Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

Who’s the Boss?

accountability.jpgIn these days of the Church where there seems to be an awakening towards the Biblical concept of Body life and every member ministry, it becomes more imperative than ever that a concise account be developed on the subject of both corporate and personal accountability. Without such a foundation the Church would be doomed to ultimate destruction, since every member would be an end unto himself, and there would be virtually no way of “discerning the spirits” to see if they be of God (I John 4:1). Interestingly, this problem does not seem quite so prevalent within the more liberal parts of the Church, but rather poses a question among the more conservative and evangelical branches. Interestingly, among the charismatic renewal groups and those who claim total independence from any protestant denomination, and where the gifts and callings of the Church are expanded to include such offices as: Apostle and Prophet, the concept of submission and authority has become a subject of paramount importance. Unfortunately, such a teaching in the hands of men can easily become a tool to be used to “feather one’s own nest”, and to get others to do what one wants them to do. It is a known axiom that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and never has this been more true than within the perimeters of the Body of Christ.

     All across the earth and throughout the ages it has been proven beyond any doubt that men cannot handle very much power. Most ministers of the gospel begin with the most sincere of intentions, but with every step of freedom comes the added responsibility that one must also take steps to insure the gifts given by God are used strictly for His glory and not for the building of one’s own kingdom. In that great and glorious “Day of the Lord”, those who have been given much are also those of whom much is required. Sadly, I fear many of us with this awesome responsibility are in danger of failing our accountability, because our concern has been more with our performance than with His glory. The Old Testament concept of the authority of the man of God is a marvelous example of respect for authority. Saul’s awe of Samuel, and David’s fear and honor of the same laid the groundwork for the New Testament authority of the Church. Commands such as: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (Ps. 105:15), or “Honor my prophets and you will prosper…” add to the weight of evidence that the honor and treatment of “the man of God” invokes the pleasure of God. Conversely, to treat such ones with disrespect may incur the displeasure of God. Such was the case with Miriam, the sister of Moses, when she was stricken with leprosy because she felt the power of God ought to be dispersed among others rather than resting upon just one man. One might say that Miriam was ahead of her time. It was not that she was wrong in her concept, but her motive was wrong. On another occasion, Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp of Israel. Joshua, defending the authority of Moses, asked that they be rebuked. Moses’ response was to offer a wish that “all of God’s men were prophets…” It was vital that a proper respect for the authority of God’s representative be laid in the Old Testament.

      Although the New Testament certainly teaches that, persons of God are to be honored, I believe the more weighty evidence rests with the corporate Body rather than the individual. However, for the corporate Body of Christ to function in a proper manner, it is necessary that each individual view himself/herself as a part of a whole rather than an isolated unit. Just as a burning ember removed from the roaring fire soon looses its energy, so does the Christian isolated from the rest of the Body become ineffective and self-serving. One need only look at the life of Jesus to find evidence of the importance of accountability. When dealing with Jesus, one would think that surely here is one who would not be required to answer to anyone. True! However, within the sovereignty of the Godhead a decision was made that though equal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would also be mutually responsible to one another. This is evidenced in scripture in many ways. While conversing with the Pharisees on one occasion, Jesus said, “…By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me…” (John 5:30). Earlier in the same conversation He told them, “…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”(John 5:19). Here we have a divine illustration of mutual submission, with which Paul was later to challenge the Churches at Ephesus and Philippi. To the one he said, “Submit to one another…” (Eph. 5:21), and to the other he instructed, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves…” (Phil. 2:3). These are powerful evidences of the voluntary accountability of both our Lord and some of the earliest of New Testament Churches.

     Additional examples from the life of Jesus are found in such passages such as John 2:4 where Jesus speaks to his mother concerning the shortage of wine at the wedding at Cana, and says, “Woman! What have I to do with you?” He, who had been perfectly obedient to his parents to that point in his life, identified a greater one to whom he must now be accountable. Of course, no discussion on the subject of accountability would be complete without Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, when dealing with the fact of separation from his Father and the taking on of sin he said, “…not as I will, but as you will…” (Matt.26:39) In addition, it would seem that Jesus left some of His most powerful words until the final hours of His life. Upon leaving the upper room and walking the rather short distance to Gethsemane, He paused to bring to the hearts of his confused disciples the essence of His message and the key to the Christian life. Looking at a vine growing in a vineyard, Jesus called to mind the historical significance of Israel as a “vine”, and her failure to bear the fruit of her calling. In John 15, He illustrated the interdependence of the disciples’ lives when he said, “I am the true vine…and you are the branches…” It is this interdependence that would best characterize the ecclesia of God. The point of the matter is that the entire universe is made by Him and for Him, and dwells within Him (Col.1:15-20), therefore, for man to establish his independence from God is futile at best. Furthermore, the fact that we all are a part of the vine predicts mutual responsibility and accountability. Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing…” (John 15:5).

     Students of the Bible quickly recognize the voluntary submission of Jesus. For example, note Him who was God of Very God, and who had all authority in heaven and earth making a statement such as: “I only do what I see my Father doing…” (John 5:19), or “I only speak what I hear my Father saying…” (John 5:30). The Apostle Paul adds greater weight to the theme of accountability in Phil.2 saying that Jesus, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with god something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…and became obedient to death…on a cross…”

     What does all this have to do with accountability in the Church? What does Jesus’ humility and submission have to do with me being accountable to my brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ? The answer should be obvious. If He, our Lord and Master, has made himself accountable to the Father, should we not do the same? Of course, there will be those who fear the confrontation of the Self and, who wish to answer to no one but God. While this has the initial sound of deep spirituality, it fails the tests of the Laws of love, and humility. It was James and John, who got their mother to request of Jesus that they be permitted to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom, betraying the utter selfishness of their hearts and identifying them as ecclesiastical climbers rather than partners in service. It was in dealing with situations such as this with the disciples that Jesus taught them that the greatest of them would be the servant of all of them (Mark 9). In doing so He was laying the groundwork for their interdependence. The letters of Paul establish for us the foundation of Biblical New Testament government as well as any writings of the Holy Scriptures. According to Galatians, one of the earliest of New Testament writings, Paul sets the standard by which all Christian leaders should measure themselves and their ministries. Paul wrote to these young believers in the faith because his “thorn in the flesh”, a man or a group of men dedicated to requiring believers to follow the works of law rather than the gift of grace, was saying that Paul was not a legitimate Apostle. Paul first established the fact that His message of grace was given not by men but by “revelation of Jesus Christ”. He said he initially did not consult any man concerning his preaching, but after three (3) years he went to the Jerusalem elders and presented his gospel, “for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. (Gal.2: 2). Here we arguably have the greatest of all the apostles, who recognized himself as a part of the Body of Christ and voluntarily submitted himself and his teaching to other brothers.

     On another occasion he was writing to the Church at Corinth concerning the offering being taken for the saints in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 Paul says we want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21” For we are taking pains to do what is right not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” Certainly this would seem to be a perfect example of accountability for every believer in every calling and in every generation to make himself accountable for the protection and the testimony of the gospel. The early Church lived the life of accountability. Paul purposely programmed his churches with the method of personal and corporate accountability built into the very fabric of her existence. The Christian life is best lived in community with the brothers and sisters being mutually responsible to one another. For that reason, Paul commanded the believers in Ephesus to “(submit) themselves one to another in the fear of God.” This method recognizes God as the final arbiter in all things, and requires the Christian family to place themselves under His authority. Since the Church is the earthly fullness of Him (Eph.1: 22-23), and since behavior towards the Church is tantamount to behavior towards Christ (Matt.25: 40; Acts 2:47; Acts 9:4), and since the Church is the Body of Christ, it would seem foolish for one part of the Body to try to act apart from the other parts. Rather, the more perfect testimony for our Lord is for the world to see the Body of Christ flowing in perfect harmony and beauty with the abiding result that “the world might believe…”(John 17:21). This has been an effort to give a brief defense for the unity of the Church and to offer some alternative to the dangerous emphasis being place upon callings to the exclusion of the more paramount message of the centrality of Christ and the unity, ministry, and service of His Body. Gifts and callings are essential to a healthy Body of Christ. However, to emphasize the hand as of more value than the foot is nonsense, since both are needed and both must work in concert with one another to make the body move as a unit. So it is with Christ. Let us, who live and dwell inside of and make up the Body of Christ, consider one another of more value than ourselves, and let us consider the more excellent way of love and voluntarily submit ourselves to Christ. When we do, we also submit ourselves to one another.

August 4th, 2007 Posted by | Authoritarianism, True Church LIfe | 2 comments

Greater Works

The following is a response to a question by a young Christian asking for clarification on the passage of scripture from John 14:12 where Jesus predicts that the disciples will do greater works than he has done. The question has to do with the apparent lack of “greater works” in 21st Century Church.

This certainly is an interesting passage and one that can bring conviction upon a Church that appears to be Christian in name only. However, let me say first that it would be impossible for mere humans to do greater miracles than Jesus did when he was on the earth. To interpret this passage correctly one has to keep it in the context of the moment it was spoken. Jesus was attempting to bring comfort to disciples who had just been told that he was going away. Their fear was that they would be orphaned. His comfort was that He was going to the Father and because he was going to the Father He would send another comforter (the Holy Spirit – Christ within us). The term “greater” can also be translated as “larger”. The works that they would do and that we have the opportunity to do would have a larger scope and therefore be “greater”. Reading the book of Acts it is easy to see how Jesus’ words were fulfilled. Peter’s first sermon gained 3000 converts, then later there were a few thousand more and on and on. By the end of the 3rd Century the world was effectively evangelized, not all of it was perfect but the influence of Christ had “exploded” throughout the world. Unfortunately, religiosity entered in, Church and State became one and the Dark Ages brought in a millennium of spiritual tragedy. But that is another story…Notice in John that Jesus told the disciples that anything they asked in his name he would do. The key is “in his name”, “according to his will”.

A significant part of Jesus’ ‘greater works’ has to do with the fact of his living in the heart of each believer and among the Church. In a real sense when we do his will on earth it is Christ doing his own will. We are each portions of Him, connected to Him by a scarlet thread of Fellowship. While He was in human flesh he was bound by time and space, but now living in us he can be thousands of places at one time and throughout the ages. Having said that I agree that the power of the Church is lying dormant. We have the resurrection power abiding in us but it lies powerless because of a lack of surrender both individually and corporately. The latter being the most important. In a religious culture where we have symbols, icons, liturgy, ministry, preaching, ordinances, affluence, talents, gifts, callings, men of God and women of God, missions and money we cannot say “Silver and Gold have I none” but neither can we say, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk”. My observation is that we have lost our passion, our connection with our Lord. A husband and wife can perfunctorily make love but when there is a deep fellowship obtained the love overflows and is deepened. Very possibly the best picture of “greater works” is in ‘the dance’. There is a leader and a follower. The observer cannot tell who is leading and who is following. The participants each have surrendered their personal desires to the beauty of the dance. There is little that compares to the power of two people in the unity of the dance. The gliding, the soaring of the couple is transferred to the observers and the “greater work” is done. In the Church of the 21st Century we must concentrate on knowing Christ intimately, surrendering our wills to Him. The first Christians got it and Luke recorded some of it in Acts. Throughout history their have been flickers of His light and moments of greater works. The untold millions of people born again certainly are greater works. But Christ’s desire is the Fellowship of love and the beauty of the dance…

August 4th, 2007 Posted by | Spiritual Gifts | 2 comments