Jesus is the Prize

I read a blog article this morning on Dan Dewitt’s blog “Theolatte.” He wrote of a new T.V. documentary that shows the life of several wealthy, possession driven, name-it-and-claim-it type pastors in LA. It makes me sad that this show is being produced and broadcast, but  of course there’s nothing I can do about that. What I can do, as Dan has, is give a reminder, biblically, as to what is important in this life. First, here’s the video trailer for this show:

Please know that God does provide for His people. This has always been true and always will be. But, the pursuit of possessions and the things of this world is a death knell to true faith. So here’s my reminder: Jesus is the prize, not the stuff He provides! To miss this truth is to miss the Savior. Here’s what the Apostle John wrote in regard to the desire for riches in this life:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, ESV)

Unfortunately, the world will get yet another dose of an unfortunate side of Christian ministry (so called.) All I can do is hope and pray that this show has little effect over those Jesus can reach with His Gospel. Unfortunately, many have a skewed view of what true Christianity is because of this type of “witness.”  As Dan wrote,  “If all I knew about Christianity came from religious broadcasting I’d likely throw in the towel and join them.”

As a Pastor who lives on a modest salary and works well past 40 hours a week to earn it, (and gladly do it), let me tell you that there are many, many more of us giving our lives away for the Gospel with no care for this world’s “stuff” than there are of those who live like ministry is a means of gain. Here’s Paul’s take on it:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” (1 Timothy 6:6, ESV)

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9–10, ESV)

Jesus has called us to follow Him forsaking all the things of this world, in trade, that in the life to come, we will be compensated and completely satisfied; in Him.

Here’s a link to Dan Dewitt’s article: http://www.theolatte.com/2013/07/the-posh-pastor/

But as for you….

2 Tim

I’ve been invited to go to Jamaica next February and guest lecture at a Bible College. The subject; pastoral theology. As I sat across the lunch table from my friend and missionary and we discussed the class, he told me to plan to spend a session discussing things that came up, or that I learned as a pastor, that were never taught in college.

Man, do I ever have some stories….

But, it immediately brought to mind a passage of Scripture that I spend a lot of time returning to. It’s like a security blanket for me as a pastor, though it’s not really an overly happy text. It’s Paul writing to his protégée Timothy. The epistle is 2nd Timothy.

The tone of the letter is not necessarily happy but it is solid, you might even say foundational.

Paul is warning Timothy of the day we’re living in. As a matter of fact, it’s the day everyone one of us who give our lives for the Gospel live in. Every one of us since the beginning of the church. Paul tells Timothy that people won’t listen to sound doctrine and that people will seek teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. He also states that people will be lovers of self, self involved, unkind….all kinds of things. You can read the list yourself.

If you do what I do, then you know how difficult it can be at times. Even exasperating.

This is why I find such comfort in Paul’s “as for you” statements.

Here’s what he says to Timothy:

Paul tells Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That doesn’t sound like good news. All of us who have given our lives to serve others “in Christ” find that. The difficulty is when you find out who it is that’s actually doing the persecuting. (That’s the biggest surprise of ministry in my estimation.)

It seems to be intimated by Paul that this persecution will cause some to quit. I guess all of us can have that come to mind from time to time. But, here’s where Paul’s first statement reminds of our uncrackable foundation. Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned and believed. (2 Tim. 3:14) That is, that God has spoken and His Word, our Scriptures, are secure and profitable.

Paul warns Timothy of those who will not want to listen to “sound teaching” but Timothy is to “preach the Word.” I have resolved that my preaching and teaching ministry will be just this. Just preach the Bible. It’s all that we all need.

The second “but as for you” is one that I have underlined and highlighted in my Bible. This is the don’t quit encouragement to Timothy.

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

This should be the anthem of Gospel ministry! There’s no quit in this.

I look forward to teaching pastoral theology this winter in Jamaica. Maybe because it’s giving me a reason to remember exactly why it is that I do what I do. In the end, it’s because of Jesus. The ministry is something that causes us to reach people but it’s because of Jesus. He, the living Word, is our foundation. When we remember that, then whatever difficulties come, and many will come, our uncrackable, unbreakable, unshakable foundation will always be secure.

But as for you….