Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

Imagine you lived when Christ was on earth and that you and your brother were His followers. One day Jesus chooses the two of you to run ahead to a Samaritan village to make ready for Him. You race each other down the dusty road to the village gate where you breathlessly explain that Jesus and His disciples are coming through on His way to Jerusalem. But you are met with rejection and contempt! This village steadfastly refuses to make ready for Jesus.

One minute you are enthusiastically carrying out your Master’s orders—the next minute you find yourself uncontrollably angry. How dare these people turn away your Lord? Your anger seethes to the boiling point. With white-hot rage and righteous indignation you turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?” (Luke 9:54) The mental image of great balls of fire engulfing these Samaritan rebels causes you to tingle with a strange excitement.

Then Jesus’ sharp rebuke cuts through you like a knife, chilling you through and through. “You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” Luke 9:56. Humiliated, you slink to the back of the crowd. Jesus’ rebuke echoes through your mind as you struggle to fathom the meaning of His words. Surely there must be some mistake! After all, the Master has trained you and you have been prepared for great spiritual exploits! Not to mention that Jesus IS the Son of God! He talked about establishing His kingdom! He has the power to throw down His enemies! He is deserving of worship and adoration! He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah! But you feel like you just hit a solid wall going 500 mph. What happened back there in that village anyway?

Have you ever been honest enough with yourself to
wonder if you could possibly have the wrong spirit?

When a person becomes a born-again believer the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them. They become the temple of the Holy Spirit. But they still have their own spirit which scripture often refers to as the “heart”. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. We cannot know the depth of the wickedness of our own hearts. That is why the disciples, when Jesus announced that one would betray Him, one by one sorrowfully asked “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19). Even Peter knew not his own heart, for he boldly proclaimed, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” verse 29. Not long afterwards he thrice denied even knowing the Lord.

What causes a believer to have “another spirit”—one that is contrary to the will and ways of God? The answer is pride. John and James were not walking in the Spirit when they boldly desired to call fire down from heaven in a display of power and judgment. Their attitude revealed a self-righteous spirit of elitism. John and James were no different than hosts of “wannabe ministers” today who desire to prove that they are a “somebody” with power, position and prestige. Sound familiar?

It is possible to be technically right, but spiritually wrong!

The point is, being in the right spirit means being submitted to the Holy Spirit rather than to our natural spirit which expresses itself through our flesh. A person can operate with a religious spirit, which is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit. The result is extremes in belief, attitude and actions such as “repentance” preaching that lacks love and grace of God; or, on the other hand, “ooey gooey” love that leaves out the fact that God is holy and just and hates sin, including those who practice it. (See Ps. 5:4-6; 10:3; 11:5-7; Hosea 9:15; Ro. 9:13; John 3:36.) From these passages we see that it is GOD, not us, who will rain fire out of heaven upon the wicked. Our commission is to preach the Gospel and to make disciples, warning of the wrath to come.

John and James are the disciples who, along with their mother, boldly requested of Jesus that He allow them to sit on His right and left hand when He set up His kingdom. (See John Mark 10:35-41.) This spirit of self-righteousness and elitism has been present within Christendom from the beginning and is one that must be carefully discerned and overcome. Christians who display this spirit very well may be responsible for countless souls turning away from God into a Christless eternity.

People with an agenda of “greatness” can easily fall prey to this type of spirit as they seek to fulfill their supposed “calling”. It’s safe to say that most Christians, who are in some sort of ministry or the other, have been tempted to come under this spirit of “elitism”. As with John and James, the initial stages of following Christ are full of excitement, learning and promise. As time goes on, however, human pride, if left unchecked, can erect a mindset of “holier than thou” thinking. We have seen some very embarrassing displays of opinionated bigotry and self-righteous prejudice from people who have been churchgoers for many decades. Such attitudes and actions are not only shocking, humiliating and disgusting, but a terrible reproach on the Gospel of Christ. Needless to say, such behavior, because it has the wrong motivation or spirit, totally lacks the love of God. This is what Jesus pointed out to John and James concerning their response to the Samaritans.

A vision for ministry instead of a vision
for souls produces the wrong spirit.

The Apostle Peter gives us a glimpse into another spirit. Not only did he boast that he would never deny Christ, but he rebuked Jesus when He revealed He would suffer many things and be killed. Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” Matthew 16:23. Peter had his own idea of ministry and was confident he could cause it to succeed. He was motivated by his own agenda, which revealed the true intentions or inclinations of his heart. Peter’s love for Christ was misdirected. His desire to be an important part of a “big ministry” superceded God’s will for his life. Peter’s self-confidence opened the door for Satan and eventually led to his downfall.

Along with many Christians today, Peter initially refused to believe that death to self is the key to true life in Christ and real ministry. Peter was confident a “successful ministry” was God’s ultimate goal for his life. What Peter did not understand, until after the resurrection, is exactly what constitutes true ministry.

A good example of an individual with a worldly spirit who rejected godly ministry is Judas Iscariot. This worldly spirit opened the door for a religious spirit that was basically an antichrist, counterfeit spirit. Judas’ prideful, self-serving agenda allowed him to play the religious games, but he had no heart for lost souls. Ministry to Judas meant monetary gain and involvement with people of stature. He had no inclination toward the poor, the outcasts, the sick, the weak, the unlovable or even women. Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look very far to find this spirit alive and well in the church world today.

People with a worldly spirit end up
betraying Christ for their own gain.

Any time a person’s motive is self-serving it is wrong regardless of how good it may look. For example, if ministry is your primary focus or goal, it is wrong because God’s goal is not ministry butrelationship. Our relationship with God must be foremost—after that being available to feed His sheep, which means personal involvement with them.

People with the wrong motivation and/or agenda cannot be trusted because their focus is not on God, but on their goal. Consider the multitudes that followed Jesus for personal benefit until He proclaimed that unless they partook of his flesh and blood (referring to His death) they had no life in them John 6). People nowadays are no different than those in the multitude who do not want to hear about total identification with Christ because it means death to self! We enjoy “playing church” and “socializing” with each other while giving lip service to our comfortable concept of Christianity. But few are willing to pay the price to go all the way and become identified with Jesus. In other words, to come clean and get real means recognizing that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags” to God. It means being humbled at the foot of the cross and giving up personal rights. It means lining up with God’s heart, God’s ways and God’s will whether it “feels good” or not. It means humility, fear of God and integrity through and through.

It is from the point of our own wretched and lost state
that we gain the greatest glimpse of God’s measureless mercy and grace.

It’s easier for us Christians to adopt a “holier than thou” stance than to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the depths of our own depravity. Believers who have never been broken over their own wretched state at the foot of the cross are prime candidates for a wrong spirit because they lack God’s grace. The results of a watered-down gospel is the satanic lie that we somehow deserve God’s grace and mercy. This has a direct bearing on our love for God and others, causing less appreciation for the great price paid for our redemption. When we come to grips with the fact that without Christ we are hell-bound sinners, then love for God is rekindled with deep gratitude and thankfulness because of God’s amazing grace and love. As we gain God’s perspective, we also begin to see how pathetic, selfish, self-serving, prideful and unloving we really are.

Before the crucifixion Jesus graphically and personally demonstrated to His disciples the meaning of true ministry when He washed their feet.

Jesus tirelessly tried to teach His eager disciples that true ministry is not to be sought after as an entity in itself—as something distinct and lofty from “normal, ordinary life”. On the contrary, as Jesus washed His disciple’s feet He told them, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” John 13:15. He taught them to love and submit to one another, preferring others to self.

As recorded in Matthew 10:42 Jesus said, “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” True ministry and real Christianity are practical. God’s idea of ministry means serving people, whoever they are, wherever they are in their physical, human needs as well as their spiritual needs. While Jesus may have taught multitudes on different occasions, He nevertheless ministeredto hurting and needy individuals. Christianity is not a religion—it is a relationship with God.

The tendency today is to define “successful ministry” as being
“up in front” preaching or prophesying to enormous crowds of people.

It takes a mature, strong, Christian to be able to discern genuine ministry, in our day and age, from all the hype and worldly, Hollywood-style glamour (with Jesus sort of “tacked” on). The fact is statistics still prove that one-on-one evangelism and discipleship is more successful at producing solid sold-out Christians than large evangelistic crusades. The percentage of “fall out” because of lack of follow up is shocking. Today the majority of Christians are so caught up in the fast lane of their fun, fun, fun church activities such as bingo, potlucks, plays, sports, retreats and entertainment, that they have all but forgotten that their mission field is the person next to them! Hell is real folks.

One of Satan’s greatest temptations to Christians is to view Christianity as being a totally “spiritual, religious, super-state” of unrealistic, unscriptural “warm fuzzy” feelings and sentimentalism. This produces the idea that somehow, once we are born again, we are not allowed to be what we were created to be—human! We will always be human! Consider Jesus who came in the flesh to totally identify with us humans! He suffered physical thirst, hunger, exhaustion, pain and all of the other things that go with being a human being in this world. Emotionally, he identified with every emotion you and I could ever experience. He wept, sorrowed, mourned, was angry and rejoiced. Yet how many of us unfairly judge others because they are simply human? Be willing to give others a break! (Note: I am not talking about sin or rebellion.)

Jesus, more than anyone, understands that we are made of dust; that we are human and given to human frailties. He does not condemn us for being human. He did not come as man so we could become a god or something “super spiritual”. Today we have an abundance of high-flying “super spiritual saints” flitting around like Tinkerbell, laying hands on everybody within sight, trying to be a “somebody” in the kingdom of God. Needless to say, these shallow people have the wrong spirit. They need to “land” and sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him.

After the resurrection, Peter, James and John had
an entirely different perspective of ministry.

The day dawned when Jesus outlined for Peter his ministry. And Peter was ready to receive it. But first, Jesus had to establish, for Peter’s sake, Peter’s agenda, motivation and goal by asking him three times, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” John 21:16. As Jesus did so, He then revealed to Peter the true heart of God concerning ministry when he said, “Feed my lambs”“Feed my sheep” and “Follow me”. Thus the right spirit was established in Peter concerning God’s will for ministry. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood and delivered one of the shortest but most powerful sermons in history and three thousand souls were saved. But, for the most part, Peter’s ministry afterwards involved ministering, as Jesus did, to hurting individuals.

What happened to James and John? We know that Herod killed James with the sword according to Acts 12:2. No doubt many were confused by the fact that God allowed James to be killed. After all, Jesus had invested greatly in James. This surely proved to be another test to the people of their ideas of “ministry” and revealed what spirit they were of.

God has not changed.
The gospel has not changed.
The Great Commission has not changed
and our responsibilities before God have not changed.

The Apostle John, who at one time contended for a choice seat next to the King of kings, became a pillar in the church, ministering to the needs of the people. (See Gal. 2:9.) Peter, along with John, demonstrated the heart of God when, by the Gate Beautiful, they gave such as they had, Jesus, to the lame beggar. The result? “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” Acts 3:8. This is the key to true ministry that is acceptable to God—giving people Jesus!

If you, dear reader, are a Christian, then know that your ministry is to be the salt and the light of the world! It is not God’s will that any should perish.

May we all be found faithful at His coming!