Thursday, April 21, 2011

A comparison of ministry

God has been opening up doors for ministry all over the place. It's amazing how He begins to work in and through us when we wholeheartedly (or at least with more of our heart) seek His will. I've always been somewhat confused about this dynamic. I've had many instruct me to ask God what His will is for my life and He will reveal it to me. That has never before been very true for me and I never understood why.

Now I'm beginning to realize that the key to effective ministry is the destruction of the flesh. What do I mean by that? Just this: before I submitted myself to God, no matter what the cost, I kept myself busy doing ministry. I could see God at work in that but there was still this sense of longing for something greater. Something deep within told me that what I was doing was good but it wasn't the best. It was my plan, not God's plan.

Recent history has brought me through a time of detachment from those ministries. I haven't been as busy doing things because I thought they were good things to do. Also in this time, Christ has been revealed to me more fully as effective and mighty through total selflessness. In light of that I could see my own efforts of ministry as having the form of service but in my heart being about me feeling good about myself. At the end of the day I still wasn't satisfied. My goal of self satisfaction was too low and yet still unreachable because I was going about it the wrong way. I was trying to do it myself and make something happen. I'm reminded of a quote that has been swimming in my head recently from T. Austin-Sparks. He said "all this clamoring for ministry is nothing more than works of the flesh".

My mind turns now to the opposite picture. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God and as sons of God we can expect to be disciplined. Yet the word discipline doesn't carry the real force of our heavenly Father's dealings with us. "Child rearing" is much closer to the language used. This child rearing is how He puts off our old selves that are driven by fleshly pursuits and puts within us spiritual desires. By fleshly pursuits I'm not talking exclusively of law breaking sins, included in those pursuits are all those things which we do by our own strength. It is sad just how deceived we can be in thinking we are doing things by the Lord's command yet go on doing those things without his preparation and consent.

So we see that those who have been disciplined are being raised up as children. We are having our flesh put through the wringer. He is showing us the depths of our self reliance. Many good things like Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and service to others are revealed to be nothing more than us doing what we percieve to be good things over evil things. As such, we're still taking fruit off the wrong tree. Whereas the other tree, the tree of life, feeds and nourishes us with Christ. Christ was always about doing the will of the Father and He did nothing outside of that will. He stayed in constant step with what the Father wanted him to do. He was obedient unto death and He learned that obedience through suffering.

There is something practical there for us. We will know the Father's will and be able to walk in sure obedience as we are brought to the end of ourselves. It is only through the divine life imparted to us by steadfast faith in Christ that we can join with Him as He carries out His ministry through us. Then like Paul we can say that Chist's suffering is being completed in us.

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