Friday, April 19, 2013

The Bad Apple (Part 2)

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God….by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report” – 2 Corinthians 6:4-8

Our mission as followers of Christ is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world (Mark 16:15), giving the necessary knowledge of Jesus to those that will believe when God draws them to Himself.  How successful we are often depends on who has ministered before us.  It only takes one bad apple to cause a lost person to close their heart to anything related to Christ.  As the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9-12), we must assure that we don’t become a stumbling block for those which we are ministering to.
Paul emphasized the behaviors, attitudes, and character of a minister in the preceding study of these verses in 2 Corinthians 6.  He continues by explaining how we live in such a way as to not be offensive.  He explains the underlying qualities in which caused him not to be a bad apple and ruin ministry for those that would follow him.

“by purity” – Paul refers to sanctification, the purification of a man through the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Purity is not just in the actions, but in the thoughts of the mind.
“by knowledge” – You cannot deliver to another information which you do not fully understand.  A teacher or minister must fully know and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be able to answer the questions that will come.

“by longsuffering” – Having a longsuffering spirit, being patient diligent in ministry. 
“by kindness” – Yes, even the most simple forms of love, simple acts of kindness, work to open the door for ministry.  Kindness a operating in a gentle manner, being as “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16)

“by the Holy Spirit” – Ministry should be led by the Holy Spirit, and our behaviors and attitudes should be purified by His guidance.  No one is a true minister of the gospel without the presence of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.
“by sincere love” –  Paul doesn’t just say to work in loving ways, but to have a “sincere” love for those you minister to.  A ministry that attempts to love people only to add numbers to a church, or notches in the Christian belt of believers won, is not an effective ministry.  These ministries are the worst kind.  They may add believers, but they do not grow Christians who will become disciples.  Sincere love and care for others can only come from the presence of the love of God working in your heart.

“by the word of truth” –  Deliver God’s truth boldly, not what is comfortable and acceptable to public opinion.              
“by the power of God” – Paul refers to the miracles, healings, and gifts of the Holy Spirit that proved his relationship with Almighty God.  A minister should be willing to operate in the power of God through the Holy Spirit that dwells within the believer. 

“by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” –  Ephesians 6:10-20 discusses the armor of God.  Two elements of the armor that we hold in our hands are “the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one, and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.   You must arm yourself with great faith and the power of God’s word if you want to be effective in ministry.  Faith in God removes fear, and allows you to trust Him.  His word strengthens your spirit, and your knowledge of Him.  Boldness in ministry comes from having both faith and God’s word.
“by honor and dishonor” – The honor and dishonor received from men are equally harmful to ministry. Given too much honor, the flattery of people can ruin a disciple, as pride can cause them to hold on to the glory which should be given to God.  Dishonor, bringing ridicule and criticism even from among other disciples can equally harm a disciple, causing them to feel inadequate to minister and refuse to take on the responsibility to deliver the gospel.  We must be careful not to exalt each other too highly, or to correct without love.

“by evil report and good report” – Slandering another believer who is actively trying to minister, whether what is said is true or false, is just bad behavior on the part of a Christian.  If you have problems with a brother or sister in Christ, go to them in private as God’s word says.  Don’t spout out the garbage from your mouth that can cause their ministry to become septic.  Likewise, be careful not to cause self-pride to take root in their ministry through your high praise, which can also create a septic ministry.  In controlling our own words regarding a disciple we are not protecting the disciple, but the message and those that hear it.  Treat each other as the family of God.  A good family keeps their dirty laundry private, so as not to harm each other’s reputation, and is careful not to lift each other up on a pedestal, knowing how hard it can be when one falls.
Paul goes on in verses 9-10 of the same passage telling the benefits of discipleship.  He says:

“as unknown, and yet well known” – Though you may not be known on earth, your name will be famous in Heaven.
“as dying, and behold we live” - While you may be dying physically with each passing day, you have attained eternal life. 

“as chastened, and yet not killed” – You may be corrected, but you are not punished with an everlasting death.

“as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” – While you may have sorrow, the joy of your salvation is secure.
“as poor, yet making many rich” – You may not possess earthly wealth, but through you many become the children of God, the one who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalms 50:10)

“as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” – God meets your needs, your desires, protects, and brings peace to His children. 
Discipleship is a difficult profession, with few who choose to accept the calling even though all Christians are called to it.  We work together as a team, each possessing a variant of the same gift for ministry.  Because we are a team, we must protect each other, as well as having a common vision of the ministry, and protecting the ministry itself.  Knowing our own short comings, and where we have been “the bad apple” enable us to have a stronger ministry for Jesus Christ. 

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