Sometimes we act like Jesus’ disciples did, totally missing the fact that God abundantly provides for us. We fail to remember that God can take our meager portions and multiply them if we just bring what we have to Him. The feedings of the 5,000 and then the 4,000 are repetitive lessons not just of those disciples’ failures, but our failures to give God the glory He deserves. Having also been with Him so long, we simply lack, at times, the insight that we should possess about God (cf. John 14:9).
John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Lack of Insight Concerning Justification
We must be careful not to make the mistake of Pharisaical praying: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11); when in fact we often can be like other men or even worse. We have failed to have insight into the Cross when we think such things. We have failed to see Jesus and His Work as absolutely necessary for our justification. Justification is God’s action in time to carry out His purpose in eternity to save people. God’s one justifying act paid for our sins completely.
But lack of insight will not only cause us to fail to see the fact of the Cross; it will cause us to fail to put our faith in Christ receiving justification. The opposite of justification is condemnation. Those in a state of condemnation do not believe because they do not understand or have insight into the action that God has performed on behalf of sinners. They do not believe in that justification because they do not understand its necessity. John Kitchen writes “Light breaks through wherever the truth about Jesus is spoken” (The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, Kress Christian Publications, 2009 p.531). And we must speak the truth concerning justification to ourselves and others for the sake of Glory (God’s Glory, that is).
Lack of Insight into Sanctification
We must be careful not only of Pharisaical praying, but for lack of a better term: selfish Christianity. The principle that he who waters will himself be watered (Prov. 11:25) has become a forgotten sign post in the church. Sanctification happens on ministry’s road, not apart from it. The disciple who is dong nothing, will gain nothing. We find ourselves fed often after we have first passed out the baskets to others at our Lord’s bidding (cf. Mark 6:43; Matt. 14:20; Luke 9:17; John 6:13).
But if we remain in our little quarter of the world, eating our poor lunch ourselves, we never experience the rich measure of God’s provision in Christ. Sanctification may be defined as the holiness that results by enjoying and displaying our justification, and declaring justification by faith for all people who will believe through Jesus Christ. It is on the road of enjoying justification, displaying it, and declaring it for others, that sanctification takes place.
- We must enjoy justification by knowing it to be ours. 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” We come to know our justification through devotion to the means of grace including the Bible, read and taught publicaly; belonging to the assembled church; taking of the Lord’s Supper regularly; and going to the church prayer meetings. This is what we see in Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
- We must enjoy justification by displaying it in our lives. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” They became “imitators” of the apostles and the Lord because they received the Word not merely in theory, but in the midst of real life affliction and with the joy of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit was making them holy, practically speaking, as manifestation of their justified lives. Philippians 2:1-8 teaches us that since there is encouragement in Christ, live like Christ!John 15:8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
When we are displaying ‘the justifying Christ’ in our lives there is a fullness of joy to be had.
- We must enjoy justification by declaring it to all peoples. Jesus commanded us to make disciples based on His authority (Matt. 28:18-20). There is an expectation on the part of Jesus that the authority by which He commanded all of His disciples to make disciples would produce more disciples. This is not always, nor often, in vast numbers (cf. Acts 16-17).There are roads that are full of closed doors, but not forever barren (Acts 16:6-10). There are also places and cultures that predominately reject the gospel and have only “some” who receive it (Acts 17:34). However, multiplication is still part of justification’s intent; an intent by which God is glorified.
Lack of Insight into Multiplication
We must endeavor to spread the gospel with both love for God and for people. We should be terribly convicted when we are more annoyed with people than in love with them. The whole reason we must write and teach people is because we love people. This lack of regular insight into the fuel of ministry leaves us frustrated at times. We must nurture love. A loveless ministry is ugly and ineffective (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
We must not love the work more than we love the Lord and His people. The reason Glory can stay on the market is because we have insight into these things, not lack thereof. The reason Glory is on the market is because ‘we have graciously been given’ insight in these things:
- We have been justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ alone.
- We are being sanctified by living out this aforementioned justification with joy-filled efforts that come from God’s eternal purposes which provide us certain and lasting hope.
- We are being multiplied through sharing this justification with others in love with God and His people.
While in some respects, we are truly fed first by justification, what keeps the wheels of glory turning is not our seeking to feed ourselves but rather: What keeps glory on the market is loving people in our writing and teaching first, and as a result walking away with a basket full of fruit.
Mark 6:38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
By God’s grace, teachers often sit down to prepare an article or a sermon for others, and when done, with insight they come out with a basket full of fruit for themselves as well 🙂