Examine the Ministry Message
- Tuesday, May 09, 2006
We can pat ourselves on the backs and speak of how well we do things. But, if we are not conveying a pure gospel with methods that don't confuse people into false security for God's glory and not our own, then we are guilty of violating God's sacred trust.
As a trustee of the gospel of God, Paul affirmed that he spoke as a trustee. A two-fold dynamic is involved in such speech. In the first place, he and his companions did not speak as pleasing men. Their message was often rejected, sometimes considered, and rarely received. Had they desired to gain a multitude of followers for personal gain they would have proclaimed a different message. They did not employ flattery or deception because their goal was not to please men. Their interests lied elsewhere.
In the second place, they spoke to please God. Their interests were with Him. In order to please God, they had to speak His message as He had given it with His glory in view. The only way to be a faithful steward of the trust God has given is to deliver God's message, God's way, for God's glory.
This simple concept is a much needed corrective in the church today as God's message has been adulterated on many fronts, delivered in a myriad of unbiblical, worldly, and sinful ways, and that for purely selfish motives. Well might purveyors of religion receive the accusation of the errorists at Thessalonica with a view toward repentance that they might be enabled to stand with Paul and declare with integrity that their message does not spring from error or deceit nor is it conveyed to please men, but God.
Paul extends his thought a bit. "For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God is witness (v. 5)." He flatly denies the use of flattering words. This employment was common among the false and pseudo-philosophers but not Paul and his companions. Further, he appeals to the fact that the Thessalonians knew this to be true. They observed Paul's life and witness. Paul is saying, "you know we did not flatter you."
Again, Paul affirms the purity of his motive. They did not use a cloak of covetousness. Their hearts were clean and they were not after money as so many of the false philosophers were. Paul's day was not unlike our day. As preachers of religion employed many ways to extract money from their listeners in Paul's day, so too they do in our day. One cannot watch religious programming on television long without being exposed to error and deceit with a view toward extracting money from the listening audience. Paul flatly denies a money motive and tells the Thessalonians they know that to be true.
We may summarize. True gospel preachers seek only to please God, do not use flattering words, and are not motivated by greed. How we need to hear these things today!
Fourth, when examining ministry (message, method, and motive), ask the question: can it stand the test of God's searching eye? Yet another document emerged from "the culmination of two days of discussions involving about 31 Southern Baptists from a variety of perspectives," according to Baptist Press. This document, known as "The Memphis Declaration," in part, is concerned with a variety of troubling issues in the Southern Baptist Convention.
The first point of the declaration deals with triumphalism. The signers of the declaration state: "We publicly repent of triumphalism about Southern Baptist causes and narcissism about Southern Baptist ministries which have corrupted our integrity in assessing our denomination bureaucracy, our churches, and our personal witness in light of the sobering exhortations of Scripture. Therefore, we commit ourselves to a renewed pledge to integrity demonstrated by accountability in our denomination, both before God and each other, lest in preaching the meekness of our Lord to others we ourselves will be found guilty of wicked, sinful pride (www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=23180)." Let us not forget that God can see our hearts and that He tests them and that no witness, whether for us or against us, matters other than His!
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