Friday, January 14, 2011

Principles for Faithfulness in Gospel Ministry: Introduction

Though I'm a bit late, it's still around that time of year when we feel like it's "the new year." And New Year’s is the time when everybody does some reflecting on the previous year and how we've lived our lives, and we make resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than the previous one.

In that vein, I think it would be appropriate at the beginning of this New Year at For Our Benefit to start by refocusing on the fundamentals, by going back to the basics. That is to say, to meditate upon the centerpiece of Christianity and what Christian ministry is all about: The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed Good News by which we are saved, sanctified, and eventually brought home to God to enjoy His glory forever.

And as I consider this I'm thinking about two categories of people that I'm addressing. The first, obviously, is that category of people who are confused -- or are just plain wrong -- about the nature of the Gospel and therefore the nature of Christian ministry. This series is intended to be a corrective for unbiblical thinking. The second category is made up of those who have the Gospel right and who are faithful ministers of it. In their case, I’m reminded of what the Apostle John says in 1 John 2:21. He says, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” The Apostle Peter speaks similarly in 2 Peter 2:12-15:
Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. Even though Peter's readers already knew what he was going to tell them, he reminded them anyway, so that the believers in those congregations would so internalize Apostolic teaching that it would be natural for them to preach and teach sound doctrine and refute the errors of the false teachers. Paul also writes similarly to the Philippians in chapter 3 verse 1: “To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” He's saying, I don’t mind saying these things over and over again, and doing so is a safeguard, a protection, for you.

In the same way, then, I write this series not because I think nobody else is getting the Gospel right. To be sure, there are those who get the Gospel wrong. But to the faithful, I, like John, write to not because you don’t know the Gospel, but because to ponder and meditate on and muse over the glorious Gospel of Christ and its implications for Christian ministry is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. It realigns and refocuses our mission in this world. The reason Jesus left the Church on earth between His first and second advents is to preach the Gospel to all people and by it to make disciples of all nations. And sadly, so many churches have forgotten the basics, and as a result—whether it’s intentional or not—they preach an adjusted gospel, an adulterated gospel, or a truncated gospel, which, as Paul says, is really no gospel at all (Gal 1:7). And that only requires that we be all the more diligent to be faithful to the Gospel we’ve received in the pages of Scripture.

To do that, I want to look at 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. That text comes in the context of Paul’s defense of his apostleship and the legitimacy of his ministry amid attacks by false apostles who were deceiving the church in Corinth. And as he is responding to a particular accusation, he makes some precious comments about the nature of the Gospel and the nature of Christian ministry. And so as we look into this text together I want us to observe four principles—and four corresponding implications—that inform our understanding of the Gospel and shape our ministry as a church so that we can be faithful witnesses of Christ in 2011. That’s what I’m after in this series: I want us all to be equipped to be faithful witnesses of Christ in the coming year in the various spheres of our lives. And to accomplish that goal I want to inform our understanding of the Gospel and to shape our ministry as the Church by four principles in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6.

We'll get into the first next time.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving
so that they might not see
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God.
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord,
and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.
For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness,"
is the One who has shone in our hearts to give
the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ.

- 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 -

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