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For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.  2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1

Connecting “this comes from the Lord” with “having this ministry” forces a disturbing question.  How many of our churches today can say, “Our ministry comes from the Lord.  Our life-giving impact is of him.  What we are experiencing is coming down from above”?  How many of our churches have a clear awareness that what’s happening in their midst is not due to their cleverness or relevance or traditions or anything of Self?  How many of us can honestly say, “What’s happening among us here is from the Lord.  There is no other way to account for it.  We’re not that smart, not that attractive, not even that virtuous.  We want to do our best for him, of course.  But our church is under the touch of God.  Our ministry is by his mercy”?

Too many of our churches get together every Sunday, week after week, and the people are nice and the music is nice and the preaching is nice, but they never expect the Lord to be obviously involved.  They’re not even thinking in those categories.  Any church in that condition must understand that their ministry is not biblical, however orthodox it may be theologically.  Their ministry is not by the mercy of God; it is of themselves.  It has no authority, no power, no glory.  What swept over the Mediterranean world in the first century was not better branding; what swept over the world was an undeniable newness from above.  It had authority, power, glory.  And that is our only valid ministry today.

We are always in danger of replacing the Lord with something else, something related to the Lord but not itself divine.  Let’s see our danger and be alert to its constant approach.

Maybe what we need now and then is to fail so miserably that we cannot ignore it but must face it.  Maybe we need to fall so flat on our faces that we go back to the mercy of God, we relearn ministry from the New Testament, we go back with humility and honesty and openness to what comes from the Lord.

When our churches are experiencing gospel ministry as coming down from the Lord above by his mercy, then we do not lose heart.  Then we are resilient, because we are experiencing reality with God.  Then we are not tempted to resort to underhanded ways (2 Corinthians 4:2).  We wouldn’t think of stooping to our own fancy footwork, because the Lord of glory is with us.

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6 thoughts on “This comes from the Lord”

  1. Flyaway says:

    Our church prayer group was praying that God would help us reach out to the lost in our community and that we would be planted in good soil, by abundant water, so that we would produce branches, bear fruit, and become a splendid vine. Shortly after that a church plant from Calvary Chapel asked if they could rent our fellowship hall on Sunday nights. We did rent it to them and now we are watching to see what the Lord will do.

  2. This posting came from the Lord, Ray.

    Thank you!

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  4. Ken says:

    It is sometimes hard when I recollect how easy it is to get it wrong. I have experienced the utter failure of churches who try to row the boat while tied to the pier. I have learned the hard lessons of being shelved due to my own hubris and forgetting some of the very basics. A church without Christ is a club and nothing more. A church that is not Christocentric is inevitably anthropocentric.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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