Safe Ministry

22 Mar

PTC Ministry Conference 2012
Session 11
David Jones

Zechariah 3:1-5
Jude 1-2, 20-25

In 1914, a British WWI corporal, Thomas Hughes, dropped a ginger beer bottlein the British Channel with a letter for his wife. He was killed two days later. The letter was dragged up in the River Thames in 1998 and given to his 90 year old daughter in New Zealand the next year.

We have received a letter from the step brother of Jesus, kept for us for 2,000 years. The letter isn’t address to anyone in particular. He doesn’t locate them for us geographically, but he does spiritually. They are those who are beloved in God and kept in Christ. And that’s all Christians, isn’t it?

The Final Countdown

4 Things to do for Yourself
1. Keep on building yourselves up in the faith, v20. We’re not looking for people who work on their own. We’re not looking for people who work with others. We’re looking for people who work as a team. We must be built up in the faith that has been entrusted to us.

The worst advice I was given as a theological student was, “Keep a professional distance from your people.” Who pastors the pastor? Does he pastor himself? Who really does that? The administers fellowship? They’re pi parties. The Presbytery? I don’t know any that do that. The congregation must pastor the pastor.

If I ever write a book, it’ll be called The Penny’s Dropped, Eventually and be on Ephesians 3:18. You can’t take in the full dimensions of how much Christ has loved us on your own.

2. Pray in the Holy Spirit, v20.
Calvin says, “Prayer is the chief exercise of faith.” If your prayer life is flagging, build yourself up in your faith. Maybe it’s because you’ve stopped listening. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.

He’s not talking about two tiers of Christians. Everyone who has embraced Christ has the Holy Spirit. Spurgeon: “I looked at Christ and the dove flew into my heart.  Looked at the dove and it flew away.” The Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Luther wrote to Melancthon in 1521, “Your estimation of my spiritual vitality shames and tortures me. I sit here like a fool and hardened in leisure, pray little, do not sigh for the church of God, yet burn in a big fire of my untamed body. In short I should be ardent in spirit, but I am ardent in the flesh, in lust, in laziness, leisure, and sleepiness. … Already eight days have passed in which I have written nothing, in which I have not prayed or studied.”

My people are sick of me saying, “We don’t pray for the work. Prayer is the work.”

When the disciples who rejoiced at their return from ministry, Jesus praised God, full of the joy of the Holy Spirit, Luke 10: 1-24, especially v:21f.

The Spirit is the spirit of adoption, Romans 8. We have the Son of God in heaven interceding for us, who knows our weakness. We give in first round, but he stood. We have the Holy Spirit in our hearts interceding for us. “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Spurgeon said, “I’m so glad my prayers go to heaven in the revised version.” That’s your defence.

As the old hymn-writer wrote, Satan trembles when he finds the weakest saint on his knees. The more he huffs and puffs to bring our house down, the stronger we get.

Bunyan said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

3. Keep yourselves in God’s love, v21
In school, I came down with pleurisy. When I went back to school, the doctor told me to walk on the sunny side of the street. God loves you, not because you’re lovable, but because 

You can only know God’s love together with the saints, Ephesians 3:18.

Keller loves quoting C.S. Lewis, so here is quoting Lewis:

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles [Williams] is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Issiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”

Lewis is saying that it took a community to know an individual. How much more would this be true of Jesus Christ? Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus, that they want to “get to know Jesus better.” You will never be able to do that by yourself. You must be deeply involved in the church, in Christian community, with strong relationships of love and accountability. Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness.”

– Tim Keller in “The Prodigal God.”

You must be deeply involved in the church, in Christian community.

4. Wait for mercy, v21
When the Puritan Thomas Hooker was dying, a friend tried to console him by saying, “Brother, you go to receive your reward.” Hooker said, “No! I go to receive mercy!” Those who know mercy show it to others.

3 Things to do for Others
1. Discernment, v22
Be merciful to those who doubt. We need to know the difference between real doubts and excuses. We need to know when to comfort the afflicted or afflicting the comfortable.

In his book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks writes about 8 kinds of spiritual depression, 8 deceptions Satan uses to keep us from our duty, 8 kinds of doubt and 12 kinds of temptation. Why? He knew his people. He knew his people because he knew his own heart.

Jesus knew what was in a man. We can know what is in our people, because it is in us. We need to discern what is in our people’s lives. It comes from listening too, not jumping to conclusions.

2. Urgency, v23
Snatch others from the fire.

Christopher Ash tells a story in the Priority of Preaching about 3 apprentice devils. Satan has his own MTS program going.

“The story is told of three apprentice devils being trained by Satan. ‘What are you going to try today?’ asks the leader. 

The first apprentice replies, ‘I’m going to tell them there is no God.’ 

‘Well,’ says Satan, ‘you can try. A few fools will believe you. But the universe shouts the existence of God. There is evidence all around and you’ll not do very well. Indeed, even in the secular twenty-first century you may find your self witnessing the slow death of atheism. Any other ideas?’ 

The second apprentice tries this: ‘I’m going to tell them there’s no judgment.’ 

‘That’s a better idea,’ says Satan. ‘You will persuade more people of that, especially some of the clergy. But human beings have a gut sense of accountability, that actions have consequences. They know what it is to feel guilty even when there therapists tell them not to. So I think you’ll find it an uphill struggle. Anyone else have an idea?’ 

The third apprentice pipes up, ‘I’m going to tell them there’s no hurry.’ 

‘Brilliant,’ says Satan. ‘That is just what you want to say. You will have great success. Let them listen to the word of God and whisper in their ears, “This is good stuff. One day you ought to do something about this. But tomorrow will do.”’

– Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching, p 65

We need to snatch people as brands from the burning. Preach as dying men to dying men. Paul said to Timothy (literally), “Do all your work as an evangelist.” 2 Timothy 4:5.

3. Caution, v23
We need tender hearts, as Wesley wrote in the hymn Weary of wandering from my God:

Ah! give me, Lord, the tender heart
That trembles at the approach of sin;
A godly fear of sin impart,
Implant, and root it deep within,
That I may dread Thy gracious power,
And never dare to offend Thee more.

We need a Godly fear of sin, like Joseph in Potiphar’s house. As David found, everything he did was in the sight of God, Psalm 53.

Kent Hughes asks in Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome:
Is your life growing in holiness, or are you being captive to culture? 
There is a cloud of sensuality which envelopes everyone.

We need purity. Robert Murray McCheyne wrote: It’s not great giftedness that God uses, it is great conformity to Christ.

2 Things God Does For Us

1. He Keeps You From Falling, v24
Because of the control of the rider, the horse goes down the hill calmly. He can keep you sure-footed when you go over hard territory.

2. Present You Faultless, v24
In the end, he will present you faultless with exultant joy. George Fox, the Quaker’s last words were “I’m clear.”

When I am joined to Christ, all that I have is his. All that I have is sin and he takes it. All his spotless righteousness he wraps me in to cover my filth.

1. The Only God our Saviour, v25
J.S. Bach signed most of his manuscripts J.J., which means Jesus help me. At end, he wrote S.D.G.: Soli Deo Gloria.

Jesus help me. To God alone be the glory.


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"… What is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." James 4:14.