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Is New Covenant Ministry Encouraging or Disturbing?

2 Cor. 3 is supposed to lead us to “not lose heart”. Paul had uber-confidence in the ministry of the Spirit. Eschatology, not ecclesiology shaped his thinking: he was living in the new age, the age of the outpoured Spirit. The new covenant ministry of the Spirit was more glorious because it superceded the ministry of the Law that came through Moses. People turned to Christ. Life was given by the Spirit. Lives were being transformed. “You have been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ.”  Thatʼs the ʻencouragingʼ part. This was Paulʼs answers to his detractors at Corinth. “Look at all thatʼs going on in the church and try to tell me that my ministry was bogus.”

But what if today, we preach the gospel of a crucified Savior and nothing much happens? What if we donʼs see this transforming power of the Holy Spirit? At the end of the service, people pull out their smart phones to get caught up, make plans for lunch and resume life-as-it-has-always-been.

The ʻdisturbingʼ part of ministry in the Spirit  is that we canʼt make anything happen; we have to wait on the sovereign Spirit to move. All we can do is faithfully preach the gospel and leave ʻresultsʼ up to the sovereign Lord. But when we canʼt make anything happen, and when nothing much does happen – it IS easy to lose heart in the ministry. This new covenant ministry is supposed to be “even more glorious”  and supposed to be “transforming people day by day”  and when it doesnʼt, itʼs hard to escape one of three conclusions: either it doesntʼ really work today, or Iʼm doing something wrong, or this is the wrong group of people (thatʼs the nice way of stating it). Itʼs hard to come up with Paulʼs uber-confidence in the ministry of the Spirit today.

 

So here are a few questions for ʻTaking It Furtherʼ

Q1.  Does ministry in weakness, treasure in jars of clay, mean that ʻresultsʼ always have to be rescaled to the size of mustard seeds? If the Kingdom of God is never going to overwhelm people then by definition should we have no expectations?

Q2. Does being full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit mean that we should expect “moreʼ results than if weʼre NOT full of the Spirit and operating ʻin the fleshʼ? If not, then whatʼs the point of Spirit-empowered ministry?

Q3. “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Lk. 11:3). Do you believe that? In what way is that true in your life? Where in your life recently have you been led by the Holy Spirit?

Q4.  Jesus said “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.ʼ” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. – Jn. 7:37,38 But this only ʻworksʼ if people recognize their thirst!

So… are YOU thirsty?

Can you pray with the Psalmist: My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek (Ps. 27:8)?