Saturday, September 13, 2008

Merging the Message with the Ministry

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'" (Matthew 22:37-39).

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Sometimes we have a tendency to separate what God has joined together in our lives. We can be so consumed with the spiritual condition of the world that we exert all of our energy on spreading the message of salvation in Christ, neglecting people in physical need. On the other hand, we can be so consumed with the physical needs of our world that we exert all of our energy on relieving physical suffering, neglecting spiritual needs among the people. We can even attempt to justify our neglect by saying, "The only real good that can be done is by preaching the gospel" or "I preach through my actions." Neither excuse justifies us. When we proclaim the good news, we are not exempt from caring for people's physical needs. When we show mercy, we are obligated to point people toward Jesus Christ, the source of true mercy. Otherwise, we are tempted to show mercy for the wrong reasons: to make ourselves feel good about ourselves or to enjoy the praise of people.

Harold Shank, Anthony Wood, and Ron Bergeron wrote, "Jesus served people in holistic ways...He sought to serve people physically and spiritually. Only when we adopt his mission, casting aside our own world-supplied agendas that fracture our ministry, can we hope to find a holistic approach to the lost and the poor. Anyone who claims that the Christian mission includes only the spiritual, needs to read again the simple conclusion of James about spiritual ministry: 'Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world' (Jas 1:27). Any who limit the Christian mission to the physical must note Jesus' own calling: 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose' (Luke 4:43)" (Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor, p. 85).

John Piper wrote, "(Y)ou dare not choose between the motives to love people and glorify Christ. They are not separate motives. Acting on one includes acting on the other. Thus, if your aim is to love people, you will lay down your life to make them eternally glad in God. And if your aim is to glorify Christ, who is God incarnate, you will also lay down your life to make people eternally happy in God.

"The reason for this is that any good-hearted goal, without the desire to give people eternal joy in God, is condemnation with a kind face. Love always wants what is best for the needy, and what's best is enjoying God fully and forever" (Don't Waste Your Life, p. 159).

Let's care about people in every way possible while giving God the credit in every way possible. In doing so, we will also be loving God in every way possible.

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