Wednesday, August 21, 2019
   
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Strong in the Spirit and Ministry

We never know when we will have to extend the healing/help of Jesus to those who are in need. Therefore, we need to understand Jesus' heart for the needy and be prepared to express it. We call this Ministry 101-105: an overview of the Lord's ministry from His own lips.

This passage has affected my view of ministry in a profound way. I call it ministry 101-105.

Our Lord’s statements in this passage had to have created one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. Jesus returned to his home town, where He had been brought up—v. 16—and went into the synagogue as was His custom. What did He do there that was so unusual? Jesus described Himself in a typical synagogue service.

The first reading of the day following the Shema (Deut. 6:4) and prayers, was the passage of the day (selected Bible verses from the Pentateuch). The second reading was from the prophets. The choice of passage may have been preselected, or up to the reader. The custom was for a visiting dignitary to read the scripture. Jesus was given the scroll of Isaiah; this may have been preselected, or Jesus' choice. He read what we now call Isaiah 61, then gave the interpretation of the passage, announcing to the crowd that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. That was shocking and important!

In essence, Jesus gave us a description of His ministry as Messiah and made it clear to us that all ministry flows from Him and through Him. If Jesus is the Christ and we are the Body of Christ, doesn’t it logically follow that the ministry He came to do in His physical body is the ministry the Church should do in the corporate Body?

This description of ministry is our call to ministry as a church and as individuals as well. What He did in the flesh He continues to do through the Church, His body—Acts 1:1. That leads to an important statement for Hillcrest Chapel: our definition of the church. The church is a dynamic force of people, filled with the Spirit, meeting people's needs in Jesus' name (stead).

Let’s go back and look closely at each segment, for each describes what Jesus began and continues to do through the church.

The Prerequisite to Ministry

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me..." The description of ministry is introduced by one phrase. This precondition is where we all must start and continue, if we are to be ultimately effective in any Christian service. Ministry will not be accomplished by religiously inclined men and women who desire to improve their community.

Philanthropy and good works abound. Government programs, medical support, and social services also thrive in most communities—e.g., Red Cross, crisis lines, Social Service workers, Doctors, other health professionals, etc. These expressions are helpful and needed, but are eternally valuable only if those professionals are infused and empowered with the Spirit. Meaningful and lasting spiritual ministry will be accomplished only when believers are operating as a Body, and by the power of the Spirit.

Even actions we might consider overtly Christian fall short of true ministry, if the Spirit of God is not empowering the process. For example, even preaching must be enabled by the Spirit of God to have any lasting benefit. John Ruskin has said, "Preaching is often ineffective because it so frequently calls men to do something for God, rather than working through them."

A lot of people don’t understand that it was only after the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in a special way that Jesus' ministry began—Matt. 3:16-17. He was always the Son of God, but while on this planet, He operated by the Holy Spirit. It was because Jesus was full of the Spirit, that He was directed (compelled, driven) from place to place and had great power in His ministry—Luke 4:1; 4:14. Remember, He lay aside the prerogatives of His deity when He came and lived among us—Phil. 2:5-8.

5] Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7] but made himself nothing, taking the very nature [ Or the form ] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8] And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

It was Jesus who said, "...the son can do nothing by himself"—John 5:19,30; 8:28; 14:31; Phil. 2:7. Empowered by the Spirit, He did only those things He saw the Father doing—John 5:19. What is the significance of that?

Jesus' dependency on the Spirit while here on earth is the model and secret for the Church today.We all need to be filled with the Spirit—Eph. 5:18. Being filled means literally "be being kept filled" with the Spirit. The Greek verb is a present passive imperative: a command that includes the idea of continuous filling of the Spirit of God in the believer's life.

Filling often gives the picture of a glass of water that is being filled with something, but that is not what the word "filled" means. It means to be controlled—e.g., to be dominated. It means to be permeated—e.g., as salt permeates food in order to flavor and/or preserve it. It means to be borne along by the Spirit—e.g., as the wind fills the sail of a ship/boat and moves it along.

We need to start, as the apostles did, with the Spirit’s control—Acts 1-2. Jesus told the apostles the following in Acts 1:4-8:

Acts 1:4—"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5] For John baptized with [ or in ] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." 6] So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7] He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The Pattern of Ministry

With the Lord’s example of dependency in mind, notice how Jesus gives to us a description of His ministry and ours. At least five areas are mentioned here: evangelizing, counseling (tending), rehabilitation, prayer and spiritual warfare.

Evangelizing

"The spirit of the Lord is on me; therefore he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor..."—18a.

Because the church is Christ’s Body, what are the implications of this passage to us today? We are to operate as He did while He was living among us in human flesh. One of the things the Body of Christ is supposed to do, is to preach/share the good news.

To preach means "to be a herald, to make proclamation, to announce publicly, to publish an announcement." How is this accomplished? Obviously it depends on the person and the circumstances.

It can be through direct confrontation and presentation of the gospel.

It can be introduced by winning the right to be heard through grace extension—Gal. 6:10; Prov. 3:27; Tit. 2:14; through the lifestyle of praise—Matt. 5:13-16; or through friendship. This is how most people are won to Christ.

One of our missionaries introduced me to an important perspective on evangelism: the difference in evangelism strategies between the West and many Eastern countries. In the West, emphasis is often on the belief in a creed—e.g., "you need to believe in these truth formulas and be able to articulate this confession before we will disciple you." W e in the West are also experience-oriented, in that we believe people should/will have certain experiences and/or feelings before we can welcome them into a discipling relationship.

In the East, evangelism and discipleship is built on relationships, as with the discipleship of Jesus and the twelve. In their case, Jesus chose to be with them; their discipleship began before they understood the creeds, or even who Jesus was and what He came to do. It was through relationships and various experiences that forums were created so they were free to ask questions about values/issues—e.g., what Jesus was all about. It was only after a protracted period of time and relationship building, that they had the necessary information to declare, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"—Matt. 16:16.

 

The process can include these steps:

  • Sending—getting/enabling people to go where unreached people are.
  • Access—the means to interact with them relationally—e.g., business, family, school, meals.
  • Neutral forums—places where our "people of interest" discuss critical issues and values. Places where because of relationships and a non-threatening setting, people begin to ask questions about our values, "religion," ethics, priorities, family, etc. Then we listen as they discuss their values/issues as well. For example, in biblical times this took place at the city gate.
  • Nurture—for those showing interest, we continue to build a relationship and nurture them in the things we value—e.g., a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
  • Kingdom Fellowship—this is where we develop intimacy with God and each other—where we initiate them into the faith—e.g., water baptism, and help bring them to maturity in their spiritual disciplines and in their walk with Jesus.

This process sponsors many questions in me: What are the implications to missions strategies—e.g., with unreached people groups? What are the implications to our culture, where less and less influence comes from Judeo-Christian values? Research says people are exposed to the gospel, that is an understanding of the gospel, from 6-10 times before they embrace the faith. Other researchers in Canada questioned 5,000 people and asked, "Who were you with, and where were you when you came to Christ?" Only 1% of those people said they were with someone they didn’t know.

Whatever the means, and however long it takes, at some point evangelism ultimately includes a communication/preaching of news. We have to tell the bad news, however, before we can tell the good news.

The bad news is we were (are) dead—Eph. 2:1-3.

The good news is we were (can be) made alive—Eph. 2:4-10.

Notice that Jesus was very specific about the audience. It wasn't the rich in spirit. "They have need of nothing." [They think.] Revelation 3:17 echoes the thought. "You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."

The poor in spirit need the good news—v. 18a —"The spirit of the Lord is one me; therefore he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor".

The rich in this context are those who feel they don’t need a Savior, or have earned God’s acceptance by their good works... those who will not listen—Rev. 3:14-22. Jesus says these folks are lukewarm, and promises to "spit [them] out of my mouth..." The self-righteous are a tough audience, because they think, "I’m better than most people I know..." The self-sufficient are a tough audience, because they're thinking, "I don’t need anything."

The poor in this context are those who see themselves as spiritually poverty-stricken (needy)—see Matt. 5:3. The needy are open to solution, open to change. The needy are vulnerable and are looking for good news—solutions to their problems. (This is not always true. Some enjoy their sickness, their dependency.) If you feel needy, however, you are a candidate for our Lord’s ministry. Rejoice! On the other hand, if you know a needy person, what do you have for them? Good news!

Counseling and Tending

"...he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted..."—18b.

There is some disagreement about whether this phrase was in the original documents of Luke, but because it is in Isaiah 61, we will look at it as a description of our Lord’s ministry and ours as well. (It is in the KJ, but not in the NIV.)

"Brokenhearted" describes a "rubbed together and shattered heart." Jesus' ministry to a person in this condition is healing ("bind up," Is. 61:1). This term indicates serving as an attendant, to do service, to take care of. It can mean to dress, wash, to take care of the sick at heart... to tend, to treat them in whatever way is needed.

In most cases, the brokenhearted can’t bear their condition alone. They need servants—those who will tend them and help get their broken and shattered hearts healed—Prov. 14:13; 15:13.

Why are people's hearts broken? There are a number of reasons. These reasons will help to guide our approach, our extension of Christ’s ministry.

  • Sometimes it’s because their dreams have been dashed. Things don’t work out as planned. The media has lied to them, e.g., "it doesn’t get any better than this."
  • Sometimes it’s because of the sins of others—Prov. 12:18a; 15:4b. Through no fault of their own, life’s circumstances, or people, have dealt a cruel blow to them (abused/sinned against, abandoned).
    Over a decade ago, I experienced a breakdown, complete with partial loss of memory and vocabulary. This was due to a convergence of stress factors, along with experiencing a church discipline episode of one of our staff members, a close friend of mine.
  • Sometimes a heart is broken because of a person’s own sins. Proverbs 14:30 says, "a heart of peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" Psalm 32:3 says, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4] For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah." Some contribute to their own condition.

Many things will help people with broken hearts—but whatever assistance we offer, it must be healing. We need to find ways to bind up, to serve as an attendant, to do service, to take care of, to dress, to wash, to take care of the sick at heart. Let me give you an overview of the kinds of healing that may be needed.

Healing presence

One of the best ways to introduce healing to someone is to remind them of:

God’s presence. Ps. 23—"Yea though I walk through the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. . ." When I talk to people who are going through a difficult time, the first thing I do is to pray and thank the Lord for His presence—Ps. 77:19; 73:23-24.

Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20b—"I am with you always..."

Our presence can be so healing or hurtful. We decide what affect our presence will have on people.

Job’s friends did the right thing to begin with, but they should have kept their mouths shut a lot longer. The problem with their words is that they didn’t have the heavenly perspective. While they said some true things, there was a lot of error and hurt in their speech as well. How much better it would have been to have just been present and listened.

I once read an article about actress Nell Carter. She told how her Christian friends abandoned her in her time of need; it was her Hollywood friends who kept in touch (visited, called, wrote cards). What did that say to her but that Christians weren’t as loving and caring as non-Christians? That may not be fair, but that was her conclusion based on the people who were there in her time of need.

"There will not be a single day in our lives when we do not need the redeeming grace of God in Jesus Christ. From this it follows that fail is what all humans do; continue to try is what all Christians do; and accept erring Christians is what God does"—Temptation, Charles Durham, IVP, p. 150.

 

Healing words

Healing words are not reckless. Proverbs 12:18 tells us, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." During my breakdown, I was attracted to Proverbs. It felt good.

Healing words are not deceitful.. Prov. 15:4—"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit..."

Truthful words bring healing. Apt/appropriate words bring healing. Prov. 25:11—"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 12] Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. 13] Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters."

Words that build up, bring healing. Eph. 4:29—"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Words that are kind bring healing. Prov. 12:25—"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."

Healing empathy, mercy

Rom. 12:8—"If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

Mercy means not to give people what they deserve—to crawl into another’s skin and think with their thoughts; to put yourself in their place and think and feel like they do.

Healing cheer

Prov. 17:22—"A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones"; Rom. 12:8b—". . .if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.." If tastefully and wisely done, a sense of humor and a cheerful spirit can do amazing things to lift a hurting person out of their despair.

 

Healing solutions

Sometimes actions need to be taken before healing can be realized.

  1. Forgiveness from God. 1 John 1:9; James 5:16—"Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."
  2. Forgiving others. Matt. 6:12,14—"If we don’t forgive we aren’t forgiven." Help people to realize, for their sake, it is imperative to forgive. Bitterness is the fruit of unforgiveness—Heb. 12:14-15; Matt. 18:21-35.
  3. "Formulating a workable action plan"—Everett L. Worthington, Jr.

Gently helping a person decide that the best course of action can be very healing—e.g., get out of debt; seek reconciliation with parents; see a counselor; go back to school, etc.—is another way to help. Healing sometimes comes during acts of obedience, or as a result of wise action—2 Kings 5:14.

In 1 Kings 19, we see God’s ministry to the dispirited prophet Elijah, and the action plan that God presented as a means of getting him going in the right direction again. During my breakdown, the Elders handed me a plan. I couldn’t make decisions for myself, so they made the decisions for me.

Healing power/prayer

1 Cor. 12:9—". . .to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit. . ."

James 5:16—"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Healing environment—love, acceptance, forgiveness, and belonging

  • Love—2 Cor. 6:11-13; 7:2-4; 1 Cor. 13:4-8a; Eph. 5:1-2; John 13:34-35
  • Acceptance—Rom. 15:7; Acts 15:36-40; 2 Tim. 4:11
  • Forgiveness—Eph. 4:32; Luke 7:36-50
  • Belonging—1 Cor.12:4-14; Eph. 4:16 (healing relationships). We belong to each other; we need each other; and we affect each other.

It’s easy to see that it is God’s intention to bring all kinds of healing through Spirit-empowered believers, so we need to find all kinds of healing agents in this hurting world.

Rehabilitation

"He has sent me to proclaim freedom (release) for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind"—Luke 4:18c.

This is ministry to the captives, those enslaved by sin—those caught and imprisoned, addicted by their own sin—in some kind of prison or spiritual blindness and needing to be released. Cooperative rehabilitation is what is needed.

A two-fold expression of rehabilitation is release (KJ) and recovery. Let’s look at each of these:

Release—finding freedom for the captive

Release/freedom means a letting go, a sending forth; a setting free from captivity as from sins, hence remission or pardon. What specific kinds of captivity are we talking about?

  • Habits that enslave—Eph. 4:17-19; 1 Tim. 5:13; Heb. 10:25
  • Bitterness—Heb. 10:15
  • Hostility—Eph. 4:31; 2:14-16; I Thess. 2:15; Rom. 8:7
  • Sexual deviance—Jude 7; Eph. 5:3-7; 1 Cor. 6:9-20

In our culture, more and more people are coming into the church needing help to be released from their many forms of captivity.

 


 

 

  1. Contrast ministry done in the power of the Spirit and ministry done under one's own power.
  2. In what way have you been involved in evangelism lately?
  3. Do you think of Jesus in terms of a counselor, a "tender," healing the brokenhearted? Is it easy for you to see Him this way?
  4. How have fellow believers brought healing to your life? How have you brought healing to others?
  5. Do you feel in captivity in any way, needing release?