' job, but an excellent job.   Knowing that our 'job' is ultimately given to us from God.  “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him . Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”- Elisabeth Elliot

"We should live up to whatever truth we have attained." - Phil 3:16
Do you know that God is sovereign?  Do you know that God is omnipotent?  Do you know that in Christ we are new creations?  Do you live like it?  Does your behavior coincide with your belief?  Are you always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you(1st Peter 3:15-16)?  Or, more to the point, are you living in a way that would make people ask about your hope, or do they see any hope in you at all?  What do our lives communicate to other people?

How is my attitude throughout the day?  When I'm doing the laundry, am I doing it as to the Lord?  With a happy heart, glad to do anything my Father wishes me to do?  Or am I doing it angrily, not accepting my work as given by my loving God who knows best?  Do I just give lip service to the Gospel, or do I live it?

I recently watched something about 'Stonewall' Jackson, and it struck me that he was a good example of living your beliefs, preaching the truth by your actions.  When the bullets and bombs were flying around him, he was unmoved, because he knew that God is sovereign, and that nothing could happen to him unless God willed it.  His steadfastness made people inquisitive as to the source of his bravery, and gave him an opportunity to explain the 'hope/expectation' that he possessed.  That's what we should be like, not just possessing the  knowledge of God's sovereignty, omniscience, omnipresence, and the promise that all things work together for the elect., but living in and by this knowledge, exhibiting the hope that we have and thus provoke questions as to that hope.

Faith vs. Presumption
 We are commanded to cultivate assurance, it is not an option.  It is presumption not to do so.  It is presumption, not faith, to say that we are saved and then not live like it.  We should be doubting if we're not living like a saint, which is what we profess to be.  Living for self, living like the world, not aspiring to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self control…etc.  is a rejection of who the Bible says we are: new creations in Christ, people who are enslaved to righteousness(Romans 6:18), with new desires, new goals.   Professing Christians living for themselves are rejecting the command to make their  election sure.   It is presumption to claim salvation from sin and Hell without any evidence of salvation to righteousness.  They are like the group in Titus 1:16: "They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."As Dr. Joseph Pipa commented:  "Some may say 'because I am elect, it doesn’t really matter how I live or what I do.' Well the one thing I can say for sure about you is that you might be elect, but you are not yet converted.” 

Presumption is 'cheap grace':"Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part of that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Faith is acting on who we are, who the Bible says we are, it's working out our salvation as we are told to do.  Working out our salvation won't be easy, which is to be expected, otherwise it wouldn't be 'working it out'.  We must remember that we are to live by faith not by sight, or for that matter, feelings.  We are not are not always going to feel  like we're saved, feel  like we're new creations.  But our feelings do not change the facts.  The facts are that we are new creations, that we can now do genuinely good works, and that this is our purpose, to serve God.  Living by feelings will stunt our spiritual growth, and cultivate doubts as to our salvation, and we'll be wasting time doing nothing of value, instead of living in accordance with who God tells us we are(in His word) in Christ.  As Paul told Timothy, " Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called ..."(1Ti 6:11-12 ESV)  God's word says that you have eternal life, take hold of it, live it.  You are in Christ, now be who you are! 

"Oh let me live in Thy realities, nor (let me) substitute my notions for Thy facts!"  - George Macdonald

Apply yourself wholly to the work of Lord.
"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2Ti 4:5 ESV) We know what to do, we know who we are, let us do it, let us act as Christians(little Christs).  We know that God is sovereign and that He has given us whatever works we are to do, in whatever sphere He has given us to do them in.  Again, it doesn’t' matter whether that work is scrubbing a floor, filling out a report, doing the laundry, meeting someone new or teaching a class. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col 3:17-24 ESV) 
We will not all have the same work to do, but all of our work is for God.   Any job God has given me to do is worth doing.  We ought not to rank 'good deeds', instead we ought to focus on doing good deeds as God brings them along for us to do.   The thought of God's sovereignty in all matters, including our occupations, is a great encouragement to fulfill our jobs enthusiastically and joyfully, it's a push to fulfill our callings to be a light to the world in all of our professions.    "'Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God; He riseth from supper and laid aside His garments; and took a towel and girded Himself.' He took a towel - the Lord of Glory did that. Is it the bondservant's business to say which work is large and which is small, which unimportant and which worth doing? It was a foolish question, for the Master never wastes the servant's time.' - Amy Carmichael  Our knowledge of and our living out of Scripture equips us for any job God has for us to do.  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. "(2Ti 3:16-17 ESV) 

So let's get to work, working out what God is working in us, adding to our faith virtue, knowledge self control…doing the good works God puts in our schedule, and be excited to discover God working in us, seeing the fruits of the Spirit being manifest in us(Gal 5:22). 

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2Ti 4:5 ESV)"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."(Rom 5:1-5 ESV)

Pictures by my sister Becky

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