"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

ABLE MINISTERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

ABLE MINISTERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (this teaching was given at ETERNAL LIVING WORD Church on 1/22/17)

By James Fire

2 CORINTHIANS 3:5-7
4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Q: How many ministers do we have here in the congregation today (a few raised their hands)?
Q: Let me ask this then: How many here are born again believers in Jesus Christ (overwhelming majority raised their hands)?
So, let me ask again, but keep all of your hands raised please (everyone laughed):
Q: How many ministers do we have here in the congregation today? There you go, that's the answer I was looking for!

The fact of the matter is, that anyone who is born again is a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of His body, the church. 
He led by example the life of the Servant Leader, and so –  we are all servants of the LORD – and ‘minister’ is just another word for servant.


SERVANTS by the power of the Holy Spirit
The LORD Jesus ministered not by His own power (He could have, He didn’t), but by the power of the Holy Spirit Who anointed Him at His water baptism (LUKE 3:22; 4:18). And because of the New Testament of Jesus Christ – that is, His shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin, and the giving forth of the Holy Spirit Who indwells us, we have, by God’s grace, been made “able ministers of the New Testament . . . of the Spirit . . .” and by the anointing of the Spirit.

The entire book of Acts we are studying (on Wednesday nights), has as its central theme, the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the church – and we are 'ACTS Chapter 29' as it were!

We are not sufficient in ourselves to minister the spiritual things of God; everything from the preaching of the Gospel, to the teaching of the Word, to biblical exhortation and counsel, to intercessory prayer, to discipleship of new believers and our children, and everything else that the LORD calls us to, we are not sufficient to accomplish these things! The Greek word for “sufficient” and “sufficiency” in 2 COR 3:5 is hikanos – “to be competent, to be fit in character, to be worthy, to be good enough, and sufficient enough to satisfy” our Holy God.

Our sufficiency – must be of God, and Him alone!

SAD STATS –

Pastors and ministers these days more than ever, are suffering burn out; look at these seven statistics with me of pastors:
90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry. 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation. 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.

PASTOR BURN-OUT STATISTICS (statistics above and quote below taken from this web site)

What’s wrong with this picture? Why are so many suffering burn out? Where is the Life-giving, all-sufficient and empowering Spirit of the Living God Who operates in the lives of His servants, saints of the church of Jesus Christ?

Burnout is a real problem, and for pastors, it is a real threat to you, your family, your ministry, and your church. According to one study on why pastors leave the ministry, moral failure is only the second most common reason pastors leave the ministry. The first is burnout.
“When burnout runs its course, pastors often report that they have no initiative or drive, little energy, don’t want to visit with people, and just want to be left alone. Other symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, and disillusionment with people, loss of confidence, a feeling of being mistreated, and feelings of detachment. Of course, with the intense and unrelenting demands of ministry, there is a spiral effect: Burnout causes inefficiency, inefficiency creates increasing demands, demands create pressure and [associated] guilt for not achieving desired goals, added pressure and guilt causes stress, stress causes a depletion of energy and drive, which in turn causes inefficiency."

Anyone in any job can suffer burn out – it’s when you’ve given all you’ve got until you’re on empty – then you dry up; and then you give up.

Here are practical steps to take in avoiding burn out – we’ll look quickly at these first. Then we will take our time to examine the spiritual steps:

SEVEN PRACTICAL STEPS to AVOIDING BURN OUT:

1. Learn to balance and pace yourself: life is about balance and we need to avoid focusing on any one task too long. To do so will create fatigue, and causes negligence to other needs and goals. It’s also important to understand that any objective worth the time, will take time. Achieving long-term goals is a process – it’s a marathon – it’s not a sprint.
2. Take breaks from tasks and objectives – go distract yourself in something other; when you return, you’ll feel refreshed and re-focused.
3. Maintain a sense of humor – learn to laugh at yourself and your blunders that are not ‘deal-breakers’. Also appreciate the serious mistakes, but not at the expense of losing the ability to laugh at failure and then become discouraged and prone to other failures or set-backs. 
4. Additionally – lower your expectations from lofty idealistic goals, and instead, take on more sizable, more manageable aspects of problems, challenges and plans. Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.
5. Prioritize: there are the urgent issues and then there are the important ones. Urgent issues scream for attention, but in the long run may not be as important. Important issues that must be dealt with, may even be hidden in the background, hardly noticed – and this is where discernment is needed, to tell the two apart.
6. Delegation – If you need help, learn to seek out the capable and recruit them.
7. Do not overlook good nutrition, proper rest and adequate exercise. These are just as necessary to your body as breathing – and you don’t stop breathing, do you? A fit and ready body aids in a fit and ready mind.

FOUR SPIRITUAL STEPS TO AVOIDING BURN OUT:
~ Be A First Partaker
~ Cultivate Dependence on God
~ Seek To be Filled with the Spirit
~ Keep Short Accounts with God
1. Be A First Partaker - This may sound selfish, but it isn’t really – before you minister to others, first be ministered to by the LORD.
Consider: The disciples were incapable of feeding the 5000 (JOHN 6:7; even if they had “200 pennyworth” or 7 months’ worth of wages), that wasn’t sufficient to feed them all; until the disciples FIRST came to Jesus and received from Him the miraculously multiplying bread, then that insufficient amount of just 5 loaves of bread became sufficient.

Understand this: Jesus will take you in hand, He will break you, and bless you, multiply your ministry and divide you up to bless the multitudes as you offer yourself to Him!

Paul the apostle admonished young Timothy to “take heed to yourself and unto the doctrine” (1 TIM 4:16); he was to be sure that his spiritual health was in good order for his own sake – first as a saint of God, and then as a pastor.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR MINISTRY!
In fact, you can measure the quality of your ministry by the quality of your relationship with the LORD!

Compare Martha to Mary, and what the LORD Jesus had to say to them: “Mary has chosen that good part, and it shall not be taken away from her (LUKE 10:42)”. Mary was a first partaker; she sat down as His feet and learned of Him before she set out to minister to others! Remember: Sit down before you set out!

We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (MATT 6:33), by communing and worshiping the King and partaking of His righteousness, allowing Him to minister to us His grace.
Then we are able ministers of the New Testament and of His Spirit, sufficient to serve others in the grace of God. And “all these things”, like being equipped with the spiritual tools, weapons of warfare and implements of grace with which we shall minister to others, “will be added unto you”.


We ourselves first must seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in our own lives, and allow the LORD to work in us His likeness, His heart, His character, His fruit, by which we are then able to minister to others. We do this as we study and follow the Word of God, as we enter into intimacy with the LORD in an abiding prayer life, as we seek fresh anointing of the Spirit.

And we will incur wounds in the battle, buffetings and distress in a fallen world of sin, discouragements on the hard road; we must encourage ourselves in the LORD:

PSALM 42: 1-5 
As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? 4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

We will find ourselves in demand, being called upon to comfort the saints – and we will be able to provide such comfort and encouragement when we ourselves (first) are comforted and strengthened of God; such is one of the uses of trials in our lives (2 COR 1:1-4).
In laboring in the Word, studying to show ourselves approved to God, we must first be partakers.

2 TIM 2:6-7, 15.
6 The husbandman that labors must be first partaker of the fruits. 7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

As we behold the LORD and partake of His Presence in prayer and fellowship, we are changed in the renewing of our minds by the Spirit of God, becoming more and more like Jesus, we shall indeed become able ministers of the New Testament and of His Spirit!

2 COR 3:17-18
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2. Cultivate a Perpetual Dependence on God – The strength you need to be an able minister is not your own (ISAIAH 40:29), the wisdom you need is not your own (JAMES 1:5), the knowledge you need is not your own (2 COR 2:14; 6:6), the agenda and plans and purposes that you need are not your own (EPH 3:11), the love that you need is not your own (ROM 5:5). We must seek the LORD's resources, never our own!

They say that the church is “not a one man show” – but really it is! You’re in a one-man show, but the one man (or woman) is not you! It’s not me! It’s not your pastor! It’s the Man Jesus: the church is His, the saints are His, the Word is His, the Spirit is His, the grace and truth whereby we live is His, the glory is ALL His! He wants you, dependent solely on Him!

And He wants to use us as His vessels to accomplish His glory! Will you be an able minister of Christ, for the sake of His glory, out of love for Him?
We as ministers are not to attempt to coax God through prayer to join our team, to bless our program, to grant us success for our own sake or for that of our church.
All belongs to the LORD – He is the One that we seek to please, from Whom we seek for all the implements, tools and weapons necessary to work in the ministry He has called us to. Above all, we seek HIM to accomplish His purposes. All to the glory of God!

Think about Jacob when he was returning home, after time spent with his uncle Laban (read chapters GEN chapters 27-32).  Jacob left home after he connived and conspired with his mother to steal the blessing of the first-born from his brother Esau, and he believed he was going to kill him for it. Now more than 14 years later Jacob encounters Esau who came to meet him.

Jacob is in fear of his life and those of his family and servants, and calls upon the name of the LORD. The LORD shows him favor as Esau treats him mercifully – but that night Jacob has an encounter with the angel of the LORD and wrestled him until the dawn! Jacob refuses to let the angel go unless he blesses him – what Jacob didn’t realize at the time, was that he was already blessed of the angel of the LORD (a Theophany of Jesus Christ) – who touched the hollow of his thigh and it went out of joint, so that he walked with a limp the rest of his life!

And this is a blessing??! Yes, for the name Jacob means “conniver, heel catcher, supplanter” - - we would say trickster or con artist. He was used to taking things into his own hands, managing the situation and being an independent and successful businessman. If he got into a situation that was impossible, he could always run away.

We cannot afford to minister with such confidence in ourselves and independent conduct as this; we will fail the LORD if we try. The church is NOT a business, but the body of Christ! It’s an organism, not an organization! Businesses and organizations may be run according to the wisdom and knowledge of man with success, BUT NOT SO the church of God!

The blessing is that his name was changed from Jacob to Israel “Prince of God” and he would no longer be independent, but crippled in his own strength; no longer able to run from trouble, but wholly dependent and leaning upon the LORD God, his strength. THAT is the place of blessing! Paul knew such weakness and God’s strength as a result of His enabling grace:

2 COR 12:9-10
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities (??), that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure (??) in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

~ Be A First Partaker
~ Cultivate Dependence on God

3. Seek To Be Filled and Overflowing with the Holy Spirit -  
ZECH 4:1-3, 6
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And said unto me, What do you see? And I said, I have looked, and behold a lampstand [candlestick] all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.  6 Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

There were in this prophetic vision a golden lampstand all of gold along with seven lamps and seven bowls, with seven pipes leading to each bowl which were themselves connected to two olive trees, to the right and to the left of the lampstand.

These lamps were perpetually supplied with olive oil from those trees; and of course oil is a biblical type for the Holy Spirit.

Prophetically speaking, these two olive trees were the anointed ones of God, who will appear during the days of the anti-Christ's rule. However, being the LORD's children, born of His Spirit, we also are anointed of the LORD.

It is not by might, nor by power, but by the continual and enduring supply of God's Spirit to us, that we are able to minister, and provide God's grace to others, serving one another with all humility (ACTS 20:19).


Connected to Christ, Vitality in the Vine: There is much the same idea in the analogy that our LORD used, in comparing Himself to the Vine and we, being His branches:

JOHN 15:4
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

EPH 5:18
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled* with the Spirit;
* “filled and being filled” 
Saints, we need to be DUI – D.irectly U.nder the I.nfluence of the Holy Spirit!
The overflow is the ministry to others, while we remain “full of the Spirit”. If we cease in receiving from the LORD, the overflow will eventually stop and then if we wish to continue pouring out to others, we will have to empty some of those living waters out of ourselves: but then we are no longer full!


If we continue in this way, we may eventually dry up and then burn out.
To prevent this, we must continually receive from the LORD as we are filled to overflowing, and intent on being a channel of blessing to others. Inflow from the LORD/outflow to saints and sinners are both necessary in effective ministry.

JOHN 7:38-39
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

That is how the LORD desires us to function and minister as His serving saints: to have the power of God's enabling grace fluent in and through our lives; an abundance of the life of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (JOHN 10:10); it is Satan's desire to steer us clear of that place of blessing, where we receive from the LORD such dynamic, life-changing grace!
He wards people off from partaking of God's Word, and all the blessing that this entails, and rather have them resort to cisterns - or worse, broken cisterns that can hold no water at all!

JEREMIAH 2:13 
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

The picture our Lord described here is not that of a simple stream of water, but an overflowing fountain. Continue to ‘be filled’ (EPH 5:18) and the sweetness of your vital relationship to Jesus will flow as generously out of you as it has been given to you. 
“Was Jesus saying to stay focused on the Source so that you may be blessed personally? No, you are to focus on the Source so that out of you ‘will flow rivers of living water’— irrepressible life (JOHN 7:38).
"It is not a blessing that you pass on, or an experience that you share with others, but a river that continually flows through you. Stay at the Source, closely guarding your faith in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him*, and there will be a steady flow into the lives of others with no dryness or deadness whatsoever.”
~ Oswald Chambers
*
What are the essentials of our relationship with the LORD?


~ Devotional reading, study and obedience (yielding) to the Word (ROM 6:13,19), motivated by love for Him (1 JOHN 4:19; 1 COR 13:13). Being filled with the Spirit is not how much of the Spirit of God that His child has (all of Him!), but rather, how much of YOU does the Spirit of God have! How much have you yielded to His tender instruction and direction? How willing are you to die to self, that Christ's life may be more fully manifest in you?
~ Prayer and communion with the LORD: communion is oneness with the LORD: sharing the same love for one another, the same passion and yearning for one another, the same mind, the same motivations.
~ Worship and fellowship with the LORD: I have discovered a good, working definition of worship: 'Giving to the LORD all that He is worthy of in light of all that He has given to us: paramountly, the LORD Jesus Himself!'

Fellowship – that open, honest and humble interaction with the LORD, being laid bare before the LORD.

~ Be A First Partaker
~ Cultivate Dependence on God
~ Seek To be Filled with the Spirit

4. Keep Short Accounts With God, Do Not Harbor Sin, Do Not Live In ‘The Condo’s’ – 
What if we have grit or grime in our vessel? What will the quality of that water be that flows out to others? Such water will be polluted, not suitable to partake of. Can we continue to live with, be comfortable in, to sustain a compromised truce with sin and expect grace to abound?
Where there is sin, confess and forsake it (1 JOHN 1:9; PROV 28:13) and don’t allow Satan to force you to live in His condominium of condemnation (ROM 8:1-2), but rather live in the lavish palace of Christ’s liberty!

Grieving and quenching the Spirit
EPHESIANS 4:29-31
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve* not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
*“to cause pain, or grief, to distress”
1 THESS. 5:16-24
16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it.

“When the word ‘quench’ is used in Scripture, it is speaking of suppressing fire. 
Likewise, the Holy Spirit is a fire dwelling in each believer. He wants to express Himself in our actions and attitudes. When believers don’t allow the Spirit to be seen in our actions, when we do what we know is wrong, we suppress or quench the Spirit. We do not allow the Spirit to reveal Himself the way that He wants to.
“To understand what it means to grieve the Spirit, we must first understand the Holy Spirit is a Person Who can be grieved. Once we understand this, we can better understand how He is grieved, mainly because we too are grieved. EPHESIANS 4:30 tells us that we should not grieve the Spirit.

“We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (EPH 4:17-19), by lying (4:25), by being angry [to the point of becoming sin] (4:26-27), by stealing (4:28), by cursing (4:29), by being bitter (4:31), by being unforgiving (4:32), and by being sexually immoral (5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed.

Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin; we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.” ~ GOTQUESTIONS.COM 

2 TIM 2:21-22
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these (vs. 16-19, “profane and empty babblings, ungodliness, error from truth, iniquity”), he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and acceptable for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
1 JOHN 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

"We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as ‘rivers of living water’ in blessing to everyone. Yet some of us are like the Dead Sea, always receiving but never giving, because our relationship is not right with the Lord Jesus. As surely as we receive blessings from Him, He will pour out blessings through us. But whenever the blessings are not being poured out in the same measure they are received, there is a defect in our relationship with Him [OR (I might add) if we attempt to pour out without first receiving from the LORD]. If you find that His life is not springing up as it should, you are to blame— something is obstructing the flow. Is there anything between you and Jesus Christ? Is there anything hindering your faith in Him? If not, then Jesus says that out of you ‘will flow rivers of living water". 
~ Oswald Chambers

So in summation, remember: ~ Be A First Partaker
~ Cultivate Dependence on God
~ Seek To be Filled with the Spirit
~ Keep Short Accounts with God

May the LORD Jesus Christ bless and keep all of you, His beloved saints and sheep of His pasture - way too much!

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