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The Goal of Your Ministry
The main goal in making a difference–Colossians 1:23-29
Who is the perfect minister? It wasn’t Noah–he had 120 years of preaching, but no converts. It wasn’t Moses–he stuttered and his people said he lost his temper over trivial things. It wasn’t Abraham–he took off to Egypt during hard times and when he got in trouble he tried to lie his way out. It wasn’t Hosea–he was divorced and remarried to a prostitute.
It wasn’t John–for one, he was a Baptist, plus he lacked tact and dressed like a hippie. It wasn’t Peter–he denied Christ publicly. Open your Bibles to Colossians 1:23 to 29. This passage describes the ideal minister, not a perfect one. While Paul explains his ministry, he also describes your ministry and some crucial truths concerning impacting the lives of others.
Today we wrap up our 12-week study on Making a Difference–the keys to influencing others. We’ve looked at essential passages of Scripture which teach us how to impact our children, our disciples and people around us for Christ.
The Training Requirements were 1) genuine salvation, 2) genuine sanctification, and 3) genuine selection. The Training Environment included 4) God’s plan for the entire Body, and 5) God’s plan for each believer, using their giftedness. The Training Commandment was 6) Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6, and 7) New Testament, Matthew 28.
The Training Movement included 8) the sovereign purpose of God with the good works He’s prepared, 9) the passion of Christ to practice His men, 10) the plan for the Church to reproduce leaders, and last week, 11) the process of training the total person. And finally today, the Training Commitment, 12) the goal of training, every believer complete in Christ.
In Colossians 1, Paul describes his ministry. And in doing so, he exposes the goal of your ministry, whether it’s greeting, set-up, driving, ushering, serving coffee, shepherding a community group or discipling a teen. God commands every Christian to serve in ministry, but as you do, never forget the goal–to become complete in Christ.
Most discipleship aims too low. Leaders want their disciples to know some Bible, obey their parents, work hard, function in the church, give 10%, and not act like a curmudgeon. This is far below the Scripture’s target for your life. Listen to the heart of Epaphras in Colossians 4:12. “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.”
Listen to Paul’s goal for the Ephesians in 4:13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Paul reminds the Galatians of his one simple goal. Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.”
The Holy Spirit makes it obvious–God wants you to mature. The Spirit wants you to live complete and reflect the fullness of Christ. The goal of training is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work to mold believers to live like Christ, for Christ to be formed in you. Paul makes this clear as he describes the stewardship of his ministry in Colossians 1:23 to 29. What’s going on in these verses?
Colossae was a city in Asia–once thriving, the city was now in decline. Like Route 66 being replaced by an interstate, the main trade routes moved elsewhere. The church was not started by Paul, but planted by Epaphras after he was saved under Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. After a few years, the Colossae church was threatened by a dangerous Gnostic-like heresy.
Heretics taught God is good but matter is bad. Christ was merely one of a series of manifestations descending from God and secret knowledge in addition to Scripture was necessary to be saved. Flavored with legalism to circumcision, dietary laws and festivals, Epaphras was so concerned about this error, he traveled to Rome to get help from the apostle Paul who is currently under house arrest and awaiting trial in Rome.
Paul writes Colossians to correct the problem and put the believers back on target. Paul begins chapter one confirming the preeminence of Christ, the Gospel, creation and the Church. Paul concludes chapter one with Christ being preeminent in ministry. All genuine Christians minister and their goal in ministry is to become like Christ all the way until they are complete in Christ in Heaven.
Yes, you want your little ones to obey you. Sure, you want your disciple to read his Bible. True, you want that couple you’re shepherding to be gracious to each other. But the main goal for you and for them is to come to Christ and become like Christ. Eight verbs in these verses describe God’s goal for your ministry, beginning with . . .
#1 The SOURCE of Ministry Verses 23c and 25a
“I, Paul, was made a minister . . . Of this church I was made a minister” (verses 23c and 25a). Paul says the same phrase twice for emphasis. Paul is establishing his authority, but also expressing his sense of wonder. Paul was made a minister by God–God made him a minister. Paul didn’t choose to be saved and Paul didn’t choose to serve Christ, but God worked dramatically in Paul’s life. So radically, it was actually against his own will to save him, then make him a minister.
I am overwhelmed by the fact God made me a minister–freed up to serve Christ with my entire life. Freed up to study and preach God’s Word. Set apart with the other elders to shepherd this great church. Actually supported to train men for ministry. Allowed by God to seek to develop a healthy local church, train future missionaries, plant future churches and more.
But don’t get the wrong idea–the Greek word “minister” is not a highfalutin term. The word “ministry” is diakinos, meaning servant–where we get the word deacon. At the same time, in verses 23 and 25, minister refers to a category of servant. Paul refers to himself here, as one who is set apart by God to give his entire life to the mission of the church. And he affirms—it is the Lord who makes ministers.
In Acts 26:15, after explaining the blinding light on the Damascus road to King Agrippa, Paul reports that Jesus said, “I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister.” The Lord says, “I have chosen you, Paul–you are now hereby made my minister. Today, these would be pastors–men freed up to minister for Christ, evidenced by unique teaching gifts, the fruit of changed lives because of their teaching, unique character, the affirmation of the Church and a strong desire to minister for Christ through His Church.
In a similar fashion, God makes every believer in this room a minister as well. When God saves you, he gifts you to minister. First Peter 4:10 to 11 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving [same root word, “minister”] one another, as good stewards [remember this word] of the manifold grace of God.”
Every Christian has received a gift, so every Christian is to be ministering. As a steward, a believer uses the gift given by God. According to verse 11, if you have a speaking gift, “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God.” If you have a serving gift, “whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies.” The source of ministry is God, who makes all his children into some form of minister.
No Christian will ever mature until they learn to faithfully minister. No believer will ever become like Christ until they faithfully serve. No born again saint will ever grow complete in Christ without discovering their giftedness. As you parent and as you disciple, your goal is to involve them in ministry.
#2 The SPIRIT of Ministry Verse 24
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Paul immediately talks about the question of sufferings. Do you know why? Because the Colossian readers might wonder whether the Gospel, which Paul claims to be supernatural, was not somehow compromised or weakened, if it could not protect its ministers from suffering.
You’ve heard it before, “His wife was in an auto accident–I wonder why God is punishing him?” Or, “How can God be blessing Paul’s ministry when he’s been stoned, shipwrecked and hated by his own?” Paul’s answer in verse 24 is to whine, “Why is this happening to me? Why won’t they like me? Why can’t they throw flowers instead of stones?”
No–Paul says, “I rejoice!” Paul knows the purpose behind his suffering, so Paul’s attitude is joy. Our problem today is self-centeredness. It is so thick, even the slightest call to sacrifice for others seems too much. Yet here Paul is glad to suffer, if it will benefit others.
Verse 24 is not saying you need to suffer in order to deal with sin. Verse 24 is not giving you an expectation to punish yourself externally with whips, or internally with guilt. Paul already explained Christ took care of your sin in verses 20 and 22, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross . . . 22 He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless.”
Paul is not going to un-say everything he has just said. The Colossae heretics taught Christ’s death had to be supplemented by depriving yourself and earned by doing works. But Jesus said, “It is finished.” The work needed to deal with your sin is over–Christ died for your sin. By suffering, Paul is not finishing a finished work. In Christ, that work is over.
Paul is rejoicing in his physical sufferings, because he knows their beneficial purpose. This is Paul–the one who was stoned, hated, rejected by his own people and is currently under house arrest. Yet he knows his sufferings are those the world continues to impose on the Lord. Christ is done dealing with the sins of the world, but the world isn’t done showing its sinful hatred and rebellion to Christ.
This is what Paul is experiencing, and this is what Jesus promises to all believers in Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” So Paul rejoiced over His suffering for Christ–why? The Bible tells us suffering 1) brings us nearer to Christ (Philippians 3:10), 2) brings us assurance of salvation (1 Peter 4:14), 3) brings us future eternal reward (Romans 8:17 to 18), 4) results in the salvation of others (Philippians 2:17), and 5) frustrates the enemy, Satan (Acts 9:16).
The spirit of ministry is to rejoice even when persecuted or suffering for Christ sake. Verse 24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Discipleship must involve a biblical reaction and modeling to suffering and injustice.
Parenting your teens must not protect them from all the consequences of serving Christ. Training men means you don’t remove the difficulty of serving sinful people. Prepare others for suffering in ministry through instruction, example and practice. Otherwise, those you seek to impact will not grow to be like Christ.
#3 The STEWARDSHIP of Ministry Verse 25
“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.” Paul says, “I only want to do what God has called me to do. My only desire is to fulfill my ministry by teaching God’s Word to those God has called me to reach and teach.”
You’re given a ministry by God and God says that ministry is a stewardship, which means literally to rule a house. A steward didn’t own anything, he just managed something for somebody else. God owns the Church–it’s His house. So Paul is saying God appointed him to lead in His Church on His behalf as His steward.
God has given each believer a tremendous responsibility. No matter who you are as a Christian, the Spirit of God has given you a certain gift mix and called you to minister those gifts to the body of Christ as a steward. It is a serious responsibility. And get this, when you possess a gift of the Spirit, you possess something that belongs to God. As a steward, you’re to minister your giftedness and dispense it to those in need of it.
Someday when you face Christ, the record of your stewardship will be based upon what you did with the gifts you were given. Your eternal reward is based on what you did with what God gave you. Are you going to be like the poor steward who buried what was given to him, or will you be like the good steward who used good principles of stewardship and multiplied what was given to him? Your call to ministry wasn’t as dramatic as Paul’s was on the road to Damascus, but it’s just as true.
It’s a little unclear as to exactly what Paul meant by the phrase, “fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.” He could have meant to teach the whole counsel of God to everyone. But most likely, Paul meant to fulfill God’s Word about Christ. The very next verse in context (verse 26) seems to indicate God called Paul to fully carry out preaching God’s Word to the Gentiles. The stewardship of ministry is the obligation to do what God has called the minister to do.
Own this, Christian. God has created you to serve. God redeemed you to serve. God calls you to be like Christ who is a servant. God gifted you to serve. You are a steward of your gifts to serve. God predetermined good works for you to do in service to others. And your reward is based upon your service. Any discipleship divorced from service is not biblical discipleship. Any parenting ultimately and totally removed from some form of growing service to Christ will prevent children from growing to be like Christ.
#4 The SPECIALNESS of Ministry Verse 26 and 27
“That is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Ministry is a mystery. Paul is describing a revealed secret–a truth formerly unknown in the Old Testament, but now made clear by God to believers in the New Testament.
This revelation is so important, verse 27 states God Himself willed for this mystery to be made known because it is a reflection of His own great character. See the phrase “the riches of His glory.” This mystery shows the Colossians more about God and His awesome attributes. Paul defines this mystery as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The very essence of salvation is Christ in you.
The specialness of ministry is to be able to call unbelievers to come to Christ, and for believers to become like Christ, so Christ dwells in them. Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” The specialness of ministry is in seeing the lost come to Christ and believers become like Christ.
Now–how do you know for certain you’re going to Heaven? Not because you prayed a prayer, attend church, accepted Jesus at camp, walked forward once, or made a decision—no. Paul tells you here. Our certainty of Heaven is based upon Christ dwelling in you–that is our hope of glory. Is Christ in you? You’re not saved unless Christ is in you.
Verse 27 adds, “This mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Paul says, “You Gentiles don’t have to be Jews to be saved, just be in Christ.” The Old Testament promised Gentiles would be saved. The newly revealed aspect, the mystery now uncovered, was the Gentiles did not need to adopt Jewish customs, but could be saved as Gentiles and still be fellow heirs with Christ. The mystery was not that Gentiles could be saved, but that Gentiles could have Christ in them as Gentiles and be true Christians without becoming Jews first or ever.
The goal of ministry is not to encourage religion, but relationship. The goal of parenting is not to teach your kids external behavior, but their desperate need of internal transformation, which comes from being in Christ. The goal of ministry is to remain laser focused on the target of calling others to come to Christ and become like Christ, so that Christ lives in them.
#5 The SEQUENCE of Ministry Verse 28
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” First in ministry is to proclaim Christ. The word proclaim is unique–it means to announce a completed happening. Ministry means you tell everyone everywhere Christ alone did all the work necessary to provide a way for us to get right with God.
Christ alone is fully God yet fully man, allowing Him to take the punishment for sin every man deserves, by taking our place on the cross and satisfying the wrath of God for our sin upon the cross. Paul is to proclaim Him. Proclaim does not mean to preach–it is simply to announce to all that Christ is the only way to know and please God.
Proclaiming involves talking, telling, sharing, speaking, teaching and preaching. HOW? Paul adds, ministers “proclaim Him, 28 admonishing”–which means to personally counsel by warning others of the consequences of sin and of coming judgment. And ministers also, verse 28, proclaim through teaching, which is to impart positive doctrine by instructing biblical truth.
And ministers do all this with, verse 28, “all wisdom,” which requires demonstrating, living, and doing the Word of God as it is taught. And verse 28 is not for the holy huddle–only those who attend church or like FBC. It is not meant for “us four, no more, bar the door.” No, the Gospel is verse 28, for every man, “teaching every man”–every Jew and every Gentile.
God makes certain here you know ministry was not intended for only a secret group, with a secret handshake. But Paul says twice in this verse–this person, this Christ is for every man. So ministry proclaims Christ, the bad news of sin and judgment, and the good news of the person and work of Christ shared in an honest way.
Ministry is not merely leaving tracts on tables–it is speaking about Christ Jesus, telling others about the Lord, warning about sin and judgment, and teaching God’s Word in lived out wisdom. This work is to be saints and the aints–to all men, every man, Jews and Gentiles. This work was never intended for specialty groups with insider information or secret knowledge.
Why? Here is your goal–so everyone can become complete in Christ. Verse 28 adds, “so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” What does this mean? The term complete or perfect can mean to mature. Like James 1:4, when speaking of responding to trials with joy James says, “Let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect [same word as Colossians 1:28, complete] and complete, lacking in nothing.”
So it would seem that Paul is saying, “The goal of ministry is to mature men in Christ–leading them to come to Christ and growing them to become more like Christ. But some might say every believer is “judicially perfect” the moment they’re saved, because they’re in Christ’s righteousness and not their own. So all Christians are positionally perfect, ready for Heaven. Is that what Paul means? Maybe.
But we know, before Heaven there is a level of maturity every Christian can progressively develop as they grow in the word, prayer and service, becoming more like Christ. Ephesians 4:13 states it this way, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature [same word as Colossians 1:28, complete] man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”
So is Colossians 1:28 describing the maturity of believers, or is he talking about the ultimate perfection of believers once they are in Heaven? What’s the answer? Yes. Verse 28 seems to be describing both the maturing process in life, along with the terminal end of the maturing process in death. Look at verses 23 and 28.
The phrase in verse 23, “if indeed you continue in the faith,” describes the maturing process in life. And verse 28, the phrase, “that we may present every man,” suggests Paul is describing the time when a believer stands before God after death, when earthly ministry is over and evaluation for reward has begun.
The goal of ministry is to have all become like Christ now so you know they will be like Christ then. No one who doesn’t progressively become like Christ now knows for certain they will be with Christ eternally. But all who progressively grow to be like Christ now can be certain they will be perfect with Christ forever. Second Peter 1, how can this be done?
#6 The STRENGTH of Ministry Verse 29
”For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Proclaiming Christ is no easy task. The development of Christian growth among new converts and older saints is always difficult and is often a discouraging struggle. To minister, we battle with our own flesh, the entire fallen world system and our great enemy the devil. All sorts of opposition must be faced and overcome in order to see real fruit that remains.
Even Paul, the great apostle, says here in verse 29, in his full-time ministry he must labor, literally work to the point of exhaustion. Paul expends great physical, mental and emotional energy to minister. He must also strive–that’s the Greek word agonizomenos, or agony. Strive is a common athletic metaphor depicting the struggle against an opponent. Impacting others is a ministry requiring exhausting labor and striving agony.
The apostle Paul declares ministry is not for wimps. Ministry is not for those who can’t do anything else. Full-time ministry is not a fall back career. True ministry is for those willing to stand up in the middle of a crowd and say to the enemy, “Here, shoot at me. I’ll not back down, I’ll not give up. Nor will I compromise. No, I will labor till exhausted. I will strive against the enemy. I will never give up.”
Long hours, constant spiritual pressure, incredible demands and satanic attack await all who seek to minister full-time. Supported ministry is not for those looking to get out of work–it’s for those who want to go to war for Christ and labor in that battle with everything they have. All ministry—full-time supported ministry and unpaid, thankless, lay ministry has a price to pay.
God is telling you–ministry is hard work. But the work will not be futile, nor impossible–because God supplies the power! Verse 29, “Striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” The biblical minister is not limited by lack of resources. Nor are you hindered by a lack of strength to succeed. All Christians, all ministers like Paul, labor according to Christ’s power, which is working in them.
The Greek word working is energeian, where the English energy comes from. This word is used in the New Testament of effective power–always sufficient to get a job completely done, working hard, stepping out in obedience to the Word of God by an act of your will by depending on the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower the ministry.
You already know what the Holy Spirit is driven to do more than anything–to call people to come to Christ and to become like Christ. Ministry is work, but it is dependent work. Ministry is labor, but reliant labor. As you seek to impact others for Christ, their preparation and training in ministry calls people to work hard. But as you invest in others, you and they also can rely on Christ’s strength through His Spirit so all will mature and one day be complete in Christ. Are you in?
1. Are you IN CHRIST?
All Christians are in Christ and Christ is in them! It doesn’t matter if you have considered yourself a Christian for years–the only true Christian has a new heart which wants to obey, does obey, is willing to do anything for Christ, and lives for Christ in everyday life. Are you in Christ?
2. Are you IN THE SPIRIT?
You cannot live the Christian life in your own strength. Are you dependent upon the Spirit and obedient to the Word of God? Are you filled with the Spirit as you serve Christ? Are you in the Spirit?
3. Are you IN GOAL?
As you hope to influence your children, disciples and others you love, are you focused on two great truths? Your goal, that they would come to Christ and become like Christ! Are you in goal?
4. Are you IN MINISTRY?
All Christians are created for ministry, gifted in ministry, designed for a ministry, and a steward of a ministry. Are you in ministry?
5. Are you INVESTING?
You just finished twelve weeks of God’s Word on investing into others for God’s glory. Are you investing? Are you taking steps to be a doer of the Word? Are you in? Are you in?