September 4, 2019 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments
“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
This is one of several verses that help me to focus my heart and attention on the Lord before entering the pulpit. It is a North Star for all ministry. In the context of John's gospel Jesus is explaining why those who opposed Him could not assess Him accurately. He does not speak as one who is seeking his own honor, unlike the teachers they were accustomed to hearing. The way Jesus went about ministry just did not make sense! He avoided the most pragmatic ideas and methods and chose approaches that seemed “out of step” with their contemporary rabbinical methods. Today some might quip--“Where’s your personal blog Jesus?”
Of course, the Lord is really speaking about Himself in this text, as the last phrase makes evident. He was sent by the Father and there was no unrighteousness in Him alone. Nevertheless, the principle embedded in the first part of the verse has universal application, particularly for ministers of the gospel. J. C. Ryle sums up the principle as “a self-exalting spirit in ministers of religion is entirely opposed to the mind of Christ.” Truly this is a measuring rod to be applied to every minister in every age.
As a warning to budding pastors and students of the “Pastor’s College”, C. H. Spurgeon once said “it is hard to make much of Christ when you are so busy making much of yourself” (my paraphrase). Men who are not sent from God will naturally seek to advance their own importance. As Ryle states, “Speaking from himself, he will speak for himself, and try to exalt himself.” Isn’t it interesting that there is a tendency in every cult to magnify the importance and authority of the individual?
On the contrary, the apostle Paul rebuked the man-centered focus of the Corinthian church when he described his own apostolic ministry in the following manner: “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). How many ministers and ministries does that describe today?
This principle has value not only for those set aside for the ministry of the Word but for all believers. Seeking our Master’s glory more than our own should be a hallmark of our lives and ministries—personally and collectively. Let me encourage all of you to prayerfully reflect upon this as we approach the fall and kickoff a new season of our discipleship courses, Sunday school classes and community groups.
In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus spoke repeatedly against common expressions of religion such as prayer and giving that amount to “seeking the attention of men.” When we do this and attain that recognition that will be our only reward. And seeking to end the “pride of position” the disciples were displaying our Lord warned, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” As one of my professors would say, “the way up in the Christian life is down.”
There are many subtle temptations to seek the recognition and affirmation of men. Not only for those who serve in the most public of ministries but also for those who serve in the quiet back-rooms of church life. But a self-exalting spirit will smother the progress of all true ministry and diminish the glory of Christ.
Let us pray that seeking the honor of our Lord becomes our main object in our personal context, corporate expressions of worship and fall ministries. Christ-centeredness is not only a necessity for the pulpit! Hence, let us forget ourselves not only in pulpits and lecterns but in every context and expression of ministry. As we promote HIM—we can be assured of the Spirit’s aid for it is His task supreme to shed light on the person and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To quote J. C. Ryle one last time, “Notice carefully what is the main object that a minister loves to exalt. Not he who is ever crying, ‘Behold the Church! Behold the Sacraments! Behold the ministry!’ but he who says, ‘Behold the Lamb!’—is the pastor after God’s own heart.” Does the spirit of your ministry and life both in its attitude and method cry out, “Behold the Lamb”?
Tony Sanelli is a Pastor Teacher at Grace Bible Church.
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