This week marks 8 years that I have been on staff full time as a pastor at Crosspoint. As I reflect back over those 8 years, it feels simultaneously like a lifetime has passed and like I’m just getting started.
Over those years, God has used his Spirit and his Word applied through many, many experiences to dismantle my pride and self-sufficiency and grow my dependence upon him. (He’s still doing that too. I can be pretty stubborn. But I’m no match for his patient and persistent grace.)
Two passages of Scripture come to mind as I think back on this calling that God has placed on my life. The first is 1 Timothy 1:12-17. It reads:
12 I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry— 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
These are the words of the Apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy. Here, Paul is filled with thanksgiving (to the point of praising God in vs. 17), not only for the ministry he has been given in Christ but also for the new life he has been given in Christ.
Paul’s credentials include blasphemer, persecutor, arrogant, ignorant, unbeliever, worst of sinners. Not exactly the kind of resumé that’s gonna get you a callback for a second interview. But those aren’t the credentials Pauls is really focused on in this passage. He’s really emphasizing the credentials of Christ here, which include mercy, overflowing grace, faith, and love, Savior of sinners, extraordinary patience, King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, worthy of honor and glory.
Paul is thankful for the ministry that Christ has given him, but he’s even more thankful for the way that Christ has ministered to him through his life, death, and resurrection. Without Christ’s ministry to Paul, Paul could not minister to others. Paul’s ministry to others is a demonstration of Christ’s extraordinarily patient gospel ministry to Paul. His ministry is not Paul-centered, it’s Christ-centered because Christ saved Paul from himself, forgave him of his sins, made him a new creation, and gave him eternal life. Christ is central to who Paul is, not just to what Paul does. Paul’s identity is not in his ministry, but in the One who continually ministers to him.
I too am thankful for the extraordinary patience of Christ in my life. His grace, mercy, and love have overflown in my life as he has gently and methodically exposed my ignorance and unbelief and built up my faith and identity in him. He saved me from myself, forgave me of my sins, made me a new creation, and gave me eternal life. This gospel ministry to me came through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. And I am grateful for the way he continues to minister his grace to me in the midst of the ministry he has appointed me to over the past 8 years.
Without Christ’s ministry to me, I have no ministry to others. So I will gladly proclaim him and his gospel. That is my ministry. And that brings me to the next passage. Colossians 1:28-29 reads:
28 We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.
Once again, these are the words of Paul. It’s a concise summary of the scope and purpose of his ministry. Whether he’s warning or teaching, Paul is proclaiming Christ. And he’s doing it so that those whom he warns and teaches will mature together in Christ. Paul’s labor is to make Christ known to others so that they might be ministered to by Christ and his gospel. Paul is proclaiming Christ and the gospel because Christ and the gospel transform hearts and cause people to grow up into the image of the One who saves them.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul says that Christ has strengthened him, and here in Colossians Paul says that he is striving with Christ’s strength that works powerfully in him.
Christ ministered to Paul and gave Paul the ministry of proclaiming Christ to others. He strengthened Paul for this ministry, and Paul continued to labor in the strength of Christ that worked powerfully in him.
Eight years into fulltime pastoral ministry, this is what I’m convinced of: Christ ministers to me and has given me the ministry of proclaiming him to others. There is nothing else I want to do with my life than to make him known. He has strengthened me for this ministry, and I will labor and strive in it with his strength that works powerfully in me.
If you have been ministered to by Christ and the gospel, then this is your ministry too. You don’t have to be a full-time pastor or an Apostle to make him known. Every single person who has been saved and transformed by the redeeming work of Christ serves as a glorious demonstration of Christ’s extraordinary patience to save all who would believe in him for eternal life. You have been saved for his glory. You have been strengthened by the power of his Spirit who dwells in you. Proclaim him to the world, and let everyone know where true hope is found.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.