(These notes have been developed based on draft notes prepared by Tommy Jones, Connection Pastor at Hoffmantown Church)Review:
Let’s rebuild the background for this morning’s lesson. In the first lesson of this series we studied:
Pillar #3: Ministry Is Not Achieved, But Received
In football terms, we don’t call our own plays in the huddle, we run the plays given to us by our coach, Jesus.
What do we mean by “achieved” vs. “received” ministry? -- Achieved ministry is ministry that is produced or created by us, the result of our planning and hard work.
Pastor Jack Taylor, in an article he wrote for the Friday Roundtable , entitled, “Is Your Ministry Achieved or Received?”, compares and contrasts the two mindsets. The achieved ministry supposes that we know the needs better than God knows them. But the received ministry is simply a call from the heart of God to follow him. The achieved ministry depends upon human energy. While that is very important, if that is all you’ve got, you’re going to burn out. The received ministry depends upon the energy of the Spirit constantly upon us.
If we had to break Taylor’s words down: achieved ministry comes from man, received ministry comes from God.
Let’s take a look at the obvious. When it comes to “ministry”, what should the church be doing and what should the church be about?
Prior to Jesus’ ascension, He gave His disciples a pretty straightforward assignment which we looked at with Pillar 1:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you... --Matthew 28:19-20There it is: “Go…make disciples…baptize them…teach them”. This was the mission statement for the Disciples and it is our mission statement. This was to be the essence of their ministry and it is ours. He gave it to them and to us. It was received from Jesus.
You may say: “yes, that’s it….the Great Commission…this is what the Church has been doing since the Book of Acts. He gave it, we received it, now we go out and do it.” Oddly enough it sounds like Jesus gave them the big “what” to do, but did not give them a “how” it was to be done. Did He leave that up to them? Or is there more?
Here is the rest of the story. The last recorded words we have from Jesus before His ascension are found in the Book of Acts:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. -- Acts 1:8-9Obviously, the what of the mission is to make disciples, but not by their effort. They could not achieve it themselves, but rather, the Holy Spirit made it possible.
When it came to what the disciples were to do in their ministry after Jesus left, Jesus made it clear that the Holy Spirit would be in charge. He would guide them, teach them, speak to them, disclose Jesus’ plans and purposes in order that Jesus may be glorified.
With this basic understanding, let’s look at one particular moment Jesus had with His disciples.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. --John 15:1-8
We must receive ministry from Jesus because:
And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. … Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. --Luke 9:1-2,6Look at verse 1 in detail: Jesus called them and gave them “power and authority over all the demons, and to heal diseases”. In verse six, the disciples, now fully equipped, obey and head out.
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. ... The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” --Luke 10:1,17This is a similar commission given by Jesus as He gave to the chosen Twelve Disciples in Chapter 9, but here He sends out 70 “others” who were followers of Jesus.
Note the response of the 70 when they returned. They were overjoyed and in awe of the results of this ministry. Then look at what happens. Let’s set the context. Jesus had been up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, John. They were making their way down the mountain and were immediately confronted by a distraught father who had a demon-possessed son.
On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy, and a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves. I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.” --Luke 9:37-40There is a parallel passage to this one in Mark 9:14-29 but with greater detail on the end. Let’s look at the rest of the story as told by Mark. Now the father and boy are brought to Jesus. The father said:
… I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” … They brought the boy to Him. … When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out… --Mark 9:18-26 (excerpted)Notice what the father says to Jesus: “I told your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it”. Remember that this happened after Jesus gave them power and authority to cast out demons. But here: they failed…were impotent in against the demon WHY? The answer is found in Mark 9:28-29. Here is what happened next.
When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” --Mark 9:28-29Here’s the explanation given by one commentary writer: “Apparently they had taken for granted the power given them or had come to believe it was inherent in themselves. So they no longer depended prayerfully on God for it.
Is it possible, even probable, that the disciples went out to achieve ministry without the Spirit of Christ enabling them? Prayer shows absolute dependence on God. Once again, those words come back: “for apart from Me, you can do nothing”.
Let’s close with some insights we can glean from the Bible when it comes to received ministry:
Only Jesus can create the opportunities for ministry.
…Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, … Our business is not to open our own doors for ministry, but to walk through those He has opened for us. --Revelation 3:8
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus…”
...we will learn about Pillar 4: True ministry is the result of His surrender not of our commitment.