Reflections on Christian Ministry and Christian Love
The Lord has been teaching me very deep lessons. People who we thought were strong evangelical Christians turned out to be a disappointment. People who were not born again turned out to have a good heart. I'm wondering whether we evangelical Christians really understand the wickedness of our own heart (Jer 17.9). It is not enough to know doctrine; we must have a kind and loving heart.
It is possible to know the Lord in a direct way. We have many villagers who know the Lord Jesus, who are born again, but who may not know doctrine. They really KNOW Christ. On the other hand, we have thousands of evangelical Christians (especially of the Reformed Faith) who keep harping on doctrine, but don't know Christ!
It's not a matter of doctrine; it's a matter of life. Have you received the life of Christ? John 3.3, 5, 7. 2 Cor 5.17, John 1.12.
How wonderfully the Bible speaks to you in the hour of trial. Prayerfully I picked up a promise for my daughter during Watchnight Service on 31st December. It was Isaiah 54:10. How apt and true it was, especially relating to her 'lonely and afflicted' condition. The whole chapter spoke to her. It was so vivid, so real. That is how you hear God's voice. When you go through deep trials.
Nothing like a second visit to learn things. Nothing like giving a second chance. We are so prone to judging things by 'first sight'. Recently I went to an assembly on the outskirts of my city, and I developed a judgmental attitude about things that I saw there. But during my second visit, I discovered so many things that I had overlooked - that I was humbled. How quick we are to form opinions. How quick we are to criticize. How soon we find fault!
This assembly was started through the labors of one man who stood strong in a hostile environment, faced severe opposition from religious fanatics, but never backed down - despite threats and physical violence. A church came into being, and satellite assemblies sprang up in the surrounding villages. The man passed away, but his son (aged 30) and his grandchildren (small boys of 10-12) were holding the fort.
It is never good to do freelancing in the church. We have to cooperate with one another, work together. This is a 'body principle' and demands submission, discipline and humility. Even though we have talents and gifts, we need to come under 'divine order'. We may prefer to go to a particular assembly to preach, but God sends us the other way. He sends us to an unknown place, and we are apprehensive. But it leads to much prayer. And since it is a decision of the church, and we bow to it without objecting or showing reluctance – in a mysterious way God takes charge and smoothens the rough way and removes the strain.
I believe this has to do with the 'servant spirit'. If the spirit of service is paramount in your heart, then your ministry is blessed. But if you want to parade your skills and talents and your Bible knowledge - then you may trip yourself up through pride, and your ministry may 'fall flat' ( i.e. you lose the joy of serving).
There's something very real and amazing about the 'body principle' in Church. When we cooperate with one another, God opens doors and makes the crooked way smooth and takes away the strain. Recently I was requested to go on Sunday ministry at short notice to a small town 30 miles away. Naturally speaking, I was reluctant to go. But I cooperated. I asked for a translator, thinking that no one would turn up in the last minute. But amazingly I got a translator – and a good translator at that! (I preach in English, and need translation into the native tongue.) We both went by bus (instead of car); and though it was public transport with its usual inconveniences, we enjoyed the bus ride to and fro. We also enjoyed the ministry in the small town. And we learnt many things. God also sent needy people across our path when we travelled in the bus, and we had an opportunity to witness for Christ.
Earlier I had travelled alone on ministry, but it was not as enjoyable as travelling two by two. I always think of Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy. The two by two principle is very good.
In the Ephesian letter, which contains the fullest unveiling of heavenly truth in the teaching concerning the Church, the Body of Christ - there is from start to finish the golden thread of love running all through; this is significant when you consider what the letter contains. Love is the real spirituality that is spirituality. Love is the most difficult and the greatest of all gifts. ~TAS
True spirituality is the measure of love of God shed abroad in the heart, all the spiritual gifts rest upon and have their rise out of love. Not power, or knowledge, or different gifts, these are not the first things; the first thing is love. It is divine love, forgiving love, selfless love that leads to the increase of God. ~TAS
The devil has locked up a number of the Lord's children as in a padded room of their own limitations; he has 'frozen' their love by something between them and other children of God - some misunderstanding, some grievance, some bitterness - the lack of a forgiving spirit. The way out is only by the increase of love - a heart filled with the love of God poured out in us by the Holy Spirit.~TAS
Does not a systematizing of truth result in limitation, in a setness which breathes death? The New Testament themes are far too big for our moulds. You cannot systematize the Cross of the Lord Jesus - you can only go on your knees and worship, conscious that you see something really far beyond your power to compass...
But the moment you have boxed it in a system of truth, you have reduced it from its divine and eternal dimensions, and robbed it of its power, and brought it into a realm of death in that measure.
The Person of Christ, the resurrection ofChrist - take any one of the great themes of the New Testament - when you have so wonderfully brought together all the fragments and organized them, and put them into a manual, a text book, you have killed the thing. ~ T.A.S.
The measure of our spiritual life is no greater than our heart; the knowledge that is in the head is not the measure of spirituality, the way for your release, emancipation, increase, abundance, is the way of the heart. Spirituality is not mental agreement on things stated in the Word, it is the melting of one heart to another - towards all the saints. ~TAS.
You can have all the gifts and be very immature. Spiritual increase is not by external manifestations, but more by inward endurance. Do you want to know the way of the increase of God? It is by love. What the Lord needs is an open, pure spirit towards Himself, and love toward all saints. The Lord will bring into His greater fullness where there is a genuine love one to the other - in Him. ~TAS
© Pratonix/Roland Oliver