The Will of God and Your Ministry

Steve Viars May 17, 2008 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

 

- This morning I’d like to begin our time together by asking you a question...

- Agree/Disagree – The Bible often cautions us about investing our lives in things that don’t really matter.

- would you agree with that, and if necessary could you make the case from God’s Word that it is possible for a person to waste his/her life...to be focused on things that will not stand the test of time? -- that is a major theme in Scripture, isn’t it?...for example...

1. Jesus warned against “laying up treasures on earth”.

- do you remember that discussion?...

- Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

- you might say – what does that mean?...it’s really not that hard to understand...

- evaluate the things that tend to grab our attention, and consume our resources...

- if it can rust, if it decays, if it can be stolen---we should invest as little of our life in it as possible...

- and let’s face it – that is the polar opposite of the way many people in our culture live...

- it’s all about – what can I do to get more stuff?...

- that’s part of the problem with the current economic crisis --- instead of the days where you had to keep a job for a period of time, and demonstrate that you had the discipline to save money, and make a reasonable payment without undue financial pressure, and that you had some semblance of stability in your live and relationships...

- people had to have everything right now...in some cases a bigger house, or a nicer car, or better furniture than their parents had after 30 years of marriage...

- and banks in too many cases were more than happy to give people sub-prime mortgages with apparently very little warning about what would happen when the payments went up or the housing market cooled off...those are the things that will make you happy – that will bring you satisfaction...

- that’s called --- storing up for yourselves treasures on earth...

- and even for those who can make such decisions and still stay ahead of the payments...all of that attention, and all of that focus has a way of tugging at your heart....[where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...] – that’s why the Lord warned against it...

2. Jesus referred to such an approach to life as being foolish.

- Do you remember the parable of the rich fool in Luke chapter 12?...

- where a man’s land was very productive...so much so that he didn’t even have a place big enough to store all his crops...

- so his solution was... Luke 12:18-19 - I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’

- do you remember what happened next?...Luke 12:20-21 - But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

- and if you also recall the context – the reason Jesus told that story is because 2 brothers were arguing over the way the family inheritance was supposed to be divided...and the Lord said...Luke 12:15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

- it is possible to waste your life – investing in things that don’t really matter is referred to in Scripture as being foolish...here’s another line of reasoning...

3. Scripture teaches that the world is temporal.

- 1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

- what would happen if we had some sort of a digital counter up here on the wall that showed how much time had been spent this past week by those who will be in attendance today on loving the things of the world, or on the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life...

- I’m not sure I’d want to see that counter, would you?...but note what the rest of that verse says...all of that is passing away...so all of that time and attention was spent on things that don’t really matter...

- here’s one last way to slice this...

4. The eternal value of our deeds will be determined someday at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

- I Corinthians 3 explains that event...

- 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 - Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

- can you imagine standing before your Savior, and watching a significant percentage of what you had focused on, and worked for, and sacrificed to attain...go up in a puff of smoke because it was deemed to be like wood, hay, and stubble?...

- or conversely...can you imagine the smoke clearing, and the way you had chosen to live being like gold, silver, and precious stones...standing the test of God’s fire...and hearing these words...well done, good and faithful servant?...

- we could develop this additionally, but that’s enough to support the original premise...the Bible clearly cautions us about investing our lives in things that don’t really matter...

- now, how do we avoid this danger?...

- one answer is – to give careful attention to The Will of God and Your Ministry...

- in other words, how does the Lord want you to invest your life?...

- what ministry has He given you to accomplish?

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to II Corinthians chapter 5? [page 142 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- Our annual theme this year is Seeking God’s Plan...

- we are right in the middle of a year dedicated to determining and adopting our church’s next 5 year Strategic Ministry Plan...

- and I am very thankful that the process is right on track...

- literally hundreds of men and women have been working on this is one way, shape, or form...and we are setting up to have some very significant conversations about all of that this summer...

- since that was going to be our annual theme, we wanted to take a 3 week period of time and specifically address the issue of Knowing and Doing the Will of God

- for some Christians, decision making can be a very frustrating task...

- and it really doesn’t need to be because of the principles in God’s Word to help us here...

- we’re breaking this material down in this way...

- May 11th – The Will of God and Your Holiness

- May 18th – The Will of God and Your Ministry

- May 25th – The Will of God and Your Decisions.

- the overall premise is this --- people who are serious about God’s will for their personal holiness, and for their ministry to others...are in a great position to make practical decisions about matters of everyday life...

- using last week’s terminology...if you’re in your car, on the right road, headed the right way...it will be a lot easier to know if God wants you to get off at a particular exit and accomplish something for Him...

- but people who don’t care about holiness, and don’t care about ministry are going to be lost when it comes to making decisions about practically anything...not if they want those decisions to really be line with the will of God...

- with that in mind, let’s drill into this passage...read II Corinthians 5:16-21.

- with the time we have remaining, let’s look forThree characteristics of people who are seeking God’s will in their ministries.

I. We Have a New Way of Thinking about Other People.

- Verse 16 says --2 Corinthians 5:16 - Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh...- now, what does that mean?...

A. We do not evaluate people on the basis of externals.

- Paul says, even with Jesus – many people begin by thinking about Him as a man...where He was born, what He did...

- but as you continue to read the gospels...you come to understand that Jesus is the Son of God...there’s a lot more there than is apparent to the naked eye...

- and so you seldom even think of Christ in that way anymore because of all the spiritual realities involved...

- if we are going to seek God’s will for our ministry to others...it starts in exactly the same way...we think about men and women differently...

- it’s not – I’ll care about that person if I think she/she can do something for me...

- or if I find him attractive, or wealthy, or well connected...

- the New Testament refers to that as being a “respecter of persons”

- [if time – could develop – prosopolemsia – prosopon – face, lambano – to take]...that is a very shallow way to live...

- and Paul says – we’re no longer focused on eternals...why?...because now we think about the eternal destiny of an individuals’ soul...we don’t just recognize them according to the flesh...

- that is why lust is such a heinous sin...because it reduces people to a bunch of body parts...

- that’s part of what’s wrong with pornography, and prostitution...it treats human beings as if they have no eternal soul...[cf. CS Lewis in the Abolition of Man – trousered apes, soulless men]

- by the way – that is also why the Bible encourages people to dress modestly – not drawing undue attention to your body parts---as if that is the best you have, or the most important thing about you, or your primary reason for existence...

- that too is why we care about the number of people who come here, and who are involved in our various ministries...not because we’re interested in numbers per se, but we are very passionate about souls...everybody is going to spend eternity somewhere...and you’ll never find and seize God’s will for your ministry unless you learn to view people that way...

- now, I realize that you might say – but PV, that’s really not the way I think...

- my heart is consumed with lust...

- or, I really don’t like people...or at least not many of them...they’re an imposition, they get in my way, they disappoint me or disgust me...well,...

B. This change of outlook can only come through a supernatural act of God.

- that is how verse 17 fits into the discussion...

- 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

- and I realize we often talk about this as a stand alone verse, and it is a great one and is helpful in many ways...but it also needs to be understood in its context...

- you’ll never be able to view people the way verse 16 suggests unless you have experienced the new birth that verse 17 offers...

- and if you are here this morning and you have never had a definite time in your life where you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, that is the first step in finding His will for your ministry...

- let’s just pause there for a moment...friend, what about the way you view people?...

- what about the way you think about the men and women around you?...

- about the men and women the Lord has placed in our community?...

- who He is bringing to our church?...

- do you think/evaluate/care about them from the perspective of their eternal destinies?

- can I also ask you this?...are you allowing any influences into your life that would make it more difficult to do what this passage of Scripture is teaching?

- you’ll never find God’s will for your ministry if you’re filling your heart with lust...

- now, where does the passage take us next?...

II. We Have a New Way of Thinking About Our Purpose.

A. We have been forever impacted by God’s willingness to reconcile us.

- each phrase in verse 18 is just power-packed...

- 2 Corinthians 5:18 - Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ...

- please allow that to roll around your mind – from God...who reconciled [the likes of] us...to Himself...through Christ...

- a person who truly understands that would respond with...whatever ministry opportunity Christ wants me to embrace, I’m all over it...because He was willing to reconcile me...

- that’s what Paul meant in the verse just before the ones we read this morning...

- 2 Corinthians 5:14 – For the love of Christ compels us...

- we can’t get over the fact that He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on our behalf...

- and I understand that some men and women in our church are walking through significant difficulties...but something that should always temper that is the joy that you have in Christ...that’s why in our suffering series we kept coming across this phrase – “for a little while” – how could that be, especially for those who have trials that wouldn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, and maybe not ever?...

- the answer is that there are spiritual realities about who God is and what He had done that cannot be affected by any event or circumstance today...

- and that doesn’t mean that we walk around with some sort of plastic smile on...but it does mean that we can have joy regardless of our circumstances...

- and men and women who struggle emotionally would do well to meditate long and often on the cross of Christ...if that’s all God ever did for us, that’s so much more than we deserve...

- and it’s more than enough to motivate us to say to the King – I’m reporting for duty, with joy and thankfulness in your heart...

- and if you’d say – PV, I’m not sure that really does much for me – my response would be, you have every reason then to question the genuineness of your faith...

- now what happens next in verse 18...

B. We are amazed that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

- please think about the beauty of that term...

- who wouldn’t want to be involved in bringing about peace between two warring factions...even if your part was simply to deliver the terms of peace...

- and Scripture teaches this – contrary to oft repeated notion that we’re all God’s children...the Bible says that we are born in sin and are therefore enemies of God...

- Sin has separated you from your God...we are born on the wrong side of the tracks...

- and something needs to be done to bring the warring parties together...

- and God initiated the process by sending His own Son to die for human beings and pay the eternal price of their sin...

- and it really is possible to be reconciled to God...Paul described it this way in Romans 5:10-11 - For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

- what remains is someone willing to deliver the offer of reconciliation and describe terms of peace...

- that is the ministry that God has called us to...and what a marvelous privilege it is...

- please think about it this way – what would you do if a solution was found to the Mid-East peace crisis...and you were chosen to broker the deal...

- wouldn’t that be amazing...that you had the opportunity to bring warring factions together...

- in a very real sense, what we are talking about right now is even more significant than that...because we’re not talking about temporal political solutions, we’re talking about eternal spiritual ones...God’s will for your ministry...

- and do you know what our church needs...if we’re going to get this next 5 year strategic plan right?...

- a whole congregation of people committed to seeking God’s will for their holiness...

- and seeking God’s will for their ministries...now, let’s push it a bit further...

C. Knowing God’s will for your ministry produces confidence.

- do you know how the apostle Paul often introduced himself to his readers?

- 1 Corinthians 1:1 - Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God...

- Ephesians 1:1 - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God...

- Colossians 1:1 - Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God...

- why was that such an issue?...

- because often what the apostle Paul had to say to the churches was hard, and challenging...but he truly believed that his ministry was by the will of God...

- he wasn’t just investing in things that were going to pass away with time...so even when there were challenges, it was worth it because of the significance of the purpose...

D. Knowing God’s will for your ministry produces assurance.

- Jesus made a very unusual statement in Mark 3:35...

- Mark 3:35 - For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.

- one of the reasons that some people struggle with their salvation is that they are not investing their lives in ministry...

- when you are trying to be involved in some level of reconciling men and women to God...there’s a sense of gratification that comes from being on the team...

E. That is why God saved you.

- John 15:16 - You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit...

- we ought to be constantly asking – what ministry opportunity does God have for me today?...

- how can I be bearing fruit for Him today, this week, this month, this summer...

- when you get a bunch of people together who are fired up about seriously bearing fruit for God, they can’t help but get the plan right...

F. This is why God gave you spiritual gifts.

- 1 Peter 4:10 - As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

- He gave you the strengths that you have, and the abilities that you have, and the background you have, and the experience that you have...so that you could use it in ministry...

- and note what Peter said – that is a stewardship [develop]...a sacred trust...

- now, what responsibility do we have as a church?

G. Churches must challenge and equip people to do the work of the ministry.

- have you ever wondered why we have pastors?

- Ephesians 4:11-12 - And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ...

- we have to be providing training, and we have to be providing encouragement to help men and women invest their lives in things that don’t pass away with time...

- to be seeking God’s will in your ministry...

- one more idea and then we’ll start tying some of this together...

H. God often gives wide open doors of ministry.

- you have to love what Paul told the Corinthians in1 Corinthians 16:9 - for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

- now, there’s plenty on the table to begin making applications...

- friend, how concerned have you been about seeking God’s plan for your ministry?...

- about investing your life in things that won’t pass away with time?...

- about making a spiritual difference in the lives of people...

- let’s make it as specific and practical as we can...

1. Ministry opportunities in our church.

- one of the emphases that came through very clearly in our surveys is that we have to do all we can to help those who are coming to our church be equipped to grow in Christ...

- we not simply interested in growing numerically...we want to be growing stronger spiritually...

- and the opportunities to do that are before us like never before...

- I’d like to show you something...

- 20 year growth graph...

- I hope we all understand that that is very unusual...

- so how do we respond?...

- praise the Lord for His amazing and undeserved grace and blessing

- aggressively seize the ministry opportunities that such an open door of ministry provides...

- and you might say – uh huh, PV, that is exactly what I’m talking about...

- I’m one of the ones who said on my survey that I am concerned that we be sure that we have effective means in place to disciple each person the Lord brings to us...

- that’s great...but now I want to ask you a question...when you said that [if you did]...were you talking about something you thought someone else ought to do, or were you talking about something you were planning on helping us do?...

- I’ve been around the church business for some time now – here’s a few things I’ve learned...

1. some people are better at talking about challenges than participating in solutions...

2. I think that some folks believe that a group of ministry pixies appear in the middle of the night and do the work of the ministry here...

- I’m often intrigued when I hear folks use the word “they”...

- well they ought to this, or they ought to that...

- to which I would say – they who?...there is no they at the church-house...its us...

- and my question to you is – how concerned are you to seek God’s plan for your ministry here?...

- you might say...do you have any suggestions?

a. How likely is it that some of these new folks have babies...or are having babies?...what about being willing to serve in the nursery?

b. how many children is God bringing us who need to be taught God’s Word in SS and children’s church? – is that something you could do?...should do?

c. what about the musical gifts God has given you [choir and orchestra] – did God give you those so you could sing in the shower?...

d. what about serving in an Adult Bible Fellowship...or with one of men’s ministries, or women’s ministries?...

e. what about working with our youth?...

f. Clubs closing program, VBS closing program...

g. just meeting someone who is new at our church and seeking to build a friendship

2. Ministry opportunities in our community

- I realize that our church could have never gotten to where we are were it not for a significant percentage of people who are very serious about seeking God’s plan in your ministry

- we’re coming up on our 1 year anniversary of opening our community center...

- the opportunities that we have had to interact with our neighbors have been unprecedented...

- it has exceeded our wildest dreams...

- in your bulletin we gave you a handout of some of the groups that have used the community center since it opened (develop)...

- Can I ask you this – how do you plan to invest in ministry opportunities this summer?

- showing hospitality...

- coming over to watch one of the baseball games or softball games...

- serving in VBS...

- hanging around at the community center...

- helping with mowing, grounds care...

3. in our world...

- discuss invitations to Moldova, Korea, Brazil, Liberia

- also opportunities to serve our 2 missionary families who will be staying with us the next year...

- the passage ends by helping us see that...

III. We Have a New Way of Thinking About Our Position.

- some folks might respond to this with...but I’m not worthy...

- in and of ourselves, we’ve not...

A. We are ambassadors for Christ.

- its not about our worth, it’s about His...

B. In Christ, we have become the righteousness of God in Him.

- I’d like to conclude by mentioning two other uses of this word ministry in the Bible...

Colossians 4:17 - Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

2 Timothy 4:5 - But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

- in both cases, the word for fulfill is the Greek word plarow

- it means complete, fill up, bring to fulfillment...

- see, God has given you a ministry...you have to decide if you are going to fulfill it...

- the overall point these last 2 weeks...

- if we are people who are seeking God’s will for our holiness...

- and seeking God’s will for our ministries...

- we will be in very good shape as a church family to seek God’s will for our future...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video