EZEKIEL COLLEGE OF THEOLOGY (ANGLICAN COMMUNION) 2013 GRADUATION RETREAT AND SERVICE HELD ON 5TH JUNE, 2013
BY RT REVD. DR. J. AKIN ATERE
LECTURE 1 & 2
TOPIC: SPIRITUALITY, THE ONLY WEAPON FOR A MINISTER TO MAKE EFFECTIVE IMPACT IN HIS MINISTRY
One of the scandals of the Christian Church today is the carnality of its members. Instead of spiritual vitality, spiritual weakness is the widespread condition. Worldliness reigns. Yet there are tens of thousands of Church leaders who deeply long to lead their sheep to a better life in Christ. They know that God’s word promises perfect peace; that it speaks of a faith that overcomes the world and a joy that is unspeakable; that it described a life of ever-abiding communion with Christ, hidden in the hollow of God’s hand. There are two levels or stages in the Christian life (1) The lower level i.e. life under the power of the flesh (2) Life in the power of Spirit. In 1 Cor. 3:1-4 “And I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ, I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas; there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul: and another, I am of Apollos are ye not carnal?” Here you find reference to both kinds of Christians (the spiritual and the carnal). To be spiritual is to be growing in faith and love, led forward by the spirit of God. To be carnal is to be worldly and immature, ruled by self and the impulses of the flesh.
In light of this, the Apostle Paul says that when he teaches, he first considers which of the two categories the audience are, for if he gave spiritual food to the carnal believers, it would do them no good.
If we have a beautiful little child of six months, with its chubby hands and feet, you would say “what a perfect child”. But if in a year we found that the child had not grown an inch, we would conclude that something is wrong. If in another one year we still found no growth, we would at once say there is some terrible disease in that child. “Where there is health there is growth.” That is what Paul is saying to the Corinthians. Many of us church ministers, still behave like babes in Christ. Before you were converted or called into the ministry you may be carnal because you are still young and does not really know what sin is. But now as a church leader you have not grown but remain the same. There is some terrible disease, and that disease is the carnal mind. Any church leader of whatever status under the power of the flesh is in a state of protracted infancy.
The Epistle to the Hebrew states that after one has been a Christian for a period of time, ought to be a teacher helping others yet the persons described by Paul to be fed with milk and were not able to take meat as would a full-grown man.
What are the marks of a baby? A baby cannot help himself nor can he help others. That is the pattern for many church minister. They go to seminary, claimed to be called by God, serve as deacons, priests, become canon or Archdeacon even bishop, they lead prayer meetings, conduct services, attend conferences and retreats but are ever seeking help from others. Their ministry are not helping others but useless to their generation, you find them majoring in the minors. Among them Paul points out envying, strife and divisions. In Galatians 5, envying, strife etc. are listed as works of the flesh, don’t we have among us who have been given a good measure of the grace of God and yet have never really conquered their temper: How many of us love as God wants us to – able to love the unlovable. Some give way to pride, conceit, worldliness, the desire of the eye, the longings of the flesh and boasting about status, position, power and authority – These are not child-likes but childish ministers.
A things always get its name from what its most prominent characteristic. A spiritual minister gets his name from the fact that the spirit triumphs and rules his life, you can not be in close touch with such minister without discovering that the spirit is leading, guiding and controlling him and his ministry. He is called spiritual because spirituality is his Chief characteristic. Paul writes to the Corinthians “know yee not that ye are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you (1 Cor.6:15).
Let me say clearly here that we should not take spirituality for spiritual gift, in the case of the Corinthians. In he first chapter Paul says ‘I thank God… that in everything ye are enriched by Him (God) in all utterance and in all knowledge” There were certainly spiritual gifts among the Corinthians; gifts of prophecy, tongues, and many other most remarkable gifts. Indeed the gift of tongues was so remarkable that Paul had to caution them to be careful in their use of it. A minister may have a spiritual gift of preaching and be able to speak with power and yet his private life may be filled with pride. A man may be an evangelist and lead hundreds to Christ and yet people will say “How full of himself” or “I don’t believe in that man”. May I make this plain, that a man may claim the baptism of the Holy Spirit and actually receive it as the endowment of power and of zeal and yet that man may be terribly lacking in the single grace of a holy life – In humility, gentleness, tenderness before God and man, and that meekness of the Lamb of God which is the Chief grace of a pastors’ life may be lacking.
Paul did not want the Corinthians to remain in the carnal state, he wanted them to move to spiritual. There is a life in the spirit, such expression as “walk in the Spirit” live in the spirit” “by the spirit mortify (i.e. put to death) the deed of the body.” Take the 16th verses of 8th chapter of Roman, a minister cannot fail to see that God wants him to be spiritual man. In Galatians it is said “if we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” And walk in the spirit and yee shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” Your walk is your conduct, your course of life, your lifestyle. It does not just mean pray for the spirit before preaching and other things may live after the flesh. It must be walking in the Spirit at all times. In Romans Chapter seven, Paul spoke of a believer, a regenerated man (minister) who delights in the law of God after the inward man but find another law in his members that leads him into captivity to the law of sin and death. He says “The law of the spirit of life has made me free from the law of sin and death” It shows that the power of the Holy Spirit is stranger than the flesh. Paul says “ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you, the Spirit is suppose to take possession of you. The Spirit surrounds you on-every side with a divine power that is breathed into you and that constitute your life.
Have you ever thought about how wonderful it is that the Spirit of God becomes the very spirit of your life? He comes into your very being, and just as your thinking and willing and feeling are your very nature, so by the Holy Spirit, you become a partaker of the divine nature. No wonder Paul says “They that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit.” To be spiritually minded is to have the disposition of the Holy Spirit; heavenly-minded is a mind that has the Spirit’s guidance and the disposition of heaven, it’s life and peace. That is what Paul meant in writing to the Philippians “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” For instance, God’s word says “love thy neighbour as thyself” you have tried hard but failed, because it is not natural. But it is not difficult for a mother to be gentle and loving, because it is her natural disposition. Just so, the Holy Spirit will make your disposition to be spiritually minded.
The work of a minister is enormous, As a shepherd you are to feed, defend, guide, discipline. As elder, you must behave maturely, be respected. You are to be an overseer. Practitioner of the marks (preaching, administering the ordinances, sacraments), to teach and required to stick to a workable schedule.
It staggers me to think about the weight of the responsibility God has on the pastor/minister for the church. Many certainly have failed and thousand will still fail because you are like sheep ministering in the midst of wolves. You are life in the midst of thousand of dry bones. Whereas you are to preach God’s word, watch over every member of the flock, visit them to know their state. Pray to model Christ-likeness, by loving them unconditionally, promote family, managing the church, living exemplary lives, rightly using the authority God has given in teaching the Bible correctly. Taking care of the sick, widows, widowers, orphans, downtrodden, refuting false teaching, working hard, rightly dispensing church fund, discipline unrepentant Christians at the same time obeying the secular laws as the legal ruling body. The following passages also explain the duties of the church ministers. 1 Timothy 5:17; 3:4-5, Acts 20:28; 1 Pet.5:2; 1 Thess. 5:12; heb.13:17;Eph.4:11, Titus 1:9.
TRAITS OF SPIRITUALITY IN A MINISTER
Every minister needs three types of relationships in his life to kick start a fruitful ministry that will be spiritually fulfilled. He needs a ‘Paul’ who can mentor him and challenge him. He needs a ‘Barnabas’ who can come along side and encourage him. And a ‘Timothy’, someone that he can pour his life into.
Paul Spirituality is set as example to every minster; He was a spiritual father not only to Timothy and Titus but also to churches as well. Paul sometimes referred to himself in a fathering-type of role and he articulated certain characteristics he exhibited toward those to whom he ministered.
- He did not flatter them. 1 Thess 2:5(a) “For neither at any time used we flattering words as ye know” he wasn’t buffering them up because of this, they loved him so that he could get something out of them.
- He was not covetous toward them (1 Thess.2:5(b) “nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.” He did not see their relationship as means of milking tem or enriching himself.
- He did not seek glory of men – he was not seeking to be exalted (1 Thess 2:6) “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.” he was not gathering disciples around himself to feed his ego.
- He was not demanding, controlling, manipulating or dictatorial 1 Thess 2:6
- He exhibited a heart-felt compassion concern for their wellbeing.
- He was gentle towards them (1 Thess 2:7)
- He cherished them (1 Thess 2:7)
- He longed for them affectionately (1 Thess 2:8)
- He not only gave them the gospel, but he gave his own life for them(1 Thess 2:8)
- They were dear to him (1 Thess.2:8)
- He exhorted, comforted and charged every one of them, as a father does his children (1Thess.2:11)
- His energies and efforts went towards their spiritual development (Gal.4:19) “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”
- He was not in shaming but did feel obligated to warn them. He wasn’t putting them in a guilt trip or making them feel intimidated (1 Cor.4:14) “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”
- He was more than a mere teacher – he wasn’t just passing information but he had “begotten them” through the gospel and was setting example they could follow in their spiritual development (1 Cor.4:15-16) “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ ye not many begotten you through the gospel.”
- He wasn’t seeking what was theirs (their money), but was seeking them (2 Cor.12:14) “Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you: and I will not be burdensome to you: for I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”
- He was willing to spend and be spent for them – in other words he was willing to live and give sacrificially for them – for their advancement and development. (2 Cor.12:15)
If you are a mature/spiritually minded minister (not babe) these are the trait you will exhibit toward those you have the priviledge of influencing.
WHAT ARE THESE SPIRITUAL WEAPON THAT MAKE YOU A FULFILLING MINISTER THAT WILL MAKE IMPACT
Gun, knives, and bombs are effective against the enemies that we can see in the physical realm; but they have no power against the one we cannot see in the spiritual realm Paul testified to this in 2 Cor,10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapon of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” To fight spiritual forces, we need to be spiritual. One thing we must also note is that Satan’s most effective weapon against the church is simply their ignorance or in many cases their refusal to concede the truth of his existence. Once we acknowledge the external and internal evil spiritual influences has been made, combating them by holding up a crucifix, wearing a salic necklace, possessing an unused Bible, going to the beach, wearing certain garment etc. will not work. Only by constantly keeping our spirit Rom.8:9(a),11 “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit…But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit that dwells in you.” and we overcome and control the sin nature which gets our members to trouble (the Holy Spirit actually helps us not to want to sin when temptation arise. Just as Jesus at God the Father’s right hand in heaven has “angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him (1 Pet 3:22(b) so we as well can cause these same evil forces in the church to us by tapping unto the power of the Holy Spirit.
As said earlier, our real daily struggles as ministers of God are not against ordinary members but against the rulers, authorities, powers of darkness in this world and evil forces in the heavens (Eph.6:12). They are all represented in our parish and diocese. They think that they themselves are the “master” of their own lives, they have ignore or rejected the Gospel message therefore they are in bondage or captivity of the truth of the Gospel, they are also blind to the truth about the spirit world and the potential dangers within. Paul showed us how, as a minister, we can resist or wage war against evil spirit relentless temptations, persuasions, advances and attacks. Eph.6:13-18(a). Obviously, the “armour of God” is a physical allegory of the “spiritual armour” we should “put on” to fight spiritual battle. Therefore, any minister without its salt, who will want to make positive impact in his ministry possess the follow seven spiritual elements that will guarantee success, fulfillment and victory.
TRUTH – King David was aware of the protective power of knowing God’s truth when he says “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord: may your love and your truth always protect me” (Psalm 40:11). Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 6:31-32). Jesus also in praying to the father for His disciples, including anyone who ever would follow Him, said “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one (Satan) …Sanctify the (set them apart) by the truth “your word is truth”. (John 17:15,17).Being blind to or being unwilling to accept any part the truth keeps one on bondage to evil and sin. As a result such minister embrace/or crave (and thus become “slave” to) false doctrine (Gal.2:4), imperfect worldly principles and knowledge and depravity rather than the perfect truth of God. Knowing and adopting the truth, found in the Bible, makes it possible for us to receive spiritual rebirth (John 3:3-6): James 1:18(a). By obeying the truth, we purify ourselves (1 Pet.22(a). It helps us to resist sin and allow us to be exempted from its eternal consequences (set s free), and it sets us apart (sanctifies us) for God’s service.
RIGHTEOUSNESS – God is perfect and wants nothing less than perfection from us “…no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law…” (Rom.3:20(a)). Yet king Solomon knew that no one on earth is, in and or oneself, righteous when in (Eccl.7:20) “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sin.” Paul now says in Rom3:21-22(a) “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ”. We receive forgiveness from the father, through the son for every bad thing we have done or will do (if we begin by admitting or acts of wrongdoing to Him and truly are sorry for them 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Righteousness simply means, following or conforming to every good and moral laws of God, though, no one except Jesus Christ ever has done right all the time. But, for those who know and accept Him personally, they “…are in Jesus Christ, who has become for us wisdom from God..that is, our righteousness…” 1 Cor.1:30. His perfect righteousness, then can constitute for that which we lack. This does not mean that it no longer necessary to do what is right. The Ancient prophet, Hosea gave us this valuable precept: “Sow to yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love and break-up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12). Jesus can and will “showers” His own righteousness in anyone who wishes to receive it. With this God-given, perfect righteousness substituting for our own (which is imperfect and constantly lacking) we can put on the “breastplate or righteousness” and thereby can qualify for God’s help in contending against the enemy’s attacks.
GOSPEL OF PEACE – Isaiah expressed, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news (the Gospel), who proclaim peace …” (Isa.52:7a) Ministers can know the message of the Gospel in many ways. Saul/Paul was made aware of the Gospel by an awesome, personal, supernatural revelation from Jesus Christ, after Jesus had been resurrected and ascended into heaven (Acts 9:3-9,17;22:6-15;26:12-18). But most hear the Gospel from believers who communicate to them the message that eternal peace and co-existence with God is possible. It is the Good News of God’s plan (as initially given to the Old testament Prophets) (Rom.1:2) of the revelation of the promised Redeemer and Messiah – Jesus (Isa.40:9) Luke 2:10-11, and of the salvation of all who believe in the redeeming power of Christ and in the grace of the father (Rom1:16;3:23-24) “Everyone who calls on the names of the Lord will be saved” Rom.10:15. But Paul asked, “How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom.10:14-15(a) Similarly, Isaiah queried who has believed our message (of the gospel) and to whom has the arm of the Lord (messiah) has been revealed? Isa.53:1. It is then one of the spiritual minister major duty to tell their parishioners the undiluted word of God, wherever our fact takes us, we must be ready to report to anyone with an open, listening ear, the Good News of eternal salvation and peace with God, available through Jesus, the messiah. With our “fact fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” it certainly God’s will to keep us safe from spiritual enemies along the way so we can tell others about Him.
FAITH– Jesus said “Have faith in God” (Mark11:22). He also told a sinful, outcast woman, “your faith has saved you, go in peace” Luke 7:50. After Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, healed a man cripple from birth, the people who knew the man were astonished to see him walking and jumping. Peter declared to the people, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him as you can see.” (Acts 3:2,6-11,16). Paul said “… it is by faith you stand firm” (2 Cor.1:24(c)). Faith is the complete acceptance of a truth which cannot be demonstrated or proved by the process of logical thought, it is being sure of what we hope, it is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrew 11:1, Faith qualifies ministers to take shelter and refuge in God. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust” (have faith) (Psalm 91:2) Ass this applies to anyone of us who has similar faith, the psalmist added, “surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:3-4) After we show God our resolution to put on the “shield of faith” to quench the fiery darts penetrating our minds from the enemy (which stir up feelings within us such as covetousness, depression, despair, disappointment, doubt, fear, guilt, greed, impurity, lust, selfishness, pride and uselessness). He Himself is faithful then to help shield us from these and other assaults against us (like sickness, complacency, confusion and misharps).
SALVATION – Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, exclaimed, “praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn (Messiah) of salvation for us in the enemies and from the hand of all who hate us…” (Luke 1:68-69,71) Peter, speaking of Jesus Christ, stated. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) Paul said that the Gospel “…is the power of God or the salvation; all have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom.3:23) and perfect standard. Salvation is not attained by doing enough good deeds to tilt the balance in our favour, it is a free gift by grace from God the father, through the son (Eph.2:8,9). Paul said “… if you confess with your mouth, that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom.10:9). Putting on the “helmet of Salvation” motivates God to guide and protect us in this life, as well as eventually to accept us into His heavenly kingdom. It is a major spiritual weapon of the minister.
THE WORD OF GOD –Is living and active. “Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the hearts” Heb.4:12 Peter wrote, “for you have been born again not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet 1:23) John, recording his end time vision – a revelation of and from Jesus Christ testified as to the validity of everything he saw, “… that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” Rev.1:2. The word of God is whatever God has wanted to communicate to people, to reveal Himself, to make known His law, to declare His will, to manifest Himself, to make known His law, to declare His will, to manifest Hid authority and to bring about His purpose. By quoting the passages from the written word, Jesus resisted directed temptation from Satan (Matt4:1-11). Minister need to know “the word” intimately. Aided by the Holy Spirit, by whom Jesus communicates with all believers, we can “…distinguish between (evil) spirit” 1 Cor.2:10(c) also should read and study the written word of God regularly. By believing in “the word” and by speaking it, we are capable of commanding demons to leave our presence (and the presence of our members) with the same authority and power that Jesus had (Matt.10:1; Luke10:17,19; Acts 16:18) and of abating the effects that Satan and the powers of evil have on our lives. Wielding he “sword of the Spirit, the word of God” we can slash through obstacles such as disease, fear and depression speaking the authoritative word of God, in the Name of Jesus releases the power and energy of the Holy Spirit; it is not “mind over matter” “but word over matter”.
PRAYER: James, a half-brother of Jesus, taught “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16(b) Paul said “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17). Jesus prayed not only for Himself (John 17:1-5) and for His disciples (John 17:6-19) but also for all believers throughout history (John 17:20-26). Urging His disciples to pray, Jesus said “I tell you the truth, my father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 16:23(b) payer is a humble communication in speech or thought to God (particularly to the father, via Jesus and the Holy Spirit) expressing supplication for oneself or for another (John 17:1-26)
When it become unlawful to pray to God or man other than King Darius under penalty of being thrown into the den of lions, Daniel still pray to God three time daily (Dan.6:7-10). When he was caught and thrown into the lions’ den. God rescued him by sending an angel to shut the mouth of the lions (Dan.6:13,16,22). Nehemiah asked that his hands would be strengthened (to build the wall) so that the intimidators of his people (Neh. 6:13(a) – 14) would be foil and so that God would be glorified, when their enemies were forced to realize that God helped these Jews in their work. Peter requested that Tabitha be raised from the dead, not only for her benefit but so that God would get the credit and many people would believe Him (Acts 9:42). This world (even the church) temporarily is Satan’s domains and most of it is under his direct or indirect control, but God readily and willingly enters into the affair of people, cities and nations when invited in by people through prayer. Most demonic powers can only be ejected by employing both prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). God wants us to pray anytime and anywhere we feel a need to do so. Prayer opens the way for God to do what He wants to do: to be of assistance to us and to glorify Himself in the process. “Pray in spirit,” and with many “kinds of prayers and request” to open the way for God to help you in spiritual battle as well as to draw attention and bring glory to Himself, particularly in the eyes of those who do not know Him and in the eyes of the enemy.
HELP FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT: The most powerful weapon a spiritual minister will need to help him back Satan advances is the Holy Spirit. Jesus, when, in human form, had the Holy Spirit indwelling Him (Matt.3:16), giving him the supernatural wisdom and power from the father to overcome the devil and his work. One of the principal reasons that Jesus came to live and die on the earth (1 John 3:8(b). Such great wisdom and power is also at our disposal if we want it and ask for it. Good angels battle evil angels and demons on our behalf. They are capable of making physical contact with each other (Dan.10:13; Rev.12:17, 20:12) and of touching us and controlling physical objects around us to help or protect us and controlling physical objects around us to help or protect us. I also believe that each of us has at least one guardian angel assigned to us Matt.18:10.
CONCLUSION: Brethren in Christ, whatever reason by which you come to the ministry, you must make yourself relevant to the Church. If you have answered the call it is then incumbent on you to make impact on the people, on the church, the Christian community and in a larger sense, the Nation. For you to be able to achieve this you must yield yourself to the Spirit, you cannot fight the battle in carnality. Making impact is to fight the battle against the enemy of the Church. The weapon that can be effectively used and conquer is SPIRITUALITY, using the example of Apostle Paul and also equipping yourselves with all the listed spiritual weapons. All the instruments are available for us to grasp. If you can follow or pray for all that we have mentioned; it will surprise you that your ministry will not only be fulfilled but a positive impact would have been made in the life of the people, the church, the diocese and all to the glory of God.
Thanks and God bless.
The Rt. Rev’d J. Akin Atere, Ph.D
Bishop, Diocese of Awori