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Are You a Minister of Grace
Scripture: Zechariah 4:1-7; Acts 4:20-35; Acts 11:1...
Track 9 of 11 in the The Freedom that Comes from Grace series
Our ministry is a ministry from the New Covenant, not from the old. The old covenant was based on the letter of the law. Unfortunately many churches are still stuck there. You and I minister in the New Covenant, one founded on grace and mercy. Jesus didnt come to condemn, the church didnt come into existence to condemn either.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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Are You a Minister of Grace?

I hesitated to use the word “minister” in the title of this lesson because I was afraid many of you would drop out of the conversation thinking this lesson didn’t apply to you. “Well that leaves me out. I’m not a preacher, I’m not an evangelist or a missionary…I don’t work for the church.” Unfortunately, that is how many Christians feel about ministry. Too many don’t see themselves in the game but as spectators on the sidelines. Ministers are those we hire to do the work full time. By ministry, I am including anyone who serves some segment of the body of Christ on a regular basis.

It is amazing how many facets of ministry is met and covered by what some consider, “everyday people”. Yes, ministry does include everyday people like you and me. In fact, ministry was designed by God to be done by everyday people because that is who all the real people hang out with. As I look around this class, I am aware of many ministries that several of you are involved in. Some are more obvious than others. The most powerful are those no one knows about because these ministers of grace are quiet, unassuming and like to work behind the scenes.

I want to ask each of you a very crucial question. Are you really a minister of grace? Let’s ask the question a little differently:

• When you do what you do, do you dispense grace?
• Are the people you serve given the freedom to be who they are, or who you expect them to be?
• Do you let others go or do you smother them… control them?
• Would folks feel intimidated or relieved in your presence?
• Are you a cultivating, spontaneous, creative person or are you fearful and captive?
• Do you encourage, build up, and affirm those whom you minister?

These are hard questions to answer all at once. These types of questions need to be thought through and contemplated on. But I bet each of you have a sense what the answers are. What I am asking is simple, are you someone who promotes freedom in others or are you a person who attempts to make other people in your image. Even more direct, are you a person who models and ministers grace or not?

• Is what you do the work of your own flesh energized by your own strength?
• Are your relying on your own charisma?
• Do you often have a hidden agenda?
• Is your motive pure and open to freedom?
• Do you attempt to exploit others or use your power for your own purposes?
• Is your image of major importance to you?
• Can you actually say, my work is directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit?

Someone tell me what they know about the prophet Zechariah? What is he famous for? Without looking, where is his book found in the scriptures?

It is amazing how many Christians don’t know much about this fascinating man. Zechariah comes into history after the walls of Jerusalem were torn down and lay in ruins. The great walls that protected the city, the might walls of Jerusalem were nothing more than piles of rubble. The temple also lay in ruins. The chosen of God liven in captivity again in the distant land of Babylon. After 70 years of captivity, the people started to make their way back to their beloved city. Some came when Nehemiah returned and provided the leadership to build the walls back up. The foundations of the Temple were again laid but 15 years later, the reconstruction hadn’t taken place. No one seemed to care. After the walls were completed, everyone seemed to go back to their own homes and rebuild them for themselves.

This caused the prophet Haggai to come and bring a stinging message from God how the temple needed immediate attention. His approach was through sharp words, strong and stinging admonitions. There are even rebukes mixed in with sarcastic comments. But after hearing these sorts of comments time after time, people can only handle that kind of preaching so long. Stinging messages over time lose their bite. After the persistence of Haggai’s messages, the temple remained unfinished.

Haggai did what he could but brought forth another prophet who had the same vision as Haggai, his name was Zechariah. His approach was more colorful and gracious. As some would say, Zechariah is a fascinating book to read. It is striking and colorful and there are parts in it that I don’t think even Zechariah himself understood what he was seeing.

Zechariah 4:1-3 Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
Have you ever been in a place or situation or even saw something that you didn’t know what it was? Yes you saw it, yes you were in a particular place but you had no understanding of it?

This is where Zachariah is. He is seeing wonderful things and he is writing down everything he sees and hears but he has no understanding what it is he is experiencing. In fact, verse 4 tells us that.

Zechariah 4:4-5 I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” He answered, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I replied.

It is at this point we will hear directly from the angel himself a wonderful explanation of what it is Zechariah sees.

Zechariah 4:6-7 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

There are some key words that we have to understand here. “Mountain” represents the huge obstacles that will have to be overcome to those taking up the task to rebuild the temple. They have many problems within the Jewish community, one of them being apathy. There is also opposition from outside the walls. There is also a new generation of Jews who grew up in captivity who never knew life with a temple so it wasn’t all that important to them. The good news in all of this, the mountain will become a plain, the obstacles with be taken care of,
No longer will shouting, prodding and beating with sharp words be necessary to move the people to work. A change is coming. Trust in the Lord, Zerubbabel, God is at work.

The other words of interest are “might” and “power”. These are the words that describe human effort, energy of the flesh. Too often ministers are guilty of doing their work through the energy of the flesh. Church leaders and congregations often help the problem by demanding that our ministers work harder. How do we get the church to grow, we just have to work harder. At first we use pep talks, sounds of encouragement. If that doesn’t work, we talk some more, maybe a little more sternly. Eventually we think yelling is what is needed to get a ministers attention or members of the congregation. The message we hear from the angel is this:

“Human wisdom and fleshly energy alone will fail.”

True or False: Fleshly power gets results. Human ingenuity works.

This fact is what complicates the true message of the angel to Zechariah. We have seen where excessive amounts of energy and manipulation causes a large number of people to do more, to work harder and to give money to get projects done. Only there is one major problem: after time, it rings hollow, it becomes empty. When compared to eternity, the work of the flesh amounts to nothing. The one who made it happen gets the glory and the rewards stop there too.

God has a better idea, God will remove the obstacles rather than by man’s strength. All the Glory goes to God and in the end, the Temple will be completed. The building will be raised because of the Grace of God, not because of the flesh of man.

So here is a strong question for all of us in ministry, Are you relying on the “might and power” of yourself rather than on the Spirit of God? If so, what is it that keeps you returning to human effort? What will it take for you to implement a “by-grace-alone” style of ministry?

A Strong Warning: Every project you undertake can be accomplished your way or God’s way.

Man is impressive. His human strength can do a lot of things and when combined with his logical thinking and creative ingenuity, it works. God acknowledges that and is impressed. That is true with the Tower of Babel. But, over time, there is a real danger. Man’s human strength causes him to think he did it alone. There is no vertical glory which often leads to no grace horizontally.

This all takes us back to the opening question I asked earlier: Are you REALLY a minister of grace?

I want to change our focus from what the wrong examples of ministry are to the right ones. What does a minister of grace look like? How does one act and live? How does a grace giver minister?

Generosity with personal possessions

Acts 4:320-35 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

To many people, including many Christians, this type of living is just way too radical. Do you know why they lived like this with one another? Because much grace was upon them. What do you think it means that much grace was upon them? What would happen if our class had much grace upon us?

True or False: An atmosphere of grace creates an absence of selfishness.

So how does this work? It isn’t my money, its God’s money so you share it. It isn’t your church; its God’s church so you share it. They aren’t your people, Preacher; they are God’s people so release them. It isn’t your project or ministry, its God’s so rely on Him.

Going back to Zechariah’s vision, it is His work done His way for His glory.

Encouragement in Unusual Situations (Absence of Predictability)

Not only will we find generosity, we will also find personal encouragement in unusual situations. Grace keeps us flexible, willing to adapt.

Do you know what the major cause of athletic injuries is? Inflexibility. When the body is not flexible to bend, turn, twist or give when hit, force has to go somewhere and it usually bends you or breaks you.

How much different is it when the church is inflexible, unable to bend or adapt to forces pressed upon it? What can happen?

Acts 11:19-21 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

How different was it to at first preach to Jews and then start preaching to Gentiles? How would the church have to adapt to start preaching to the Gentiles? Would they have to change their methods? How about their message?

True or False: It is best to try and make our style of living the standard for others to follow?

Life beyond the letter of scripture

I want to be careful here so you all know what I mean, when a Christian has grace upon them, there is an absence of dogmatism and Bible-bashing. Some of us love to get into debates. When we meet someone who loves Jesus different than us, too often we go for our guns to shoot things out. The Bible becomes an instrument of destruction rather than the soothing sounds of Grace. I love the way Paul writes about this issue to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Notice that our ministry is a ministry from the New Covenant, not from the old. The old covenant was based on the letter of the law. Unfortunately many churches are still stuck there. You and I minister in the New Covenant, one founded on grace and mercy. Jesus didn’t come to condemn, the church didn’t come into existence to condemn either.

My challenge to you this week is to read chapters 2-3 of 2 Corinthians. Paul displays for us his style of ministry. It is much different than what we would consider traditional ministry. In fact, his was quite the opposite:

A lack of professionalism (2:16, 3:5)
A presence of authentic vulnerability (2:17)
Emphasis on personal relationships (3:1-4)
Importance of a servant mentality (3:6)

And above all, an attitude of grace which leads to a teachable spirit rather than the hammerlike poundings of a dogmatic style of teaching.