Setting aside! – 2 Corinthians 4:5-7; Philippians 2:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 10, 2016
Paul shared with his friend and mentor Timothy what he expected of those who wanted to become leaders within the church by telling him that they “must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” (1 Timothy 3:2-7 NIV) All of these were in the present tense meaning that this is how they were to be at the moment of their consideration; it did not refer to their past.
We set aside those things that are precious to us or that we want to keep for later. We set aside folks for the gospel ministry because we see in them certain spiritual characteristics that show us that they are serious about serving the Lord. And when we look at Andrew’s life we see these very characteristics. However we would do well in reminding ourselves and Andrew what it means for us to set him aside. Let’s discover what it means as he serves…
Just as Jesus was the focus of Paul’s life it is to so with the life of anyone we set aside for the gospel ministry. We discover therefore that…
I. Jesus is to be our focus! (v. 5)
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
1. Notice what Paul says here about the gospel ministry he was called and set apart for: “we do not preach ourselves”. So much that is preached from the pulpits of churches in our day and age is not the Gospel message and has little or nothing to do with Jesus. Paul made sure his ministry, his calling, was about presenting “Jesus Christ as Lord”. This literally means that he saw Jesus as his master. In fact, we read elsewhere that Paul understood his relationship with Jesus quite well, something that many today have forgotten. It gets in the way of their selfish natures that demands everything be about them. He would address his letters by stating, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God”. (Romans 1:1 NIV) For Paul “to live is Christ”, so he never preached what he thought; he lived his life “and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” When we are set apart, Jesus is to be our focus!
EXAMPLE: “keep your eye on the ball!” my hitting coach would say. “Stay focused” we would remind the Little League Team I coached; it was easy for children to get excited, depressed, or lose their focus on the field. Like when we would go and watch Clark County Youth Football there would be at least one or more players who would run the wrong way. While we are serving the Lord we can often lose track of the one we are to follow and begin to place emphasis on ourselves. When we are set apart, Jesus is to be our focus!
Why is it important for us to keep our focus when we are set aside for the Lord? Paul relates that…
II. The light of God is the only answer to the world’s darkness! (V. 6)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
1. Never forget that the most beautiful sunset, cutest newborn, or a glorious starry sky is tainted by the decay if sin. Paul would remind us: “For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31 NIV) Everything that exists is tainted. In fact, Paul had just written that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) This is why Paul wrote that it was “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Since we have that light within us we are to share it with those around us who are caught in the darkness of sin. We are reminded that “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12 NIV) Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV) The light of God is the only answer to the world’s darkness!
EXAMPLE: Without artificial light the world could not do much of what it does. When the storms blow or folks get caught in a cave or pile of rubble, they always talk about the number caught in darkness, the hours spent in darkness, or how the darkness felt. We value the light. Yet far too few value the true light that gives illumination to all mankind. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5 NIV) The light of God is the only answer to the world’s darkness!
If the one we set aside forgets to keep the main thing, the main thing they forget what their calling is to be about. Jesus is not about them; in fact, Paul relates…
III. Our ministry is about the power of God! (v. 7)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
1. Paul never forgot where he came from. He often reminded his readers and listeners of his past life. However, he never wallowed in his past mistakes. He knew it was useless and spiritually defeating to do so. Paul could boldly state, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9 NIV) The ministry Paul was called to never was about himself. The ministry we are called to is not about ourselves either — it is totally about Jesus! Paul viewed his life as one being emptied out like a water jar made of clay. Our physical form is made by the hand of God like a pot in the hands of a potter our lives are molded and to be used for God’s purposes, not ours. Paul would write, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:17-18 NIV) Our ministry is about the power of God!
EXAMPLE: We lose focus in life when we begin to think that what we do is about us and not about Jesus. It is not about the accolades, the money, or any momentary fame. Too much of ministry is done today in the light of personal accomplishment and not the calling of God. If we can do it on our own then it isn’t the power of God being displayed. Ministry is not about how much better you can do something that someone else, how clever you are, how good an author you are, or how hip your ministry is — our ministry is about the power of God!
Let me finish by reminding all of this morning how Paul viewed his calling and the calling of others. He wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ 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, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV) When we are set apart, Jesus is to be our focus! The light of God is the only answer to the world’s darkness! Our ministry is about the power of God!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.