Starting out or Starting Over: The Confessions of St. Peter
APRIL 30, 2013
What got us into the ministry was Jesus and what keeps us in the ministry is Jesus, right? I knew you’d agree. You have to because there is no other logical explanation.
What we do is amazingly complex and unaccomplishable apart from supernatural intervention on a daily basis. And when I say daily I mean daily. It was Jesus who met us on our Damascus Road and we weren’t the same. It was the same Jesus who gave us a mission and we went after it. It’s a humanly impossible mission but we were willing to do it because Jesus gave it to us and walks with us in it. Jesus’ very Name delights me in a way that is impossible to explain, and for which I have no close analogy in this world.
I confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of Sinners and everything else the Apostle’s Creed says about Him. I also confess that I started out in the pastorate believing I was doing it all for Him and doing it all in His power but that often I deviated from both. I confess that I often was doing the ministry for me and my idols and in my own strength. Not always, but often enough to need to confess it. There were many times when I literally had “come to Jesus” talks with Jesus, and I had to start over in my walk and ministry. Starting out or starting over, I confess, if Jesus had not been in it, neither could I have stayed in it…the pastorate…the ministry. Nor could you. That’s why we confess, Jesus.
There’s my seminary students who are just starting out, and I remember, oh, I remember just starting out. Do you? I require them to read Dan Allender’s book To Be Told and then they have to tell me their story on paper. What an incredible gift they give me as they pull back the veil on their lives and honestly reflect on them. I feel very priestly about those stories, very confidential and protective. At times I want to pump my fist and shout “Yes!” when I read the stories of a great home and good nurturing and men ready to go at ministry from a life built on Jesus from their earliest of days. At other times I get up and walk around in a daze because I’ve read of childhood’s without Jesus and with parents who I’d like to have arrested on abuse charges…parents I’d like to meet in a dark alley and give them a piece of my mind I can ill afford to lose. I’m a veteran pastor who I think has seen it all, but when I read this past week of a young man who confessed to me in his paper, for the very first time, to anyone, that he had been sexually abused several times by men in his young life, I just about couldn’t hold it together. But it was Jesus who has put this quality young man together and has redeemed his life. If it weren’t for Jesus, he wouldn’t be starting out in ministry. No one would.
I was at the restaurant where I teach a morning Bible study each week. A bunch of guys filed in from a really great mission nearby dedicated to rescuing guys who had no where else to go. A friend of mine works the streets of Orlando, and when he finally finds a guy who wants to get off the streets, this mission is where they go. These guys had all been on the streets, were over come by drugs and/or alcohol; I’d say all of them had lost their families. All of them had failed in all the ways that matter in life. One of the men was a man I went to seminary with 30 years before. I was stunned. He told me his story. Booze had gotten him, and he had graduated from the program, and wanted the next step back into normalcy. But he’s still in the mission. He’s starting over, and Jesus is his only hope. I have a pit in my stomach right now writing this. I confess I want to get him a job and fix life for him; I want his wife to take him back and his kids to speak to him again; but I can’t. I can’t fix his shame that burns inside him and burns his eyes with salt. Jesus can. Only Jesus.
Starting out or starting over, it’s Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 was my text this morning early…
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saintstogether with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mull over that for a few minutes again.
It’s not programs, techniques, skills, technology, our gifts or our failures that get us in the ministry or keep us in the ministry. It’s Jesus and what comes from Him. His calling, His grace, His sanctification of us and thus our sainthood, His faithfulness. Jesus the Name that charms our fears. I confess that when I run through the energy and the capital of my idols, when I can’t fill up the world class sink hole of my own insecurity, when I start out and start over, it all comes back to Jesus.
I’m a saint and so are you, because of Jesus. Confess Jesus today again with me.
Delight in His name like no other. Look nowhere else for comfort or success.
Starting out or starting over (again), from one saint to another, it is Jesus, right?
I knew you’d agree.
Grace and Peace in Jesus.