Have you ever been so ecstatic about the opportunity to baptize a dear friend who has come to faith in Christ Jesus? I recently baptized my friend and she stated, “I’m no longer a slave to sin!” Romans 6:11 tells us, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." She now affirms her proper identity, dead to sin and alive in Him. But as the wife of a church planter and pastor, I know that many of us can attach our identity to the wrong things. For instance, have you ever been tempted to put your identity in the numbers in your church attendance? This can be a weekly, monthly, or annual struggle. If it is not this it can be any other ministry that comes with this rigorous Christ-centered work. Dear Friends, I want us all to remember our only boast is in Christ and His final and decisive work! He brings the people to the point of them realizing they need a faithful shepherd. We must regularly remind ourselves we are temporary shepherds, and if we are truly honest with ourselves, we know we fail in comparison to Christ.
My new believing friend came to our church, not because of anything I did or planned. She was working with a woman at a beauty salon who decided to start attending our church with her family. Striving to be a faithful witness with the few she had been given she invited her to come with her. This reminds me of how Jesus remained faithful to the Mission the Father gave Him to do with a few: Peter, James, and John. He didn't let the numbers of His followers dictate how successful He was as a shepherd. But rather He would lay down his life for them.
Isn’t our highest calling to treasure Jesus more than anything? Our Savior tells us when we are striving toward that end we will also fulfill the second greatest commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:18). When we are tempted to trust in the newcomers for happiness, we must remember the Lord has given us a great way to impact the Kingdom for Christ by investing in the few. Some of those people will be unbelievers who walk in the church and simply hear a faithful message. Yet, He has chosen us all to empower the believers to reach these few with faithful discipleship.
When I began talking to my friend about the Gospel, Jesus changed her heart and impacted her life more than my mere message. Jesus used the faithful message she consistently heard from our Sunday Gatherings, our Refuge Community, and in my personal time with her to soften her heart of stone (Ezek 36:26-27). So remember when you have labored for long hours preparing your sermon on Sunday morning, the countless conversations you have had over coffee, the many tears you have to spend with others through prayer, or any other forms of faithful ministry, this is the kind of death Jesus called us to carry out today (Luke 9:23). You've died to serve your Lord, the Chief Shepherd (II Cor 5:14-15). He has entrusted us all with His sheep, and we are to tenderly and ruggedly die for them by laying down our lives for them as Christ did. Has Christ brought you near to Him to merely tolerate you? NO! He lived among us, faithfully obeyed the Father to the point of death (Phil 2:8), and saved us from Satan, sin, and death. Specifically to pastors, you have a great high calling to guard and, "shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Pet 5:2).
Christ lived His whole life in obedience to the Father and for the sake of others, “and he died for all, that those who live no longer live for themselves but for him who for your sake died and was raised again" (II Cor. 5:15). Isn't this the symbol of baptism, the burial of death of a self-centered sinful lifestyle and instead living for Christ's glory? Dear brothers and sisters, there are continual deaths throughout this life that King Jesus has called us to. Renew your faith today by remembering Jesus Christ has set you free from the death and eternal separation from God the Father. Our standing with God has been restored by Jesus. It does not end there because He promised He would empower us by His Spirit to remind us this broken, betrayed body does not live for itself anymore. Faithfulness to the Word of God and intentional discipleship in your congregation may be the tools He uses to reach the nations. If He has used me, and many others, as an instrument of grace in my friend's life, He can use you too. No matter how big or small the number of those people, you have been chosen to proclaim the Gospel at this church, in this location, for His glory. Do not become weary for He has appointed His faithful few to fulfill His plans for His purposes. Frank Houghton wrote this helpful stanza in his song Facing a Task Unfinished:
We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose
Ours is the same commission
The same glad message ours
Fired by the same ambition
To Thee we yield our powers
We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord
May we all bear the torch as those who give our lives proclaiming that Jesus died and rose. We have all been called to go into all the world with a kingdom hope unfurled. Neither your name nor mine has the power to save; no, that only belongs to Jesus Christ our LORD.