- Crown Him With Many Crowns
- Lovely Lord
- Shout To The Lord
- IntroductionGood morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church. This has been quite a week. We survived our first major snow storm here in the Northwest and our first snow day from school. It has also been quite a week of continued study through the passage we started looking at last week - Colossians 1:24-29. As I have said this is a passage that basically lays out the job description of a pastor and highlights what we are to be doing or looking for in those who are called to the role of pastor or elder in our churches. Even more poignantly this week as the articles have continued to roll out of the Houston Chronicle detailing failures on the part of the church and denomination to protect children from predators - and this week there’s unfortunately no counterbalance like last weeks celebration of Dr. MacArthur’s years of service - instead we see another megachurch pastor James MacDonald from Harvest Bible Church in Chicago being fired. In an article regarding his dismissal the church cited “a pattern of abusive behavior towards subordinates, and extensive financial mismanagement.” Is it any wonder that now clergy now rank seventh on the list of most trusted professions - right behind funeral directors and just above journalists - when a mere 20 years ago they topped the list. Not only are pastors no longer looked at as trustworthy, the role of a pastor is not seen as a particularly stressful position anymore. A quick internet search found that it wasn’t even listed among the top 100 of most stressful jobs - but positions like event coordinator and taxi cab driver were ranked as high as sixth and tenth respectively. If that is the case then one might wonder why a 2007 study found that 85% of seminary and Bible college graduates were out of the ministry within their first 5 years of ministry and 60-80% were out within their first ten. I think Rick Holland summed it up well in his sermon at the Shepherd’s Conference in 2011 “It is not for the faint hearted. Pastoral ministry is not for wimps. Pastoral ministry is not a social alternative to another job in the world. It is the hardest, most rigorous, most painstaking, most crushing endeavor any human can undertake.” So why am I standing here before you today? Well, we looked at some of the reason last week as we saw Paul say that despite the challenges and sufferings it is actually a joy to be called into the ministry and this week we’re going to see more of his mindset, his material and his method as we look through the rest of this passage.Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church. I have become its servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.A Pastor’s MindsetColossians 1:25; Colossians 1:23; John 14:10-11; Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 1:11-12; Acts 9:15-16; Acts 20:26-27For the last 30 years leadership has been a major preoccupation of our society. There are conferences and seminars on leadership. John C. Maxwell among others, has made a living writing about the topic of leadership. We are starving for great leadership and even in some cases for good leadership. Even though a quick internet search of modern leadership styles invariably returns servant leadership as one of the primary models for leadership in the 21st century - the practical examples and outworking of leadership both in the church and outside all too often reveal this to be more of a chimera than a reality. We may say we want servant leadership but all too often the result of our choices of leadership prove to be something quite different.A look across the political and the business spectrum demonstrate for us that it is usually those who know best how to wield power that get put into leadership positions whether they can relate to people or not. The late Steve Jobs said “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” Leadership has a tendency to corrupt the viewpoint of an individual until they think that everything revolves around them and that success of their endeavor rises and falls on their next breath.I remember a Master Chief in the Navy telling me that Command Master Chief’s sometimes had the misguided notion that they were “kings of the castle” and that they should always get their way. I think in many ways that same mentality is on display in the church when we see stories like those out of Houston and Chicago - those men forgot what their true role is to be. I disagree with many things that he says but in this area Andy Stanley had something very applicable to say. In his book Next Generation Leader he said “Your talent and giftedness as a leader have the potential to take you further than your character can sustain you. That ought to scare you.” That is a very sobering statement and one that we shouldn’t just glibly dismiss. It is this condition that fractures and destroys churches and it is one that Paul would agree with. In our passage todayPaul makes two statements that are counterintuitive to our modern day notion of leadership.Paul states it here in verse 25 with two statements - the first is “I have become its servant”. This is the second time in just a few lines that Paul has referred to himself as a servant. In verse 23 he saysif indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.And now in verse 25 he refers to himself as the servant of the church - in the context of the sentence the it here refers back to the church as the body of Christ. It is safe to say that the idea of servanthood was the furthest thing from a younger Paul’s mind. As a rising star among the Pharisees in Jerusalem and as a student of one of the most prominent teachers in Israel at that time, Saul would have been looking for servants of his own not as to how he could serve others. In fact he was so deeply committed to the Law and his interpretation of its requirements that he was the premier persecutor of the church because he felt that it was perverting the religious system that he held dear. And yet here he is calling himself a servant of the very institution that he had made it his life’s mission to destroy. Yet there is a paradox here in Paul’s statements. There is a question that must be asked - is it possible to be a servant of the Gospel without being a servant of the church or does one imply the other?Is it possible to be a servant of the Gospel without being a servant of the church?In our modern context it would seem that this is possible - I think if you surveyed the modern Evangelical landscape that you would find many men serving who would appear to be serving the Gospel but not necessarily serving their church - or even necessarily serving in a church. We live in an unprecedented time of mobility and nomadism in our churches. Whether it is the mega-church pastor who one day shows up to announce his resignation or the local street preacher who doesn’t feel the need to submit himself to the leadership or accountability that is provided under the oversight of a church there are many different instances of men who would say they’re serving the Gospel without serving the needs of the church. But I don’t think Paul would agree with them - he seems to be implying that service to one is implicit in service to the other. It is all a matter of who’s call you are responding to .Paul’s next statement makes it clear Who he had received his calling from. He says that he is in service to the church in “accordance to the God’s commission that was given to me for you”. In doing so he is modeling the example set forth by Christ for what leadership should look like. Repeatedly throughout His earthly ministry Christ demonstrated what servant leadership and service to both the Gospel and the future church would look like. We have the pictures of Him as a servant in John 13 where He washes His disciples feet. And in Mark 10 where Jesus said “I have not come to be served but to serve”. Another picture of Christ as a servant is given in John 14:10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.Christ says that even the words that He speaks are given to Him by the Father and that He is speaking on His authority. The ESV translation of this verse translates it as “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works.” Even the word chosen to denote “servant” and in the Mark passage the verb for serve is interesting. Generally when Paul wished to refer to himself as a servant he used the term doulos or slave - a word our modern translations have taken to translating as bondservant because of the social stigma of slave. Here in our passage Paul refers to himself as a diakonos - from which we get our modern term deacon. There are many definitions and traditions surrounding this role but I think here Paul is giving us the clearest picture in the Scriptures of what a deacon really is to be. It is a role or an office in the church that appears to have been established by Paul and the only detail we get regarding this office is from his writings. The word deacon can have several meanings such as table servant or waiter at a meal, in other instances it can mean servant of a master. Church tradition has made this term malleable and shaped it to fit whatever that particular location wanted it to mean. But it seems that here Paul is giving us a picture of what a deacon is meant to be. Another definition of deacon is servant of a master or assistant. Paul even expands on his role to say that his commission as a diakonos or servant is from God. He is God’s appointed representative for a specific task in the ministry. Paul makes it very clear in other passages that his message is not his own - it is only what Christ gave him that he speaks. This is probably most clear in Galatians 1:6-9I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!And then a few verses later he wroteFor I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.For Paul there was only one Gospel and that was Christ’s message. He was merely a servant of that message and could only speak what he had been given. In the same way Christ was a servant and even He, in the verse we just looked at in John 14 said that his words were the words given to Him by the Father. In Christ’s and Paul’s case they were servants of the Gospel who had to be able to teach - a requirement that is not necessary for modern day deacons. In his explanation of the roles of elders and deacons Paul clearly leaves the role of teaching in the hands of the elders. In Paul’s position here as a servant of God, as His representative, his role was to teach the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles. In Acts 9 when Ananias was being sent to Paul to heal him God answered Ananias objections with the commission that He would be giving to PaulBut the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”And then afterward Paul spent three years in the desert learning the Gospel from Christ. And all of this would take place so that he would be equipped to minister on God’s behalf - to steward the Gospel - to the Gentiles. Here he tells the Galatians that it was for them, even though he had never met them, that he had been given his commission from God to make the Word of God fully known to them. Paul recognizes that the message of the Gospel wasn’t his message but that it was God’s message and as a servant of that message he was simply to make the message known - he didn’t have the luxury or freedom to pick and to choose which parts he would teach and which parts he wouldn’t.I saw a post on Facebook this week that I shared to my page that I thought I’d share with all of you. When Paul was speaking with the elders of the Ephesian church for the last time he told themTherefore I declare to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, because I did not avoid declaring to you the whole plan of God.This is the mindset of the pastor - that it is not about me I’m merely a servant who is working on behalf of the Lord to make His Word fully known - but Paul goes on to say more about the material that a pastor has to work with.A Pastor’s MaterialColossians 1:26-27; Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 4:19In the ancient world context there were many different types of mysteries. Plato wrote of mysteries as being hidden teachings that would lead to the divinely appointed way with the goal being the vision of true being. The aim of this was to distinguish between what is real truth and its symbolical appearance. Another form of mystery was found in the cultic religions that involved a mystical initiation rite to become a member and then swore their membership to secrecy - much like the modern day Freemason society. Because of these the term mystery in the social setting came to be used in reference to anything kept secret - private secrets, family secrets or secrets in general. In Paul’s writings however the term mystery means something entirely different.The mystery is:The eternal counsel of GodHidden from the worldFulfilled in the cross and resurrectionwhich results inthe glorification of believers.In this case the mystery is not the revelation - it is the object of the revelation. Ever since the promise of redemption in the Garden men had been looking for the revelation of the mystery of God’s grace to mankind and now it was being revealed - and continues to be revealed in and through us. This certainly was not the expected avenue for the mystery to be revealed. The Jewish expectation was that the mystery would be revealed in and through them - and it was but they missed it. So God had commissioned Paul to complete what had been His desire from the very beginning - to reveal and make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery. It is also important to recognize another distinction to this particular mystery that makes it unlike any other mystery ever revealed. There was no amount of investigation on the part of humanity - not Colombo or Perry Mason, not even the great Sherlock Holmes could have discovered this mystery. Only by the grace of God was this mystery revealed and only at the time that He determined for it to be revealed. In reference to this in the fifth century Leo the Great said:It was no new counsel, no tardy pity whereby God took thought for men: but from the constitution of the world He ordained one and the same cause of salvation for all. For the grace of God, by which the whole body of the saints is ever justified, was augmented, not begun, when Christ was born. And this mystery of God’s great love, with which the whole world is now filled, was so effectively presignified that those who believed that promise obtained no less than they who were the actual recipients.And it is glorious enough that God chose to reveal His mystery but oh how much more glorious is the mystery itself - that Christ - the second person of the Godhead, the creator of the universe, the revelation of God - takes up residence within us. This is the greatest desire of Paul as a pastorIt is his prayer for the Ephesiansand that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love,and his hope for the GalatiansMy children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.It is the wonderful mystery of the Gospel that Christ not only paid for our sins but also takes up residence in every believer. My vocabulary is too feeble to even attempt to explain this to you - but we must marvel at its truth. There are many today who would like to make this mystery seem commonplace and stale - and this has been the case throughout church history. Spurgeon spoke of it in his day
I fear me that many in these times are cloyed with the gospel like those who eat too much honey. They even venture to call the heavenly word “common-place,” and talk as if it were not only “the old, old story,” but a stale story too. Are not many hungering after novelties, longing for things original and startling, thirsting after the spiritual dram-drinking of sensational preaching, dissatisfied with Christ crucified, though he is the bread which came down from heaven? for us, let us keep clear of this folly; let us rest content with the old food, praying from day to day, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”As if anything we could add or imagine could be greater than the ever present truth of the Gospel. As Paul says here it isThe only hope of glory that we have - to have Christ IN us.There is no other way. We cannot earn it. We cannot merit it. We cannot sneak across or in the back door. I think of the end of Pilgrims Progress when Christian and Hope have crossed the river and are approaching the gates and they run into Ignorance who has come that way by the ferryman Vain-hope because he was counting on his own good works to get him through the gates. Bunyan writes“So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the City, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction. So I awoke, and behold it was a dream.”And there are many, even today, who are trusting in the same thing - who do not have Christ IN them - and it is for that reason that Paul speaks of the Pastor’s method in our message...A Pastor’s MethodColossians 1:28-29; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:15He says that we proclaim Him. If we are to see Christ formed in our bodies then we must proclaim him.The central tenet of any ministry should be to proclaim Christ.- not the personal musings or pet ideals or peeves of the pastor. Not to try and find spiritual principles in culture and then slap a Bible verse on it to sanctify it. We shouldn’t be looking at Jurrasic World or Star Wars or Frozen to find our sermons or to find principles of the Gospel in them and think that they are adequate for teaching spirituality to the church. It is as the old hymn saysWe would see Jesus, for the shadows lengthen Across this little landscape of our life; We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen For the last weariness, the final strife.2. We would see Jesus, the great rock foundation Whereon our feet were set with sov’reign grace; Nor life nor death, with all their agitation, Can thence remove us, if we see His face.There is no higher or grander topic that could be talked about in church - there is no deeper subject that we could ever explore than the person of Christ. Again I find myself in the unenviable position of attempting to describe the indescribable to you. He is the ultimate paradox - that God condescended to become man.That divinity took on mortality.That the infinite became finite.That omnipotence was willingly limited.How can I describe Him to you.He is the judge of all the cosmos and yet the propitiation for our sins.He is the creator of the universe and yet He became on of its creatures.How could we ever think that there could be anything more beautiful, more profound, more glorious to talk about?And so Paul says that we proclaim Him - because He is the only subject worthy of proclamation but it is also significant how Paul says that we go about proclaiming HimHe says that we proclaim Him in two ways - Warning and Teaching - and there is significance to this orderWe have to warn first - not necessarily “fire and brimstone” preaching but firm and loving warning concerned for the soul. This verb is translated as admonish in the NASB and it means to speak encouraging counsel in view of sin and coming punishment. We must warn not only sinners but also believers of the pervasiveness and presence of sin in their lives. A part of the sanctification of a believer is the removal of lingering sins that can hinder or damage our relationship with Christ and the progression of our being formed more and more in His image.Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted.This also is necessary for the unbelievers in our midst. We have gotten away from this in our ministries. We don’t like to call things sin anymore - instead we refer to them as shortcomings or mistakes. Errors in judgement and by doing so we whitewash what we’ve done. Even in our own hearts - especially in our own hearts - we are willing to overlook or minimize our own sins and to make them not seem as bad - but we are charged with the responsibility to admonish or warn everyone - including ourselves - of the dangers and consequences of sin.Then we are to teach the new believer or even older believers about the truth and beauty of the Gospel. Teaching refers to imparting positive truth - the truth of the assurance that the believer can have in Christ or the assurance that we are growing in our knowledge and walk with Him are critical truths that we can teach and encourage one another in. Especially for the believer who has fallen into sin and is now being restored the teaching and reassuring of the assurance of their salvation is critical to their spiritual health.And all of this must be done with wisdom - something that all of us could do a better job of applying. Wisdom speaks to knowing not simply the right thing to say but also how to say it in such a manner as it will be acceptable to the individual being addressed.But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.This is something that we must constantly remind ourselves of - because in some ways we’re really good at speaking the truth just maybe not always in a loving manner. We have a tendency to take this attitude “I love you but” - followed by some hard truth that usually isn’t delivered in a very loving manner. This shouldn’t be how we address one another but instead find ways to raise one another up - even when we’re saying hard truths. Because the ultimate goal of all of our interactions with one another is to present everyone mature IN Christ.This is the goal of our ministry - to see Christ formed in you as Paul wrote in Galatians. To see each of you mature in Christ. John MacArthur writes of this statementTo be complete, or mature, is to be like Christ.And for this I labor. Some may think this is easy - preaching is simply getting up and saying whatever is on your mind. I’ve even heard one mega-church pastor refer to expository preaching as cheating. But let me tell you preaching is hard work - It is the equivalent of writing a 10-20 page research paper every week. Paul says it here - I labor for this - it means to engage in hard work, to toil. Spurgeon said it this wayI scarcely ever prepare for my pulpit with pleasure. Study for the pulpit is to me the most irksome work in the world.It is difficult work to sit down every week and wrestle with the spiritual implications of a text, to understand what it meant to the author, to the original audience and then what it means to us. But thankfully I don’t do this in my own strength but Christ gives me the strength and the insight to understand and teach His Word - because if He didn’t I’d never want to stand up here again. And probably the hardest part is wrestling with the text in my own life before I can teach it and tell you all how it impacts your lives.ConclusionAnd so there is the job description of a pastor - it is to be a servant of the church and of the Gospel. It is to be commissioned by God to proclaim the glorious mystery of His Son. It is to toil with the Scriptures to present them to His people so that Christ can be formed in them. And ultimately it is to proclaim Him. It is a Spurgeon said
1075The best sermons are the sermons which are fullest of Christ. A sermon without Christ, it is an awful, a horrible thing. It is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked up by the roots. It is an abominable thing to give men stones for bread and scorpions for eggs, yet they do so who preach not Jesus. A sermon without Christ! As well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul? Men die and perish because Christ is not there, and yet his glorious gospel is the easiest thing to preach, and the sweetest thing to preach. There is most variety in it, there is more attractiveness in it than in all the world besides.And so we preach Christ - born a baby, lived a perfect life to be our sacrifice who died on the cross to pay for the sins we could never pay for.
1 Peter 5:2–3CSB
1 Thessalonians 5:23CSB
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