Summary: More characteristics of a ministry that honors God
A God Honoring Ministry
Have you ever wondered how it is that two people struggling with the same sins and problems in their lives can receive the gospel and one being dramatically changed by it and the other continue on in sin? I have. I have watched as men and women have come to Christ and received the gospel and their lives experienced such a great turn around that everyone took notice, then I have watched as many others, perhaps most others come to Christ, receive the same gospel and soon fall away as though nothing ever happened. What makes the difference?
Some of you may be familiar with the Khmer Rouge, the name given to Cambodian Communists who overthrew the Cambodian government in the 1970s and who have severely persecuted their own people in the years since. I was reading the other day about one man who was in a Khmer Rouge prison, and some of the other prisoners began to witness to him, leading him to Christ. He was kept in prison for a number of years, then released. He escaped to America for a while, then determined to return to Cambodia with a goal of winning the Khmer Rouge soldiers to Christ one at a time. Through his work he began doing so, and now has led three of their top generals to Christ, and these generals are now preaching the gospel to others.
What is it that can take a man who was once a liar and murderer, a man who was a hater of God and all things Christian and make him a lover of God and other people so much that he would risk his own life to share the good news of Christ? It is nothing other than the gospel of Christ itself! The apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." The gospel changes lives! People want to talk about turning over a new leaf, about pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and so on, but listen, people can try all they want to – they can’t change a thing, but the gospel can!
It was the gospel who took a tax collector named Zaccheus, a man who robbed people to pad his own pocket, and caused him to give it back fourfold. It was the gospel that took a man named Saul, one who hated Jesus and his followers, arrested and murdered them, and caused him to devote his life to planting churches and preaching the truth. It was the gospel that got a hold of prostitutes, adulterers, liars, thieves, and every other kind of person imaginable and changed them into honest, reputable, moral people who loved God and stood for His truth too. The gospel – it changes lives – but does it change them all? We know it doesn’t because we can see the fruits of those who claim to receive it – so what’s the difference? Why does it work for some and not for others?
It’s all in the reception
In chapter 2 verse 13, Paul said,
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."
In this verse, the English word received is used twice, but it is actually two different words in the Greek text. I want to read it to you the way it actually reads without giving you a bunch of Greek stuff you won’t remember and don’t really care about anyway.
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you took the gospel to yourselves and carried it off, the gospel that you heard from us, you didn’t receive it intellectually as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."
What does that mean? When the Thessalonian people heard the gospel, they received it intellectually – that is – they heard it and processed it and reasoned it out. Once they received it intellectually, they received it physically and spiritually – that is, they acted on what they knew to be true.
If I were standing in the middle of Woodlawn outside and you were in the yard, you might yell to me that I am in danger of being struck by the car driving toward me. You want to lead me to safety, so you might say something like this: "Kevin, look out! There’s a car coming!" Now, I first would receive your message by looking up and seeing the car. I would process that information intellectually and make a decision to either move or stand there. The way I receive that information is seen in my decision. If I really received your message, then I will move. If I failed to receive it I would stand there. Either way you would be able to say, "Well I told him. Why didn’t he move?" Was it because I didn’t receive the message? Yes and no.