16th July 2023

The Joy of Ministry

Passage: Luke 9:1-10, 10:1-20
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

I don't know if I'm biassed or not, but I think I might be. But it's always an honour to come and speak at this church. I would value this pulpit to be one of the best ones in Brisbane, and I hope you certainly appreciate the teaching you have here from Jim.

I know that as a young Bible College student, I turned up as a young man. I think I was 22 years of age when I landed at Bible College, only having been a Christian for a few years. And I found, I discovered that what I had learned as a person in the pew under Jim's teaching had set me on a path of correctness and of serving the Lord in ministry that set me way ahead of all the other students, so I thought anyway. So, I hope you appreciate exactly what you're having here. And so, it's an honour for me to be here when Nat and Melody invited me to come to do their dedication. With you know great, this is a real honour.

The Lord has laid on my heart Luke chapter 10 and the sending of the seventy-two. Oh, you guys have got that. I've got it up there too, so you could let me control it if you like, bit of a control freak. Learnt that from Michelle, I mean Jim. Sorry, that slipped out. As you can tell by our banter, we're actually quite close friends. And 40 years, it wouldn't matter what we said. Now, we're good friends. I'm gonna read it Luke chapter 10, and then I'll pray and we'll get underway.

"After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace be to this house!" And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you." But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, "Even the dust of your own town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near." I tell you, it will be more bearable in that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgement for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.'"

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name." And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I've given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Let's all pray. Father, we thank you for this great opportunity to open your word. Thank you that we have it. Thank you that not only is it some words in an old book, but you make it come alive. And we pray that these living words would, in fact, speak into our hearts and our minds here today. Lord, we thank you for this great opportunity. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Well, you guys are good at knowing Bible information, so I'll just remind you that Jesus delegated his authority to the twelve, that's the disciples, including interestingly Judas, and sent them out in Luke chapter 9. He did the same for the seventy-two here in Luke chapter 10. And I want you to know that he also has done the same for us. I want to remind you that we are ambassadors for Christ, representing him to this lost world, and all that we need to complete the task that he set before us has been given to us as we obey the Great Commission. He has promised to go with us even to the very end of the age, and Jesus is always victorious. And so, we can't lay the blame for our failures at his feet. All we can lay at his feet is ourselves, first asking for his forgiveness, and then offering ourselves completely as we should have in the first place.

You see, in Luke chapter 9, verses 1 to 6, Jesus delegated his authority to the twelve, sent them on a ministry tour. I think we've got time, since some of you came late, I can go late. So, I'm gonna read this for us. And he called the twelve together and he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to cure diseases. And he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff nor bag nor bread nor money, and do not even have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, then you, when you leave that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Now, Herod the Tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had arisen. Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him. On their return, the Apostles told him all that they had done. I find it interesting that Herod, there he's responding to the news of the ministry of the disciples, and yet he's blaming Jesus for it all. It's interesting.

As you can see, this sending of the twelve is a lot like the sending of the seventy-two that we read in Luke chapter 10. So, what I want to do today is I'm going to give you a summary of what happened in Luke 9, and then I'm going to look at the differences between the two. When you've got two passages like this that are almost the same, it's more interesting, I think, to look at what's different about them. That's what stands out. So, that's what I'm going to do. But first of all, in order to do that without losing integrity, I've got to tell you what they do say positively. But I'm going to do that really quickly. I have invested a large amount of money. All of these principles start with a P. I had to pay my wife to use her great brain to get these. You got it? All right, I'm going good. You know where we're going.

We're in Luke chapter 9, and these are the principles for being ambassadors for Christ that we can all get. There's proclamation and power. The ministry that was undertaken by the twelve was a proclamation of the kingdom, and that proclamation came with power. These days, many want the power, and they're thinking miracles and the like, and they forget about the powerful proclamation. I want you to understand that not only would the presence of the miraculous be an example of the presence of the powerful presence of the Spirit, but also the proclamation itself should be a powerful demonstration of the Spirit. It should be a powerful demonstration in and of itself when a preacher proclaims Christ.

Next, there is provision. The disciples could, in fact, they should trust that the one who delegated to them would supply all that they needed while they were representing him. And we should trust him the same. I told you I'd be going pretty fast.

And third, there'll be patience and perseverance. You get extra if you've got two P's in a list of P's. Proclamation, power, patience, and perseverance. The disciples would wait on God for provision, and they weren't to complain about what was provided to them. Stay in the house, eat what's put before you. I grew up in a house where that happened. I was taught to eat what was put before me, even if I didn't like it. I don't know if that happens anymore. Does it? I'm looking here, the kids, some kids are nodding. No, the kids are gone. But the older kids, this, they're not in God. Yeah, this is, you have no idea what happens at our house. Yeah, I do. I've got a fair idea.

Next is punishment. I'm pressing, nothing's happening. Or now there's two. This will test. It can cut punishment. There's a sense that if people reject the ministry of Jesus as representatives, they are rejecting Jesus. If people reject the ministry that you do on Jesus's behalf, they're actually rejecting him, not you.

Next, the preeminence of Jesus. The ministry that is done on Jesus's behalf should be all about Him. He was the one who got infamous before Herod from the twelve doing their ministry. And finally, the disciples came back and they were pumped, they were excited. You've got to stretch the "p's" to make it right. They were pumped. Now, I don't want to repeat any of that, right? That you could have a sermon on those "p's" all of them by itself and that would be good enough. But what I want to do is highlight the differences that there are between that, that we get from chapter 9, and what happens in chapter 10. So, here's the first. I've run out of my money on the "p's" and have got just plain boring. This is number one, is that okay? Sorry.

In verse 2, Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into the harvest." Now, sometimes I wonder if we really believe this verse. Do you really believe that the harvest is plentiful? Do we really believe that the main reason why we are not seeing more fruit in our churches is simply lack of labourers? The church in the Western world is thinking that it needs to change in order to reap a harvest. And you read that it needs to somehow emerge or somehow become more missional, and the sole purpose of the church is to morph into being more relevant so that we can win more people. But Jesus said the problem is simply lack of harvesting labourers, and it isn't lack of relevance or anything else. The harvest is there, ready, and all we need to do is to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out more labourers. And you know what the implication for us is? It is that much of the labouring going on is not the harvesting labouring that the Lord wants. It's not working where and how the Lord wants. We're doing our own work and not His work. The Lord of the harvest, many in church do not count as labourers for the work of harvesting for the Lord. The number of labourers is few, and we should be praying in order that more will come on board because the harvest is ready. Jesus said that He is always working, that His Father is always working, and where we would be surprised at what's happening in people's hearts and lives if we would just take time to become harvesters.

"Go your way; behold, I'm sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." There'll be those out there who will want to destroy us. And the implication is that there'll be some who get taken by wolves. I don't think it's an easy job to be in the harvesting game. Matthew suggested that the danger would require us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But I think the imagery of the lamb and the wolf is also meant to indicate the attitude of those who minister. The lamb is an animal that is a follower. By picturing that ministries performed by lambs, Jesus meant us to understand that that should be our attitude, that should be our approach. We shouldn't be using force. It's something that should set Christianity apart from other religions, Islam, Hinduism, where force has a greater part to play in their advancement. Our advancement comes by the movement of God's Spirit, not by us with guns.

Number three, by the way, I've only got five, so we're more than halfway through. "Carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road." This verse re-emphasizes the fact of provision. So, that you do not need to take much when you're serving the Lord. You trust that He will provide. But there's a bit in here that's not referenced in chapter 9 or in the stories here in chapter 10. It says, "Don't greet anyone on the road." Jesus meant that there's no time for small talk. For the ministry-minded person, Christian ministry should be focused, it should be urgent, it should be so purpose-driven that there's no time for small talk. Now, I used to tell a joke at the start of every sermon I did, and I justified it by saying I was establishing rapport with the congregation. And one day, I was convicted about it, that it was a waste of time and it had no value to the kingdom whatsoever. And so, I don't do it so much now. I've learned that what you think of me isn't that important. But I do think it's a little bit strange that many people consider networking a part of ministry when Jesus said, "Don't greet anyone." Urgency has been lost.

"The one who hears you hears me, the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects Him who sent me." This verse is a bit of the summary of the ones before about judgement on cities that don't believe the message. This is similar to the principle about punishment and the preeminence of Jesus that we looked in the plethora of "p's" that we had before. In Christian ministry, the person of Christ is spiritually present. A Christian proclaims Christ, and so if the message is rejected, there not only is the minister rejected, but Christ Himself is rejected. And ultimately, God Himself is rejected. We don't like to think that our ministries would have this effect, but it's simply the fruit of having Christ Himself in our ministries. He produces the fruit. He is the real spiritual achiever. So, we must have Him present in what we do. The rejection of our ministry ultimately becomes the rejection of Him.

When I was a new pastor at Bribie Island Church, where I was the youngest member and everyone was old, it was a real privilege for me to be there because these old people looked after me when I was a new minister. In fact, I think I was still a student when I arrived there. It was great. And there were some old men there who were what I describe as big fish. They'd been presidents of the Baptist Union of Queensland. They were there partly to nurture me, but also keep me on the straight and narrow. And one of these old ex-presidents of the Baptist Union, he used to be a bit of a stick in the mud in our leadership meetings because he would always ask the same question. If anybody ever came up with an idea, you know, "What we'd like to do is we'd like to get a bus and gather all the people and take them down to the waterfront and have a nice lunch or morning tea together." And he would say, "Why? Why?" And the people go, "Well, it's a good idea." Very seldom did you hear the justification for fellowship that you hear from Jim, that our worship together, it brings us together. And you know, in our worship and in our fellowship, Christ is present. You don't hear that. Now we just want to go down the beach and have a cup of scone and have a good time. This old guy would say, "Why?" to everything, why? And it got a bit annoying because there were a whole lot of activities in the church that had no real spiritual objective. They weren't done with the idea that Christ would be present there. It's interesting to think about ministries in the church. I know I've been in heaps of churches. I've been the pastor of heaps of churches. And the reason why a lot of stuff gets done is because that's what happens. It's always been done that way. And the whole idea of it being a ministry of the kingdom, the whole idea of Christ being present, is long gone. And people actually have to drill down to try and find some kind of purpose for why it's even happening at all. We're doing it because we've always done it.

Number five, the 72 returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I've given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and overall the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." So, the 72 returned with joy at the exercising of the authority over evil spirits that had been delegated to them. They were pumped, just like the 12 were in Luke chapter 9. But Jesus adds to their excitement by saying, "I saw Satan falling like lightning." Now, I'm not sure if this is a vision or if He did actually see it. It could be both, but it's meant to be something that happened in the ministry of the 72. I think the reference to trampling on snakes and scorpions is probably not to be taken literally. I don't know what Jim thinks. We'll probably fight about this later. But snakes and scorpions are symbols of evil. You know, Genesis 3, the devil appears as a serpent. And the language is clearly in this passage talking about spiritual stuff all the way through. And if Jesus meant literal scorpions and literal snakes, then it would seem a little bit out of place in this passage. Also, if it were snakes and scorpions and it's meant to mean that you'd be kept safe, then why not other animals? Like, why doesn't it say lions and bears? Why doesn't it say, "No, killer whales will get you?" Right? I think they're more dangerous than snakes and scorpions.

But there are some on the lunatic fringe in church who go with this, and they take the verse in the disputed ending of Mark and the passage in Acts chapter 28. I'll leave them there for you to read. You put those two together and, hey presto, you can go to church, and it's in America, and I dare say down south, that you can find a church where they will hand out poisonous snakes to the congregation. And they say, just because we can, Jesus said we will tread on snakes. Look, these signs will accompany those who believe in My name. They'll cast out demons, they'll speak in new tongues, they'll pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them. Just because we can, they hand out poisonous snakes. I think there's been two or three deaths so far. But one thing you don't ever see is a poison-drinking church. Anyone heard of that? I haven't. Somehow or other, it's just the handling of the poisonous snakes. It's kind of cool. I know people with pet snakes, but you don't see the poison-drinking church, do you? It's obvious Jesus didn't literally mean that. It didn't matter what happened to you, you are invincible. They could literally cast out demons, and their ministry was striking the devil down like lightning. They were trampling over evil. It's no wonder that they were pumped. But Jesus warns them not to rejoice in this delegated authority. So, you can cast out demons. Well, that's great. But even more exciting, even more important for you, what should give you greater reason to rejoice is the fact that you have a place in heaven. What's more exciting than being used by God, having His delegated authority over evil, is the fact that you are saved. Let's call it spiritual accomplishments. Spiritual accomplishments, whether it be the ability to cast out demons or whether it's the more basic bearing of fruit, it's very easy to get proud about it and base our joy on it, rather than on more important things like the fact of our personal salvation. Let's get this straight. If you went on a tour and cast out demons, you would be pumped and excited. There would be a sense of accomplishment, and the fact that you were used by God would give you a great sense of value. I've seen it. I've been there. I've been with Jim when Jim has preached, and I've seen the excitement in the man to be used by God. You know what he used to do? I can tell you this. He used to go out and get, I reckon, Chinese takeaway, so excited about the work of God, so excited about being used and the movement of God in a congregation of people. I've seen it. Imagine representing Jesus, being able to cast out demons, proclaiming in power the presence of the kingdom, and you come home pumped. Yeah, Jesus says, "Good, good, good. But rejoice even more that you're saved." Jesus wants you to keep your successes in perspective. Greater than all of your spiritual accomplishments, greater and more constant than all of that is the fact that your name is written in heaven. We should be more joyous about the fact that we're going to go to heaven than any spiritual accomplishments that occur. You know, Jesus's statement, it assumes two things. It assumes that having your name written in heaven should give you real joy, and secondly, it assumes that you can know that your name is written there, is that you can actually have assurance.

The first point is pretty basic, isn't it? But how dangerous are spiritual accomplishments? So quickly, we begin to seek them rather than our Saviour. And you get so excited about your spiritual accomplishments that you want them repeated. And when it gets like that, your ministry is in danger of becoming a work of the flesh, and that is not going to go well. And so, we can protect ourselves from the danger of seeking spiritual accomplishments as an end in themselves by making sure that we're more excited about our own salvation than we are about being used by Jesus in spiritual accomplishments. We rejoice that our names are written in heaven because when we die, we will be absent from the body and with the Lord. We rejoice that our names are written in heaven because it means that one day we're going to be transformed. We'll be like Him when we see Him. We rejoice that our names are written in heaven because it means that one day we are going to be transformed. We rejoice that our names are in heaven because there's an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs any difficulties in this life. We rejoice that our names are written in heaven because there we are co-heirs of Christ. The fact that your name can be written in heaven is cause for incomparable joy. It means life beyond the grave. It means fellowship with God forever. Even after the greatest of spiritual accomplishments, you remain a sinner in need of a Saviour. Your thankfulness and worship of Him keep the right balance.

But the second point, this can only give you joy. The fact that your name is written in heaven can only give you joy if you know that your name is written there. You're going to be there. You know what it says? That when we accept Christ, when we accept His offer to us, all that we have done that comes between us and God is blotted out, and our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And I know in a church like this, I know Jim would describe you as a well-fished pond. The hook of the gospel is always present in this church, and what a privilege it is to be in such a church. But I know that even in such a pond, there are fish who aren't sure about their salvation.

When I started at Bribie Island, there was a list of people that were church people, and on that list, there were some people that I'd never met, never seen them. And so, I thought, what I should do is go and meet them and find out why they're on the list. That's what you do, right? So, I went and I met this old lady, and she invited me in. She was very nervous and anxious, and you'll get why in a sec when I tell you. Not because I'm the minister or so on, it's because she had cancer in her face, and she was pretty ugly. She, like, you know, like Elephant Man type, not nice to look at. Not, you know what I mean. It was a condition. We got to talk, and you know how come you've been at the church and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Long story short, she says to me, "You know what, Pastor? Not being at church, I've discovered something. For these last 50 years, I've been going to churches. Now, I haven't. What I've learned is this, I've never really been sure. I've never really been sure."

I found out that the reason why she didn't come to church was not because she was proud about her appearance and she didn't want to be ugly in front of everyone. It was because she didn't want to cause offence to people. And she said, "But you know, I'm never really sure. I'm not certain what's going to happen to me. This is going to kill me, and I'm not sure." She touched my heart. So, I thought, well, I'm going to help this lady. And I took around Christianity Explained, six lessons, good old course it is. And I went there, and over the six weeks of explaining the simple gospel message, the simplicity of Jesus, she found assurance. She got saved.

I then, being a good young pastor, kind of forgot about it. You know, yeah, tick, she's good. So, I literally, I did forget about it. The slack until sometime later, I got a phone call from a lady who was old enough to be my mother, that lady was old enough to be my grandmother. This lady rings up and says, "Can you please come and see Mum?" And I'm trying to find out who Mum is through that names and so on. Eventually, I twigged it's this lady. She's in the hospital, she's dying. Can you come and see her? I went, "Sure." So, I went. I didn't know what to do. This was the first lady like that that I've been to see who was dying. And so, I went. It was at the Prince Charles Hospital. I don't think it's there anymore, the Prince Charles Hospital is, of course, but the palliative care unit. Halfway up Webster Road, as you're going up towards the hospital, there was a spot you could go in left, and a big old building, looked like it was used in army days, built by army people, bit like a hangar. And in there was a new palliative care unit. And so, I nervously walked in. And there I was met by a doctor, big room full of beds, very meager partitions between the beds, and a whole lot of people dying. The doctor greets me at the door, and he says, "Who are you?" I said, "I'm here to see that this lady." And he says, "Ah, I'm so glad you're here because this lady should have been dead days ago. She just won't die. I can't explain to you why she is still alive. She is taking no food, she's taking no fluids. All she has is a cord with the oxygen hang, you know, squirting up her nose. That's all she's got. And she should have died days ago," he said. "There's her two daughters by her bed. They've been here for three days and nights, waiting for her to die. They want to be there to see her last breath, and she just won't go. If she doesn't go soon, then they will. I don't know what's going to happen. They haven't slept. They don't leave to get food, and I'm distraught. They're distraught. This is in your court," says the doctor.

So, I take on the role of being an expert when I had not got a blue clue what to do or say. So, I walk up to the lady's bedside, Gwen was her name, and I just went, "Oh, Gwen." And her face, it was more distorted, and her daughters looked at me. "We hope you know what to do." I had no clue. The only thing I knew to do was to read Psalm 23, which I did. Opened up my Bible and I started to read it, and it ministered to me, and it ministered to Gwen, especially the bit that says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." And then, "In the presence of my enemies, He's preparing a table. He's going to take me to be in heaven forever." And it all of a sudden dawned on me, this is great. She's gonna die. And I said, "Gwen, you know, you know where you're going. Let's pray." And so, I prayed, and as best as I could, I prayed that Jesus would come and take her away. And he did. When we opened our eyes, she was gone. I looked up at the daughters. I said, "I'm so sorry. I feel like I've just killed your mother." And they said, "Thank you. Thank you. That's why we asked you to come. That's why we asked you to come."

What's gonna happen when you die? Do you know? I know that Jesus wants you to be sure. I know that He is someone who, when you respond to Him from the heart, He settles your business with God so finally and so fully and eternally that you know that even beyond the grave, you're good. We call it assurance. He sends His Spirit to testify to our spirits that He is our Father. Greater than all the spiritual accomplishments you can have is the knowledge that your name is written in heaven. Do you know that this morning? Jesus has done all of the heavy lifting, and He just wants you to surrender to Him. That is all. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me. Thank you, Jesus, you've risen in victory. Thank you, Jesus, that you can write my name in heaven. Would you like to pray that this morning? Let's pray.

Lord Jesus, I thank you. Here we are on the edge of a well-fished pond, but I'm aware that there may be a soul here, a soul more valuable than everything on earth, who doesn't know you. And they may have been pretending for years, like that old lady, 50 years, and sat through many an appeal like this. And somehow, they've been able to harden their hearts towards you. The pride, having to admit our need, is large, and it stops us from coming. Lord, I pray that if there's anyone here like that, that you, by your Spirit, would knock in a very new and hard way on the door of their heart. Lord, what's gonna happen when I die? I know that you will come. Give courage to the people who need to respond to you this day, and break down the resistances that they've put up over the years. Lord, I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

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