Here are some jottings on the parable of the minas from Luke 19:11-27.
- The nobleman departing to receive a kingdom and return parallels our Lord having gone to heaven and promising to return (v12)
- Each of the servants receives the same amount, one mina. This speaks of each one having the same opportunity to use what they had received. Each of us has the same amount of time in the day. Circumstances may vary, but we all have opportunity to service (v13)
- The environment in which the servants served was hostile. The citizens of the nobleman hated him. The servants were serving an absent Lord who was hated by their fellow nationals. That is our situation now, We are serving the Master in a hostile environment (v14)
- The first servant to appear for the assize by the master has laboured to earn ten further minas. It is interesting that he is first to meet the master it is as if he wanted to be there first. Here was a man who knew that his master was a good and gracious master. He had obviously laboured zealously. Dare we say he had taken risks in order to maximise the gain from trading. This reminds me of David’s mighty men and how they risked much for their master (see 2 Samuel 23:8-39). Those who know that their master is good and generous will risk much for His cause. Am and are you doing that for our Master in heaven?
- The first servant who earned ten minas got a “well done” from the master. The second who earned five minas did not get a well done; he did get a reward though. His love for His master, whilst in evidence, did not spur him to the same extent as the first (v20).
- The man who considered his master to be severe was not incentivized to work for the master. He rather just protected what He had. He fundamentally did not understand the master. He mistook the masters’ actions in legitimately controlling the kingdom as actions of a domineering tyrant (v21). The master said he should at least have taken the most minimal of risk and invested his money.
- Such a man has the mina taken from him and given to another; the man with ten (v24).
- In the teaching of vv24-26 we see how the Lord trusts those who labour zealously for Him as a generous Lord. They can be trusted to use it well. The one who did not use what he has has that taken away. The principle is that the trustworthy who love the Master get more. The ones who do not serve the Master will not be a given further opportunity to serve him.
- The final declaration is of those consigned to destruction by the Master because they were not true servants.
- A final question what happened to the other seven servants? I do not know.
- The main lesson is that the Lord wants us to consider Him to be a good and generous Master. The more we appreciate that then the more we will take risks for Him and faithfully serve Him.
John the Baptist was a great servant of the Lord. I want to ponder upon some aspects of his service as they are conveyed in Luke 3:15-20.
He got people thinking (see v15). An anodyne ministry which provokes no-one to wonder and question and ponder is a deficient ministry. In Luke 3:15 we see the people questioning. John the Baptist got people’s minds going.
He pointed people to Christ (see v16). John knew that he was the forerunner to introduce Christ Jesus. He speaks of the majestic superiority of Christ. He thought of himself in terms of the lowliest servant, and that was too high a thought. Tying of laces was only for the most menial of servants at that time.
Judgement (see v17). John preached that was a time of judgement coming. He preached of a time when all must face their maker. He spoke in terms of the either / or of judgement. You are either blown away in unquenchable fire or rescued into the barn. Oh the magnitude of these issues. John was bold in preaching them.
He preached the gospel (seev18). We do not readily think of John the Baptist as a gospel preacher. We read through in v18 that he is preaching the good news.
He was courageous (see vv19-20), John was not afraid to confront the king and confront him about his sin. He did this even though it led him to be imprisoned.
What a faithful man. What a faithful ministry. How about you? How about me? Are we faithful servants who minister like John the Baptist?
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. These are Pauls’ words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:14. In the context they refer to the need to be good custodians of the faith once delivered to the saints (see Jude 1:3). We are to watch over the truth of God like security guards guarding vaults of gold bullion. This is a task that God has called all believers to, but especially those, like Timothy, who hold a position of responsibility in the church.
What is striking about the injunction though is the fact that this responsibility can only be carried out by the Holy Spirit. This is that precious Holy Spirit who has residence within every true believer in Jesus Christ. This special gift is also the essential enabler of all that we do for God. To rely on ourselves for the requisite strength to undertake the works and service that the LORD calls us to, is a recipe for failure. Timothy can only keep this deposit of truth if he relies on the Holy Spirit.
This is true not only for Timothy, but for all of us. Moreover, it is true not only for guarding the good deposit, but for any task we are called to by God. To speak of a self-dependent servant of the Lord is an oxymoron. A true servant of the Lord is always fully dependant upon the Lord. Every time I engage in any activity for the Lord I should stop and ask: am I relying on the Holy Spirit in doing this.
I suggest, though, that this can go further into all aspects of living for God. Anything and everything, whether of the most menial or major tasks, should be undertaken in Holy Spirit dependency. Which raises the question: how can I know I am depending on the Holy Spirit? To which I offer the reply, it is through:
- Prayer. Seeking the Lord for the task in hand.
- Asking. Actually saying to the Holy Spirit; I need your help.
- The Word. If we are not acting in live with the precepts and principles of the Word then we will not have the Holy Spirit with us.
- Fellowship. Sharing with others about what you are doing, having them pray for you, receiving their rebukes and counsel are all helpful. Through these means we will be being pushed into the Holy Spirit’s way.
Envy is a sin that can grip the souls of all of us, It is that sense of displeasure that arises when we here of others being successful or prospering in a certain way. Church leaders are particularly susceptible to these things.
King Saul was an envious man. We read this of him in 1 Samuel 18:6-9:
As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul kept an eye on David from that day on.
This is a display of envy which shows all the classic features thereof.
- It does not delight in the success of others. Saul did not celebrate David’s achievements.
- It hates to hear others being praised over and above yourself.
- It seeks harm for the other person. We read how Saul’s envy led to him wanting and striving to eliminate David.
- Envy takes a soul from love to hate. We read And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armour bearer (1 Sam. 16:21). Alas this love faded and was supplanted by hatred. So we read: And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David ( 1 Sam. 19:2).
If you are a church leader it is easy to slip into envying other church leaders and churches. They have more numbers; they have better gifts: they receive more mention in the Christian press: they see more people being converted. The list could go on.
In many ways when we lose sight of our Saviour then envy can infect our souls. When we see our Saviour giving up all for our sins, we start to see our bankruptcy and unworthiness. This leads us into seeing how blessed we are in Christ. As a result we start to long for the progress of all of our fellows brothers and sisters and servants of the Lord. We long for them to grow in Christ. Moreover, we become driven by desires for the gospel of this grace to reach and transform many. We have no desire to “big ourselves up” and “little others down”. Our goal is for Christ our Lord to be big and made bigger still.
A sight of Jesus and His cross dispels all envy. A Christ-focused man cannot be an envious man.
John 13:1-20 gives a visual illustration of Philippians 2:5-11. In the latter passage we read:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The parallelism with John 13 is seen in two key acts of the Lord in that passage. In John 13:4 we read that He rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. Then in 13:12 we read: When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them.
In laying aside His garments he demonstrated what He did when He left glory. He laid aside the outward manifestation of His glory. His taking the cloth around His waist shows Him undertaking servant work. Whilst His final retaking of His garments indicates the re-taking of the outward display of His glory.
One part of this process which is often overlooked is the fact that the cloth around His waist was never removed in John 13. He retook the insignia of glory, but never disrobed himself of the garments of His service.
Accordingly, we delight in the teaching conveyed by this symbolism. The One who is now in glory continues in service; He continues His ministry on behalf of His children. In particular as our great High Priest (see Heb. 4:14-16) and as our Advocate (see 1 John 2:1), He is there in heaven for us. In heaven today as High Priest to succour us so that we do not sin. And also as Advocate to plead our cause when we do sin.
Oh praise be to His Name that the One in glory retains His servant character. And we thereby are blessed.
The radicalised Muslim inculcates doctrines of death. Jihad is what drives him.
The radicalised Christian inculcates doctrines of life. The love of Christ is what drives him.
The non-radicalised Christian and Muslim are pretty much alike. The love of ease and a quiet life are what drive them both.
Am I spreading death, life or indifference?
I fear that we are far too lackadaisical in our approach to the affairs of church life. We accept standards that are far too low as regards to how we order our church affairs.
I fear that this is all to do with the fact that we are in essence a volunteer entity. If you are employed a contact and financial remuneration determine that you need to perform to a certain standard. In church though, generally there is no contract and no financial remuneration and or standards can slip.
So we very easily give the impression of casualness and disorderliness. But this should not be so. As Paul says we are the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15b)
We are the church of the living God. Each true church does not stand as some insignificant entity whose activities are of no consequence. No each church stands to represent the God who is God and that God alone.
How can we be doing anything other then striving for excellence when the One we serve is the all beautiful ruler of the universe. We are not some tin-pot republic we are the Lord’s temple.
Oh the joy of my first foray into the blackberry harvest this summer. So first thing this morning (at about 7.30 actually) I was out with May Lin picking in Blenheim Park here in Feltham which is a short distance from our home (see photo here). There was a sense of returning to many happy exploits in gathering fruit among the brambles over previous years.
I am left wondering why there is such a sense of enjoyment with this activity. One must be the sense of accomplishment. To see the container fill and be filled with blackberries gives a very tangible sense of having achieved something. After a Sunday when you really do not know how much was accomplished through the preaching of the Word, the pastoring of the Bible and the seeking to live in (and lead others into) the ways of Christ, Monday morning was different. The two containers filled with blackberries mean that my labour has got results. But what of my labour yesterday some would say they appreciated things, but that does not necessarily translate into transformed lives. So a Monday morning comes as a happy relief in terms of labour bringing immediate tangible results.
The sense of adventure is also appealing. Seeking to push through the brambles to reach the recessed fruit gives a certain fulfilment. This, combined with a few scratches on the legs, arms and body, all add to the feeling of the harvest having been achieved through some cost.
And then there is the eating of the fresh fruit. There is something special about having breakfast with the fruit that has just been picked. Others can share the blessing through eating the fruit picked and the am that May Lin might make with the blackberries.
So it was a happy start to the day.
We serve a Saviour who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 28:20b). We are called by Him to be servants ourselves. He gives this great teaching through his own example in John 13:1-20. He says If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15)
The Christian has a bias towards serving others. If there is not that bias in the heart and attitude of servant we can rightly question whether they are a true servant of the greatest master of all.
Accordingly a question that should be in our hearts always and on our lips frequently, is “How can I help?” We ask this question because in a Christlike manner we want to use all our energies to help others.
So in the church, and any situation in fact, don’t just wait to be asked, be asking others about how you can help. If you are such a person then you will be a delight to have around. And you will be a living demonstration of the life of your Lord and Saviour.
My traversing of different churches earlier in the year has led me to ponder upon the issues related to order, rigidity, familiarity and informality. When I use these terms I am thinking of the general structure of our services.
I am left wondering whether our churches at the more conservative end of the evangelical spectrum, have not adopted an overly rigid form. We have justified under the guise of being orderly and reverent.
We have seen the excesses of the charismatic movement and deemed that anything that smells of the charismatic approach to worship needs to be rejected. So as soon as someone lifts their hands or claps or moves their body in worship, we conclude, with pharisaical like undertones, that they are “going charismatic”. This, of course, alternatively, means they are “going-off-the-rails.”
We instead stick with our rigid formality and comfort ourselves on being faithful and reverent whilst all the time having no sense of God.
Now I am not arguing for chaos. But I am arguing that we need to think about how we reflect the working of God in our services. I know that some people (and some cultures) are more demonstrative in worship than others and perhaps we. anglo-saxon Brits. are less so. But surely there can be more room for the showing of emotion and expressing that in different ways in our worship services. In this context I have written previous;y here about David and Michal.
Let us also be thoughtful of those from those more demonstrative cultures who come among our churches. I feel we have lost many over the years from our church, Feltham Evangelical, because they could not accommodate themselves to our church culture. Many, I feel, we could have led into a better understanding of God’s way, but alas they moved on from us. There were things they liked about our church, but we expected them to adjust too much. In the end they went somewhere they were more comfortable with. It all makes me wonder whether we could have done more to prevent this.