(These notes have been developed based on draft notes prepared by Tommy Jones, Connection Pastor at Hoffmantown Church)Review:
Last week, we looked at the first of the seven Pillars of Ministry: True Ministry is initiated by God.
We made the point that God’s plan for our church, and for each of us individually, is not our plan, which we then ask God to bless. It is His plan which we join. We scanned through several of the pieces of God’s plan obvious in the Bible, from creation to sending Jesus to calling Paul. None of these were man’s brilliant idea.
We talked about how to know it is God’s plan and the tools he has given us to make that determination. When the Bible, our prayer, the Holy Spirit, church leaders and circumstances line up, you can be pretty sure that it’s God’s plan.
If life were only so simple … and church life and church ministries were that clear, simple and uncomplicated. But that is not that way life is. Sin has complicated the matter. God’s desire for man turned sour once man disobeyed. Once sin was introduced, it distorted God’s pure desire for man. A virus of sin was introduced into our gene pool, to every human being. From Adam forward, we are all born with a corrupted sinful nature.
So, on one hand, we have God creating, initiating and implementing His plan through Jesus. On the other: we have our sinful flesh which is still active in a believer, pulling the other way.
As Paul so clearly said:
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. … For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. … I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. --Romans 7:14-25, (excerpted)Paul had that struggle. You do and I do. That is life.
We need to understand that only as we allow Jesus to be Jesus in us, can we be in any position to receive God’s anointed plans for us. Only as we push away our sin-tainted plans to do what we think is a good thing, can God then initiate His anointed, God-empowered plans and desires for us.
Elisabeth Elliot, the missionary in the Amazon, even after the natives killed her missionary husband, wrote a book titled "A Slow and Certain Light". In it she tells about two adventurers who stopped by to see her, all loaded with equipment to go into the rain forest east of the Andes. They did not ask for advice, but instead just asked for a few phrases to be able to converse with the Indians. She writes: “Sometimes we come to God as the two adventurers came to me — confident and, we think, well-informed and well-equipped. But has it occurred to us that with all our accumulation of stuff, something is missing?”
She suggests that we often ask God for too little: "We think we know what we need---a yes or no answer, please, to a simple question. Or perhaps a road sign. Something quick and easy to guide the way. What we really ought to have is the Guide Himself. Maps, road signs, a few useful phrases are good things, but infinitely better is someone who has been there before and knows the way”.
That example applies to most of us. Whether it's about church ministry or daily life in general, we seem to have an idea of what we’re after, where we want to go, what we want to do. Somewhere along the way we get lost or things aren’t turning out the way we expect. We’ve already decided what we want to do. We just need a little direction. Then we call on God. We ask: God bless me! God help me!
Has it occurred to us that maybe the road we’re on may not be the road He’s intended for us?
We need more than just a guide who can show us a way, we need the Guide to show us His way … in fact we need the Guide who is The Way.
There is a sign on a remote Alaskan road that reads: “Choose your ruts carefully , you may be in it for the next 50 miles”
Have you found yourself in a rut lately? You’re in one and don’t know how to get out, much less, how you got into it in the first place?
Churches can find themselves in the same place as individuals.
There is a website (www.despair.com). Its subtitle is "Increasing success by lowering expectations". I don’t know why you would go there, except that you are inquisitive, that there is a de-motivating slogan there: “unleash the power of mediocrity”. This may be the battle cry of many of our churches today and of many of us as Christians. When we give our best, under our plan and our hard work and effort, apart from God, mediocrity is the best we can expect. We try to devise our ministry plans and programs, ask God to bless them, watch to see what happens, analyze the results, measure the outcome and not stop for one moment to ask ourselves: “are we even on God’s highway? Did this come from Him?”
Andrew Murray, who was a Christian writer and missionary near Cape Horn in South Africa, said: “Do not confuse work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine”
One thing is clear in Scripture: when God initiates something, anything, then we can know that it has His handprints all over it. His power and presence is evident. That does not mean it is free from difficulty or testing. Most of the time, even when we do God’s thing God’s way, there will be challenges. Yet, in the midst of those challenges, we have the Spirit’s leading and we simply know that this is what God has designed for us. When God is behind what we do in ministry, we don’t have to worry about measuring the results. Man cannot measure spiritual results. God is responsible for them. They will come in His way and His time.
This morning we are going to discuss the second of the Seven Pillars of Ministry
Pillar 2: What God Initiates, God Anoints:
Anoint comes from the Hebrew word “to smear” by way of consecration. It is God setting apart for Himself and His purposes, like kings and priests who were consecrated to His service by an anointing of oil. But, it also includes: having the identification marks of God…His power…coming from Him…glorifies Himself…emanating from God and thus and achieving the desired results for which He intended.
When we say that what God initiates, God anoints, we are saying that it is obviously God who is doing it, his fingerprints are all over it, and that it is his power doing it.
Watchman Nee was one of the house church organizers in China in the early 1900’s before China was opened to the West. He and others like him had established Christianity in China, secretly, long before missionaries were active there. He was imprisoned by the Communists in 1952 and died in prison in 1972. He said:
“To what are we to be consecrated? Not to Christian work, but to the will of God, to be and do whatever he requires” --Watchman Nee
To support the Pillar that what God initiates, God anoints, we will look at a couple examples from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
“In The Beginning…”: From Adam to the Covenant with Abram we don’t have to look very deep in the Bible to see that it was God at work. In fact, Genesis 1:1 sets the very tone and meaning of life itself: “In the beginning, God….” Moses the writer takes us all the way back to the very beginning, or, at least what we would call a beginning for man, the creation, time and space. In the beginning, there was God. Before there was a beginning, there was an eternal God. Then, this eternal God begins to initiate His Sovereign plan.
God Initiated Creation:
He begins with the creation of the universe, the earth, the sea, the clouds, animals, trees, etc. He initiates all of it. What is interesting though, is God the Creator’s response to His own work.
Let’s read through some selected verses:
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; … --Genesis 1:3-4What was God’s response to the creation of light? -- that it was good.
Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. --Genesis 1:9-10What was His response to the division of the waters? -- it was good.
Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. --Genesis 1:11-12What was the response to his creation of fruit-bearing trees, plants? -- it was good.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. --Genesis 1:14-18God creates the sun, moon and stars to govern day and night. Again: What was his response?
Verse18 says, “it was good”. See a pattern developing here?
Over and over we see the product of God’s handiwork and the effect or result of it: ‘it was good”
We see it in verses 21 and 25:
God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. --Genesis 1:21And then … after the creation of man, notice the summarizing thought in 1:31:
God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. --Genesis 1:25
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. --Genesis 1:31Not only has God initiated and created, …He now acts as Judge, evaluating His handiwork and calls it “very good”.
The Hebrew word for “good” is tohv. The meaning of tohv is beneficial, aesthetically beautiful, morally righteous, preferable, of superior quality, of ultimate value.
This was God’s estimation of His initiated work….
We find then a pattern set forth from the beginning: That which God sets His “mind” and “hands” to accomplish and does bring forth, will ultimately be, in His own estimation, “good” or “very good”.
Do you see the confidence we can have in our life and in the life of our church, knowing that what God creates and establishes will be good?
Are you willing to trust God for the results of His handiwork in your life? Even if doesn’t make much sense to you right now?
Did man learn from Adam and Eve’s sin? — apparently not, according to the Bible.
What God initiates is anointed — meaning: what He initiates will bring about His intended result, a result that is good and very good.
God Initiated Salvation:
Let’s look at Genesis 6-10. Here we have the story of Noah. God initiated salvation for Noah and his family. God was about to flood the earth because the earth was “filled with violence”.
Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. --Genesis 6:13Noah did it God's way:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. … But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. --Genesis 6:5,8
God gave Noah the command to build an ark according to God’s specifications, and God made provision for life during his stay in the ark. Did Noah build an ark of his own? Did he come up with a better way? NO!
Noah could have decided to build a house on stilts or to climb up to the top of a mountain to survive the flood. What would the outcome have been if Noah had executed his plan? -- All mankind would have been eliminated.
But instead, Noah did it God’s way:
Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did. --Genesis 6:22What was the result of Noah doing it God’s way? -- It is good.
Abraham did it his own way:
One of the most obvious comparisons of the fact that God’s plans result in a good result and man’s plans do not, is the case of Abraham and Sarah. God told Abram that he would have a son after he and Sarai had been married for 60 years or so.
Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” --Genesis 15:2-4But time passes and they do not have a son as promised and Abram begins to panic. He has been promised a son, but Sarah, now near 75 years of age, has not conceived. It has been 10 years since God promised a son.
You know the rest of the story. Abram and Sarai decide to take matters into their own hands. Apparently God needed their help. God promised … but maybe they needed to take hold of the promise their way. Sarai gives her maid servant, Hagar to Abram to sleep with so Abram can have a son by her, and it worked. Ishmael was born. Years later God’s plan was executed with the birth of Isaac, by Sarai.
You can find the same pattern in Judges where the nation of Israel whined because everybody had a king but them, so they wanted one, even though God told them not to. They got their wish and most of them were terrible. They paid the price for their plan, but God let them learn the hard way.
Wayne preached about the situation in Acts when Paul was dead set that he was going to go into Asia to preach and built the Church. But God kept shutting the doors. God said, that is not my plan. Paul wanted to do a good thing, preach in Asia, but God had in mind a great thing, open a new continent to the Gospel. Then, in spite of what Paul planned and wanted to do, God sent him a vision with a man in Macedonia, calling for him to go there, west instead of east, into Europe instead of Asia.
Was the result of God’s insistence that Paul go into Europe good?
I think so. From that introduction of Christianity into Europe, it spread northwest to England and then across the Atlantic to America and then to you and to me.
I rate that result as good, God good!
Watchman Nee also said:
“To have God do his own work through us, even once, is better than a lifetime of human striving.”
...we will study Pillar 3: True Ministry is not achieved, but received.
Spend some time this week contemplating and praying to discover if you are on your plan or on God’s. Discover if you are in the wrong rut.