Over the past month or so I’ve been giving serious thought into lessons I’ve learned in ministry. Over time I want to share what some of those lessons are. As I wrestled through what that lesson is, I’ve come to decide it’s actually two – humility and integrity.
I was raised in a home and family where integrity was a very important value and virtue. When one grows in a military family and has family members serving in the Armed Forces, integrity isn’t just a word that one throws out there – it’s a lifestyle. Early on, even though my parents were not perfect (and none are!), I learned the importance of integrity from my father and mother who worked hard every day to make sure my brothers and I had a roof over our head, clothes to wear, and food to eat. I learned integrity from their sacrifice as well as from many pastors, teachers and writers I have met over the years.
In the thirteen years since founding Servants of Grace I’ve made a lot of mistakes, anything from poor grammar to dealing with and counseling hurting people. I know for certain that even though I will not want to continue to make mistakes, I will do so knowing along the way that I will learn from those mistakes. I have confidence in my ability to learn because as I’ve grown in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ over these thirteen years, I’ve grown to realize how much it is not about me but about Jesus and His Work in and through me.
Early on in my ministry I had both the fortunate and unfortunate privilege of being greatly blessed by God in ministry. I say fortunate because it’s always a blessing to be able to reach more people for the Gospel. I say unfortunate because quite often, I was not ready or prepared for it. To be perfectly honest, most of the mistakes I made in the early days of ministry were because of immaturity. I was immature emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the right answers or the right words to give. What I lacked was humility, authenticity, grace and love, and a true servant’s heart.
Over the years the Lord has humbled me. I remember sitting in a service church listening to the pastor preach and being convicted to the core so much it felt like someone was putting a sword right into my heart twisting the sword around. I vividly remember that day because it was the day the Lord humbled me and showed me that I was prideful and arrogant, aspects of my character that neither pleased Him nor brought Him glory. I then realized that while the Lord was blessing the ministry of Servants of Grace, it was not because of me but rather because He was blessing His word that was going forth.
Now years removed from that time in my life, I can honestly think back to how arrogant I was and how haughty I had become during that season in my life. I’m thankful and humbled by the work of Jesus during that formative time.
In the Body of Christ today there are two issues I see both of which relate to my experience growing to be a man of integrity and humility. In our culture and even in the Church today, there is a crisis of integrity. When a minister of the Gospel falls into sin it is a crisis of integrity. When a politician falls into immorality or deception it is a crisis of integrity. The question becomes, “Does the crisis begin at the time of the scandal or long before the scandal begins?” The truth is the scandal begins in the heart ultimately rearing its ugly head in the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of the person. How can I say this? The Bible clearly teaches that out of the mouth the heart speaks. Jesus declared that out of the heart issues forth the things of life. Why? It is not attitudes and behaviors that need to change. It is a heart condition that needs the adjustment. Our hearts are dark and filled with sin and only the finished work of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit can change the heart. The primary means of regenerating people’s hearts is through the preaching of the Gospel by which God calls people to Himself.
Integrity begins with the character of God. God who is holy calls His children through the work of Christ. God who is holy saw man’s need and did something about it in sending His Son Jesus to serve as the model for a godly life is. Even so, Jesus is so much more than just a mere example to us. His life is a summons to radical discipleship where the Christian is called to take up their Cross, follow Him, suffer with Him, live for Him, embrace Him, die to Him, grow in Him and proclaim Him. Integrity is a vital part of what it means to be a Christian. Christians have been called by One who says He is the Way, Truth and the Life.
Truth is another important aspect of integrity. Telling the Truth matters! There is a great crisis in today’s culture about truth. Many people view truth as subjective, something they discover through personal feelings or personal beliefs. When this attitude toward truth is applied to one’s worldview it is devastating because the implication is my beliefs are private and not open to interpretation or influence from others. Today’s culture preaches tolerance and that religious beliefs are private and not open for public interpretation while at the same time condemning anyone who proclaims absolute truth.
Today’s culture also proclaims its own version of truth while lambasting Christianity for preaching that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. It teaches a secular worldview dominated by evolution. It imposes a belief system upon Christians of feminism, materialism, homosexuality, health, physical beauty, and sexual promiscuity with Christianity and the declaration of moral truth based on Scripture routinely ridiculed and belittled. Society today proclaims that Christians are intolerant and yet the culture actually imposes its “tolerant” views upon Christians. The sheer irrationality is revealed when one considers what is typically meant by intolerance. The definition the culture uses for intolerance is something like this: Anyone who opposes the secular worldview of today’s culture is ridiculed, maligned and belittled as ignorant and not up with the times of progressive thought.
Tolerance on the other hand, according to today’s culture is to believe whatever one wants to believe to include following “accepted” customs and norms. Anyone who preaches a different message, namely Christians who stands on biblical truth especially the person and work of Jesus as the only way to God, is told they are being intolerant. Yet, the culture says it’s tolerant for a man and a man to be married. The culture says it’s okay for a woman and a woman to be married and that it is not intolerant for them to do so. Society at large proclaims there is no distinction between the sexes saying that view isn’t intolerant. A supposed message of tolerance is being proclaimed while the message being proclaimed is itself not being practiced. Those who cry tolerance are themselves not adhering to their own ethics, morals and values therefore lacking any form of integrity not to mention humility!
As you can see, there is a crisis of integrity and humility in our culture and even in the Church. The only way humility and truth will become virtues prized again is when people understand who God is and what the Gospel means for them. The God of the Bible is a holy God who demands retribution for sin. The God of the Bible sent His Son to deal with man’s sin. God is not an approver of sin, nor the author of sin. God the Father sent Jesus to live a sinless life, die a bloody death on the Cross, be buried and rise again. The message of the Gospel is this: Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a victorious death, was buried and rose triumphantly from the grave.
The message of the Gospel itself is often abridged by many Christians. It is presented as just a message of salvation and not a message also of discipleship and sanctification. The Gospel is not just a message of how one gets saved but a declaration of the need for discipleship and growth in Christ. The Gospel is the means God uses to bring one into relationship with Him to include the means by which He works in the life of the believer so they can grow in the faith to expand the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, the Gospel is to be enjoyed, savored, and treasured by those who call on the name of the Lord so the truth of the Gospel can not only be declared but lived out in their daily life.
Integrity and humility are two of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the first thirteen years of ministry. I’ve learned to appreciate what Jesus has done for me and for the world through His, death, burial, and resurrection. I’ve learned to celebrate the work Jesus has done through Servants of Grace and to be thankful He has used this ministry in many powerful ways. I’ve also learned to enjoy and thank those who serve alongside of me for the sake of the Gospel.
As I close here today, I want to thank those who have faithfully prayed for this ministry over the years. I want to thank those of you who have read the articles, listened and watched the sermons and been a part of this ministry. I consider it the highest privilege and honor of my life that you have allowed this ministry into your life and home. Please know this is a privilege we take very seriously. Finally, know also we seek to be faithful stewards of the grace of God to proclaim the Gospel to you in word, in deed or through whatever means the Lord by His grace allows us. We appreciate your prayers and continued support of Servants of Grace and please know you are also prayed for and that we would love to hear from you.