Tony Evans - The Motivation for Ministry
Paul in Colossians 1 states the motivation for his ministry. And he calls that ministry the ministry to the church. It is the ministry for witch you have gathered today, whether you know it or not. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you're on the team. If you have trusted Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life, you're on the team. And you're gathered here today, so you're in the stadium. But why? Paul says that his goal, and it should be my goal and the goal of every church and every church member, is that I might present every man complete in Christ.
That's the goal. If you want to know what the spiritual Super Bowl is, if I can use that analogy, is that when your life is over and earth is done, that you and I will stand before the Lord complete in Christ. When does this presentation occur? It occurs at the judgment seat of Christ. When you stand before the Lord, you will stand complete or incomplete. You will stand a spiritual failure or a spiritual success. You will stand a victor or a victim. You will stand before the Lord. It is the job of the church to make sure you get the trophy. It is our job to stand with you so that you hear when you meet the Savior, "Well done, my good and faithful servant". As opposed to, "I'm so ashamed of you". For the Bible says that both will occur.
Our role and your role in it is to be presented on that day complete in Christ. Now, what does it mean to be presented complete? The word "complete" means mature. It means grown up. The word means to have reached a mature stage in your Christian experience. God didn't save you and me to stay babies. We all know it's possible that your chronological age doesn't necessarily equal your maturity. Maturity is the process of growing up spiritually. It is the process of going deeper spiritually. It is the process of becoming more like Christ in character and conduct, attitudes and actions. And it's called maturity.
Paul on a number of occasions had to chide the church for their lack of growth. In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 14 all the way through chapter 3, verse 3, he talks about the fact that there were spiritual people, but many were carnal, and they were still carnal. Let me explain, it takes five years to move from infancy to spiritual maturity if it's a priority. Now, where did I get five years from? Because Paul told them in 1 Corinthians he had gone to them. Five years later, he wrote 1 Corinthians, and he's shocked that they're still carnal.
So, there was a five-year gap from their conversion to their maturity that was supposed to take place, but they were still drinking from bottles five years later. They hadn't grown to solid food. In the book of Hebrews chapter 5, verses 11 through 15, one of the premiere passages in the Scripture on the process of maturity, some of those Christians had been saved for 30 years. They'd gotten saved 30 years later. And the author of Hebrews... well, let me read to you what he says to them in Hebrews chapter 5.
Let me begin reading in verse 12, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God. And you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, and he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil". He says there are milk Christians and there are meat Christians. And some of these are 30-year-old saints who are still drinking milk.
So, what's a milk Christian versus a meat Christian? A milk Christian he says is not accustomed to the word of righteousness. What does he mean? A milk Christian is a Christian who does not and has not developed the habit of going to the Word to answer the issues of life. They're not used to, accustomed to, it's not their habit to appeal to the Word to address life's realities. That's a milk Christian. Milk Christians go to their friends first. Milk Christian go to their posse first. They go maybe to family first. They look at what the secular world has to say first because they're not used to it. They haven't developed a habit of appealing to what God has to say to address the realities of life.
It says they're not used to using it, and so they stay on milk. He says they don't use it. That's why a milk Christian can hear 52 sermons on Sunday, 52 sermons on and teachings on Wednesday, and never change. Never improve, never have victory because they weren't used to using it. A milk Christian is a defeated Christian because they're not growing. As opposed to a meat Christian. A meat Christian is a Christian who he says has learned to discern good and evil by their practice of the use of the Word.
Here's how you know if you're a meat Christian, the ability to discern. He says that the spiritual Christian is one who by, watch this, practice has learned to discern. In order for you to become mature, God sends you and me into practice sessions. Those practice sessions are the challenges in life that he allows you to come your way in order for you to use the Word to get through them. Some of us resent the Word. We don't want anybody bringing no Bible up right now, I'm dealing with this. I don't need no Bible.
That's 'cause you are a milk Christian. 'Cause meat Christians welcome it. Meat Christians embrace it. Meat Christians want to know on the front end, "Tell me what God says about this situation so that I can apply divine truth to my scenario, so that I can be mature and grow". Milk Christians say, "Oh, that's too hard to chew. That's meat. That's meat, I ain't into meat". Milk Christians will talk a lot about what Jesus did on earth. Milk Christians will know Bible stories. They can tell you what the Bible says 'cause a lot of milk Christians will memorize the Bible, and will study the Bible, and will go to church and hear the Bible, but that's not where the difference between milk and meat is.
Milk and meat is the use that enables you to discern. So our job, Paul says, is to prepare you for that day. He refers to it again back in Colossians chapter 1. He refers to that day in verse 22, "Yet he has now reconciled you into his fleshly body through death in order to present you before him holy and blameless and beyond reproach". On that day, when you stand before the Lord and he stands before you, he wants to be proud of you. And that eternal perspective influences choices, decisions, confession, reversals, corrections, clarifications. It affects, like a football player who's living for that day, all he does today.
God says, "Well, I'm gonna help you get there. And I'm gonna help you get there with a mystery". He calls it a mystery. He calls it a mystery in verse 26, "That is the mystery which has been hidden in past generations". He calls it a mystery in verse 27, "The glory of this mystery". So, I'm gonna tell you a secret. It's a secret. A mystery in the Bible is something that was not taught in the Old Testament that's clarified and explained in the New Testament. He says it at the end of verse 27, "Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory".
Whoa. Christ in you, the hope of glory. You see, here's what's missing. Christ did not only come to save us. He also came to indwell us. If you are only satisfied that you're going to heaven one day, you will not stand before him complete 'cause that's not the only reason he came. He didn't come merely to take you to heaven. He also came to bring heaven to you, the hope of glory. And in order to do that, guess what he did? He took up residence in you. So, you're going to meet somebody in the future who you also have with you in the present. And he's in you. Your change comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Christ in you. Jesus doesn't want to just be in your life, he wants to be your life.
Paul could say, "Though my outward man perishes, my inward man is being renewed day by day". I'm getting older physically while I'm getting younger spiritually. That's what he said because this Christ in me is providing freshness and newness as I get older. So, that raises a question, doesn't it? How do you get the indwelling Christ to be activated for the purpose of transformation? That becomes the question. Well, Paul has not left us to wonder about that. Verse 28, he uses three words. "We proclaim him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom".
Three words: preaching, teaching, admonishing. Let me deal with preaching, teaching, and then I'll deal with admonishing as we come to our last point. Preaching, we proclaim him. That word means preaching. The proclamation of Jesus Christ is to be the centerpiece of your focus. Everything is to be brought back to him. Jesus even told the disciples on the Emmaus road, who only had an Old Testament, it says he read to them from Moses and the prophets, and said, "Moses and the prophets talked about me". 'Cause even in the Old Testament, when Jesus hadn't been born yet, it was all written with anticipation of him.
So, Jesus Christ is to be the linking point, the hub in the wheel of every spoke of your life taken back to him. We proclaim him. My job from a pulpiteering standpoint is to keep Jesus Christ in front of you. Preaching is to declare with authority a truth in order to invoke a response from here. It is to motivate you to respond. Teaching is more content-driven because it's more understanding oriented, whether or not there is a call for a response. Some people say, "Well, I like teaching. I like digging into the Greek and the Hebrew, and the exegesis and the exposition, and getting deeper into it. And I like teaching".
They got notebooks and, you know, 'cause they love the content. They love the content. But between the preaching and the teaching, he throws in another word, a keyword, "Admonishing every man". To admonish is to guide someone in their use of the information. Okay, watch this now. Between the proclamation and the teaching, he says there must be the admonishing. That is to come alongside and help somebody to use the word that they heard preached or taught. Why? 'Cause it's easy to hear somebody else preach it. And it's easy to hear somebody else teach it. But for you to use it, you need somebody on the ground with you who's encouraging you, motivating you, inspiring you, challenging you, correcting you, to admonish every man.
Our gap is not that we don't in most cases believe what we heard. It's just when we get to the real world, we forget it, don't know how to use it. That's why he says you do it with all wisdom 'cause everybody's different. A single is different from a married person. A man is different from a woman. A person who has this set of circumstance different from somebody else. So, it has to be wisely applied.
That's why, see here's, God did not create this church or any church just so you could hear sermons. You don't need the church to hear sermons. You can go on television, you can go on radio, and you can get all the sermons that you want to get. He didn't just create the church so you could get teaching. You can go on radio and television, and look at CDs and DVDs, you can get teaching. He didn't create the church just so you can get music. You can get CDs, you can listen to music, you turn on the radio and get Christian music. So, you actually, you don't need the church for any of those things.
The reason you need the church is to be in a context of admonishment, where somebody is coming alongside you and say, "You know we shouldn't be going that way. You know that's not the right decision based on the Word of God". See, but the problem is we don't want that. Church all up in my business and all up in my, I know, we don't want admonishment. And without admonishment, it won't stick because Satan, the Bible says, snatches the Word. He keeps the Word from getting down in your gizzard. He keeps the Word from sticking with you. So, unless somebody else outside of you, stronger than you is able to keep you tethered to the truth of God's Word, you will drift from it.
You need the church for community. It's only in the real deal that growth takes place. And unless you have a posse, unless you have somebody or somebodies who are influencing you, then Christ is not growing inside of you and you're not changing. Oh, but when the indwelling Christ is allowed to be set loose because everything is being related to him and people are force feeding you, force feeding you, force feeding you the Jesus thing, force feeding you how Jesus relates to everything 'cause it's not only the written word, it is the living word that brings transformation into the life.
And whenever the written word gets connected to the living word, you will change. Because the only way you know you're maturing is if you are changing. If you're not changing, you're not maturing. When you discover Christ in you, the hope of glory, because the written word and the living word have been dynamically preached, taught, and admonished, not only will you be ready for that day, you'll do better today. Because Christ will be active in your experience.
When you've been to the Four Seasons, Motel 6 won't do. When you've experienced the Four Seasons or the Ritz, you wonder why you ever went to a Motel 6, but if Motel 6 is all you know, that's all you comfortable with, okay? If all you know is going to church on Sunday, you missing the Ritz. You missing something greater God wants to expose you to. You're missing something deeper he wants to give you a reality of. So, I invite you to another level. And we're going to learn through this series how that day affects today.
God's concern for each of us is our spiritual maturity. He wants us to grow up in our Christ-likeness, to be transformed into the image of Christ. Whatever ministry you are a part of, your growth and your impacting and influencing the growth of others, should be of paramount concern. God doesn't just want us going through religious motions. He doesn't want us just doing the duty of being a Christian. He wants us changing because he wants us to become like his son in our character, our conduct, and our actions and our attitudes so that the choices we make begin to change, because we are not being influenced by his Word and by his Spirit to become different kind of people.
If you're a parent, you know what it feels like to want to see your children grow up, and mature, and maximize their potential. The potential that started off so small as an embryo that now, as they grow in life and move to adulthood, you want to see them become responsible citizens. In fact, you're disappointed, I'm disappointed when our kids aren't being as responsible as we are instructing them to be. Well, God gets disappointed too when his kids aren't maturing in the faith. In fact, the Bible talks about different levels, childhood, talks about youth, talks about fathers. And fathers, focal having kids, so they're influencing the lives of others.
So, that should be the pattern and the paradigm for your own growth and transformation. You start off as a child that maybe you're not good at making decisions, spiritual decisions. He talks about the youth, the struggle, the struggle of Satan and the flesh and the world to pull us away from God, those teenage years. But then you break through that time and you become a parent. That is, your maturity is influencing someone else. So, if you're not growing, if I'm not growing, if we're not maturing because our decisions are being now more consistently reflective of our faith and of God's truth, then we're not only losing in this life, but we are losing reward in the life to come.
On the other hand, if we are maturing and are growing and become fathers and mothers, parents that is helping other believers to mature, well, now we are seeing ourselves positioned for greater impact in history and greater reward in eternity. So, as you look at the church you are a part of, the Bible study you're a part of, the family you're a part of, look for spiritual development as the goal. Because when spiritual development becomes your goal and you are progressing in Christ-like decision making, then you can expect to see more of God at work in time, and hear more congratulations from him in eternity.
One of the great truths about the Bible is the magnificent grace of God. Grace is the free gift God gives to sinful people. If you are not a Christian, he offers eternal life. If you are a Christian, he offers to sustain your life. And it's all by his grace that's accessed by faith. So, when you trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin, that gives you personal salvation from the penalty of sin. But when you walk with Christ, his grace supplies you with the enablement to override the power of sin by trusting what he did to be activated for you in your life.
So, if you're not a Christian, come to Christ for salvation. If you are a Christian, but you've backslidden, you've fallen into sin, well, all you've got to do is come back to Christ and ask for his grace to cleanse you and get you back on the right track of walking with you to your next level of spiritual victory. He saves by grace, and he also sustains by grace when you appropriate it by faith.