click to enlarge slide Key Verse: Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Much of this study overlaps with "Circle 2: Service", in our LIFE of CHRIST study
Mark, who was himself a servant, saw Jesus through a servant’s eyes, and so portrays Him as a Prophet, or the Servant of Jehovah. It is the gospel of the Ox. The beast of toil which labours endlessly from dawn till dusk under the yoke, and which having spent many years of faithful service would be killed or sacrificed. In the Old Testament (1. Sam ch.6) we read of two milk cows which pulled the Ark of God to a place called Bethshemesh. There after the end of their task they were sacrificed. That particular story has been an inspiration to hundreds of servants of God who have given up all they possessed and held dear, to serve the Lord in some distant place of calling. The milk cows, left their calves at home when undertaking this task and scripture makes note of the fact that they were “lowing” as they went. They were contented cows, even though they must have been acting against their natural instincts to stay with their calves.
This story has inspired the birth of missionary societies. One particular society, the American Baptist Missionary Society, has a crest as an emblem which shows both a yoke and an altar; the yoke denoting service and the altar denoting sacrifice. Underneath the crest are written the words “ready for either”.
Jesus came as a servant. He came to do God’s will. He had been sent to seek the lost and to give his life a ransom for many. There are many references to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament, which refer to him as The Servant. Here are but a few; Isaiah 49:5 “And now the LORD says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, Isaiah 52:13-14 “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; Isaiah 53:1. He shall see the labour of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.
The Gospel of Mark begins with prophecies from Isaiah and Malachi, followed by the ministry of John the Baptist. So what we really have, in modern day parlance, are three testimonials from three of the greatest prophets in scripture. Much the same as one would seek to present the names of three referees when applying for a job of work. Hopefully the testimonials would be saying, “This is the person for the job”. In this case they are introducing Jesus.
The end of the gospel is as significant as the beginning when compared with the other gospels. Its emphasis on “service” is obvious for it ends with Jesus, still working, but with his disciples or fellow servants. Mark 16:20: And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Noticeably we have no record of his birth, nor do we find it in the Gospel of John. This does not mean that he was never born, as some would argue. Sometime in the 70’s or thereabout two academics speaking on radio were trying to argue that Jesus never lived and all we know of him is compiled from a series of myths and legends. One of the “evidences” put forward was the fact that “two of the gospel writers do not mention his birth”. It is incredible that such people should be regarded as “intellectuals of their day”. However, we who believe and know are happy that it is God himself who has “hidden such things from the wise and revealed them unto babes”. Truly He has turned their wisdom into foolishness. Mark himself was by no means an intellectual by today's standards, though being the first to pen his account of earthly life of Jesus he was no doubt literate. His writing is simple and straightforward, and deals mainly with the actions of Jesus. (check the slides for greater detail) It is the shortest of the gospels, and some say that it was probably the first to be written. Matthew’s account in many cases is almost word for word. But unlike Matthew, Mark does not record the long discourses or sermons. The authorised version of the bible is significant in that almost every verse begins with “and”. Anyone brought up in Liverpool, where almost every conversation consists of a string of “And er..” will quickly suspect that the writer was not greatly educated in the art of words. But that could be wrong because many years later Paul needed him when he wa sin prison. And he was the first to write his gospel, which many say was probably dictated to some extent by Peter. The “key” words in the book are “straightway” and “immediately”. These are more pronounced in the A.V. than in less inspired versions. These are very significant words when one is thinking in terms of a servant. Who wants a servant who obeys when he feels like, maybe hours or days after the job was required to be done? It shows a certain amount of unwillingness to say the least, but mainly it reveals a lack of submission to the one giving the orders. Jesus was the Servant of Jehovah. He was not the servant of Man, although his mission was to serve man. He “took upon Himself the form of a servant,” in obedience to His Father, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil Ch. 2.) It may seem like a contradiction but a servant has great authority. For example if you or I went out and dug a hole in the road we would be prosecuted. But many an uneducated navvy has done such things with great authority. A policeman who knocks at your door, may just be “Joe Bloggs” from down the road, but if he comes in uniform and says “open up in the name of the Law”, one would be advised to open up. For if one was to be prosecuted, the person opposite you in court would be the Queen herself. So the humble policeman represents the queen and her authority. In this light we recognise where Jesus got his power. The Jews were constantly asking him where he got his authority from and he annoyed them intensely when he said from God, “his father”. One of the main reasons for the lack of power within the church today is surely that so many ministers have become the servants of people rather than the servants of God. Perhaps it is easier in that the regulations set by the people are less than those set by God. To be under his authority calls for the wearing of a uniform - holiness of life, a mind set against the enemy, which is the world the flesh and the devil, and faith enough to be courageous even unto death. A centurion once came to Jesus and made a remarkable statement. Matt 8:8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. “For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” The use of the word “also” shows that the centurion knew from where Jesus got his authority and power. He recognised that Jesus was under authority, and had authority to command. He was looking to Jesus simply to give the command where he was and he knew that his servant would be healed. This was truly a story of three servants. Indeed one could sum up his ministry under the commands of His Father as “Go - Do this - Come!” When Jesus commissioned his disciples at the end of this gospel he gave them authority over many kinds of evil. In Matthew he confirms that "All power has been given unto Him" Mark 16:12-24 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
The Pattern of Service:
click to enlarge slide We will take our pattern from the first chapter. The narrative records just one Sabbath day in the life of Jesus. His day seems to be in three obvious parts; In the morning he went into the synagogue. In the afternoon he went to the home of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law with a few other disciples to have a meal. In the evening he went out into the streets to heal and minister to the sick.
We can use these three events as illustrative of a pattern which we will observe in other parts of scripture. The day begins with Worship. For surely all service begins with worship. Service does not begin and end with ministry to sick and needy on the streets, it begins with a right relationship with God. In this particular story we note that there was an obstacle or hindrance to the worship due to the presence of an evil spirit. We are called to worship God in spirit and in truth. It is therefore essential that our spirit is pure and that there are no bad spirits around to hinder the right relationship. Unforgiveness, jealousy, resentfulness are all familiar spirits, which hinder true worship. Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. The last word in that verse can be translated “worship”. for service and worship are one and the same. The second stage of the pattern could be called “Fellowship”. Jesus went to this home for fellowship around a table and a mid-day meal. However, once again there was a hindrance to that fellowship. The fellowship was broken because one who should have been serving was ill “with a fever”. Jesus immediately healed her and we read that “she served them” True fellowship is illustrated in the various parts of the body, They do not all work at once but given the time and reason every part has an opportunity to serve the rest of the body. If ever any part is inactive then the whole body suffers. How often in church work will someone “get hot-headed with a fever” and cease to do their job. Usually it’s a case of their pride being hurt over something or nothing. The third phase is more noticeable service. It is our Witness. There is a strange sentence within this passage, where it says, “the whole city was at the door”. To take that literally we must surmise that either it was a very large door or a very small city. However, such is the language of scripture that it is figurative of our service to the local community. The church is not necessarily situated in the city, but rather the city is set outside the door of the church. It also suggests that there is a door. There is an outside and an inside. There is a difference of separation. It is necessary therefore that the church go out to minister, in order to meet the needs of the city which has been set before them. If you scan these three divisions once more you should notice how they are like ever increasing circles. The first step is the individual walk and relationship with God The second step is the relationship and fellowship with other believers, i.e. the church or body of Christ. The third step is into the outside world where Satan holds sway and folk are in need through the consequences of sin.
This pattern is seen in many places in scripture. In our studies in the life of Christ we saw that his life was set in three phases; 1. His natural Life - 30 years sinless living. 2. Service- Three years ceaseless activity. 3. Sacrifice and Suffering. Each of these phases was attacked by Satan, who tried to stop the intention in God’s plan. In phase 1, we see Herod trying to kill the natural life of Jesus. In phase 2 we have the temptation which is a direct attack upon Jesus, with regard to his life of Service which he was about to embark upon.( as recorded in Matt Ch. 4. & Luke Ch. 4.) Somewhat surprisingly Mark only takes up two verses to record the temptation. (Ch. 1 v 12-13.) In Phase three, the attack was the cross. A closer look at the temptation will hopefully show how the same temptations are used by Satan today to render ineffective any service we might seek to undertake for the Lord. Especially does this apply to those entering the ministry.
The following notes are taken from those studies in the Life of Christ, which we studied in three phases- Life, Service, Sacrifice. Though our notes on the Life of Christ at present are of the outline pattern only. Life of Christ - Service We saw within the first phase that the moment God announced His intentions, Hell awoke and came up to attempt to stop the plans of God progressing towards fruition. In the first phase Herod was the satanic instrument which was used to try to snuff out the life of God’s Son. Similarly, he seeks to intervene in the second phase; the “Service” of the Lord Jesus Christ. However this attack is far subtler and on a different level altogether, than the blatant display of anger at Bethlehem. Also no doubt, Satan had tried every trick in the book, and tested Jesus in every way possible during his time living in Nazareth, but he had failed to seduce Jesus as he did Adam. Satan would be well aware of his failure within this realm, where he had normally been successful with men. However, public life is very different from home and domestic life, and the temptations are equally as different. In all probability, Satan would have been non-too confident of getting Jesus to withdraw His commitment to the service of Jehovah. Therefore, the temptation was not to stop Jesus serving God, but rather to undermine it and render it ineffective. As this ploy is blatantly successful today, you can be sure that Jesus underwent the same temptations to which all too many fall, who set out with wonderful intentions of serving God. One of the main differences between public life and private life is that in private one deals with or lives with family and chosen friends, but in public service there is no control over the type of people who might take up one’s time and energy. Also in this outer circle of human relationships, (public life) one discovers other ministers seeking for a larger piece of the public’s attention, who often seem to regard other ministers as some kind of threat. Pride is obviously affected and motives soon come into question. Furthermore, as Service (for God) is a process of giving, and there are vast armies of people all willing and aiming to receive, strength is at a premium. Few have sufficient, and are more than likely to continue serving for what they can receive, more than what they can give. If not, then their strength is likely to be generated by the thought of popular opinion and rewards. One is soon tempted to begin questioning, as to whether people are worth any personal sacrifice. Almost without knowing how it happens, an ulterior motive becomes the motivating power. The ideal which motivated the initial stepping out into service, soon becomes a little tarnished, and an attitude of cool professionalism is all that stops one having a nervous breakdown, or a return to lesser things. Something akin to this scenario, is the basis of Satan’s attack upon Jesus, but on a broader front as we will see. The obvious and popular view of the Temptation is that as there are three temptations, they easily fall into the categories of the Prophetship, Priesthood and Kingship of Jesus.
The first temptation to turn the stones into bread, has a link with a prophet, because bread is a scriptural illustration of the word of God, and prophets dealt with the word in their ministry. The second Temptation to throw Himself from the temple roof, links Him obviously as a priest. And the temptation to offer him the Kingdoms of the world is just as clearly a link with His kingship. Indeed this theme of prophet priest and King is probably the most well known and prolific in scripture. It must be said also that some people have great difficulty in admitting, even to the possibility of Jesus being tempted as we are. For He was Holy and good, and was God. We shall see later that it is indeed true that God cannot be tempted, but He was truly man and therefore he must have been tempted. Temptation does not denote sin in the one tempted, rather it denotes the craftiness of the Tempter, who has knowledge of human nature. The temptation of Jesus was not a charade. It was not a symbolic gesture towards those of us who are tempted. Jesus may not have succumbed, but that does not mean He was not the recipient of the most seducing words that Satan could muster. It is not possible to view the divinity and the humanity of Jesus at the same time. He was not half-God and half-man. He was totally God and totally man. Just because we cannot understand it in the human brain does not prove its invalidity. We cannot understand where God came from, nor the concept of eternity, but they both are valid. We must look on the humanity and divinity as a two-sided coin. We can only see one clearly when we look it full in the face. We cannot view the temptation in the light of his divinity. We must see him as totally man, if we are to see and understand the full aspect of the temptation. The gospel writers do the same. Matthew Mark and Luke present him as King, Prophet and Priest, but John presents Jesus as God. Matthew Mark and Luke record the temptation, but John omits it. We shall see the greater significance of this fact later in our study. We have already noted how Jesus used his bible to counteract the tempting words of Satan. One of the answers from scripture that Jesus gave was “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord Thy God”. Some take this to mean that Jesus was telling the devil that he shouldn’t be tempting Jesus because he was God. But that is a sad misunderstanding of what it really means. This scripture means. “Thou shalt not put your God to the test”. God should be believed upon without testing. Jesus as a man needed to obey the word of God, in his relationship with God just like any other man. He was not allowed to put God to the test. One must emphasise again that this was not an ordinary everyday temptation, like that common to the man in the street, but rather it was a special temptation common only to those who intend to serve God. This was Satan’s attempt to stop or hinder the intention of Service. They are the same temptations that Satan uses to make ineffective the service of many a man “called into the ministry” Hopefully, you will discover why the ministry today can be so pathetically ineffective, in a great many cases.
First of all let’s look at the relationship of all three temptations together, as we did briefly with prophet, priest and king. You will notice that they are also in three circles of influence with the smallest first then broadening out to a greater sphere.
For example; Temptation No 1. is private and personal where only Jesus is involved. Temptation No 2. involves the temple and his coming to the Jews to whom He was sent. Temptation No 3. takes in the broader circle of the whole world. This “three circle “ pattern is found regularly and consistently throughout scripture. We saw it in the “sabbath day” pattern of Service in Mark’s Gospel and now we see it in the temptation. Let’s examine others. In the Book of Ezra, after the children of Israel had been in captivity in Babylon for 70 years they began to return. They returned in three stages. The first group returned under Zerubabel. He built an Altar The second group returned under Ezra. He was involved in the temple. The third group returned under Nehemiah and they built the walls of the city. The walls were the divider between them and the outside world. The walls were also a “witness” to the outside world, for it was all that was seen from the outside. This also reveals these three similar steps or circles. with the sphere of influence increases from the first to the third. Whilst this reveals the pattern of service it also points to a pattern for any revival or restoration of God’s people. Revival begins with the individual. God deals with men on a one- to-one basis. Because God has made each one of us to be a sovereign being. As the scripture says, “we are gods”. We shall continue this thought at the close of this section, but we need to see the principle involved. Firstly the individual should have a right personal relationship with God. An altar of sacrifice and service. Secondly we function within the church; we are born again individually but we are not born into a vacuum. We are born “into” the body which is the church (temple), and therefore our second stage of progress should involve service in the church and a right relationship with the other members of the body. If we are right with God we will have something to bring into the temple, but all too often those who are disgruntled with the church or God’s people are in fact, out of touch in their personal life with God. In such cases we can suspect that the first step, i.e. the altar experience, is not right. Therefore the second will never be right. If the temple is right, that is, if we are building each other up in love and faith, then the witness (the walls) can be built, though in most cases it will look after itself. The walls are what the outsider sees, thus it represents our witness to the world. The value of a church is the value of it’s witness. Jesus warned the churches in Revelation that he would remove their candlestick- their light - their witness. Another example of this three tier truth is when Jesus said “For by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” During the same discourse Jesus made three statements which take the same three steps. This is the sequence; a, “If you love me Keep my commands”- this represents the personal relationship with Christ and our personal commitment to Him. i.e. a personal altar: This necessitates each individual having a personal experience at Calvary. A personal response to the Love of Christ, and a personal response to that love which shows in obedience. b, “This is my command that you Love one another”. i.e. Build the church. A natural progression from the first. We are committed to obedience by the first experience and the second is a direct command being obeyed. Some wait for love to come. But we are told to carry out the command of love, just as we might be commanded by our boss to pick up a sack of coal, cabbages or coat hangers. In the spiritual realm, when we find we cannot do it in the natural, then if we are willing He gives us the power to do so. It just needs our willingness to obey. c, “By this all will know that you are my disciples” Thus we Witness to the world outside, and attract the world outside. The Walls are all the outsiders see. So then from these two short study outlines of Ezra and Mark perhaps you will see that along this same pattern Jesus was tempted. Satan’s first temptation was within that inner sanctuary. It is clear that the scripture clearly says that Satan personally met Jesus; However, in order to bring it nearer home and make it easier for us mere mortals to identify with similar temptation, it is possible to look at these temptations without a personal visible presence of the Devil. For it is certain that normally Satan does not show himself so obviously, when tempting men along these lines
Anyone seeking to serve God would be faced with similar temptations through the very thoughts of their mind and the very best intentions of the heart. Let’s examine the evidence, The circumstances were these. Jesus had left home, left his job and his source of income. After being baptised he went into the wilderness where he fasted. He was preparing himself for the ministry. Some people go to Bible College. Jesus spent six weeks fasting and praying in this new realm of the Spirit into which he had been baptised. Notice that he was not tempted till after the fast was over. During the time of fasting spiritual things would have been predominant. His appetite for food would have been conquered after the first dozen days. But at the end of the spiritual exercise, he “began to feel hungry”. Therefore, we can appreciate that after the spiritual experience he came down to earth so to speak, from the spiritual, back to the natural. He felt the human necessity to eat. His first thought would be to find something to eat, but the question was where? There was no Macdonald’s or mobile sandwich bar handy, and even if there was, it is hardly likely he would have been able to afford to eat from them. He would normally have gone home to his family, but now he had “no family”. He had left home. Where was he to get his food from henceforth? Knowing the faithfulness of the God who had called Him, I am sure that the first thought would be that God would provide. He had read and believed the story of God’s faithfulness in providing for the whole Jewish nation, throughout the forty years they spent in the wilderness. Perhaps he thought that right there and then God would provide manna as he did in the wilderness for the Israelites. We can well imagine that his eyes surveyed the barren land anticipating this possibility. But those stones which at first may have looked like small loaves, were indeed stones. Then the devil stepped in, subtly suggesting that He should try turning them into bread. Of course, Jesus being the Son of God could easily have done such a miracle. He had the power, even though he had never used it. This made very fertile soil for the first temptation. IF...IF... you really are the son of God. We remember that Jesus lived by faith alone. He had only his mother’s testimony and his faith in his bible to bring the assurance of the Spirit, concerning his divine identity. If there was any lingering doubt Satan was about to find out. He offered the Lord Jesus a great opportunity to prove to himself the reality of his being. One can understand the human desire to know such confirmation. He could there and then have produced his own food. That is of course if he was the Son of God. But you say “of course he was and He was certain He was. For even at the age of twelve he knew he was the Son of God.” But such thoughts beg the question- How did he know and when was he fully convinced? Also if it was a real temptation, why was the devil questioning His assurance (which indeed he was), if He was fully convinced? For it to have been a real temptation it could be argued that this assurance had not yet come to a perfect fullness. In John Ch. 13 v.3. we read “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God;......” From this full statement of His assurance concerning who he was, we are made aware that His assurance had grown, and now at the time recorded in John ch.13, He was fully convinced. But this statement comes almost at the end of His ministry. That he was the Son of God would have been first muted to him from His mother. The inside assurance of the Spirit, would be in so far as he believed her words and the bible. As his knowledge grew and his faith grew so the assurance grew. If faith grows as we obey, then because he was still in the process of obeying, we can say that he was still in the process of assurance growth. At the age of twelve he made great statements about who He believed he was, nevertheless the temptations of the proceeding years would be intended to test His faith that all was as he believed. When Satan said “If you are the Son of God?” I am sure that He had heard that voice and question many times before. “If you are the Son of God, then why is God allowing you to suffer.” etc. But never had he been pushed to prove it in such a manner. What then was the manner here that made it different? Well, things were surely different now. He had left his carpentry for God’s service. Surely God did not expect him to live on nothing. He would have to eat during the years of ministry. So why not use his powers for such occasions. It would all be for the work of God in the end. Would it not ?? Furthermore he had never tried out any of His “super-powers” to prove to himself that he was someone special, nor had he ever used them selfishly for himself. Please remember as you ponder the situation that we must question whether or not it was a real temptation. Was he tempted or was the devil wasting His time. Indeed was he never tempted? Because if temptation bounces off you like water off a duck’s back, you can hardly say you have been tempted in all points like every other man. Such temptation would be a charade. So was this a temptation or a charade? Was there never a lingering doubt still in Jesus about who he was? Was there never an inkling in the Son of Man to try out any powers he might have, in private, just in case when he tried them out in public, he was left with egg on His face? Was this temptation as recorded and a matter of fifteen seconds conversation, or is the record an inspired summary of days of testing and meditation. Some of those answers we do not know for certain but we will surely acknowledge that the thought to try out His powers must have occurred to him at sometime in His life. And the natural need at that moment in the wilderness was fertile ground in which Satan could plant the seed of temptation to use them for Himself. He surely had justification to do so.
But the first thing we must recognise in this temptation, is that; He did not use His powers for his own needs, in other words. HE DID NOT PLEASE HIMSELF. When Jesus had no food he went Hungry. He turned no stones to bread, nor turned rocks into pillows for a good night’s rest in the mountains. What link then would this have in the ministry today? How can we see Satan successfully tempting people with the same thoughts today in the ministry? This is the first temptation in the ministry. Whether it be a Sunday school class, or a chaplainship in the front line of war. The first temptation in ministry is to use that ministry for one’s own satisfaction. The service of God is not easy. It is an outflowing life. The apostle Paul gives us a very clear picture of the minister of God, in his second epistle to the Corinthians. The hardships he endured for the sake of the gospel never seemed to end. It can be said that there are “perks” in the ministry. To the natural mind, the hours are good. Then, there is that immediate lift into the upper circles of the class system, and in general great public esteem. (There may not be much behind one’s back but to one’s face, there is exceptional politeness.) If you are a miner or a decorator, try going into a shop, or a hospital in your overalls. The next day put on a clerical collar, and see which reaction from shopkeepers and hospital staff you prefer. After a few years of such esteem you would soon begin to think that you really were different. When addressed by such titles as “Pastor” or “Reverend”, or “your Grace”, it is difficult not to think that you really are special. It is a sucker punch, energised by personal ego, that leaves most ministers totally flattened and incapable of being used in the real service of God. It is well to realise that the term pastor is an office and not a title. We would not think to call Jack Jones the decorator, “Decorator Jones,” so why call a pastor which denotes his employment Pastor Jones. There is a temptation for those in the ministry to take this as a title that builds up their self-esteem. As was said earlier the service of God is an outpouring ministry. “Spend and be spent”, is the reality of God’s real servants. Sometimes we think how wonderful it must have been for the likes of Simon Peter and James and John, simple fishermen, to have the fire of the Holy Ghost to fall upon them. Lest we forget, the fire burns, and it needs fuel to make it burn, and guess what the fuel was? Yes! It was Simon. James and John. That was the end of their life in terms of personal selfishness. No longer did they go where they felt like going, or do or say what their whims and fancies dictated. Can such be said of those who fill our pulpits today and masquerade as the servants of God? Not only in the establishment where pomposity and ceremony go hand in hand, but in every denomination you will find egos as big as the churches they are supposed to minister to. Moods, tantrums and spiteful reactions are the order of the day in so many cases. The fact that Jesus said “Whoever is the greatest among you let him be your servant” seems superfluous to the lifestyle of most ministers. If you ever had to attend a ministers conference you would no doubt meet other ministers for the first time. Usually the conversation goes in the form of two questions. 1. Which church are you the minister of? 2. How many do you have in your congregation? Their reaction to you from there on depends upon which part of the country your church is situated and then if the answer to the second question is 800, you will find a totally different attitude than if you say 8. You can draw your own conclusions. It is all very sad. As far as the ministry is concerned it is the ripest of all fruit in the garden of temptation. Perhaps when they first started out they were full of great ideals of sacrifice and service but the temptation to think more highly of oneself than one ought to, doesn’t come from a visible devil with horns and a green tail, but comes mainly from social pressure and the attitude of people to those wearing a dog-collar. Soon they begin to believe that they are superior, and before long anyone who refuses to acknowledge it is promptly told to remember their place. Thankfully, nothing of this attitude was ever seen in Jesus. Is it not true also that in almost every one of our lives, when we have a job to do which we don’t want to do, we all develop a little technique to help us to get it done. A boy might hate school, but can blot out the thought of going to school and think that at break or lunch he would play football, or at 4.o’clock he would congregate with his mates outside the girl’s school. Sometimes if the office work gets boring, then what motivates us might be the thought of seeing that fine good-looking bloke in the “Accounts Dept.” We are doing our job but our heart is not in it, for our heart is really in Accounts, if you see what I mean. It must be admitted on the human level, how difficult it is for your heart be in a job which takes from you and takes from you continually. Most people work for the money. Sadly the ministry is energised by the same motivating forces. To turn these stones into bread is to use the powers or position that the ministry brings, even the talents needed to be in the job, to use them for oneself. It is not unkind to say, because it is true that many ministers would have been equally happy in show business, because they love being the centre of attention. You don’t need much worldly talent to run a church service, that’s for sure, but you can enjoy being the centre of attention. How often do you hear of Minister’s “getting the call” to another church. You can be sure that ninety nine times out of a hundred it would be a move to a better place and a bigger salary. They may use words like “a greater challenge” or the “field is bigger for service”, but who knows if the heart really says so, only God knows. But if the Saviour himself was tempted along these lines then you can be sure that the same ploy is being used by Satan today. But how many are even aware of such a temptation. They could well be thinking that such perks are God’s reward to them for being such wonderful chaps, having given up drunkenness and debauchery to be a minister. Unfortunately the thought or knowledge that death to self is the first prerequisite for Christ to live in them, is foreign to many. “Christ ” is often an added extra which enhances or extends the “self”. Had Jesus ever used his powers for his own gratification then his service would have become ineffective. Once again let me emphasise that these temptations were not to stop Jesus serving God, but to get Jesus to serve God for ulterior motives, and thus undermine his service. So then we can look upon the threefold temptations from the platform of the aforesaid thoughts. From the first temptation we recognise that in the service of God, Jesus did not please Himself: From the second temptation we recognise that he did not please the people. From the third temptation we can recognise that he did not compromise with evil.
Temptation No.1. The temptation to please Himself. Previously we have dealt with the “prophet” aspect and the “inner circle of his person” aspect. We have emphasised the fact that he never used his position or ministry for “self” gratification. If he had no food he went hungry, if he had no pillow then he laid his head on the rocks. He took every human knock, endured every human adverse feeling, without resource to any power which would not normally be available to us today. Jesus once said; “I came not to do my own will, but the will of My Father which is in heaven”. It will remain eternally hypothetical, to argue as to whether he had a will different than the will he performed. At least in the temptation we see the human viewpoint, in such a wilderness experience. For humanly speaking we can see that there was a way out from the hunger situation. He had the power to change stones into bread. We can also see such action very excusable for it would have fulfilled certain criteria. For one thing it would have proved that He had the powers, since the Holy Ghost had come upon Him, but would also have proved that he really was the Son of God. However, we live by faith, i.e. we are connected to God by faith. Any act of unbelief is an expression of unbelief in the heart. Certainly Jesus did not have to prove to Satan that he was the Son of God. Hell was well aware of that fact. Moreover, he did not have to prove to his father in heaven that He was His Son. And even more importantly, he did not have to prove to himself those things which he knew by faith, for faith is the eternal and lasting thing. Visible signs are part of that visible kingdom which one day will be shaken, and will be destroyed, while the invisible and eternal will remain. (Hebrews Ch. 12 v 10-12.) To the true Son of God, Faith is all the “substance”, he requires.
Temptation No. 2. The temptation to please the people: We can see how this temptation is a progression from the first. Having settled one’s inner battle and erected a true personal altar of commitment to God, the actual mechanics of reaching the people to whom one is called becomes uppermost in the thoughts. As the purpose of all ministry is to be effective, then effective means must be introduced and carried out. The people must receive, otherwise there is no point in seeking to impart. This sincere and true motive gives rise to this temptation. Jesus intended to reach the Jews. It is quite possible that among the Jews to whom Jesus was to minister there was an appetite for “popular prophecies”. For there were hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament which would make the messiah recognisable to the Jews. Having recognised him then they would receive Him. Having received Him, they would have allowed him to reign over them. Surely that would have meant a successful ministry for Jesus, had that been accomplished. Possibly, perhaps, there was a popular conception at the time, of the prophecy in Malachi which says “He will suddenly come to His temple”. What if while the Jews were in their temple praying for the Messiah, suddenly through the roof there had come a “gift from heaven”. Would they not then have received him without question, thus setting a firm foundation for an effective ministry among them? For that is what the Jews would have wanted” - a miraculous sign from heaven. But was it what God wanted? The fact that the thought probably occurred to Jesus naturally is arguable. In our own human situation we can quite see its probability. However the scripture clearly tells us that it was a thought promoted by Satan. The power of the temptation was promoted by scripture. For there was without doubt a promise in the word of God for protection from harm and danger, even to the extent of banging one’s foot against a rock. “He shall give His angels charge concerning you, lest you dash your foot against a stone”. What a promise! Are not the promises there to be appropriated by faith? Then surely one must act upon them. If all service must be an act of faith, this would be the ideal way to go about it. It was a real temptation. It is certainly a temptation to mere mortals like us. Why then did Jesus recognise that this was not the way of God? Firstly, we have to understand that just because the bible says God will do something, there is no way that we have the right to expect God to do it, just because it is written. To ask God to prove himself by keeping such a promise is to test or tempt God. He does not have to prove himself. Men are expected to believe without proof. Why then is the promise there? You may ask. The answer lies in the fact that the Word and the Spirit are like Siamese twins. One without the other is invalid or dead. It is only when the Spirit gives you the promise will you find it unfailing. It is the sword of the Spirit. The devil knows the scriptures as well as any and is always seeking to break our faith in God by offering promises or statements from God’s word for us to test, or doubt. In the beginning you remember his words to Adam were “Has God said..?” On such occasions, the word will fail. God cannot be called up to obey our whims and fancies, merely because He has said He is able to fulfil such whims and fancies. Given the situation where it is His will, then the Spirit will make that known to the believer, not the doubter looking for proof; - “If Thou art the Son of God...” Many a servant of God has found himself up the gum tree of “failed promises”, where it seemed that God did not fulfil what He seemed to have promised. There can be only one answer on such occasions, and that is that the Spirit did not instigate the trusting of such promises. (We may perhaps say more on this subject when we discuss the healing ministry of Jesus.)
Another aspect of this temptation lies in the fact that we are now in the “second circle”, which surrounds the personal self. It involves our social circle. The life that is bundled with others to whom we are called to minister. If there are pressures and temptations from human desires within, then there are certainly such pressures from those with whom we mix each day. Social pressures account for a great percentage of our actions, partly because the inner circle is fed from the outer one. For example, if I am popular then my inner self is gratified. My tendency to “go with the flow”, or “team with the stream” is mainly a self-preservation exercise. Within the ministry, the problem is that such weakness can be renamed as strength. Tact, diplomacy, politeness, good manners, are all the banners of society held up to pressurise the servant of God from preaching his light into darkness. While it might be true that preachers are too long winded, for example, there is no justification for a minister to be pressurised into a five-minute sermon. The people obviously have need to develop an appetite for the bread that comes down from heaven. Their desire to get home quickly shows that they hunger more for the “meat that perisheth”. One should see now how important it is for a servant of the Lord to win the first temptation battle, for if he doesn’t, then he is predisposed to fall to the second. For one reason, he will have nothing spiritual to give, merely the words of man, and two, he will seek his own social comfort, and if the congregation say, “keep it to five minutes”, he will not want the parish council members or deacons, wagging their fingers at the door. At the same time, nor can you blame the congregation if they don’t want to hear the waffling of the human mind. When a servant is right with God then his ministry will be as bread from heaven. Most people attend church because of the spiritual “tug” within their soul. That same soul will soon get an appetite for the food that strengthens and sustains. Some churches seldom have any real ministry from the word of God. It has been known for “Road Safety”, “First Aid, or politics to be on the menu, rather than any real spiritual food. Remember that Jesus said; “I have given them Thy Word”. He never preached his own opinions. He preached the word of God. Plagiarism is a must in the ministry of the word. It could certainly be argued that within the aspect of service known as “ministry” or preaching, then it is quite clear that many of those who imagine they have been “called”, are sadly mistaken. Without wanting to expound Paul’s statements concerning “God having chosen the foolish” etc. (Corinthians) it must be admitted that if all those who say they have been called are truly called of God, then we have to ask the question, why does he “call” so many boring speakers? The professionalism of sermon preaching which often produces great popularity, is surely a gateway to this temptation also. To have the plaudits of men is very agreeable to the flesh whether it be in a theatre or a church foyer. To make such an experience the goal of the preaching is temptation indeed. (We can see how subtle the temptations and how fine a line divides the two ways offered.) Once again it can be excused on “spiritual” grounds, for why should we not make food attractive to look at on the plate? Surely, presentation and the mechanics of preaching are important to “the workman who need not to be ashamed”, etc. Nothing could be truer. Sermons should be like houses with a good foundation, four walls, and a roof. Such houses need the light of an illustration or two, like windows. Then there is certainly a need to show people the door, and extend the invitation for them to enter into the truth that you have so purposely set before them. There is certainly little wrong with that, but a preoccupation with “that” is often a more certain way of ensuring the compliments, than of preaching Christ. It is quite true that within the natural art of communication there is an element of entertainment necessary to grasp attention, but the true servant is not in the natural. As in the case of Jesus, Satan does not think it worthwhile to stop the eager servant of God from fulfilling his ambition, but through this well worn and well tried temptation, he seeks to undermine the effectiveness, by introducing exterior motives of such subtlety that they are almost subliminal. So much so that to make the point of such failure within the ministry, leaves one open to the accusation of petty criticism. Only a true understanding of the temptation of Jesus and the very nature of both the devil and true service, will make the pathway of the perfect will of God clearly visible to the eye of faith. No-one desires to be unpopular, and the human vessels which God chooses are no exception. The joy in such service is the source of the strength. Sometimes the joy can be a natural one which comes from the fount of popularity, rather than the joy of knowing one is doing the will of God.
Temptation No 3. The temptation to compromise with evil. We come now into the outer circle which effects the world at large. Jesus had a world vision, besides a vision of ministry to those around Him in Palestine. Jesus came to establish a kingdom. It was not to be a kingdom of ivory towers on fluffy clouds, but a kingdom of people. - Asians, Africans, Americans, Europeans and Australians were the target of the King. He desired to bring them into His Kingdom, and to reign over them. However, every single one of them belonged to the devil. Satan knew that and Jesus made this fact plain when speaking to the Jews, when they claimed that Abraham was their father. “If Abraham was your father, then you would do the works of your father” Inferring that the “work” of Abraham was to believe. He made it clear that what we do by nature, identifies our father. If God is Holy, for example, then men will be holy by nature, if they are truly the children of God. But it is surely an insult to claim God or Abraham as our father if we have a nature opposite to theirs. One does not have to train a child to be naughty, but rather to train it to be good. This proves the above fact. This is only reiterated here because of the great number of people who resent being called a “child of the devil.” The fact remains that we all are, and that the kingdoms of this world belong to Satan. He acquired them when Adam fell. They were under Adam’s authority until then. Therefore if we wanted to paraphrase the temptation concerning the kingdoms of the world we could say; “Here you are, King Jesus, look at all these people that belong to me, millions upon millions as far as the eye can see. Now I know that you want to set up a kingdom, and you want all these people to belong to you. Then here’s my offer; I will give you every last one of them, if here in this wilderness where no-one can see, you simply bow down in worship before me. If you do that, then every person who has ever lived or will ever live will be called “Christians”. They will testify to belonging to you. They will all be in your kingdom, not mine. All you have to do is bow the knee.” Here on a plate, was offered almost everything that Jesus intended to lay down his life for: A kingdom obtained without effort or pain, without suffering or persecution, not only to himself but to his followers for thousands of years to come. What a temptation.!! Why walk when you can hitch a lift, why stand when you can sit, why have it hard when you can have it easy.? Thankfully, Jesus resisted such temptation, for we have good grounds to believe that the Devil would never have kept his side of the bargain. **************
In order to see these three temptations in a better background light, we are now going to look at three instances in the Gospel of John, which bring these three temptations to the foreground. We must remember certain things; Firstly, that John sees and presents Jesus as God, and God cannot be tempted. Therefore the temptation is not in John’s gospel, but it is most certainly in the other three. Then we notice that at the beginning of John’s gospel, where we would expect to read of the temptation, we have three incidents which are omitted from the other three. They are; 1, The changing of water into wine 2, The cleansing of the temple 3, The visit of Nicodemas to Jesus Immediately, as though by magic we can see that these three incidents coincide with the three temptations. a; The temptation to change stones into bread is linked with changing water into wine. b; The temptation to suddenly come to the temple as the scripture foretold, is linked to the cleansing of the temple. c: The conversation with Nicodemus concerning the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil, i.e. that which is born of flesh and that which is born of God, has a direct link with Satan’s offer of a ready - made kingdom. Let us quickly equate them again. In temptation number one, we see that there did in fact come a time for Jesus to do exactly what Satan tempted him to do in the wilderness. He changed water into wine, but it was not for himself, but was for people who were in need. Significantly it was his first miracle, as it was his first temptation. Secondly, the coming to the temple to cleanse it was as good as throwing himself off the pinnacle without hurting himself. It is quite amazing that one man could single-handedly drive out these hard-headed businessmen and all their wares and cattle. One would have thought that some retaliation would have taken place. If placed in the same situation we would certainly have considered the possibility of violence breaking out and the probability of being hurt, even if only butted by a goat. His protecting angel, as prophesied, kept him safe as he did the will of God. Incidentally some folk express the opinion that Jesus drove people out with a whip, but not necessarily, the whip was used only on the animals. Most significantly, he did not foster any popularity by his ministry on this occasion. He had conquered that temptation in the wilderness. Then finally and most wonderfully, he spoke to Nicodemus about his kingdom. It is the writers licence and opinion (and certainly within the bounds of possibility) that Nicodemus was the best in the devil’s kingdom. Even to this man Jesus said “marvel not that I say (even) to you that to get into my kingdom, you have to be born into it, so you must be born again.” The kingdoms of the world which belong to Satan are those born in the flesh. Those in the Kingdom of Jesus are born of the Spirit. The message of the kingdom has certainly got lost or diluted within the ministry. We have multitudes of people who call themselves “Christian”, who have never been born again. They were apparently “born Christian” or they act Christian. But one can imitate whoever we like but it does not make us into them. No man is born a Christian. “That which is of the flesh is flesh.” It is unchangeably of the devil. The true children of God have received the spirit of God, as in accordance with John Ch. 1 v 12. and Romans Ch. 8. Jesus said then, and we should still be proclaiming the truth now, that to enter into the kingdom of God, you have to be born into it. How often in our churches today, will an educated man of some social or professional esteem, such as Nicodemus, enter into a church and be received as one of the flock immediately. Before long they are on committees and councils, even throwing in their two-pennyworth in the preaching, yet they have never been born again. What is more sad, no one dares to question them about such an experience. Bishops lay empty hands on empty heads, sterile water is splashed on sterile babies, even at times deep thinking Baptists are ducked into deep water, in an attempt to swell the kingdom of God. The temptation to compromise with evil by watering down the message is abundant in the ministry. Some of the apparently finicky laws which God set before his children Israel, are only an illustration of this fact that God hates compromise. James tells us that God is light, and there are not any shady areas with Him. There are no grey areas concerning truth and lies, between His children and the children of the devil, between the kingdom of His son and the kingdoms of this world, between heaven and hell, between being saved or unsaved. Thankfully our Saviour was able to smell the sulphur in all these temptations and recognised that though they might have sounded like good ways to grow spiritually, reach people and expand God’s Kingdom, they were nevertheless so far removed from the will of God as to be total darkness. We can only then surmise that those who have fallen to such temptations spread as much light. Now perhaps you can see why the church is dead and the ministry so ineffective and different from the church we read of in the Acts of the Apostles.
John the Baptist In this gospel of Mark, which presents Jesus as a Servant, it would be negligent not to spend some thought upon the one of whom Jesus said “there was none greater, ever born of woman” Having seen from the temptations in the ministry the worst aspects of those who profess to be in God’s service, we can be encouraged to see the purer and more noble.
Much could be said of John the Baptist, as indeed it has in the many thousands of books written of this most noble servant of God. The church as a whole could well profit from this man’s example and appreciate what it entails to be in the service of God. We therefore are looking to John the Baptist, to see a, the test of his faith and b, his unity with God and the One he was called to partner in the service of God. As you well know the church is a body and we need to look no further than our own body to see how the church ought to function. It is a perfect illustration, yea rather an expression of the mind of God concerning his cherished possession, the church. The most important feature of an active body is it’s unity. It is easy for the different members of the body to be in harmony if the body is dead or asleep. But when the body is active then millions of muscle actions and reactions take place in one day. How is it all co-ordinated. It is all co-ordinated by the Head, which controls every single muscle and member by way of the nervous system. We could expand on this even more but much is written in other notes so we will just devote our thoughts to two aspects. 1. For each member to be in co-ordination with the head 2. Each member to be in co-ordination with each other. We are told in scripture that we are “workers together, with God.” So we need to have perfect relationship with God and with each other.
Our Relationship with God Our scripture readings are Ps.113, Matt ch.11 and Malachi Ch. 3. Psalm 133 tells us about unity and how beautiful it is. Especially important is the fact that “there the Lord commanded the blessing”. This text was fulfilled surely in Acts Ch. 2, when the Holy Ghost blessing fell, for they were ” all gathered in one place with one accord”. Notice the “all” and the “ones”. ‘Tis true that God is more willing to bless us than we are to be blessed and the scripture says his eye scans the world up and down looking for people on whose behalf he can show himself strong. What an encouragement that should be for us all. Where the people are right and the conditions are right God will certainly command his blessing. One of the main conditions is Unity. This Psalm tells us that for certain. Another is Faith. It could be said that God does not have His “Favourites”, but he does have his “Faithrites”. (See Hebrews ch.11.) Just as we enjoy electricity at home so those who learn to “plug in” to God (i.e. believe God) receive the power. Just as we learn to use electricity we need to learn how to receive and use Gods’ power. These lessons we are learning now should enable us to plug in. Everything valuable in the kingdom of God is tested. Our faith will be tested and our Unity or love will be tested. It is no good having anything if it breaks as soon as it is tested. Service engineers make a living from things which were made to serve which brake when tested by constant use. Too many Christians are broken down servants of God. We therefore are looking to John the Baptist, to see the test of his faith and unity with God and the One he was called to partner in the service of God. Matt Ch. 11 is our reading for this part of the lesson. Please read it. In our insulated, comfortable carpeted, spring interior, shake-’n-vac world, it is well nigh impossible for us to imagine the depth of pain and feeling endured by John the Baptist in his dark rat- infested damp cell. He was a man who had spent his life in the wild open spaces of Jordan’s riverside. A passionate man of great feelings, who had all his life, sought only to please God. Of all the Jews who looked for their Messiah, none had looked more zealously, more sincerely. Jesus said that no greater man had ever been born. Imagine what pleasure he must have given to God as he looked down from heaven upon this man’s heart. Considering God’s recorded character reference to Job, then surely this must be an even greater accolade. What pleasure John the Baptist must have given to God. Yet ironically, the accolade is almost a certificate of merit, declaring such folk to be worthy of suffering. The scriptures declare that God’s ways are past finding out? No way of God is more “past finding out” than the way he treats his servants. No wonder it is hard for us to keep in tune with God and to be at unity with Him. In our everyday life we base our working relationships on good understanding. For any partnership to work there must be an understanding of each other. Communication is one of the most important aspects of social life and good communication an absolute necessity for good working together. Surely we all recognise this to be a fact of social and domestic life. Men are often heard to quip “My wife doesn’t understand me,” yet they could both speak English. In business many hours are spent in man management courses trying to get good working relationships, because good communication is vital to all industry. If communication is bad, then understanding breaks down; all must know their relationship to those others in their chain of operation. Often folk are not puzzled at what their partners or associates do, but why they do it. Knowing why, is good understanding Unfortunately, when God acts in a way we don’t understand, that is a sure-fire trigger for our self-explosive dividing mechanism to burst into motion. All that analogy serves to illuminate our relationship when working with God. For often we are well aware of what God is doing, but not so clear as to why He is doing it. Truly, as Job found out and declared, “God’s ways are past finding out.” Similarly we also share with Job the oft muttered sigh, “God alone knows what’s going on”. In the case of John the Baptist and ourselves we are really examining the feelings we can go through in our relationship with God and the times when we are placed in circumstances which make us question God and his attitude towards us. If the scripture says we are workers together with God then the sooner we realise our working relationship, “terms and conditions”, the better. All too often we think working with God is like working with anyone else. They should tell us what they are doing and even discuss with us before hand what they plan to do. However, with God those things seldom happen and every servant should be aware of this at the outset. John the Baptist could well have struggled to find any reasons why he had landed up in prison. Why had God allowed this to happen? May be he had done something wrong. May be after all these years of preparation he had introduced the wrong person. May be Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. Not only was his unity with God tested but also His unity with Jesus was also brought into question. They were designated “workers together”. It is God’s usual way of carrying out his operations, to send two workers out to compliment each other. Marriage is such a union. Paul and Silas evangelised in a similar divine pairing. Moses and Aaron also were sent out as a partnership. Unity of purpose and understanding is an essential characteristic of such successful missions. It is easy to see why John’s unity with Jesus was brought into question. If you read Malachi Ch. 3, we see the verses which were the trumpet call to Him. He was the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Messiah who was to come. However, from his point of view of this scripture then the Messiah would surely come with a fiery ministry. He could not understand why Jesus was not fulfilling the ministry which he, (John) thought he should have been fulfilling. In our every day language, he would no doubt say “That is no way for the Messiah to act”. Yet from our point of view today it is easy for us to see how John and Jesus complemented each other. For John was the last prophet under the law. The Law that had nothing else to give to man but condemnation and judgement. But as surely as the law was given by Moses, so Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. To fully appreciate the difference in these two (seemingly opposite) ministries one would have to imagine a situation where someone opened a fairground on a Sunday, and yet professed to be a Christian. Hardly anyone with just a spattering of knowledge about the bible would be at a loss to show why the bible spoke against such behaviour. But if a preacher came along and said “I know the bible says you should keep the Sabbath day holy, but I say go out and enjoy yourself for God only desires your happiness”, then very few believers would ever think such words had any ring of truth to them. Take this one step further and suppose someone broke a window in your house. You then went to this person’s house and broke a window in his house. You would certainly be right to say that you got your permission from the bible, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. No one could deny that you had acted upon the word of God. In the light of that then, perhaps you can see the full import of the words of Jesus which said, “I know Moses, said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say don’t do that”. In other words Jesus seemed to be over-riding the written word of revelation of God over the previous four thousand years. John came as a separated, tea-total prophet, but Jesus came and ate and drank with sinners, so much so that some of his critics called him a wine-bibber. In modern parlance we would say ” a boozer”. Which of them was living according to God’s word? The answer is an amazing, “both”. How easy it is to let division come between ourselves and another servant of God, simply because we don’t see eye to eye with the way they go about things. In Christian service three attitudes are commonplace. 1. “Shouldn’t everyone be doing this as well” Often we follow the call and then spend most of our time preoccupied with criticising other Christians because they don’t seem to be doing the same thing. This often occurs with folk who feel a particular need to preach in the open air. How sharp at times is their criticism of other Christians “who huddle in churches instead of being outside where the sinners are.” 2. “Why should I be the only one who has to do this” In John chap 21, we read where Jesus took Peter to one side and outlined to him his future. It was a hard future predicted for Him, as God’s will for his life. Ultimately Peter would die for His master. He would go the way of the cross. But notice how expressive is the phrase “And Peter, turning himself about said. “Lord, what shall this man do?” Peter took his eyes off Christ and looked at another Christian and asked what was going to happen to him. Jesus answered abruptly and firmly. “what difference does it make, if this chap is still sitting on his backside when I return? You follow me.” The last words recorded, that Jesus said to Peter were the same as the first. The Christian life is bracketed with these words. “Follow ME.” We are not called to follow other Christians, not to condemn them in their calling, nor to judge them in the way they serve the Lord; we are called to only FOLLOW HIM. 3. It’s easier for Him than for me.... he’s rolling in money... I have to work all day” or “it’s alright for him, he hasn’t got a wife like mine” or “it’s alright for him he hasn’t got the responsibilities I have”. Such phrases seem to echo a parable Jesus told which culminated in him saying “let the dead bury the dead, you come and follow me” We are all called to be disciples and all discipleship is costly. It is not easy for anyone. If the Lord seemingly calls someone to an easy life, or a prosperous life and you are called to a hard or poor life, we must not let that either separate us from the One who has privileged us with His call, nor to separate us from fellowship in prayer and love for the other disciples by what may seem to be an easier call. Indeed there is every possibility that we could be wrong. It might not be an easier calling, it might just be our perception of what seems to be easier. There is a very interesting parable in Matt Ch. 20. In this parable every worker received the same wages although some worked a lot harder and longer than others. This gave rise to envious objections from some who thought they were being treated unfairly. Verse 15 is a very powerful verse. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with my own things” It is not for us to dictate the terms of our calling, nor the programme of our service, nor the rewards we receive in our work for God. All these things are his prerogative, and even the worst conditions of employment render a great privilege, and an honour to be in the service of the King of Kings. So in closing, let us make sure no root of bitterness or envy sets in against our brethren who might have a different calling to ourselves and certainly let no spirit of resentment arise to separate us from the Lord we seek to serve.. Therefore here are two small rules for all to follow; 1. Your relationship with God who has called you to service; Know your own particular calling, gift or ministry; remain in that calling, and do it only unto Him. 2. Your relationship with those with whom you serve the Lord; Accept others who may be called to a different form of service, Count yourselves as similarly blessed and privileged people, to be servants of God. Never come under the condemnation of the scripture in Romans Ch. 14. “Who made you a judge of another man’s servant?” Finally after all has been said about service and its practical implications within a local church environment, we must return to the pattern as seen in Mark chapter 1. It is a record of a busy day of service for the Master. But note that the next day we read of Jesus “Arising a great while before day” in order to meet with His father in prayer. Surely this is the secret of service throughout the normal days of the week. Whatever we are called to do we must do it as service unto the Lord, and such service must begin with worship, on a personal level with our heavenly Father. This is the way the Master trod, should not the servant tread it still?
Hopefully as we are all called into the Lord's service these thoughts will help us to see the pitfalls ahead
There is a very good example of what God requires of his servants in his vineyard in ch 12. I think the slides will expound it enough for those who will ponder a while and read the chapterover again if necessary.