Ultimately, in ministry, you are growing up and being built up in Christ-likeness and we are to be living out that Christ-likeness. It will manifest itself in our lives and in our service to Christ. We build up to and live out that Christ-likeness in 3 primary ways:
1. Instruction in the Word of God.
2. Personal study in the Word of God.
3. Engaging in Ministry (Serving of others).
We have already seen 2 of the consequences or results of a good ministry that is rooted in Jesus Christ with the goal of being more Christ-like.
1. Impact far beyond visible fruit.
2. Hearts will be encouraged/strengthened.
Now, we see a 3rd result.
3. Christians will mature into a full assurance of understanding.
Understanding refers to applying biblical principles to everyday life. It is not enough to just know what to do, you actually have to do it. To truly know Christ is to walk with Him, to obey Him, to grow up in all Christ-likeness.
"When the believer experiences spiritual truth by living it, it becomes truly understood and leads to assurance of his or her salvation. The primary problem (for a Christian) is not a lack of knowledge, but a failure to apply the truths they know." - John MacArthur
Have you ever heard the expression, "Experience is the best teacher?" Experiential Christianity and not "sideline" Christianity is where true ministry is done. BETWEEN THE LINES!
As we grow in our knowledge of Christ and our understanding of the Word of God and as we live it out, we will grow up in all aspects in Christ. We need a growing knowledge of Christ because it is in Christ where all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be found.
That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Obeying Christ and serving others is the biblical mandate for ALL CHRISTIANS.
By obeying Christ and serving other Christians, we mature into a full assurance of understanding, meaning that it is in an actively serving church that the most Christians grow in their knowledge of Christ and grow in their assurance of salvation, and understand best how to live out their Christ-likeness.
What are some of the primary threats to watch out for as we seek to live out Christ-likeness in the church?
1. Criticism - It's easy to complain. It takes effort to support and build up. Churches tend to house some of the world's best complainers. What amazes me is how so many think that they have a right to complain when in reality the best course of action for them would be to keep their mouths completely shut. More harm has been done in the name of Christ by complaining and tearing down people trying to obey Christ and serve in their respective ministries than justa bout anything else that plagues the church today.
What is even worse is that in many churches you see people in advanced ages who should be the ultimate model of spiritual maturity, doing the largest amount of criticizing and gossiping.
Criticism to Christians as they seek to do ministry can lead to a "death by a thousand cuts". It isn't one particular criticism that does them in but a period of time of constant negativity.
2. Contempt - feeling that something or someone is beneath consideration; to show disregard. Targets of contempt feel despised and worthless.
A church full of contempt doesn't look like a church knit together in love; it is a dying church. People that claim to be Christian but hold contempt for one of their brethren need to be reminded that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. If you think that someone has to change or clean up or do as you see fit before you will love them or forgive them then I need to introduce you to the real Jesus and not the fake one you are following.
3. Fear - Fear is a liar. Fear is paralyzing. It is bad enough if an individual Christian is battling fear but if a church has it then it needs to be dealt with. Fear can keep change from happening that would propel a church forward in serving Christ.
It is usually fear of the unknown or fear of repeating past failure or reviving old conflict. The problem is when a church sits on its hands and refuses to change or refuses to try anything new or refuses to get behind someone who wants to step out and try a new ministry or take a current one and make it better, then instead of taking ground for the Kingdom, we are giving up ground to Satan.
4. Pride - thinking too highly of yourself. This can happen in individuals as well as groups. Sometimes you will see particular groups think that because of their status or because of their tenure at church or even because of how much money they give that this gives them some special status in the church and that their influence and word should carry more weight.
Pride is a sneaky and dangerous foe in the church because it creeps into a person's life slowly and over time and they barely notice what is happening until they are full of it.
5. Stonewalling - People stonewall with their time, their abilities, their money, etc. They have decided that they will withhold these things until the church or the pastor or a particular group does what they want. When God's people stonewall, good ministry halts and the church won't see the good results that can come from good ministry.
What is needed more than anything else right now in our churches and in our ministries?
Very simply - We need people that love Christ and love His church so much that they would be willing to humble themselves and end all criticism and gossip and be supportive and uplifting. We need Christians to see each other as beloved brethren and be willing to do whatever it takes to meet their needs. We need every person to be 100% on discovering, developing, and faithfully using their spiritual gifts in obedience to Christ and in service to each other. No holding back!