Those who lead our churches never escape their humanity.
Yes, they fill dignified roles. Yes, becoming the shepherd of a flock is a spiritual calling. But make no mistake, pastors are human with all the frailties that come with it.
Today on Insight for Living, we'll hear Chuck Swindoll present another message to the students at Dallas Theological Seminary. In this next study, he'll expose the realities of leading a congregation and the inherent dangers of our humanity. We begin in 2 Corinthians chapter 4.
Chuck titled his message, Fleshly Failures That Damage a Ministry. Look closely at what Paul has written. I want to make three general observations about these verses. First, with every ministry, special mercy is needed.
Now why would I say that? Look at the first verse. Since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart. One of the common reactions of the flesh is losing heart. The spirit never loses heart, but the flesh often does.
So we start where we just began, and now we go to the second observation. In every ministry, the same things must be rejected. That's in verse 2. Look at the second verse. But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the Word of God.
We'll pause there in the middle of the verse. He names three things to be renounced. Look at that word. The Greek term means forbidden, rejected. The same three things must be rejected in whatever ministry you're a part of. First, things hidden because of shame. I call it hiding shameful things.
The term means disgraceful. Do nothing in ministry you have to hide because they are wrong or shameful. That's the first thing we have to reject in whatever ministry.
Second, please notice doing deceitful things. This passage says it has no business being a part of your ministry. As you look back on wherever God used you, may you never have to think, I hid that shameful thing, or I did a number of deceitful things.
Here's the third right here in the verse. I call it corrupting sacred things. It's rendered in the New American Standard, walking in craftiness or adulterating the Word of God. That's the sacred part.
This is his sacred word. When you attend the seminary here, you will learn all about it. Old and New Testament, you will learn. Those who wrote it, you will learn words they used, you will even learn in certain courses.
The original language from that era and in that time, you will dig into the Word of God. May it never become just a textbook. It's sacred. It's holy. Heaven and earth will pass away. My word will never pass away. I never opened his word on a Sunday morning without realizing the sacredness of it. I say to myself, Swindoll, handle this carefully. Be careful here. You corrupt sacred things when you use fallacious arguments or misrepresentations and you falsify what God has written in his word.
We are to allow the scriptures to say what they say and not twist them to say what we wish they would say. It takes discipline. It takes study. Through the years, I've embraced three gates that I pass my teaching through on a regular basis.
Accuracy, clarity, practicality. I ask myself following the preparation of every message that I prepared, is it accurate to the text? Is what I am saying true to the scriptures? I don't want to adulterate the Word of God. I don't want to tell people what I want it to say. If it's convicting to me, I still preach it because it's the truth and I must be accurate with the truth.
Accuracy. Second, is it clear? Can anyone understand what I'm saying regardless of their background or their age or their level of maturity? Or am I talking in secret code language known only to seminary graduates or the upper crust of those who have been educated?
Most you will minister to will not even have a college degree. So you break it down so that it's clear they get it. It doesn't mean they're not intelligent.
It just means they haven't learned things you've learned. So you don't parade that. You use that to break it down so that it's clearly presented. I would say everything I've said thus far is pretty clear. You haven't missed anything because it's gobbledygook or it's over anybody's head. I couldn't do that if I tried.
And so I simply say it like it seems to be saying in his word. Is it clear? And finally, is it practical? Can a person take what I'm teaching and go home with it and use it? Will it be remembered in such a way that it makes them a better husband or wife or dad or mom or citizen or workman? Can the person take this truth and apply it in a way that makes sense, holds water, and gives them an opportunity to live a little better than they lived the previous week?
Is it practical? Okay, a quick review. Number one, with every ministry, special mercy is needed so we don't quit. Second, in every ministry, we keep rejecting the same things, hiding shameful things, doing deceitful things, corrupting sacred things. And then right in the middle of the verse, there is an emphatic negative.
But instead, it's the most emphatic Greek term to represent a contrast. Allah, right in the middle of the verse. Look for yourself. We've renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness, adulterating the Word of God. But by the manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. Here's the third observation. Through every ministry, an authentic example must be modeled.
Say it again. Through every ministry, an authentic example must be modeled. Instead of losing heart, instead of hiding shameful things, doing deceitful things, and corrupting sacred things, instead of allowing those things to go on, we are to demonstrate, represented by the word manifestation of the truth, we are to demonstrate truth. We demonstrate truth when we have a lifestyle that isn't a fake. We lift up Christ as Lord, he goes on to say, we preach Christ as Lord and not ourselves. Verse five, we give ourselves to others as authentic servants. What a pleasure, what a privilege it is to do that. But in order to do it, we must be real.
People spot phony right away. They observe it when you work hard at being pious or looking like something you're not. In fact, he goes on to say in verse seven, one of my favorite, we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves. Look at that, earthen vessels. We are clay pots. The NIV renders it that way, we are clay pots. The New Living translation, we are like fragile clay jars.
Howie Hendricks, one of the profs I had while here, loved him dearly used to render it this way. We have this treasure in peanut butter jars. Is that a good way to put it? The tasty parts on the inside, the rest is just jar. All we are is just the pot. We're just molded by God, each one molded differently. Stedman used to say just some are moldier than others. We're all molded in a different way, but the treasure is what's on the inside. So here's my advice to all of us.
Draw on God's mercy, determined to be authentic and devote yourself to serving others as you demonstrate grace regularly. In his book Between Two Worlds, John Stott writes in his chapter Sincerity and Earnestness, nothing is more nauseating to contemporary youth than hypocrisy and nothing more attractive than sincerity. In this moreover, they reflect the mind of Christ who reserved his most scathing denunciations for hypocrites.
Young people hate our adult shams and subterfuges. They have a very sensitive nose with which they can smell the faintest odor of religious humbug from a considerable distance. They are especially suspicious of us preachers and of our long, loud pretensions. They sniff around us to see what inconsistencies they can discover like dogs after a rat.
They are right to expect high standards of integrity in us. You notice when you rear your family, everything rocks along pretty well until they become teenagers. And then they smarten up.
They start to spot the phony part of us or others. I remember one Sunday I was sick and unusual for me to be sick on a Sunday, but that particular Sunday I was. And as a result, I stayed home from church and we had a substitute step in for me, thankfully. And my youngest son stayed home with me. Well, around 11 o'clock I said to him, hey, why don't we turn in to another church service and listen to another preacher, knowing he had listened to one all his life and he might want to have a chance to hear a terrific one.
And so we found the station where there was a fairly well-known ministry and a quite well-known preacher. And he was getting at it. And I was sitting there with my arms folded, watching my pajamas. And Chuck was sitting right next to me.
He was about 12 years old, 13 maybe. And the man was talking about God, except every time he said God, he said God, God. So finally Chuck with a sigh said, hey, Dad. I said, what? He said, why didn't he just say God?
I come here to say God. And then he said, I've had enough. He got up before he walked out. He said, by the way, Dad, don't ever start talking weird like that. You know what he wants?
He wants real. So do you. We don't say God when we're talking to people about the Father who is God. We say God.
Just say it and get on with it. Unless you want to try to impress and then you look stupid. You look like a jerk. And a pulpit doesn't make you look better. That's what this is about. We have this priceless treasure that we don't take advantage of.
We make sure we deliver it like it was written as best we can. We don't turn people off by our super piety. Just something comes to me I want to tell you about. When I ministered in California those years, I always had a rub on Super Bowl Sunday because we did Sunday night services. And so I always missed the Super Bowl and I've never learned how to tape it so don't try to tell me because I'll never get it. And so I finally grouched about it enough and one Sunday morning I said, today's Super Bowl Sunday but I'll see you in church tonight.
And I didn't do that but I was thinking it. And I told them every Sunday night or every Super Bowl Sunday when Sunday night service comes I always miss watching Super Bowl. Well, I had a couple of smart ushers who decided to play a trick on me. Our church service that evening began with the baptismal service at six o'clock which is about the middle of the football game. It happened to be the cowboy game. They were going to play as I recall the Buffalo Bills and beat the snot out of them and I knew they would but I wanted to watch it and cheer them on. And without my knowing it, these ushers put a television set in the bottom of the pulpit.
So I walk out for the baptismal. You couldn't see it from the audience. Everybody knew it because they paraded it in to show everybody. They put it under and they turned it on.
There it is mute. And I walk into the baptistry in my white robe and I turned around and it was a game on. And I go before I pray let me check the score. As I recall when I preached that sermon I prayed about 40 times.
Who am I kidding? So when I started our new church here in Frisco we don't have a Sunday night service. Well, let me tell you a few things you cannot do.
I usually don't make lists like this but this will help you. I'll click them off one after the other and I'm through. These are things you cannot do in ministry.
Meet of them. Number one, you cannot control everything. That's God's job. Stop trying to stay in control. You cannot control everything. Second, you cannot change anybody or fix them. You cannot fix their problem.
You can hear them. You can enter into them with compassion but you can't fix them. Third, you cannot meet everyone's expectations. Fourth, you cannot dodge the hard questions or the tough assignments. Fifth, you cannot let all the criticism get to you.
Sixth, you cannot believe all the stuff they tell you at the door. When everybody's leaving they dump all this great stuff on you. Hendricks used to call that the glorification of the worm. I think that's a good way to put it. Seven, you cannot teach a pig to sing.
Now that needs to be explained. Here's why I say it. Nobody will enjoy it and it annoys the pig. So don't try to teach a pig to sing.
Here's what I mean. Guard against pushing someone into a responsibility that the person isn't qualified to fill. You'll notice in a good choir there are auditions. The reason is the people that are monotones always want to sing in the choir. So a good choir director doesn't ever let them in.
He has a way of screening them out. If a person isn't qualified to serve in a particular capacity, you're not doing them a favor or the church by pushing them into it. Don't try to teach a pig to sing. Number eight, you cannot make it all on your own. You can't do it.
Nothing in ministry can be carried out all on your own. You need others. And you need to say so. It took me a long time to learn that last one.
Because I'm so blame independent. But I finally learned to use that wonderful four-letter word, help. Could you help me with this? And I found filling the church were people loving to help. But they were waiting for me to ask them. You're called into a ministry. Remember, your flesh works against you, but the Spirit wants to use you.
Let him use you. Just don't try to be Wonder Woman or Superman because you're not. You really are not. One of my most embarrassing moments in New England was when I served communion with my fly unzipped. And I didn't know it was, of course. And one of the elders walked up to pick up one of the trays and he said to me, your fly is open. I go, you're kidding.
He says, no, look. So I used my favorite line and said, let us pray. So always check your fly and your tie before you go out or wear a robe.
That's the safest thing. Now you've heard enough. You've heard more than you'll ever be able to pull off.
And most of which I'm not able to. So I'm working on all of it personally. Thank you Lord for putting up with us. Thank you. When you called us, you never had in mind calling perfect people. But you're willing to use us as we are to carry out the work as you wanted carried out.
Peanut butter jars carrying the priceless treasure. Thank you in advance for each person here who dreams of the day they'll be used for you and by you. Guard them from themselves as they serve you faithfully.
In Jesus name, everybody said, amen. Whether you're a seminary student, a pastor or a parishioner, all of us would do well to heed these warnings. You're listening to Insight for Living and a message from Chuck Swindoll originally delivered to the students at Dallas Theological Seminary. He's talking about controlling the sinful desires that can ruin a ministry. It's possible you didn't have time to jot down the eight points of application that Chuck shared in today's message. Remember that every sermon you hear on Insight for Living is paired with Chuck's online study notes. We call these free resources, Searching the Scriptures Studies.
You'll find a document that contains all eight points of application when you go to insightworld.org slash studies. Look for the message called fleshly failures that damage a ministry. Here at Insight for Living Ministries, we believe your first priority and charitable giving belongs to your local church.
But then as God prompts you, we invite you to partner with us in building up the church worldwide as well. We accomplish that goal through Vision 195, which describes our goal to make disciples of Jesus Christ in all 195 countries of the world. When you give to Insight for Living, you're making it possible to enjoy these daily visits on your station, but you're actually accomplishing much more because a small portion of every donation is applied to Vision 195 as well.
One of the best descriptions of Vision 195 is included in this month's Insights publication set directly to your home. Be sure to sit down and enjoy the pictures and the stories from Poland. Chuck's teaching is translated by a field pastor into the Polish language, and you'll be encouraged to know that God is touching thousands of lives in that part of the world. To give a donation today, call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or you can give online at insight.org slash donate. Cruise ships leave the harbor for Alaska all the time, but there's only one that's hosted by Insight for Living Ministries. You're invited to travel with Chuck Swindoll this summer. Every moment of your vacation is thoughtfully prepared and protected so that you can enjoy the perfect balance of rest, adventure, relaxation, sightseeing and just plain fun, all in the company of those who share your respect for God's word and God's creation.
Yeah, I'll put it this way. God had a very good day when he created Alaska. I was awestruck by the majestic mountains, the wildlife, the quaint little seaports. All my life I've wanted to see a glacier.
When I stepped out on the deck of our ship and witnessed the massive wall of ice, wow, it was truly breathtaking. Escape with Insight for Living Ministries to the great frontier, July 1st through July 8th, 2023. Call 1-888-447-0444. That's 1-888-447-0444. Or learn more at Insight.org slash events.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll continues to describe the pros and cons of ministry, next time on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Fleshly Failures That Damage a Ministry, was copyrighted in 2021 and 2023, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2023 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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