Joseph Prince - Build Your Life and Ministry On The Gospel
I want to share something that I believe is gonna bless you on leadership, and this is something that God stirred in my heart this evening. And I've shared some of these things with my leaders, and I've been wanting to put this also across to all our leaders and to any leader that's willing to listen. So, this message, I believe, is from the Lord, and I believe it will help you see why some leadership doesn't flourish. Some leadership God deals with in quite a severe way, it seems, all right? Why is this so?
All right, we're gonna learn all this tonight. We're gonna learn how to build our leadership on the sure foundation, which is Jesus Christ, and how to build on that sure foundation, all right? But before that, I want to share with you a story from Judges 9. Judges 9 tells us that Gideon, before Gideon died in Judges 8, Gideon had 70 sons, 70, yo, 7-0, all right, but he has many wives. These are legal wives, okay? But he has one concubine, and from this concubine, he has a son called Abimelech. Abimelech aspired to be a leader, he aspired to rule over the people of Shechem. After his father died, he actually forced his way, all right, and told the people, "Why have 70 people, like 70 bought, you know, over you, why not I be the leader over you"?
So, the first lesson we learn is that when leaders are self-promoting, something is wrong. You know what this guy did, Abimelech? He got a bunch of hooligans, the Bible says sons of Belial, these gangsters with him, and together they got the 70 sons of Gideon and killed them one by one. I think he had them captured, but killed them one by one on a large stone. Probably he, you know, he slewed them on that stone one by one until all 69 of them were killed except for the last one, the youngest of them, Jotham. And Jotham fled out from Shechem, you know the valley of Shechem?
In fact, many a times when I go like off the beaten track, I would love to go to Mount Gerizim where I can see Shechem right below. But look at what Jotham said, "Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and cried out. And he said to them: 'Listen to me, you men of Shechem, That God may listen to you! 'The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us!' But the olive tree said to them, 'Should I cease giving my oil, With which they honor God and men, And go to sway over trees?'" So, you see, the olive tree is secure in who God has made him to be. He is secure with his anointing. What is his anointing? Produce, what? Oil, produce anointing, amen?
So, many a times, those who make good leaders, they are secure in what God has made them to be, they are secure in their giftings. You will find that all the trees are not the same. We have the olive tree, then we have the fig tree, then we have the vine tree, all right? So, we all don't share the same gifts, but you must be secure in what God has made you to be, okay? So, the next tree is the fig tree. "The trees said to the fig tree, 'You come and reign over us!' But the fig tree said to them, 'Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit, And go to sway over trees?'" Amen? So, they're all secure. Look at the next one, the vine tree. "Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come and reign over us!' But the vine said to them 'Should I cease my new wine, Which cheers both God and men, And go to be promoted or sway over trees?'"
Now, they're all secure, okay? They're all secure in who they are. Actually, they made the best leaders. All of them make the best leaders, amen? But don't have a vacuum. You see what happened when there's a vacuum? Next verse, "Then all the trees said to the bramble", there's always someone waiting on the side. You know what's a bramble tree or not? Thorny bush. "Then they said to the bramble, 'You come and reign over us!' And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you anoint me as king over you, Then come and take shelter in my shade'", in my shadow, the Old King James says. Whenever there's a shadow to anyone's ministry, probably he's not in the light too much, all right? He's facing one area and you see shadows all around. Like, down here you can see shadow, why? Because light is not all around. If you're in the light where Christ is, everywhere is light. There's no shadow of turning, the Bible says in James. There's not even a shadow, all right?
So, he says, "Come and take shelter in my shade; But if not, let fire come out". "If you don't acknowledge me as a leader, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon"! Wow. It's a threatening leadership. Any leadership that threatens, all right, if you don't listen to them, is not God, okay? God kind of leaders feed, okay? They feed. So anyway, just let you know. Next verse, "Now therefore, if you have acted in truth and sincerity in making Abimelech king, you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, have done to him as he deserves, for my father fought for you, risked his life, delivered you out of the hand of Midian; but you have risen up against my father's house this day, killed his seventy sons on one stone, made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother".
Next verse, he pronounced a curse, Jotham, all right? And it says let fire come out, right? He said, "Let fire come from Abimelech, devour the man of Shechem". Because the man of Shechem promoted Abimelech, and what's gonna happen is that they will destroy each other. "'And let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!' And Jotham ran away", gave the word, ran off. "And dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother". Okay, so he fled. Our leadership has got to be leadership that lifts people up. You're not here because you are over people. All right, if that's your thinking, whichever ministry you are in, let me just tell you this, all right, you've got the wrong perspective. Your vision is not from God, it's from below. It's definitely not from God. Your perspective should always be like you are lifting people up to God, amen? You are below lifting them up to God, all right, not over them.
Jesus says, all right, you know that the people, the leaders of the world exercise dominion. It's like top down, all right? But you, you serve, and the more you serve, the greater you are. Are you listening, people? All right, let's go on. What makes our leadership effective? All right, look at 1 Corinthians 3. Paul is speaking here. Paul says, "According to the grace of God, the favor of God, the unearned unmerited favor, according to the grace of God, which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it". And what is the foundation? "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ".
All right, whatever foundation we lay, all right, it is pseudo, it is fake because the foundation that has been laid already by the wise master builder, Paul, is Jesus Christ. Everything must be built on Jesus Christ. You teach on parenting, it must be built on Jesus Christ. You teach on biblical financing, it must be built on Jesus Christ. Whatever you teach, it's gotta be on this foundation of Jesus Christ. When you say Jesus Christ, means what? His finished work. Jesus and his finished work. Can I have a good amen? You cannot produce your own foundation and say, "Well, we want this foundation. It's called ABC foundation. We have this idea, this foundation". No, no, no, no, the name that people must know us by is Jesus Christ. And God says be careful how you build. You must build on no other foundation but the foundation of Jesus Christ.
So, the thing is this, the foundation is Jesus Christ, but how you're built on it. Next verse, please. "Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures", listening, you better be listening, okay, because this is about your ministry, whether you receive reward or not. How many know that God gives reward? All right, it says this, "If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive," what? You know what's a reward or not? It can be a beautiful house, but what gives you the reward? If your work is not burned.
So, we come to this, "If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss", here is where the Apostle Paul, he's a grace guy, don't forget, right? He's very quick to say, but he himself will be saved. This has got nothing to do with salvation. Some people say, "Your ministry, you know, you are going to hell". You know, they try to associate performance with your eternal security. So, the Apostle Paul is not like that. He's very quick. We're talking about what? Work, your ministry, all right? If your works are burned, you suffer loss. That means what? No reward. But you are still saved. "Yet so as through fire". In other words, you still go through it, all right, but you are saved. It means at the end, all right, after the fire, you know, you're still standing there. You're not dead. The fire will never touch your soul, your spirit man.
So, the question that begs an answer is this, and I've studied many commentaries. I've studied a lot of people. They seem to go by the standard norm, which is what day is this? They will say, the day of judgment. The Lord told me, "Where do you find the word day of judgment"? So when I look up, it says what in verse 13? "Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it," the day will declare it. There is the day coming. By the way, you say, "Pastor Prince, it's capital D". In the Greek, there's no capital. It's put there by the translators. The day is the day of fire that comes. How many here under the sound of my voice, you went through a day of fire before, a season of fire? Let me see your hands. All of us have, and the season of fire actually exposes our motives, right or not?
All right, so it was the day. It doesn't mean 24 hours. I don't believe that. The day can be a season, just like, "Stand there, for in the evil day". Remember that? And it seems to tell me that, "evil day," singular, whereas, "He that will love life and see good days". So, I believe the seasons of good days are longer, amen, than the seasons of testing. Are you with me? All right, so the day will declare it. I do not know how the day will be initiated by. Will it be man testing you, checking you? Will it be something that exposes you? Will it be something that, you know, we do not know, but it's a day of fire. And then the real test, all right, when you go through it, how you go through it. So, I'm telling you, church, that the day of fire will reveal what sort of work is built on, amen? So, we have what? "If anyone", verse 12, "If anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones".
All right, they are one category. They are what we call the positive category, the good category. The other category wood, hay, straw is negative. How do you know how to divide? Very simple, fire comes in gold, all right, gold still remains. At the most, it melts, all right, under intense fire. Silver remains. Precious stones remain. Wood, hay, straw. Wood, what happened to wood when fire comes? It burns up. Hay, burns up. Straw, burns up, okay? Wood. Look at wood. We have wood. If fire touches it, what happens? It will burn, right? Hay, look at hay. If fire touches it, what's happen? Even a cigarette butt is thrown into it, what happens? It burns, amen? And we have straw. Fire touches it, it burns.
Okay, what are all these things? Wood, hay, straw. We'll start with the negative first, okay? Wood, hay, straw. Wood is always mankind. What is it to build on the wood? Fleshly effort. What is hay? What is hay and straw? Let me give you Bible for it, okay? Isaiah 40, "The grass withers". Ah, grass, straw, hay is made from grass. "The flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass". So, you have mankind typified by the wood. You have people typified by grass, okay? "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever". So, the flower is like, you know the greatest man on earth that people, "Wah, this guy is an amazing singer. Look at how many albums he sells. Look at all the people screaming for him and all that". But God says, "Just grass that burns away".
Go back to 1 Corinthians 3. Are you with me so far? All right, now look at this. The fire will test each one's work of what sort it is. Is it gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, straw? So, if you build your ministry, your leadership, all right, on human performance, fleshly efforts, human glory, human applause, the day will declare it what sort your ministry is made of. Are you listening, people? Now, we all want to build on gold, silver, and precious stones, right? And Bible interpret Bible. What is gold in the Bible? Divine righteousness. What is silver in the Bible? Redemption, amen. In other words, if your trust is always in the finished work, divine righteousness is a gift of grace based on the finished work, amen? Silver is redemption.
Look at this tabernacle. All these golden boards that you see up here, they're all you and I in the tabernacle. We make the tabernacle of God. And you know, at the bottom, all right, are two what we call tenons, they call it hands, excuse me, and the tenons of the silver sockets. The silver sockets, there are actually two holes. What they do is that the wood is like a wooden bar, and then the two, they call it hands, isn't it interesting? Underneath are the everlasting hands of God. Jesus says, "No man can pluck them out of my hand because your foundation is silver redemption". And you know what? You're not a wood lying in the desert, all right? You are a golden board and your feet doesn't touch the world, it touches redemption. No foundation but the foundation of Jesus Christ. And gold represents righteousness. You see, you don't see the wood, you see the gold.
So, what does it mean for your ministry to be built on gold and silver? It means, listen carefully, all right, for the pastor, for the leader and for those who are listening, all right, pastors and leaders has got to preach to the people like they are golden boards, not like they are wood. So, he was saying don't see the wood. Don't see the, you know, the fault in each other, but see each other in the divine righteousness of Jesus Christ, okay? Are you with me? And our foundation is silver, all right? See yourself that way. See your ministry that way. And always remember, because when you see yourself that way, you always give the glory to the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
All right, one more thing. Just know we go back to the verse again. We have precious stones, right? Gold, silver, precious stones. Where do you find precious stones in the Old Testament? Look up here on the breastplate of Pastor Matthews, all right? This is his body. We took this picture when he did the high priest's garments, all right? But look at the high priest's garments. What do you have right at the heart? Don't forget, the high priest here represents Jesus Christ. What is right on his heart, his bosom, a place of love? What do you find? The names of his people, the 12 tribes, all right? Put that to us. Translate that to us. Interpret that to us today. What does it mean? On Jesus's heart is you and I. And how is it presented? Like a stone, normal stone in the street, like pebbles? No, precious stones. All of us are precious stones, so when we preach to people, when we think about ourselves, we better know that the way you build your foundation, all right, is by seeing people as precious stones.
Doesn't mean there's no correction. There is correction, but the correction will be a loving correction, not beating correction. God calls us pastors to feed, not to beat. And there is correction in the Word, okay, but it's a loving correction. Are you with me, people? So, God is saying, "If you build your ministry on grace", all this I'm sharing with you is grace. If you build your ministry on grace, the day the fire comes, it will expose it, all right? It will expose your ministry is built on grace, and guess what. You receive a reward. Why a reward? Because the devil has to think twice before he brings the fire, right? 'Cause now you're left standing, guess what. You get a reward. You get a reward for going through the fire and your fruits remain, hallelujah. Come on, church, come on, church, amen?
All right, "If anyone's work which he has built on it endures," all say amen, "he will receive a," what? Shout three times. Do you like rewards? All right. God gives you the grace to do something, you use the grace he first gave you, then he blesses you for using the grace he first gave you. What a deal, what a God. What a God, amen? But it's all built on grace, praise God. All right, let's go to the next verse. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you"? Now, here comes a very famous verse that people are so scared of, all right, when they read this. "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are". "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him".
You see the word, "destroy"? It is exactly the same word as the word "defile". It's the same Greek word. The word there is actually, phtheiro. It's pronounced phtheiro, all right, in the Greek. Phtheiro. Phtheiro is used many times. The first application of phtheiro is actually corrupt. And you know the Amplified translation of the Bible, you know what it says? It quotes Matthew Henry, if you look at Amplified at the footnote, Matthew Henry is the one that says this, it's corrupt, they put bracket in Amplified. Corrupt, if anyone corrupt, defile and corrupt the temple of God, corrupt, defile, bracket, with false doctrines, all right, with false doctrines. And that's what God spoke to me long before I saw the Amplified, long before I realized it was Matthew Henry who also had the same revelation. God showed me and I shared with my pastors. You're all collectively and individually the temple of God.
How many know that? God is saying if anyone come to the pulpit and he teaches things that's based on wood, hay, straw, the church of Jesus Christ is not a place for wood, hay, and straw. But he comes and he teaches you to depend on your wood, all right, your wooden head, all right, your wooden arm, all right, and your wooden heart. And you produce the flowers of grass, hay that is burned away, guess what. God says it's preaching false doctrine. If it's not grace. It's not a finished work. It's not Jesus Christ. It's not built on Jesus Christ. God is saying the day of fire will burn it up. And you know what? Since he corrupt the people of God, the people of God are depending on their efforts instead of on God's grace. They are being corrupted. God says, "He will end up corrupt". God will make sure he ends up corrupt, why? Can you understand if I tell you this, it's the mercy and the grace of God for his people?
In closing, let me just show you this verse once again, Isaiah 40 just now. "The grass withers, the flower fades, the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades", I hope you understand it's not referring to real grass and real flowers, all right? It's typology here. It's referring to man who trust in their efforts will fade, all right? Cursed is the one who makes the flesh his arm, all right, whose heart departed from the Lord. He'll be like a shrub in the desert. It's always burning, drying up. Have you noticed that? Now, "The word of our God stands forever" is actually repeated in the New Testament, all right?
Watch this, in 1 Peter, "Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of our God which lives and abides forever," next verse, "because 'All flesh is as grass And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, Its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.'" What word is this? "Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you". It's the gospel of grace. It's the gospel of grace. It's the gospel of grace, that is the word of the Lord there, endure forever. Hallelujah! It's telling us if you preach the gospel of grace, man's effort will burn up. All the glory of man will fade away. In that day, in that hour, hallelujah, only one name will stand, the name of Jesus, name above every name, Jesus, the center of our life in our church, hallelujah.