In the course of daily living it is sometimes astounding as well as disheartening to see the almost universal disregard of God by the world. Truly sheep without a shepherd, in a darkness unknown to them, and yet it is known. The darkness seems like light, and the light of God appears as darkness.
Most are oblivious to any awareness that they are only a “heartbeat away from eternity”. The things of God, in whatever context God can be considered, as the Apostle Paul said “are foolishness to him” (1Corinthian 3:19). There are many reasons for this - the blinding of their minds by Satan (Ephesians 2:2), while unknowingly carrying the weight of sin and rebellion originating with man’s original fall from grace. Then there is the time and chance activity that God built into the universe (Ecclesiastes 9:11), within which Jesus described how the sowing of the seed of the gospel functions in this age (Matthew 13).
Many of those who sow the seed of the gospel are often dismayed at the results, at the same time realizing that there are many factors involved, many of which are beyond their control. This is often true although there has been much prayer, supplication, effort, and organizing and expenditure of money. There is greater or lesser fruit produced in different parts of the world. But relatively speaking, the harvest garnered as to the effort expended seems disproportionate, especially in the United States. And we know that the gospel is the power God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). The MESSAGE is POWERFUL unto salvation itself!
So the problem is NOT with the message. Perhaps there is another reason for the ineffectiveness of some efforts to preach the gospel - one that most of us would prefer not to think about too often...
Perhaps the problem is the messenger...
This could all revolve around an unintentional living out of a parent’s effort to escape responsibility for their own part in the conduct of their child by the retort “don’t do like I do, do like I say”! However there are many natural and developed abilities of those in ministry that, although beneficial in some ways, do NOT “add to” the effectiveness of the gospel! Paul stated that he did not come with the gospel in great oratory, speaking ability, or impressive leadership ability. He came in humility, like a “nurse” among children, in gentleness. But the Holy Spirit through the gospel itself was THE POWER OF GOD that convicted and convinced the hearts of the hearers! In these ways and many more, it does not DEPEND ON US.
But there can be a messenger “missing link” that DOES depend on the messenger. And it is CRITICAL to the success of ANY ministry! If you are a real Christian, you are in “ministry”. In the same way, if you are not a Christian, you are also in “ministry”- you are ministering in this world, of this world, to this world. But this world is passing away. I hope and pray you may see the implications.
Everyone is a ripple in a very large pond. Some make bigger ripples than others. Some spread healing waters. Others add to already turbulent waves. We are all influence purveyors - whether we want to be or not. To illustrate, what if a minister delivered a sermon, or someone who lets others know that are serving Christ, were to speak what seemed to contain all the elements of a powerful proclamation of the gospel, and then someone whispers: “but what you are screams louder than what you say!"
Could this be what Jesus would say to us...?
What escapes us as Christians many times is the reality that we are called to REPRESENT Jesus Christ, no matter what our station in life. We reflect Him in some way - whether we want to or not. The more we are LIKE HIM, the clearer the reflection. The darker and the more shadowy the reflection, the more we MIS-represent Him! And at that point is where many of the problems of ineffective ministry begin - with US - the messengers (James 1:21-25).
If this is true, what SPECIFICALLY is it about a messenger that hinders the gospel?
The KEY is tucked away in one of the well known Psalms of David - Psalm 51.Most know the setting of this Psalm, but beginning in verse 6, David begins to reveal what he has come to understand about what God REALLY desires in him, and in us, especially in our role of ministry. The foremost attribute to enable real ministry is TRUTH. But truth where? In our eloquence, our charm, our organizational ability, our clever manipulation of others, our winsome smile and demeanor? No. Truth in the “inward parts” - in our heart. This is the part of us that is not seen even by those closest to us. David means here that part of us so deep and recessed that we cannot know it - part of us so deeply recessed below even our subconscious. It is totally beyond our awareness or consciousness. It is in the realm of our spirit, where the Holy Spirit resides if we belong to Jesus the Christ. Our “spirit” encapsulates our total being. This is the reason it is so difficult to truly “know” someone. Unless God grants a special discernment, some seem to be beyond knowing. But THERE is where the TRUTH MUST BE! And it - or the lack of it - can be the unseen, unknown reason for ineffectiveness in the service of all of as Christians. But - Jesus CAN see! He will not empower us in our lack of truth in our inward parts! How much do we REALLY value “TRUTH”? And above all, how much do we desire the truth about us - I mean about us DEEP DOWN in the hidden places of the heart. It is in the hidden “places in the heart” that is a world within itself - for evil or good.
The flaw in the messenger can be the reason - known only to God - that limits the effectiveness of our ministry, whether we are a minister of one, or of ten thousand. Until our heart is cleansed, and then filled with TRUTH in all that may mean for each of us, - there cannot be real ministry to a dying world. In Psalm 51:14 David expresses how he has come to realize the importance of all this for SALVATION - first for him, and then - FOR OTHERS. He has come to see that THE CONDITION OF HIS HEART IS THE KEY TO FURTHER MINISTRY! There was a time when he did not know his heart, in those depths that he nor anyone else could fathom.
But God could - and did!
NOW - he can ask and receive empowerment of his natural abilities again. The cleansing of the inward parts of him have now fitted him to be used by the Holy Spirit. So can it be with all the servants of Jesus Christ!
What is hidden deeply in our “inward parts” - known ONLY to God? He will do just as much for me and for you, as for David ...(Psalm 51:10).
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