Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who Is Sufficient? Let Him Repent

"For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 15-16)

"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor. 3:4-5).

Self-sufficiency in the ministry kills the ministry. Self-sufficiency is antithetical to the ministry.

Consider what the minister in his preaching reveals: "the aroma of Christ." Consider how the minister appeals to the two classes of men: either as life to those being saved or death to those perishing. How can we be so sufficient as to represent to any single person (much less men in general) these great eternal outcomes dependent upon how Christ "smells"? Who is sufficient for being "the aroma of Christ"?

Self-sufficiency creeps in through two doors.

First, the screen door of pride flings wide open to the self-sufficient. The man who thinks that the work of ministry is accomplished in his own strength, wisdom, and talent dons the dunce cap of pride--serious pride. We can come to believe that all really does depend upon us. We can come to think that anything depends upon us. Our estimation of ourselves and our abilities may be too high. And so we're driven to self-sufficiency by our preoccupation with what we do. We may attempt the work of the ministry with no dependence upon God. Proud self-sufficiency.

Second, the door of laziness opens just as easily to the knock of self-sufficiency. This is the man with so little ambition that everything lies within his grasp. He doesn't attempt great things for God, so he has no reason to depend upon God. He doesn't conceive of a spiritual world with fruit in vineyards too plentiful for his tilling, so the easy and mundane become "enough" for him. His estimation of the task is too small. So, a lazy man finds in his own laziness a comfortable self-sufficiency. He's aiming to do nothing, so he needs nothing. The glory of God gets packed away in tidy phrases for a sedentary life: "don't take on too much;" "you're just one man;" "we can only do so much;" "I'll do it tomorrow."

Of course, those phrases have their place and offer wisdom for the proud man who knows no limits--but not for the lazy. But in either case, the vital thing in the ministry is that all our labors be wholly dependent upon the power of God and not ourselves. Our confidence must be through Christ toward God. Nothing comes from us. Our sufficiency comes from God.

Such dependence upon God as our sufficiency allows us to be radically ambitious for the glory of God. We may be diligent, crucifying laziness, working harder than others because the sufficiency for such zeal comes from God. Confidence in and dependence upon God gives life to gospel ministry and destroys the sin of proud self-sufficiency. We may choose something larger than ourselves and depend upon God as we labor for it, and discover the all-sufficient grace and power of God.

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