Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer. –C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Morning (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1865), April 5, p. 96.
There is a great deal of zeal among young Christians today–a zeal that should be tempered. Preaching Christ, especially among young Calvinists, is becoming more popular today than ever before. In these days, the forces of darkness are waging a battle to the death against morality and piety, and any who are in Christ are sure to come in face to face with this evil.
We must remember, as believers, that we are not given primarily a ministry of conflict, but a ministry of reconciliation.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. — 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
We are taught that through our ministry and through our suffering with Christ, we extend the grace of Christ to those who need it. For we were once just as lost as the world, yet we were washed clean only by the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). Too often we place ourselves above those who are still hellbound. We boast not of Christ, but of ourselves, yet, of ourselves, or works are like filthy rags to a Holy God (Isaiah 64:6).
Who are we to seek war with the enemy? Who are we to take pride in ourselves for the ministry of the gospel? Who are we to boast in our own efforts to seek and to save the lost? Is this not a work of Christ alone? Are we not to suffer in this?
Should we rejoice or should we weep when we approach the lost and dying? Sure, we should take joy in our obedience to Christ and rejoice in His sufferings, but our joy should come from knowing Christ and knowing that we rely solely on Him. Our joy should come from knowing that He alone is sovereign over all things, and that His word we proclaim will ALWAYS accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 55:11).
We should never take pride in our work. We should never celebrate our encounters with a lost people. We should never seek to win over a lost world through the work of our own power or intellect. If we are not falling on our faces daily pleading with God to reveal Himself to those who are dead, we must examine our hearts. It is the gospel that has the power to save, but it is our prayer and reliance upon God that moves the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer bends the omnipotence of heaven to your desire. Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” This could not be truer. 1 John 5:14-15 says,
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
Let’s stop boasting of ourselves. Let’s stop acting like our Calvinistic intellect will outweigh the lofty arguments raised against the knowledge of God. Let’s stop acting like we are excited to go to war against the enemy. War is an inescapable consequence of standing with Christ, but we should weep over it. We should be putting on the full armor of Christ, which is stated in Ephesians 6:12-18,
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
The full armor of God consists of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God, but it is our prayer, in full alignment with the will of God, that God moves and works through us. If we are lacking any of this armor, we need to examine our hearts and our motivations. Can we truly glorify God if we are not fully submissive to Him in all things? We cannot proclaim truth without righteousness, and only the righteousness of Christ that comes through faith and repentance will suffice.
…you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” –Romans 2:21-24
We cannot wield the sword without the gospel of peace or the helmet of salvation. And we cannot effectively lay down our lives and suffer with Him who called us to be His ambassadors if we are not willing to fully submit our lives and our own wills to Him who called us.
We cannot glorify God on our own doing. It is Christ who glorifies God. So let’s stop acting like God needs us to win this battle for Him. Let’s let our pride go and stop acting like our commission is a game that has to be won–this is not a game. Our desire should be to see a lost creation reconciled to its creator. Let’s stop acting like it’s fun to oppose the world, and let’s be crucified with Christ, mortify our sin, and walk in obedience to Him for the rest of our lives.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. –2 Corinthians 5:11-15
[Contributed by Pulpit & Pen]