Dream word – PEACE
“Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” NKJV
Of root and fruit and rejoicing in the midst of rabies
One of my favourite authors and one of my favourite books is Larry Crabb’s The Safest Place On Earth. The title is a prayerful and practical desire for what the church community should be, instead of the disappointing caricature which it currently is. The more I read the New Testament, the more I witness the stupidity of smelly lost sheep, the more I get butted up my own rear end when bending down to help others, then the more I believe, at least this side of heaven, that the church is more often than not one of the most dangerous places on the planet! How on earth can we rejoice amidst such a dishevelled community, so full of sharp knives and biting and devouring teeth?
Even if it is the pretentious proclamation of the Gospel which is rooted in envy, grown in selfish ambition and flowering in strife, for the sole purpose of adding further suffering to a lonely, chained and beat up old apostle, our text for tonight gives us an astonishing example of rejoicing in the midst of rabies. So, for those of you out there who are perplexed with the madness of the mob at church, here are three rabies shots for you tonight.
The first rabies shot is an open eyes acknowledgement that from our text for tonight, we see that Christians were the practitioners of this particularly foul Gospel proclamation! Paul does not say that this foul practice is from the mouths and hearts of unbelievers, therefore, “that’s understandable” therefore, “it makes it more easy to bear!” No! He acknowledges that these are believers. Envious, selfish, ambitious believers who are out to do him harm, and my friend, if you think they aren’t still about today, well just drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with a whole bunch of ‘em! I wonder if the highly lauded, much sought after, Chief Executive Office of Senior Pastor has done more to exemplify and proliferate this self protecting, self providing, self aggrandising, career minded and envious attitude, than any other protestant practice in history. The problem has always been with us, but our present church structures greatly aid this abominable practice of envious Gospel preaching. Change the structure, salve the practice and you just might help solve the problem. Somewhat. Maybe.
The second rabies shot from this text is that though Paul was hurt, yes even though Paul was harmed, he still rejoiced in the Gospels proliferation despite the rotten root reasons of its then proclamation! Now that’s remarkable! His heart was for the seeding of faith in the ears of unbelievers. His heart was for the preaching of the Gospel to anyone and to everyone, and for him, even though it was being delivered from the vicious tongues of braying donkeys, it was nevertheless, being delivered. This made him rejoice! What a focus! What a remarkable attitude to have!
Which brings us to our final rabies shot from this text, and that is, an acknowledgement of the goodness of God in the amazing power of the proclaimed Gospel. Yes, even if the root of the proclamation is bad, the fruit of the proclamation can be good. Not only is that amazing but it accounts for so much seeming blessing from the most unlikely of sources! It seems that God will have His way and have His church gathered in to Himself, no matter what, no matter why, no matter who!
It is worthy of note that from our text we can see that the fruit of proclamation does not necessarily reflect the root of delivery, either in person or in practice. Take note of that tonight dear Christian, and if you can, rejoice!
Listen: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV
Pray: So Lord, grant to me this focus of living, this clarity of uncluttered thought, this practical ability of prayer and supplication and then please, lay on me, in rivers of gold Oh my God, even the all surpassing peace of Your promises in Jesus Christ our Lord, in His great name I ask it, amen.
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