Three Truths from Jesus about Our Obedience

Obedience
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Reading the words of our Savior, we need to realize the tremendous emphasis He put on obedience. As I think about appropriating Christ’s model and commands for us in the ministry, three specifics are important enough to mention.

First, obedience means personal involvement. Jesus told His disciples, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).

We cannot serve our congregations in absentia or at arm’s length. It means if someone is drowning in a troubled sea, we get wet . . . we get involved. It means if someone drifts away, we don’t ignore that person or simply pray, we reach out to help and restore.

Think about this. Honestly now, are you willing to get personally involved and help at least one person in need? Willingness must precede involvement.

Bringing It Home

Ministry
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What is it going to take to convince us that the last will be first and the first will be last? For some it will take a lifetime, for others only a few semesters in seminary.

Each May, at the end of the spring term at Dallas Seminary, we have the joy of listening to the school’s top preachers. They’re nominated and selected by pastoral-ministry professors.

One year a talented young man preached on that pivotal passage in John 13 where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.

After a compelling exposition of that simple text, the young senior class preacher leaned low into the microphone, looked across the faces in Chafer Chapel, and asked his fellow students, “Do you want to have a great ministry . . . or do you just want to be great?”

Hidden Greed

Greed post
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The prophet Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was the bearer of news the Syrian officer, Naaman, did not want to hear. As a result, the soldier threw a fit. But do you know what later happened to Naaman?

He finally did precisely what he was told to do, and he received the miraculous result he had been promised (2 Kings 5:14).

Unlike many people whom you and I may help in the ministry, Naaman returned to thank Elisha and Gehazi. He was so overwhelmed, he offered a sizable gift of gratitude.

Elisha refused any tangible thank you (5:15–19). But that’s not the end of the account. Naaman offered Gehazi a gift as well. Deep within the heart of Elisha’s servant crouched a silent beast of the soul.

Make or Mar Your Ministry

Marriage
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I don’t think the Lord gives mates to us pastors to frustrate us. God gives a pastor a wife for life, knowing full well that it will take time to cultivate that relationship.

In fact, when we give our time to our spouse, we are demonstrating devotion to Christ. I don’t think we’re missing out on anything God has for us to do at the church.

Dealing with Rejection

Rejection
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If you enjoy watching and playing the game of football (I certainly do), you have observed a curious activity called a “spike.” It’s rather unusual. A team fights its way toward the goal line yard by yard.

Minutes seem like hours as the offensive team plods along and presses on. Suddenly, it happens.

A play works beautifully, and streaking to the long-awaited touchdown is a muscular running back or some fleet-footed wide receiver.

Six points! But as soon as he crosses the line, this athlete takes the ball and slams the little thing to the ground. With all his might! The guy doesn’t so much as say, “Thanks, ball.”

The Gospel to the Lost . . . Grace to the Saved

Grace
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Want a wonderful paradigm for ministry? Paul’s message emphasizes the gospel to the lost and grace to the saved. As I’ve studied the life of Paul, particularly in his later years, I find two prominent themes woven like threads through the tapestry of his ministry.

First, his message offers the gospel to the lost:

Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39).

Imagine the impact our churches would have on our communities if each Christian committed to sharing the gospel once a week with someone who expresses a need.

Words I Needed to Hear

On the phone
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I’ll never forget the day a friend dropped by my study. We spoke for a while, and just before he left, he had that look of unfinished business on his face.

He couldn’t leave without looking at me squarely in the eyes and saying some hard things.

“I don’t know how I should say these things, Chuck. But I can’t just ignore them either. The fact is, I’m concerned.”

That stung a little. “Concerned about what?” I probed.

Suffering for Doing What Is Right

eyes
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As you serve people in ministry, you will give, forgive, forget, release your own will, obey God to the maximum, and wash dirty feet with an attitude of gentleness and humility.

And yet, after all those beautiful things, you will occasionally get ripped off. Knowing all this ahead of time will help “improve your serve,” believe me.

The Bible doesn’t hide this painful reality from us. In 1 Peter 2:20 (addressed to servants, by the way—see verse 18), we read:

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

Part of this “makes sense,” according to our logical-and-fair standard.

Part of it doesn’t. If a person does wrong and then suffers the consequences, even though he or she patiently endures the punishment, nobody applauds.

But—now get this clearly fixed in your mind—when you do what is right and suffer for it with grace and patience, God applauds!

Illustration: Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

He, the perfect God-man, was mistreated, hated, maligned, beaten, and finally nailed cruelly to a cross.

He suffered awful consequences, even though He spent His life giving and serving (1 Peter 3:17–18).

One thing is certain: if people treated a perfect individual that way, then imperfect people cannot expect to escape mistreatment.

If mistreatment hasn’t happened to you yet . . . it will.

—Chuck

The Strength of Serving Others

Serving each other
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Jesus said a strong thing to Peter when He spoke these words: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Our Lord’s rebuke introduces a convicting observation: being a servant is not a sign of inner weakness, but of incredible strength.

There is no way to remove the jab and the twist from Christ’s words to Peter. He said, in effect,

“If you do not allow Me to do this, that is it. You’re off the team!”

Anybody who lives under the delusion that Christ was rather weak and spineless has overlooked such statements as this one.

Being a servant in no way implies there will never be a confrontation or strong words shared with others . . . or tough love expressed.

The Lord may choose to use the reproof of a servant who has earned the right to be heard even more often than that of a type-A aggressive leader.

Graciously Receiving and Giving

giving
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Being a super high-achiever, I must confess I find it difficult to receive from others. Really difficult. Like you, I’m usually on the giving end, not the receiving. My pride fights hard to stay intact.

This was brought home to me rather forcefully one Christmas season several years ago. A man in our church congregation drove over to our home with his Christmas gift for our family.

Not something wrapped up in bright paper with a big ribbon, but a thoughtful gift of love demonstrated by washing all the windows of our home.