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3 False Sources of Confidence in Ministry Leadership

School Kids

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” So wrote the elder Paul to younger Timothy (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)

Paul’s words are the introduction to the Bible’s three volume textbook on pastoral ministry (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). And in that introduction, Paul issues a fairly stern warning to Timothy to watch out for three of the biggest false sources of security and confidence for those who lead in ministry. They were, and are, and have been for me in seasons when I’m not on guard…

1. Our preparation.

That is, we begin to rely on what we know, and we begin to assume that what we know is enough for us to coast. Here’s the thing. When God called me to ministry, I knew pretty much nothing. I was still cutting my teeth on trying to read through the New Testament for the first time. In my early years of ministry, I was a sponge. I learned enough before Bible college that I tested out of the required Old and New Testament survey classes and jumped right into some sophomore-level stuff!

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The Greatest Rescue Operation of All Time

As I write this, the United States government is weighing the possibility of using ground military forces to rescue the Yazidi people who are trapped on a mountain in Iraz, surrounded by the threat of extermination by the Islamic State, a terrorist group currently taking control of a growing number of towns in their region. Politicians and military strategists are debating whether this is the right thing to do or not from a variety of perspectives.

The situation at hand reminds me of another rescue mission planned before time began. God foresaw His people in the exile of sin and depravity and determined to send His Son to our rescue. Paul said it this way in his letter to the Galatians, “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” (1:4 NLT)

The Bible says nothing of any uncertainty in the mind and will of God. There were no deliberations or weighing the pro’s and con’s or counting the potential collateral damage. God simply knew our plight, loved us in it, planned our rescue, and acted to secure our freedom at great cost to Himself – the cost of His very own dear Son Jesus.

You can debate all you’d like about the nuances of the existence and attributes of God, but at the end of the day, the great God of the universe has acted to extract you from this present evil world through a redemptive, grace-based relationship with His Son. He went to the cross, paid the price, and rose again to free any and all who will look and cling to Him. And His hand is outstretched still, offering rescue. The choice is yours. Remain comfortably numb in exile, or trust Him fully for ultimate freedom.

Knowing Whom to Please Is Half the Battle

Keeping everyone happy is both exhausting and impossible. I know this from experience. I’m a recovering chronic people-pleaser and spent too many years of my life living for the approval of others, and it’s a struggle that still creeps back up on a regular basis.

As a Pastor, I don’t want anyone to be upset with me at church. As a husband, I don’t want to be honest enough to say something that might upset my wife. And in friendships, I’ve been afraid at times to get close enough to risk offending and have therefore missed out on intimacy. If any of this sounds familiar to you, I have some good news for you.

There is only ONE person you must please, and He is the inventor, master, and giver of this amazing thing called grace. On the one hand, this is a fairly scary thought. The Bible says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” (Hebrews 4:13 NLT) How can I possibly please the perfect and almighty Creator and Judge of the whole earth?

On the other hand, it’s the most comforting thought of all that while our fellow human beings will always fail to be completely gracious toward us because they’re human, God will never fail to be completely gracious toward us who are His children. The Bible describes “his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 KJV) In God’s grace, He has declared us as acceptable and pleasing to Himself. 

When you know WHOSE you are, it helps you to know WHO you are, and therefore WHOM you need to please. It’s so much easier to live to please only the One to whom we will give an account and the One who has proven His love, His grace, and His willingness to declare us as acceptable and pleasing to Himself.

To put in a more classic way, live for an audience of only One today.

We Are Saved by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone

Here’s the blunt, simple truth. We are all sinners. We’ve all broken God’s commandments and have rebelled against His will. Like sheep, we’ve gone astray, every last one of us. And because of our rebellion, we have positioned ourselves for judgment and separation from God for eternity in hell. We’ve come up against a Law that we cannot, would not, and do not keep. We. Are. Doomed. Except…

God loves us, deeply. He sent His Son Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. That’s a fancy word for payment. He took our place under God’s judgment for our sin. He lived a sinless life and then actually became our sin for us and died on the cross as our atoning sacrifice before God, the Judge of all the earth.

In light of what He has done, our only proper response is to fall before Him in absolute humility, embracing His saving work on the cross entirely by faith. The Bible puts it this way, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

The bad news, then, is that we cannot possibly justify ourselves before a holy, Almighty God. His law is perfection, a standard by which we will always fall short.

And the really, really good news is that we don’t have to justify ourselves. Our justification, our redemption, our salvation is purchased and provided entirely by Jesus Christ who invites us to come to Him by faith and receive the free gift of eternal life in Him. And there is no other way to be saved.

If this all seems basic to you, good. Never let it get old. Never get over it. But if it seems new to you, if you’re struggling to understand it but suddenly want to know more, let’s talk! Email me at right now and let’s talk about God’s awesome and wonderful plan for saving and healing you for all of eternity!

It’s Not That We DON’T Know, It’s That We WON’T Know…

Don't WorryThe “wrath of God” is a touchy subject in our current culture, partly because we have a broken sense of fairness. We have the assumption that what we think we know ought to count in the place of what we really should know about God. In our arrogance, we assume that our postulations and philosophies are so amazing, God should somehow be impressed with the conclusions we’ve made up about Him. And if He is still upset about our lack of response and obedience to Him, then He’s just being unfair.

But the Bible describes says that “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 ESV) In other words, we CAN know the truth about God’s character because He’s made the truth quite accessible. But because we love sin, we mask over the truth and turn Him into something He isn’t – a God who has no concern for righteousness at all.

It isn’t that people suffer God’s wrath unfairly over something we don’t know. It’s that we position ourselves for His wrath because we suppress the truth about Him so we can go in blissful, sinful ignorance. It isn’t that we can’t know Him. It’s that we typically won’t know Him. We suppress His truth, choose to believe lies, and assume He has nothing to be upset with us about.

Don’t worry, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, immeasurable, inconceivable grace and forgiveness is on the way – on God’s terms. But in this first chapter, He’s building a tight case about our rejection of God, and His evidence is pretty strong. So what should we do? Choose to know Him. Receive the truth about God, believe it wholeheartedly, and trust in Him in complete obedience.