Sunday, June 12, 2016

Maturity in Christ and 'Agonizing' in Ministry

Paul writes in Colossians 1:28-29,
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me. 
Paul’s goal is nothing short of presenting to Christ complete, mature, full-grown Christians. He was not into the “I’ll save ‘em, you raise ‘em!” type of thinking. Rather, his great joy was to present to Christ believers who have reached their maximum earthly potential. We see this in other places in Paul's writing:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20)
Listen to Paul’s benediction in 1 Thessalonians 5:23:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s means of bringing believers to maturity, according to verse 28, was threefold: proclamation, admonishment, and teaching. He proclaimed Christ; Christ was the beginning and the end of his message. Paul, in proclaiming this Christ who now also dwells in Gentile believers was admonishing (nouthetountes, “counseling”) and teaching (didaskontes, “instructing”) everyone (cf. 3:16). 

As George Whitefield said, “Other men may preach the gospel better than I, but no man can preach a better gospel.”

Paul's purpose was to present everyone perfect (teleion, “mature”; cf. James 1:4) in Christ. Paul was interested in believers not remaining spiritual babies (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1–2) but in becoming spiritually mature (cf. Heb. 5:11–14). Elsewhere Paul prayed for complete sanctification of believers (1 Thes. 5:23). Paul preached the “fullness” of the gospel so that believers could have the fullness of life Jesus promised (John 10:10). To this end Paul expended all his God-given strength. Developing maturity in believers took great labor or wearisome toil (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10, 58; Gal. 4:11; 1 Thes. 1:3) and even struggling (ag┼Źnizomenos) or agonizing like an athlete in an arena (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Tim. 6:12). The power for this struggle came from Christ (cf. Phil. 4:13).

Martin Luther worked so hard that many days, according to his biographers, he fell into bed. Moody’s bedtime prayer on one occasion, as he rolled his bulk into bed, was, “Lord, I’m tired! Amen.” John Wesley rode sixty to seventy miles many days of his life and preached an average of three sermons a day, whether he was riding or not. Alexander Maclaren would get to his office when the workmen went to work so he could hear their boots outside, and would put on workmen’s boots to remind him why he was in his study. G. Campbell Morgan kept a newspaper clipping for twenty years, entitled “Sheer Hard Work,” and said: 
What is true of the minister is true of every man who bears the name of Christ. We have not begun to touch the great business of salvation when we have sung, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying.” We have not entered into the business of evangelizing the city or the world until we have put our own lives into the business, our own immediate physical endeavor, inspired by spiritual devotion.
Paul’s ministerial drive is a model for us all. We will never have an authentic, apostolic ministry unless we are willing to work to the point of exhaustion.

Labor on!!