The Seven Pillars of Ministry
Pillar 5: God Gets the Glory for His Ministry

(These notes are based on lesson notes by Pastor Tommy Jones, Connection Pastor at Hoffmantown Church)

Review:  The first five pillars in the series are: Pillar 1 taught us that True Ministry does not come from our brilliant ideas, but it is God’s Great Ideas. He designs the game plan.
Pillar 2 taught us that when God has one of His Great Ideas, it is really good, it works. By his define providence it is successful.
Pillar 3 taught us that His plans work, not because we work really hard to figure out what to do, but because we get the plays from him. He is the coach, we are the players.
Pillar 4 taught us that , like Paul, until we figure out that all our talent and training and enthusiasm will never result in ministry success. Until we figure out that we have to get out of the way and let Jesus do it through us, we will be frustrated and tired and discouraged. When we get our “self” out of the way, Jesus can take off and True Ministry can be dramatically effective, like Paul’s.

Today - Pillar 5: God Gets the Glory for His Ministry:

The title seems simple, and yet if you think about it, it may not be as simple as it first seems. We don’t all have the same perception of “glory”. What does it mean for God to get the glory? What does it look like? Is it something we do, or is it a feeling in our hearts, or both?

First of all, let’s look at the word "glory", since that is what we are talking about. You could understand glory as the brightness, splendor or majesty of God. In the Old Testament, we see God’s shekinah glory filling both the tabernacle and the Holy of Holies in the temple. Shekinah Glory is an interesting concept. If you are like me, I have heard sermons about shekinah glory and assumed that it is a Biblical term. I went to my resources to search for the term only to find out that it is not used in the Bible. It is a concept from Rabbinical writings related to God being in the physical presence of his people, but it is not used in the Bible. We saw the concept, but not the word when Moses met with God in the tabernacle and came out with a sun burn. We are told that the Holy of Holies in the Temple was filled with the presence of God. When these events occurred, man could only talk about the bright light, the splendor. It occurred when Moses met with the burning bush. It occurred when Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain with him and His God form was shown.  

But as we use glory here, we are not talking about His glowing, physically. We are told in the Bible in many places to “give glory” to God. You might see it as praise or ascribing magnificence to God.  

So as we use it here in Pillar 5, what does the word glory mean?  

There are many words used in the Bible in both the Hebrew and Greek which are translated as glory. By my count, using the various forms of glory, or glorious or glorified, etc, there are at least 23 different Greek and Hebrew words translated as glory. It’s amazing that we have one word for glory and the Bible has at least 23.  

For our purposes here, taken from the meanings of those 23 words in this context, the word means: “majestic, mighty, splendid, honorable, excellent, esteemed, respected, beautiful, praised, and recognized.” The short cut answer might be that to glorify God is to acknowledge God for who and what he is.  

If ministry is True Ministry, the ministry of and from God, it shows who God is, it reveals God, it credits God. If ministry spotlights a person, other than Jesus; if the credit is given to a mortal, it is not True Ministry.  

This a concern of all great preachers and teachers. Whether it is Billy Graham, or Chuck Colson or Chuck Missler or Chuck Swindoll. (I wonder if there is something Godly about the name Charles -- Chuck). The more that their ministry exalts their name, the more concern they have. They constantly fight against that.  

The same concern exists at a much lower level. Dave Cauwels, one of our elders and a good friend of mine is a good case study. I have met many times with Dave, to discuss studies, Christian issues, or just for Bible study. I have never been in a serious discussion with him that he did not proclaim what a lowly filthy worthless sinner that he is and that it is not him that matters. His common declaration is from Isaiah 64:6, from which he declares that he is filthier than menstrual rags, a way to say how revolting he is as a sinner and that everything that matters is Jesus, not Dave. That is the kind of man we need as a elder, and that is who we have.  

Just to remind you about Isaiah 64:6 -

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; … --Isaian 64:6
The Hebrew word translated as "filthy garment" was the word used for soiled menstrual cloths. Isaiah is saying that when we do things for God, even at our best, what we do is worse that the filthiest most disgusting thing we can think of. Our best efforts are disgusting.

Many of you in this class give me supportive feedback about the teaching. You encourage me and compliment me. The danger is that you or I start to think that any benefit of the teaching is because of me or my effort or talents. God expects the effort to be put in, but the result is up to him and we all need to be very careful to give the credit to Jesus and The Holy spirit. It is OK to feed my ego, but remember the true source, which is not Larry.

When we say that for True Ministry, God gets the glory, we mean: God gets the full and proper recognition and a place of esteem for who He is and what He does. We ascribe to Him all the majesty, might and honor. In other words, all eyes are drawn to Him, and not to ourselves! True ministry causes people to see God, focus or God, attribute the results to God.

As I thought of Biblical case studies for this concept, several came to mind.

Jesus, over and over again, refocused the glory for His work on The Father. He repeated again and again, it is not me, it is the Father. We have looked at several of those statements in the earlier Pillars. True ministry results in God getting the credit and the glory.

This concept is clear throughout the bible. Let’s think of examples in the Old Testament.

You can look at the escape of the Jews from Egyptian captivity. They could have just run away from the Egyptian army and fled into the desert. But then the Egyptians and the rest of us since then could have credited the escape to the Jews and especially to Moses as their leader. But instead, God trapped them between the approaching Egyptian army and the Red Sea. They were in a hopeless situation. Then the water parted, they crossed on dry land and after they crossed, the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned by the returning walls of water. It was obvious that this was not the work or leadership of Moses. God’s plan made it perfectly clear to the Egyptians and to us that this was God at work, not Moses. True ministry results in God getting the credit and the glory.

You can look at the battle of Jericho. Joshua and his army could have built a ramp and stormed Jericho and God could have delivered a victory to them. But then the Canaanites and we could have thought that Joshua was a great general and the Jews were a great army and attributed the victory to them. But that was not God’s plan. God had a plan that would remove any doubt about who was at work, who was responsible, to whom the credit belonged. March around the city for 6 days in silence. Carry the trumpets, but don’t blow them. Then on the 7day march around 7 times blowing a rams horn. Then yell really loudly and the walls will fall down. Are they crazy? But then the walls collapsed and the city was theirs. Any question about who did that? I don’t think so. Joshua did not have any doubt. The Hebrew army did not have any doubt. The residents of Jericho did not have any doubt. True ministry results in God getting the credit and the glory.  

You can look at the story of Gideon where he was going into battle to whip up on the Midianites. Gideon started with 32,000 men, but God kept telling him to cut down the size of his army.  

Judges 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’  

So at God’s instruction, Gideon told the 32,000, if any of you are afraid, you can go home, and 22,000 of the 32,000 went home, leaving 10,000. But God said that is too many, so they had the 10,000 men get a drink from the river and 9,700 of them knelt down and drank out of the river, but 300 of them scooped the water with their hand and lapped the water out of their hands. So God sent the kneelers home and kept the 300 lappers. God reduced the army from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300, until the army was so small that they did not have a chance to win; at least by their own strength. But they won and it was clear that it was God winning, not Gideon or his army. True ministry results in God getting the credit and the glory.  

A contrasting story is to compare two events in the life of David. In one event, a young Shepard boy with a sling shot went up against a giant by the name Goliath. Except for God’s intervention, dead David. But with God’s intervention, dead Goliath. No one then or now can attribute that to David, only to God.  

Then many years later, after he was king, he was feeling pretty cocky. He had a big army. He was powerful. To show himself and the rest of the world, he decided to count the army and put the size of his strength up on the bulletin board for the world to see. There were several problems. The biggest one was that God had told them not to take any census. The second was that when David, or we, decide to tout our own strength, how great we are, God yanks our chain and shows us how pitiful we are. After the census, David and his army were humiliated. When the event gave the glory and credit to God, the result was perfect. When the event, the census, was to glorify David, it resulted in disaster. Which was true ministry? Which was God’s play executed by David and which was David’s play that he just wanted God to bless?  

There is a New Testament example of this. Peter wore his own set of spiritual blinders. He looked at his world and those in it through eyes impaired by cultural prejudice. He may not have even been aware of his prejudices, but they were there. On a particular day, a day like most other days for Peter, God was about to break through those prejudices. Jesus had given Peter “the keys of the kingdom”. He had preached to the Jews about the Messiah, Jesus. It was now time to take the gospel message to the Gentiles. But before Peter could do this, God had to deal with Peter about some his preconceptions concerning the Gentiles.  

Let’s look at the Book of Acts, Chapters 10 and 11. We see God doing something quite remarkable in these chapters. As a matter of fact we see the first Four Pillars at work in this chapter. We see God initiating ministry, empowering that ministry with his Spirit, Peter receiving that ministry, and Peter surrendering himself to do that which God called him to do. In the end, God is glorified by the results. To begin this event, Luke introduces us to a Roman soldier.

Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort,  a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. --Acts 10:1-2
The narrative begins in a town called Caesarea and draws our attention to a man named Cornelius. “Caesarea” was a garrison city named after Augustus Caesar. It served as the Roman administrative capital of Judea and had a beautiful harbor built by Herod the Great. Pat and I visited there and saws parts of the great harbor and the city ruins. It was a grand place.

Cornelius, we are told, was a “centurion” of the “Italian cohort”. A cohort consisted of about 600 soldiers. So, Cornelius was what we might call a captain or company commander. There are 3 things we learn about this Gentile commander:  

He was a “devout man and one who feared God with all his household” He was a pious, somewhat religious man. It is even possible that he might have been in the process of being proselytized into the Jewish faith; or, who knew little about the Jewish faith, but was religious in his own way.  

He “gave many alms to the Jewish people”. He gave to those in need. This might be one of the reasons he was described later in this chapter as “spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews”

They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews … --Acts 10:22

He “prayed to God continually”. This could mean he accepted the monotheistic faith of the Jews and would pray to God, not as a believer might, out of a saving relationship in faith, but as one who sought to pray as a matter of daily discipline in search of God. In short, he was a good man and spiritually sensitive to those around him.


Then he had a vision.

About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” … And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. “Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” --Acts 10:3-6


The angel vanished and Cornelius gathered two servants and a loyal soldier to go and get Simon Peter.


Then:

 

On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. --Acts 10:9-16
So as Cornelius’ men were on their way, God starts talking to Peter. Of course Peter did not know what God was doing with Cornelius, and for that matter, the Gentiles. God gets a head start in overcoming Peter’s Jewish prejudices toward Gentiles.

Peter sees this as a message from God -- but the command is unthinkable. As a Jew who held to the dietary laws of Leviticus 11, he was repulsed at the thought of eating unclean animals. He seems to recognize the voice as the Lord’s and that voice tells him “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy, meaning impure or unclean. I am sure that Peter, at that moment, could not comprehend what God was saying. Peter was probably thinking that this was a change in the dietary laws, but God, unbeknownst to Peter, was broadening it to the Jewish-Gentile relationship.

While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. “But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” … So he invited them in and gave them lodging. --Acts 10:19-23
According to custom, Gentiles were considered unclean to the Jews. The Jews called them “dogs” … as those who are wild and unruly, without the Law, and outside the covenant blessings given to Abraham. A Jew would never think of inviting a Gentile into his home for fear of making the home ceremonially unclean.

It is obvious that God is orchestrating these events to open the gospel to the Gentiles. Breaking all Jewish rules, Peter invites them in for lodging and food for the night. The next day Peter and Cornelius’ men returned to Caesarea.

On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered… he found many people assembled. ... And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. “That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.” Cornelius said, … we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” --Acts 10:24-30
Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) -— you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea... --Acts 10:34-37
Then Peter proceeded to tell them about Jesus and the gospel.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. --Acts 10:44
F.H. Chase calls it, “the Pentecost of the Gentile World”.


These Gentiles had now become believers in Christ. For everyone involved, this was clearly the work of God, not Peter. This was a God thing, He alone pulled this one off.


Of course this created quite a stir back in Jerusalem.
Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.   And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him,   saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”   But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence... --Acts 11:1-4
Peter then gave them the blow by blow account of what had happened and ended with:
“Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
This was not a Peter thing, it was obviously God at work.


John Stott comments on this story: “We note how perfectly God dovetailed his working in Cornelius and in Peter. For while Peter was praying and seeing his vision, the men from Cornelius were approaching the city; while Peter was perplexed about the meaning of what he had seen, they arrived at his house; while Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him that the men were looking for him and he must not hesitate to go with them; and when Peter went down and introduced himself to them, they explained to him the purpose of their visit.”

 

Review:

We see the first 5 Pillars all played out here:

God’s ministry:

No one could slap Peter on the back and say, “what a great plan you came up with.” All Peter could do was listen to the Spirit, follow the prompting of God and be available. Today, we as Gentiles still benefit from several plays that God sent in 2000 years ago. There was that “send in my Son” play and that “Tell Peter that salvation is open to the Gentile” play. God has sent in a lot of other plays, and he is still sending in plays.

But the real plays will always point to God and Jesus. They will always make people say, that was a God thing, not a man thing. They will always result in the glory, the credit, going to God.

__________

Next week:

... we will study Pillar #6: The church is an Organism, not an Organization.