Psalm 115 - contains my favourite verse in the Bible. This Psalm not only teaches us about how idolatry turns us into empty mannequins and spiritual zombies but also how prayer is powerful because God is 100% completely in control of all things. God can do whatever He likes, and what He likes is to love us.
Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Tuesday, 25 August 2015
What does the call of Hosea to marry a prostitute tell us about ourselves, about our churches, our lands? And what do his words teach us about the overwhelming grace of God - a God who in Christ Jesus took our place of pain that we might have His blessings.
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
3. Qualifications for the Work.
Forasmuch then as your office is both of so great excellency and of so great difficulty,
you see with what great care and study you ought to apply yourselves,
as well that you may show yourselves dutiful and thankful to that Lord,
who has placed you in so high a dignity;
and also to beware that you personally neither offend,
nor be the cause of others offending.
"About eating food offered to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.”
However, not everyone has this knowledge. In fact, some have been so used to idolatry up until now that when they eat food offered to an idol, their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
"Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosen" Acts 1.24
Once again we are reminded that the office of priest is a high calling. Indeed it is a 'great excellency' — the kind of phrase usually reserved for royalty, heads of government such as Presidents, and international judges. As God's minister we should carry ourselves like, and in our life be as exacting as, those in the world who earn the title 'excellency.' This will be difficult, and The Ordinal has no shame in speaking that plain and simple truth. Ministry is greatly difficult and there is no way around that. If you are not finding ministry difficult then it is likely because you are either not doing it properly or you fail to grasp what it is you are called to not only do but what you are called to be.
That we must apply ourselves with all care and study goes without saying but what this means practically will be covered later. In any case The Ordinal clearly expects the way we study and apply ourselves to our ministry will be such that any onlooker would recognise immediately in us a person who is both most dutiful and professional in their work and yet also eminently thankful for all the blessings and challenges God graces them with. This thankfulness flows from a simple fundamental truth which both haunts and buoys those in ministry — this calling was not their choice, it was God's calling and His choosing. Whilst it may be true that the church on earth acknowledges and endorses a minister in their calling the church does not give it or maintain it - nor can it remove it. As the first question in the Public Examination makes clear, a person is called above all else by God Himself and thus his spiritual authority flows from that simple truth. The reason that none of the Reformers up till Laud, and even many afterwards, did not have an issue with inviting non-episcopally ordained clergy to minister in the Church of England without 're-ordination' is simply because it was God who gave authority and churches, whether episcopal or not, merely publicly recognise and legally licence it. God has placed us in this ministry, let us not forget or sully it.
The final clause is the need for ministers to beware against offending any. This clearly cannot mean offending by preaching the gospel which is inherently offensive to human nature. Instead it refers to life and manners, how we act, speak, and relate others, what we do and what we don't do. Again this is a careful balancing act, but the example given by Paul regarding not offending 'weaker brothers' who could be enticed to sin by acting against their conscience is of utmost importance. Paul goes so far as to say that if we needlessly endanger, offend, or cause the stumbling of a fellow Christian we are guilty of sin against Jesus Christ Himself. This should have ramifications on how ministers relate to alcohol, gambling, television, language, and even dress. Many Christians wander through life oblivious to the effects of their words and actions. As ministers we have a duty not to be oblivious. We have a duty to be not only reactionary to causing such a person to stumble but proactively anticipatory of even the slim possibility of causing such stumbling. Ultimately, as God's ambassadors, we must put the needs and holiness of others before our own freedoms and desires.
Do you grasp what an excellency you have been given and does this daily encourage and bolster your efforts to live up to your calling?
Do you truly recognise the difficulty of your ministry? How do you react to such difficulty?
What does it mean for you that God personally chose you for ministry in His church? How does this truth change you?
Looking at what Paul says about sinning against Christ by leading others to stumble, what in our society today might ministers be doing which Paul would question?
Where might you be causing offence or unnecessary stumbling?
a) Prayer for the Holy Spirit.
However, you cannot have a mind and will to do this by yourselves;
for that will and ability is given by God alone.
Therefore you ought, and have need, to pray earnestly for His Holy Spirit.
"When he was in distress, he sought the favour of Yahweh his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors." 2 Chronicles 33.12
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land." James 5.17
"Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always." 1 Chronicles 16.11
"Wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are His." Job 12.13
"He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 1.18
"For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life." 2 Corinthians 1.8
"I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit," Ephesians 3.16
"I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4.13
"May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy" Colossians 1.11
"I labour for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me." Colossians 1.29
"But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3.3
"If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4.11
"So when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour—say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit." Mark 13.11
"But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you." John 14.26
"For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit," 1 Thessalonians 1.5
"Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you." 2 Timothy 1.14
"I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." Ephesians 1.17
"Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving." Colossians 4.2
"At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison," Colossians 4.3
All that has so far been laid out and all that will follow is quite bluntly an impossible standard. No human excepting Jesus could ever even come close to it. That is not to say we should not strive to do and be all we can for the glory of our Lord, but we must also be humble. We must never, ever, let pride infect our mind or seep its rancid sewerage into our veins. The reality is that without God at work within us not only would be fall miserably short of achieving any of our calling but we would not even have the basic and fundamental desire or will to do so in the first place. A holy discontent with ones holiness and ministry is a sure sign of the Lord at work.
We must model in our lives and teaching a humility which makes plain that our strength is weak and we can only go on through God's strength; that our minds are feeble and stupid such that we can only teach through God's gift of wisdom; that our hearts are so weak and fearful, so slothful and selfish that the only way we can lead God's people is by His Holy Spirit giving us a new heart and a new mind. Not only must we model this we must actually live it! We need to be on our knees each day praying before all things for God to be at work within us. We must be constantly casting down our weaknesses and failures and calling on God to redeem them through His blood and power.
The amazing thing is, our God is so loving and generous that when we come to Him with a broken and contrite heart, with humility and empty hands, He gives us more than we could ever imagine or hope for.
How does the fact that you can never do enough or be good enough, let alone fulfil the life laid out in this exhortation, make you feel? How should you respond?
How do you kill pride and selfish self-serving attitudes?
How practically can you model an utter dependence on God?
Do you truly believe that God will give you 'the will and the way' in your ministry?
b) Study of the Scriptures.
And seeing that you cannot by any other means accomplish
the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man,
but with doctrine and exhortation
taken out of the holy Scriptures,
and with a life agreeable to the same;
consider how studious you ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures,
and in framing the manners both of yourselves,
and of them that specially pertain to you,
according to the rule of the same Scriptures:
and for this self-same cause,
how you ought to forsake and set aside (as much as you may) all worldly
cares and studies.
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, " 2 Timothy 3.14-17
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2.15
"Every word of God is pure;
"so My word that comes from My mouth
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119.11
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1.8
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12.2
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word." Psalm 119.9
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4.12
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." Hosea 4.6
"But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1.2
"This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, trap." 1 Timothy 3.1-7
When God gives us the will and ability to fulfil our calling the ways in which it is fulfilled are the next things to be considered. How should a minister spend their time in order to serve their Lord to the best of their ability? What methods should a minister use to train themselves in righteousness and virtue that they may be examples to their flocks? Above all things, the resounding answer of our reformers is simple: hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures. A minister of God is to be a person of the Bible. When Saint Paul was in prison it was not food or clothes that were most important to him, the first place was given to his 'scrolls' - that is his Bible.
What the Church of England teaches about Scripture will be examined further when looking at the Public Examination but that it is the foundation and wellspring of all a minister should be is clear from the extensive treatment in this exhortation.
The means of accomplishing the salvation of many and the life of ministry is primarily through doctrine and preaching. In the view of the Reformers right doctrine leads to right living. Good preaching leads to changed lives and transformed morals. Every minister should be a theologian, every minister should care and be passionate about doctrine. Every minister should hold preaching as their highest calling. Importantly though, all this doctrine and teaching and preaching must come from one place above anywhere else — the Bible. Anything which is not from the Bible or cannot be supported by it is not to be taught as necessary to salvation. Likewise when looking on how a minister should order their lives the exhortation points us in the direction of Scripture to find the answer. In a world which constantly devalues Scripture and relativises it, as only a post-modern mindset could, ministers should be ever appealing to Scripture for all things both great and small.
Given ministers must teach biblical doctrine and live Biblical lives it is no wonder we are told ministers should 'studiously' read and learn the Scriptures. Ministers are to be perpetual and eternal students sitting beneath God's word and absorbing its wisdom, truth, and power through careful exegesis, prayerful seeking, and humble submission. This is a challenging task for any Christian, especially the last part, but it is vital to a healthy and wholesome ministry. There is simply no way around the fact that the Anglican view of ministry involves much time spent in the study delving into the wondrous and glories depths of the mysteries of God revealed through the pages of the Bible.
This study should lead to practical and externally recognisable changes in life and manners. Our lives, saturated in Scripture, should not make sense to the world around us. Our lives should be models of Biblical holiness and truth to those seeking it. But for ministers the buck doesn't stop at our own door — we must likewise fashion the lives of our families and even those committed to our charge. Paul tells us that marriage is an image to the world of the love of Christ for the Church. If you can't run a household decently, Paul tells Timothy, you shouldn't be running a church. In the Bible every man is the pastor of his family, only the best family pastors should take on the role of pastoring the wider body of Christ.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the exhortation is that the study of Scripture should so consume our lives that we lay aside and count as worthless the cares of the world and the studies it would call us to pursue. Thankfully the exhortation graciously recognises that we can only do this as far as we are able (or God allows?) and thus we are not to decry having a hobby or despise all secular pleasure. But. nonetheless, such things must most definitely be second place in our lives. At best we should use them to recharge our batteries and inform our ministry as much as may be needed and no more.
You may be wondering what this practically means. Well, thankfully, the Reformation canons of the Church were more than clear in explaining such things:
"No ecclesiastical person shall at any time, other than for their honest necessities, resort to any taverns or alehouses, neither shall they board or lodge in any such places. Furthermore, they shall not give themselves to any base or servile labour, or to drinking or riot, spending their time idly by day or by night, playing at dice, cards, or tables, or any other unlawful games: but at all times convenient they shall hear or read somewhat of the Holy Scriptures, or shall occupy themselves with some other honest study or exercise, always doing the things which appertain to honesty, and endeavouring to profit the church of God; having always in mind that they ought to excel all others in purity of life, and should be examples to the people to live well and christianily, under pain of ecclesiastical censures, to be inflicted with severity according to the qualities of their offences." The Canons of 1603 75.
"The sober, grave and exemplary conversation of all those that are employed in the administration of holy things being of great avail for the furtherance of piety, it hath been the religious care of the Church of England strictly to enjoin on all and every one of her clergy, a pious, regular and inoffensive demeanour, and to prohibit all loose and scandalous carriage by severe censures to be inflicted upon such delinquents as appears by the 74th and 75th canons of 1603 provided to this purpose.
For the more effectual success of which pious and necessary care this present synod straitly charges all clergymen in this church that setting before their eyes the glory of God, the holiness of their calling and the edification of the people committed to them, they carefully avoid all excess and disorder, and that by their Christian and religious conversation they shine forth as lights unto others in all godliness and honesty." Canons of 1640 10.1-2
Whilst these canons are no longer in force and have been relaxed beyond all recognition, they are the kind of things this exhortation is talking about - and all ministers should be greatly challenged by such canon laws.
How important do I think right and biblical doctrine is? How do I ensure my teaching is thoroughly biblical?
Is my life recognisable as one lived by and to biblical standards? How often do I evaluate my life by the bible and do I have any systems in place to ensure I do?
How much time do I spend studying Scripture? Is this enough or not?
How high is studying Scripture on my list of ministry priorities daily, weekly, monthly, annually?
When I don't like what Scripture says am I willing to humbly submit to it?
How am I actively fashioning the life of my family by biblical teaching and standards?
What cares and studies of the world do I occupy my time with? Is this more than I should, where is the healthy balance?
Are there any 'worldy things' I do or take part in which fall short of the exemplary life I am called to lead (which should have an eye to making sure no-one should stumble by my example)
2. The Points for Reflection.
a) The Treasure committed to their Charge.
Have always, therefore, printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge.
For they are the sheep of Christ,
which He bought with His death, and for whom He shed His blood.
The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is His spouse and His body.
And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any member of it,
takes any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence,
you know the greatness of the fault,
and also the horrible punishment that will ensue.
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." Acts 20.28
"Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself." Revelation 19.7
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself." Revelation 19.7
“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Revelation 21.9
All of the teaching on marriage in Ephesians which of Paul says "This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church." Ephesians 5.32
"For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11.12
" In the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another." Romans 12.5
Paul extensively teaches on the church being the 'body of Christ' in 1 Corinthians 12
"The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." Ephesians 3.6
"He is also the head of the body, the church" Colossians 1.18
"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." Colossians 1.24
"Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment," James 3.1
Ezekiel 33 and the judgement on the watchmen who fail to do their duty is also relevant (see previous section).
"And that slave who knew his master’s will and didn’t prepare himself or do it will be severely beaten." Luke 12.47
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." Hebrews 12.17
"But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me--it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea" Mark 9.42
"My sons, don’t be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in His presence, to serve Him, and to be His ministers and burners of incense.” 2 Chronicles 29.11
Many of the prophetic books, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah speak of the punishment of shepherds of God's people who fail to do their duty and are negligent.
Whilst the ministry is most certainly a solemn, dignified, and heavy office, it is also a joy and a treasure of unimaginable value. Anyone who has been in ministry will likely testify that almost everything in ministry is both, paradoxically, a joy and a difficulty, a privilege and yet a pain, life giving yet energy draining or even soul destroying. At the heart of this paradox is that we have been chosen and authorised to shepherd the most valuable of things — so expensive it could only be purchased in the currency of great drops of God's blood.
As ministers we should treat our congregation as if they were our own spouse, with amazing and never ending love through good and bad, health and illness, wealth and poverty. We should also love and care for them as we would our own body, not allowing it to be poisoned or at greater risk of disease but rather training it for its greatest health and longevity. We are not just to be professional and dedicated in the way a top lawyer will do all he can to protect and argue and case of their most important client but we are to go beyond even this, we are to take our 'case' to a whole new level of dedication and care. Being in ministry is like being as lawyer or who is given a case which is not only the most valuable and profitable in the history of the world but also a case upon which winning means the eternal life or death of hundreds of claimants — the stakes really are that high.
Ministers should always have in remembrance the warning of James that not many should desire to be ministers because they will face greater judgement. Whilst the exact meaning of this phrase is debated among godly scholars it is clear that our reformers believed that ministers would be greatly punished for being negligent and doing anything which could cause hurt or hindrance in other's walk of faith. This encompasses not only our teaching and preaching but our very lives and manners. Paul calls on Christians to live in such a way as not to cause those who are weaker to stumble of struggle — for example if someone is alcoholic we should not drink alcohol near them, or if they struggle with certain matters of holiness their conscience convicts them of we, in a freedom given by Christ, should not cause unnecessary offence.
This is a difficult and careful balancing act, sometimes people need to be confronted by the power of grace or their deeply held but misguided piety needs to be challenged. In most cases though it would be fair to say that ministers should simply live in such a way that the only offensive and hurtful thing about them is their pure and unadulterated Gospel preaching and not their living, their witty comebacks, or their love of crude language. We will touch on this more in a few moments.
Do I grasp and repeatedly remind myself of what an amazing privilege and treasure it is to be entrusted with ministry? Does this truth lead me to resolutely and joyfully be about my work?
When I am leading services, meeting people, or even praying for them, does the enormity of the fact that they are Christ's sheep, children, bride, and body fill me with an appropriate awe over my calling and commitment concerning my duty?
How have I caused hurt or hindrance to those I care for? Are there aspects of my personality or life, times or places, which are more likely to lead me to cause such hurt and stumbling?
Am I negligent in any aspect of my ministry and life and has this led to issues among my congregation? How can I ensure I stop neglecting this?
Do I appropriately hold the seriousness and consequences of my actions as a minister in the forefront of my mind as I prepare myself each day and go about my ministry?
b) The Consequent Call to Diligence.
Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of your ministry
towards the children of God, towards the spouse and body of Christ;
and see that you never cease your labour, your care and diligence,
until you have done all that lies in you, according to your bounden duty,
to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge,
into that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God,
and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ,
that there is no place left among you,
either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.
"You are to labour six days and do all your work," Exodus 20.9
"The labourers who carried the loads worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other." Nehemiah 4.17
"In every way I’ve shown you that by labouring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20.35
"Now the one planting and the one watering are one in purpose, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labour." 1 Corinthians 3.8
"Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15.58
"I labour for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me." Colossians 1.29
"Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labour among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you," 1 Thessalonians 5.12
"if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness." Romans 12.8
"Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord." 12.11
"Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope," Hebrews 6.11
"In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” Luke 17.10
"Who then is a faithful and sensible slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time?" Matthew 24.45
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’" Matthew 25.21
"But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.” Matthew 1.23
"But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place." 2 Corinthians 2.14
"Since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience has been confirmed." 2 Corinthians 10.4-6
"I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." Ephesians 1.17
"for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit." Ephesians 4.12-14
"so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1.10
"I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ." Colossians 2.2
"Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to build up the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness" Titus 1.1
"let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins." James 5.20
"Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability." 2 Peter 3.17
"Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them," Romans 16.17
"remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith." 1 Timothy 1.3-4
"Teach and encourage these things. If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarrelling, slander, evil suspicions," 1 Timothy 6.2-4
The enormity of the treasure entrusted to us means that we must be ever so diligent in our life and ministry. We must each day think about the very purpose of our ministry, why we were called, to what end we go about our joyful and weighty work. Ministers must not get so stuck in the ministry trees they face each day that they lose sight of the grand picture of the forest-garden we are called to steward. Again we are reminded that the church we are to care for are the children of God, the bride and body of Christ. That these images are used yet again so soon after their first use should doubly imprint the importance of them in our minds — we should wear them as lenses in our glasses as we minister to those entrusted to us. Without keeping in mind who we minister to and for we risk pride on the one hand and laziness on the other.
As God's ministers we are peculiarly called to labour without ceasing, to do all the work before us that we have the strength to fulfil and to even at the end of that remark that we are still "good for nothing slaves who have only done our duty." When the enormity of this task falls upon us and breaks our backs we must recall the words of Paul who insisted that humans cannot fulfil such a calling in human effort alone but rather the strength through which we are to minister is God's own strength graciously given to us when we pray fervently with diligence each day.
This call to do all that lies within us is arguably a higher call than any other profession. Each day we must ask if we have done all we could, all that lies within our God given power and energy. This makes the task of finding rest and Sabbath time difficult; but no-one said that ministry would be easy. Ultimately, ministers must recognise the simple truth that if we rest well and steward our time well between ministry work and personal time with friends, family, the things we enjoy, we will be better equipped to give more out, have larger resources of energy, and a greater bulwark built up against burnout and depression — things which impale the heart of ministers with a poison dagger and destroy all the Lord has been doing.
The basic undercurrent of what we pour out our life into and which we minister with the dedicated duty of a royal guardsman is the building up of the saints and the securing of the church against error. We are to bring people to the fullest knowledge of God we can, to true faith without error which is fully in agreement with the revealed truths of Scripture and our creeds which exemplify such faith. We are to not only give out head knowledge but minister in such a way that people grow, that they bear abundantly the fruit of the Spirit at all times, that they grow in maturity and stature as children of Christ and representations of Him to the world around.
The dual ministry of doctrine and morals — of 'banishing error of religion' and 'viciousness of life' is a 'both and' kind of ministry. We cannot neglect teaching doctrinal truth and rebuking error whilst we focus on exhortation to a holy life, nor can we neglect exhorting people to live in holiness and peace when we teach on the truths of Gospel and dangerous errors of the enemy. The reality is that grasping true doctrine should lead to good and holy living, and holy living should encourage a dedication to true doctrine. Bad teaching poisons morals, and bad morals taints the teaching of good doctrine.
Do I often get lost in the minutiae of ministry and lose sight of the grand vista we are called to witness?
Do I labour without ceasing and would people think my work is embodies virtues such as diligence, care, and bounden duty?
How do I steward my time that is may be most effective for ministry? What could I change in my day or week to allow for the most fruitful ministry?
How do I steward my body and soul, do I feed myself well enough — both in terms of physical nutrition and spiritual nourishment — and do I train the body as well as the spirit? What practical changes could I make in my life to ensure I have the most healthy ministry possible?
When I awaken each day and I think of why I am here, how would I describe my duty?
Who has been committed to my charge? Have I been neglecting any of them?
In my life and teaching do I present a Biblical balance between good doctrine and good morals or do I tend to be lopsided in my focus?
Am I willing to cause controversy and contention in my proclaiming of Biblical truths both theological and moral?
There is to be 'no place among you' for error in religion or wickedness in living, how can I work towards such an outcome each day, week, month, year?
This sermon was written during a study week on 'death, dying, and bereavement' when we had to write a funeral sermon for one of ...
What is Anglicanism? To many you may as well ask “what is nice” or “what is bad” - it is a completely subjective question to which you c...
On Maundy Thursday I attended the diocesan "Chrism Eucharist." This of course is a very modern fad (though made out to be a '...