Pillar 4: God's Priorities of Ministry
Passage: Jeremiah 9:23–9:24
The Seven Pillars of Ministry
Pillar Four – God’s Priorities of Ministry
Dr. Wayne Barber
Texts: Romans 15:17-18; Jeremiah 9:23-24
We’re going to talk today about the Priorities of Ministry. Really it’s one priority, but there are three things involved. True ministry is not a result of our commitment but it is a result of our surrender; and that’s what we want to talk about today.
As I was growing up during Christmas time, we didn’t have a television forever; and we were grateful for that. We’d get a big puzzle; we’d work it together as a family. We’d always get a big one, over 1,000 pieces. I couldn’t wait. We did not get a whole lot of things for Christmas, but we had plenty of fruit and we had a big old puzzle. Mom would fix a big old ham. It was good stuff. We’d get together and work that puzzle. You know, the first thing we had to do was to see the whole picture. We had to look at the whole thing and see what it was we were putting together. Then we would put all the different colored pieces together. Somebody would get it started. It was just the most fun. We’d never finish it in the first day. But we’d come back the next day and when we came back we had to do it once again, step back, look at the whole picture and then get involved and putting the pieces together. That was a great time; I miss those days.
Well, if you’ve made the mistake in listening to these Pillars we’ve been talking about, of somehow separating the seven pillars from what true Christianity is: Jesus being Jesus in us, moment by moment Christianity, trusting Him, the integrity and accountability built in because you can’t walk with Him that He doesn’t convict you of sin, you can’t walk with Him that He doesn’t hold you accountable, you can’t walk with Him without the word of God renewing your mind and the Spirit transforming your life. If you somehow, have separated these seven pillars over here as seven pieces of a puzzle, you forgot the picture. Then no wonder you might be confused about this time. Because, you see, you cannot separate the two.
For years we’ve been talking about what I call “Living Grace,” Christ being who He is in and through us; the life inside the coat, I’ve shared so many different times. “Jesus be Jesus in me, no longer me but Thee, resurrection power fill me this hour Jesus be Jesus in me. Lord, I can’t, you never said I could, You can, You always said You would.” Approaching life that way, waking up every morning, situation by situation and saying yes to Him: “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, Yes, Yes, Lord.” If somehow in your mind, you’re thinking that the seven pillars are something else, you’ve missed it. Because, you see, the Christ in me is the well that all of this flows from. Ministry takes care of itself. We’re just explaining it in a more detailed way. You don’t even have to have these seven pillars, if you are walking, letting Jesus be Jesus in your life. So make sure that you are making the connection. One has to be there before the other can take place.
So far we’ve seen three pillars. Pillar number one, we saw God’s Pattern for Ministry, and every pillar that comes from that was cut from that pattern. First Corinthians 12:4-7, the Lord who lives in me, gives me the gift, gives me the ministry, and gives me the effect. That’s the pattern for ministry; it won’t ever be any different down here on earth, Christ living in me.
The second Pillar was God’s Power in Ministry, from Isaiah 6. Whatever God initiates, the ministry, the effect, He anoints, which means that He divinely enables it with His power.
The third Pillar, we looked at last time, was God’s Platform for Ministry. What is that? That ministry is not something achieved for God, but something that is received from God. We saw that from John 11. I guess the thing that still rings in my mind was what we’ve learned in John 11 from Martha and Mary and the disciples as to why it is so difficult to the human brain to understand this truth; why it is so difficult to join Jesus in what Jesus is doing.
We learned many things. We learned from Martha and Mary that they were not able to distinguish the obvious from the actual. They saw an obvious problem, Lazarus, their brother, was sick and so they sent and told Jesus. They couldn’t have understood; they didn’t understand that if you are going to join Jesus, He has a bigger picture than just Lazarus being sick. You see, this was going to be the miracle that was going to pull the trigger of Him going to the cross. They couldn’t see that; therefore, they had an agenda. They said, “Lord, you need to be here; and you need to be here now.” And they sent Him word.
Not only were they not able to understand the difference the obvious—which they thought was real and the actual, which He understood—but also, because of that they didn’t understand that God’s delays are not necessarily denials. When He got the message, the scripture told us last week that He stayed two more days. Thanks, Lord, I appreciate your moving when I think you need to move! One day for the message to get back to them that He sent; two days that He stayed, and then one day to travel to get back to the Bethany outside of Jerusalem, two miles from Jerusalem. He was at Bethany, but on the other side of the Jordan; there are two Bethany’s. So when He gets there Lazarus has been in the tomb four days.
Martha sees Him and says, “Thanks, Lord; if you’d been here he wouldn’t have died. You can’t do anything now. You can’t do anything here. He’s dead. That’s too big for you.” And then when they got to the tomb, they even showed more of that disappointment. He said, “Roll the stone away.” Martha, bless her heart, said, “Lord, it’s going to stink by now, he’s been in there four days.” In the Jewish superstition they felt like the spirit left the body after the third day. No body had been resurrected on the fourth day. I believe that He purposely did that; we don’t have any proof of that. I think He went on the fourth day for that very reason; this was the miracle among all miracles.
But, you know, not only that, they finally begin to grasp, the disciples particularly, that they had been living by fear and not by faith. You see they had built a comfort zone. They said, “Lord, are you going there? Ah, not us! We’re not going there. We were just over in Judea with you and they tried to kill you. Lord, we put two and two together. Kill you; kill us, we’re not going.” And He said, “Don’t you understand, unless you walk with me, you’re walking in darkness, you’re walking out of fear. Why don’t you walk with me? You’re more secure with me than you would be here.” Well, they couldn’t quite grasp it. They loved that old comfort zone, don’t we all? They put little borders on it and said, “I’m not stepping outside this comfort zone, God. I’m not joining you, because I’m afraid of what might happen to me.”
But then, the last thing we saw was they finally realized that only in joining Him do they get to see what only He can do. Martha and Mary wanted a healing; Jesus wanted a resurrection. Which one would you rather have? Boy, when He stood at that tomb and said, “Lazarus, come forth!” And old Lazarus, all bound, He said, “Unwrap him; take the blinders off of his eyes; take it off of his mouth, so he can witness; take the wrappings off of his hands, so he can work; take the wrappings off of his feet, so he can walk.” Lazarus came back, isn’t it incredible? It says on down, this was the miracle that caused them to plot to kill the Lord Jesus.
It was just no time before He was on the cross. You see, when you join Jesus, He just doesn’t do thing our way. Somehow His watch is on a different time zone. Somehow He’s always slow, but you know what? He’s never late. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. So when we try to join Him it doesn’t make a lot of sense when you sit around a table and try to figure it out. This is some of the hindrances that we all run into.
Our text today is Romans 15:17-18. Now in this message today, we’re really going to jump back to chapter 1 in a few moments. We’re going to see the heart of the apostle Paul. We’re going to see what true ministry really is in the life a believer who loved God. But look what he says in Romans 15:17-18, “Therefore, in Christ Jesus, I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.”
Now the word “boasting” he uses in verse 17, is the word kauchesis, comes from the word kauchaomai. It means to glory in something, to draw attention to something. It’s mostly used in scriptures as a bad thing. It’s mostly what arrogant, proud people do; they call attention to themselves in many different ways. The root word that we get the word from is the word aucheo, the Greek word for neck. It has the idea of a proud, arrogant person sticking his neck out and calling attention to himself. Ah, haven’t we all been there from time to time?
When I was growing up, we had a duck. It’s name was Dippy. And Dippy was a good duck except it was a territorial duck and had a mind of its own. You talking about proud and arrogant, buddy, you did not infringe on his territory. Any time I got near him, my mama said, when I’d go to hug the duck, or pet the duck, the duck would take out after me and chase me around the house biting me. He had that neck stuck out and, man, he was just running after me. He’s calling attention to himself and to his territory. That’s exactly the idea of what we’re looking at here. You know, men love to boast. Mankind loves to boast. All of us do, women or men; but mankind loves to boast. What are we boasting about? I’ll tell you what we boast about, the Bible will tell us. Jeremiah 9:23 tells us what we love to boast in, what a man is most arrogant about, how a man draws attention to himself in at least three different areas. It says in Jeremiah 9:23, “Thus says the Lord let not a wise man boast of him wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, and let not a rich man boast of his riches.”
Now, three things mankind loves to boast about, whether it be in the church; it can get into Christianity very easily: in what he knows, in what he knows. Dear old Vance Havner used to say, “We’re dying by degrees, Ph.D.’s, D.D.’s, MD’s LTD’s, fiddledeedees.” I can hear him say it today. It’s like when you go into somebody’s office and they have degrees wallpapering the walls. I want you to know something! They want to boast in what they know. “Wow! Am I not something?”
But secondly, mankind loves to boast in what he can do. He said, “Let not the mighty man boast in his mind.” These campaigns we have in Christian circles, “We can do it, we can do it, we can do it; we can; you’re okay, I’m okay; let’s get this thing done.’ Oh, boasting in what we can do? That’s pretty sick.
And then the third thing that mankind likes to boast in, is what he has. He says, “Let not a rich man boast in his riches.” We love to talk about what we have, don’t we? This subconsciously comes out in the flesh; this is when the word is used in a bad way. Churches can do that. People can do that. Man loves to boast in these things. But God is not pleased with that kind of boasting. However, there is a boasting that He is pleased with. He says that in verse 24, “Let him who boasts, boast of this that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.”
Now this is what Paul is doing in Romans 15:17-18, he’s boasting in the right thing. He’s not calling attention to himself. When he was a religious man, as a Pharisee, he always called attention to himself. Something has changed in his life; he’s boasting in things pertaining to God. Look at the verse 18, “For I would not presume to speak of anything except of what Christ has accomplished through me resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” Here’s the former religious man saying something entirely as an antithesis to the thing he used to be.
The word “through”—For I would not presume to speak of anything except of what Christ has accomplished through me—is a little word dia. It means by the means of me. Paul had learned something. Paul had learned that he’s not that important. Paul had learned that he can be a conduit, he can be a vessel through whom Christ could accomplish His works. He could live his life through him. He had learned this in the new relationship that he had with the Father, through Jesus Christ.
Wow. How different this is from Paul’s own words describing what he used to be n Philippians 3:4, “if anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more.” What he’s saying to the Philippians is, “You don’t know how religious a man I was.” He says in verse 5, “circumcised the eighth day of the nation of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to the righteousness which is in the law found blameless.” But, if you know that passage, he goes on to say, “But I count every bit of it as loss, for the excellence of experiencing Christ in my life.” Christ had taken a religious man, sincere in his heart, and turned him inside out, saved him, put him in the waters of baptism and brought him into the Kingdom. As a result of that now, Paul is a changed man. Paul now understands Christianity is not some religious effort; Christianity is a relationship; and he gets to participate in what God’s doing on this earth. He’s still living on this earth and in the lives of the people who have received Him.
Now, what was it about Paul’s life that we can learn from today? He tapped into it; he experienced Christ in his life. How can we do the very same thing? How can we see ministry flow out of us? Something that we don’t have to achieve for God, but something we can receive from Him? In looking at this and studying Romans, I didn’t have to go past chapter 1. Three verses there tell me everything I’m looking for. You see, the one thing Paul had to do which has many dimensions to it—that’s why we say Priorities instead of Priority—is that he had to learn to die to self. It’s really a simple act; we die to self when we say yes to God and to His word. We’re not talking about perfection, we’re talking about a life style; we’re talking about predictability. When we sin, we say yes to Him, agree with Him that we’ve sinned. We come and do what His word tells us to do. This is the lifestyle that we learn to adopt. If we’re doing that, we’re saying no to self. You can’t say yes to self and yes to Christ in the same breath. You don’t focus on self, you focus on Him. As you say yes to Him, victory is not you overcoming sin, victory is Jesus overcoming you.
All those years Paul spent committed and determined to do it right were now replaced with a willingness to simply yield and say yes to God. “Lord, I can’t, you never said I could, You can, you always said you would.”
We want to look now at this newfound way of living in Paul’s life. Let’s try to discern, what was this surrender we’re talking about? How do we know that our surrender is what God is talking about here in Paul’s life and in our life? How do we know that? Romans 15:17-18 again, just to keep it in your mind: “Therefore, in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God; for I would not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience [this is the eternal work it does] of the Gentiles by word and by deed.”
Three things, first of all, Paul’s surrender was without any selfish argument. You see, Paul’s surrender was from his heart, not from his head. It wasn’t lip service he was paying to God, it was something of his heart that had been surrendered to God.
Romans 1:1. If you want to look there with me, we’ll start there. Three things in chapter 1 that will tell us everything we need to know about Paul, about his surrender. In Romans 1:1, it says “Paul, a bondservant, of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle set apart for the gospel of God.” The word “bondservant” tells us everything that we’re looking for about the surrendered heart that Paul had. The word bondservant is the Greek word doulos. It means slave. In fact, in most of the translations it is translated as slave. That’s interesting. Why did the translators chose not to translate it that way here? Why did they put bondservant instead of slave?
Well, there were two kinds of slaves. The translators understood the meaning that Paul had here and tried to help us to understand the context of what’s happening. A simple slave—which, by the way, in Roman times was very common; thousands and thousands of people had slaves—now, these slaves didn’t want to be a slave. They were either born into slavery, or they chose to be a slave, or they were made to be, whatever. It wasn’t something you grew up wanting to be. They did what they did because they had to. They always had a gripe, they always had an argument, they always had a complaint because they didn’t choose to be a slave, and they didn’t like having to do what they were doing.
But a bondservant was entirely different. A bondservant made a choice to be a slave. He did what he did because he got to. He did what he did because he wanted to. He loved his master. It was not something a person had to take out a whip and drive him to do. No, he did this out of a reflex of his heart, the love in his heart. In fact, scripture bears this out.
Matter of fact, the most beautiful picture of this—and I guarantee you this is what Paul had in mind, and exactly why the translators translated it this way. Paul didn’t have the New Testament; he wrote three fourths of it—it comes out of the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 15:12-17 that tells us what a bondservant was. In verse 12 it says, “If your kinsman,” and this is Hebrew slave, different from Roman slave, I understand that. They could hire themselves out, they could be a slave to somebody, particularly if they’d gotten themselves into a debt. But there were rules on how you treated your slaves. “If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you then he shall serve you six years. But in the seventh year, you shall set him free, that’s a Sabbatical Year.” Leviticus 25, seven times seven of those times was the 50th year, was the Jubilee. So this was the sabbatical year, the year slaves were set free.
Verse 13, “When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty handed, you shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor, and from the wine vat. You shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you.” You treat him just like you would a family member. This is the way Hebrews treated slaves, not the way Romans treated them.
Verse 15, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore, I command you this today.” Don’t forget you were a slave and see how God treated you; now you treat them the same way.
Verse 16, “It shall come about, if he says to you, I will not go out from you”—Now that’s an interesting situation. Here’s a slave and he doesn’t want to leave. It’s the sabbatical year. — And he says, “Because he loves you and your household since he fairs well with you, then you shall take an awl [a little instrument they would use to drive through the ear and pierce it through it and into the door] and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.”
You know, what happened was, after this sabbatical year when people would see the same slave continuing to serve his master they would step back and say, “Oh, what love is this? Look how he loves him. He was set free, and he made a choice to go back and to serve his master.” Why? Because he loved him. That’s like the disciples said to Jesus one day, “Lord, if we leave you where would we go? Nobody treats us like you treat us.”
This is what Paul had in mind. Paul had been a Pharisee; he’d been a slave; he’d been obliged; he’d been commanded to obey the law. He had lived in that kind of bondage for years, now he’d been set free. Now he can make a love choice to become the servant, the slave of righteousness of the Lord Jesus.
But now this new kind of obedience as a bondservant that Paul had was out of his love for Christ. Hang on to that thought, because I don’t want you to lose that. He was grateful and wanted to yield to the will that God had for him. The word bondservant expresses the true heart of a believer who loves Christ and this becomes his motivation in all that he does.
Let me ask you a question. Why do you do what you do? That’s the bottom line. It’s not what you do, it’s the motivation behind it. A bondservant has a heart, a bondservant says, “I want to. I get to. Thank you, Lord.” But a slave says, “I don’t want to. Okay, I’ll do it.” “Take him one mile.” “I’ll take him one mile and no further.” A bondservant says “I’ll take him as far as you’ll let me take him. I’ll take him as far as God will let me take him.” You see, a slave obeys, yes; but he has a gripe to it. He has a complaint to everything he does. He always has an argument. He’s not doing what he’s doing out of a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. A slave doesn’t understand obedience out of a pure love for his master.
One more time, why do you do what you do? Do we complain about everything that happens? Is our attitude one of selfish wants instead of grateful submission to Christ? Is it out of a grateful heart? Have you understood that He didn’t need to save you, and He owes us nothing? Has it ever overwhelmed you to the point that you think, “Oh, God,” like the Psalmist said, “what is man that Thou are mindful of him.” And being so overwhelmed in who He is that you just do what you do and there is no complaint, there is no argument; there’s no strife whatsoever.
If you are living that way, you are a bondservant and the ministry is taking care of itself. You don’t have to worry about it. You don’t even have to hear about the seven pillars. Ministry is already there. Your life is the seven pillars. Really, that would be my objective in this whole thing, that our lives be and reflect the seven pillars. Not something on a piece of paper, this is what we become. This is what we are. You wouldn’t dare open your mouth; I wouldn’t dare open my mouth if I were a bondservant about anything that I could do for God. Who am I, but flesh and blood and deserving of Hell? Oh, but I would open my mouth about what Christ has accomplished through me and so would you. And that’s what Paul is talking about. It’s a different kind of service. There’s no complaint; there is no argument. There is no strife, because we get to do what we do.
Well, the reason Paul’s surrender was without any argument, without any complaint, without any gripe was, secondly, because he had in his surrender, he had no soulish agenda. You see, one feeds the other. A selfish argument comes from someone who has a soulish agenda. When there is arguing and complaining, you can take it to the bank, there is a soulish agenda somewhere. What do I mean? There is a string attached somewhere. I’m doing what I’m doing, but I’ve got something that I want out of this.
Now, what am I talking about? Look at Romans 1:9. See, these verses tell us about a heart of a man, about his surrender. We see now what his surrender is like. He says, “For God, whom I serve in my Spirit, in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you.” Now make note of that little phrase, “God, whom I serve in my Spirit.” The term “spirit” refers to that part of man that God dwells and where He speaks to us through His word. It’s equated, from time to time, with the heart. But it is a special, it’s not a compartment, it’s a part of man that God communicates with man.
Now let me explain, at the risk of confusing somebody, two theological terms that would be helpful to understand. One of the theological views of man is what’s called the dichotomus view of man. What does that mean? This is the view that man is basically made up of two components, the physical and the spiritual; the body, the spirit; that is dichotomy of man. What they do, they take the soul and compress it into one; it’s all the spirit. It’s all the spirit. Man is physical; man is spiritual, period. There is no other compartment like the spirit where god dwells within.
But then there is the trichotomus view of man. That’s the term, it’s similar, physical and spiritual, but the spiritual is divided into two. There is the spirit where God dwells and speaks to us through His word. Then there is the soul. Now, the soul is the mind, the will and the emotion. The Greek term for that is psyche. In fact, animals have a soul in that sense. In other words, the soul is the immaterial part of us that enables us to relate to the world which we are in. Since in the Christian life, we are not relating here first, we’re relating with God, then we have the Spirit and that’s where God speaks to us. And then the will is affected, the mind can understand, and the emotion can take its place. So man is different, created, higher than the animals. We have a spiritual part of us.
Now both of these two views come out in scripture, in case you get confused. If you look at death passages, particularly in the Old Testament, it put the soul and the spirit together; they all go at one time. But when you get into the believer’s walk, it’s always the trichotomus view of man: body, soul and spirit. God speaks to us through His Spirit when we are yielded to Him, through His word and our minds have an understanding the world could not have given to us that we relate to. And then the will can be affected and the emotion. We get emotional about it because it is real to us. We see the trichotomus view in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete and without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So Romans 1:9, Paul say, “I serve God in my Spirit.” Now he is telling us something here. He did not soulishly—the way man would serve God—he did not soulishly serve God. You see, a religious person doesn’t have a relationship with God, only knows the soulish service to God, which is bondage and slavery. But a believer has been elevated. Christ has come to live in his spirit. Now he can understand, he doesn’t live like he used to live.
The soul is where the fleshly agenda comes from. Paul says, “I don’t serve God out of a fleshly agenda. With what my mind has understood, and with what my will has chosen to do.” Paul served God in his spirit. Romans 1:9 is very similar to something Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God, whom I serve, with a clear conscious.” The word “clear” is the word katharos, which means unspoiled. In other words, it’s been cleansed of something. Of what? Of any soulish agenda. The only way to get rid of soulish agenda is to yield to Christ with a heart that is grateful to serve and He cleanses us of any soulish agenda, and we are able to hear from Him in our spirit.
Our greatest battle is with our flesh. All of us know that. I’ve struggled with mine today. Galatians 5:16-17 tells us it’s going to be a war, it’s going to be a battle until Jesus comes back. The apostle Paul had to fight that same battle. One of the things he had to fight was his old soulish way of serving God. In 2 Timothy 4:7, he makes this statement, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” The word “fight” there is the word agon. We get the word “agony” from it. Paul had agonized over this struggle.
But if you’ll check that word out, every time it’s referring to Paul, it’s him dealing with his flesh. It’s him dealing with something, it’s not him defending the faith, etc. That was a given. It was his fleshly tendency to do things his own way. We saw that in Acts when he just tried his best to get his agenda done over in Bithynia, and Asia and Mysia. God said, “No, sir,” and slammed the door in his face and brought him down to where he wanted him to be. He fought that all of his life. We all fight the flesh. We agonize over it.
Well, Paul had learned to allow Christ to have His way. Bottom line, have you come to that place? It was so sweet, the other night we had a young man come to know Christ. And he said, “I’m just at the end of my self; I’m sick and tired of doing things my own way. I want to do things God’s way.” Paul had learned to allow Christ to overcome him.
What’s your fleshy agenda today? If you have one; you may not have one. I’m just asking the question. Do you have a fleshly agenda? Are there strings tied to your serving Lord? That’s why you’re always complaining and always arguing, because you can’t do that unless you have an agenda somewhere that’s hidden. The two walk and fit together. What is it that causes us to argue and complain in what we do in that which we call ministry? When there is no soulish argument, there is no selfish agenda
But the third and the final thing is this. Paul had no sinful attitude. This is really the root, right here. We’re going at it backward, but this really where it starts right here. There was no selfish argument, when there’s no selfish agenda, you can bet on it; there’s no sinful attitude. But reverse it, when there’s a selfish argument, when there is a soulish agenda; there is a sinful attitude somewhere.
Now what is that sinful attitude? This attitude poisons everything. Have you ever had a great day, and somebody woke up that morning determined that they were going cause you not to have a great day? They have the gift of dissension. Have you ever been around people like that?
It’s incredible, you get somebody doing what they call the Lord’s work and they have a sinful attitude, then that same person is going to have a soulish agenda and that same person is going to be the most critical, most judgmental. They are the people that will make life miserable for everybody. They are poison in the body of Christ.
Talk about having an attitude. I had a friend who had a Rottweiler, dangerous dogs. Everybody says that they are sweet, sweet little dogs. Well, he had two beautiful daughters, and his daughters were dating and that Rottweiler has grown up with those two girls and no body was going to take his girls away from him. Every time the boys would drive up to his house out in the country that Rottweiler would keep them inside the car. In fact, he was told by the boys, five of them, five different ones, that the Rottweiler had bitten a hole through the tire. He didn’t believe it. He went to the vet and he said, “There’s no possible way my dog would have that kind of strength” He said, “Sir, a Rottweiler has a bite that is 54 times that of a German shepherd. Yes, he can do that.” That’s how strong he is. Talk about having an attitude.
Paul was not a man who was filled with a sinful attitude. He didn’t live life that way. No one owed him anything. You see, a sinful attitude says “I deserve something, because I’ve done something. And I’m a slave and didn’t want to do it to start with. I deserve something.” People who are on spiritual welfare, “Somebody needs to appreciate me.” Paul said “I’m not that way.”
Romans 1:14 says, “I’m under obligation, both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish.” “I’m under obligation;” there’s your phrase. Oh, wow, it means I’m a debtor. “Nobody owes me anything; oh, do I have a debt to pay. I’ll never be able to pay it, but I have a debt. He wasn’t talking about his debt to the Lord, he knows he can’t pay that one back. This one was a debt to his fellow man.
The words “under obligation,” opheiletes, to owe a debt. It’s in the present tense, which means I live with this every day. I go to bed with it at night, it hovers over me. I wake up in the middle of the night, it hovers over me. I get up in the morning, it hovers over me. There’s a debt I owe to my fellow man. I don’t live on spiritual welfare; I’m not asking somebody to do something for me because I have obeyed God. Paul says that’s not who I am. Christ had saved him, and Paul knew that he didn’t deserve that. He only deserved Hell, and he lived with that debt in him. It’s kind of like being on a boat that’s sinking and you are the only one who knows where the life raft is. Somehow you were privileged to know how to be saved, and you now have an obligation to everyone on that boat, whether you know them or not, to tell them how they might get saved. Paul lived with that every day of his life.
How can you know when that sinful attitude is there? Well, you serve and you serve and no one ever thanks you for it. Nobody even gave me a little note of appreciation. That’s how you know.
Thank, God, Paul was uniquely different. He did not have an agenda. He didn’t have a sinful attitude. He certainly never had a selfish argument. Bondservants, they are the ones Christ is working through. They are the ones that are not fighting anybody anymore. They’ve given it up. They don’t have a selfish argument; they don’t have a soulish agenda; they don’t have a sinful attitude.
When Japan surrendered to America, all the Generals were there. The Emperor of Japan came up. He didn’t walk up and say, “Okay, guys, boy, you whipped us; that was a close one, but you got us. We surrender.” No, sir, he took his sword, which was very strong language, handed it to the General of our forces and said, “We’ll never fight you again.” That’s what surrender is. God, I’ll never fight you again; I’ll never fight you again. What if God told you to do that today? You see, when you have an agenda, you can’t handle it because it doesn’t fit your schedule. And by the way, there’s a sinful attitude in me. I want what I want, and I’m going to argue about it, and because even though I have to do certain things, I’ve got a complaint. You see the difference? Wow.
Ministry is a precious thing. It’s not about my fleshly commitment to do something for God out of an obligation, out of bondage to the law. But it is a simple surrender and a yielding to God. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, I don’t deserve to be saved. Thank you for including me, thank you for letting me join you.” That’s what it is.