Sermon: A Motivation for Ministry - 2 Corinthians 5

Here in this passage Paul gives us five things that motivated him to the ministry God had given Him - five things that should motivate every Christian in their service to God.

Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 5

Introduction

Many of us are familiar with the name Abraham Maslow. Maslow was one of the pioneers in the field of Psychology. His work is one of the pillars upon which much of modern psychology is built.

Maslow believed that self-actualization was the driving force of human personality, a concept he captured in his 1954 book, Motivation and Personality. To the world of Psychology, Maslow's great insight was to place actualization into a hierarchy of motivation. Self actualization, as he called it, is the highest drive of all humanity, but before a person can turn to it, he or she must satisfy other, lower motivations like hunger, safety and belonging. The hierarchy has five levels.

  • Physiological (hunger, thirst, shelter, sex, etc.)
  • Safety (security, protection from physical and emotional harm)
  • Social (affection, belonging, acceptance, friendship)
  • Esteem (also called ego). The internal ones are self respect, autonomy, achievement and the external ones are status, recognition, attention.
  • Self actualization (doing things)

But long before Abraham Maslow, there lived another man who spoke about motivation. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote to us about his motivation for doing what he did, for being who he was and for serving Who he served. The motivations for his actions were so far above anything this world had ever known, that they defied all of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In fact, so strong was his motivation for what he did that as he pursued them he denied his physiological needs as he often went without food and shelter, he denied his own safety needs, often being beaten and imprisoned, in the pursuit of that to which He was called, he became a social outcast and abandoned all recognition by those who the world around him deemed as important. His self-actualization was found, not in finding himself, but in losing himself to Jesus.

His inspiration was not the simple observation of his fellow humans; He was inspired to write what he wrote and to become what he became, by the Spirit of God. We know him as the Apostle Paul, and in 2 Corinthians 5:11-19 he writes to us about his motivation for ministry.

Here in this passage Paul gives us five things that motivated him to the ministry God had given Him - five things that should motivate every Christian in their service to God.

I. Motivated by the fear of the Lord

I do what I do because of WHO I serve.

Therefore takes us back to verses 9 and 10. In verse 9 Paul notes that he wants to be pleasing to the Lord, and why? Because in verse 10 he says we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. This is the place where Christians will stand. It will be a place of:

A. Reward and recognition

1 Corinthians 3:14 tells us we will we will receive the rewards of our service here on earth – depending upon what it was built of, things eternal or things perishable (gold and silver or wood, hay and stubble.)

B. A place of revelation

First Corinthians 3:13 tells us that all of our works will become evident on that day, the truth of our lives, our motives our ministry will be revealed.

Rejoicing – As we give glory to God for all He did for us and for the joys that await us.

C. A place of reckoning

as we give account for our ministries. Romans 14:12 says, "so then each one of us shall give account of himself to God." It will be a place of Reckoning, where we have to tell our Lord, how we lived the life He gave us, how we used the resources, the time, the knowledge, the education, everything we have received from His hand, we will have to give an account for.

Paul had studied the scriptures; he knew what God had told the Prophet Ezekiel applied to him as well.

God told Ezekiel in 3:17-19 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman over the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth; give them a warning fro me. If I say to the wicked person: you will surely die, but you do not warn him – you don't speak out to warn him about his wicked ways to save his life – that wicked person will die for his iniquity. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you wan a wicked person and he does not turn from his wickedness or his wicked way, he will die for his iniquity, but you have saved your life." (HCSB)

Paul was living each day in light of that day. He had met Jesus on the road to Damascus and he knew the terror of being in the presence of the living God.

It would do us well to recapture a sense of the amazement, the awe, the wonder and reverential fear of God's presence.

Psalm 33:8 "Let the whole earth tremble before the Lord; let all inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.."

Everyone in the scripture, who experienced the presence of God, knew this wonder, this sense of awe and fear. Moses had to take off his shoes, because he was on holy ground. Isaiah said, "Woe is me, for I am undone" when he came into the holy presence of God.

What a motivation for ministry, knowing that someday you and I will have to stand and give account to a God who is not a respecter of persons, a God who is a totally righteous God, who will not award us according to our intentions, but will adjudicate according to our actions.

Made manifest… Paul was motivated by the reality that our works are known to God, and we will someday be held accountable for them.

The Old spiritual song says, "are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready for the coming of the Lord? Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready for the judgment day?"

Paul says, I do what I do, because I know who there is coming a day of reckoning. I know the terror of the Lord. I am motivated by the fear of the Lord.

But it was not only the fear of the Lord that motivated Paul. Here in verse 14 it is also the knowledge of what Jesus has done for him, it is the Love of Christ that motivates him.

II. Motivated by the love of Christ

I do what I do because of What He has Done for me.

Look in Vs. 14 The love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross, compels us,

Not only do I do what I do because I know who I serve,

I do what I do because of what He has done for me.

The word "Compels" in its basic sense is that of two things holding or pressing together, perhaps with something caught in the middle. It means to be gripped with an inner pressure. It is a word Paul uses to describe how the love of Christ, has gripped him, what Jesus has done on the cross and the knowledge of what it cost Jesus, compels him, drives him to live for Christ and not for himself.

The same verb is used in Luke 8:45, you remember when the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus and Jesus says, "who touched me?" The disciples said, "The multitudes are crowding and pressing upon you." The idea here is that Jesus was caught in the middle of a crowd and was being pushed, carried along by the crowd.

In the same way, Paul is saying that he is surrounded by the love of Christ and it pushes him, compels him to live for Christ and not himself.

There is no motivation stronger than coming to the understanding, not only that someone loves me, but that they loved me enough to die for me.

This is what Paul had said in Galatians 2:19-20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved men and gave Himself for me."

This is a great motivating factor in Paul's life and ministry, which were inseparable. Jesus died for me, and in Him I have died to myself and my life is now His life, therefore what He did, I do, but even more, it is not me that does it, but Jesus does it by living in me and through me.

Therefore all died…. Dead to self-centered living, dead to personal agendas, dead to personal ambitions, but alive to Jesus.

It has been well said that, "Christ died our death for us that we might live His life for Him."

It is easy to lose the passion of that love, to lose perspective on what it is Jesus has done for us, to allow the love for other things to replace the passion the love of Christ elicits in our souls. Paul had not lost it, Paul had this passion, it drove him, it urged him on, it was one of the motivations for ministry and evangelism in his life. It should be so in the life of every believer. Paul was motivated by the Love that Jesus had for him.

As Ray Palmer wrote in his great Hymn, "My Faith looks up to Thee."

"May thy rich grace impart, strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire,

As thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee, pure warm and changeless be, a living fire."

Paul was motivated by the Love of God that was so powerfully demonstrated on Calvary's cross.

But not only was he motivated by the fear of the Lord and by the Love of the Lord, it goes even deeper than that, Paul was…

III. Motivated by being a new creation in Christ

I do what I do because of What He has made me to be.

Look in verse 17, Therefore, since He died for me, since I've died to myself, since I am no longer living according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…

I am in Christ and He has made me a new Creation.

I do what I do because of who I serve,

I do what I do because of what He's done for me,

But I also do what I do because of what He's made me.

What does it mean that I am a new Creation in Christ? It means that everything about me has changed. The old man is dead, crucified with Christ; all things are new.

A. New head

I think differently – I don't think like the rest of the world, now I think like Jesus. My thoughts, my desires, my ambitions, all change. Paul tells the church at Rome to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. New creations think differently than old creations. How do they think? They think in consonance, in harmony with God. All things, are from God. Everything new will come from God not from me.

B. New hands

I act differently – you can't have a transformed mind without your actions following suite. When someone claims to have a transformed mind, but their actions don't match their claim, we call that person a hypocrite. They are not really changed, they just want people to think they are. But when there is a real transformation, when Jesus makes us a new creation, everything about us changes, and that includes our actions.

C. New home

I perceive differently – Focus is not on this world but on Heaven. My destination is different. I'm not looking to this world and all it has to offer. As G.Campbell Morgan once said, the person who is made new in Christ, "sees the touch of decay on all the glory that men admire."  I have lost my admiration for the things of this earth. My desires and affections are set upon things above not on things below. Not for the things which are seen and temporal, but for that which is unseen and eternal.

D. New heart

I am different – My character, my nature, my very soul has been changed. I am a new man, not only on the outside, but one the inside. What I am on the inside determines how I act on the outside. Therefore, since I am a new creation, my heart is different.

I am not only motivated by a reverential fear of God, by the knowledge that someday I will stand before Him and give an account for my life. I am not only motivated by the reality of all that He has done for me, by the love that He demonstrated so painfully and yet so powerfully on Calvary's cross, I am motivated by the reality that since He has made me a new creation, since all things have changed in my life, I cannot live a life that is out of keeping with who He has made me to be. I do what I do because I am what I am and I cannot help it.

But there's more, look at the last part of verse 18, "and gave us the Ministry of Reconciliation."

Paul says….I am…

IV. Motivated by the call of Christ

I do what I do because of what He has Called me to be.

Because we are new creations, because what we do is now according to God's will and not our own, we have been called to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ. Instead of pursing our own goals, we now pursue His goals. Instead of living our lives, He now lives His life through us. And the ministry we have been called to is the ministry of reconciliation.

Reconciliation literally means – restoration to favor, it is restoring man to a position of favor with God. It describes salvation in terms of relationship.

That's why, in verse 20 Paul goes on to tell us that we are now ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us, pleading with lost humanity, pleading with those outside of Christ, pleading with those who are deceived by some strange doctrine, pleading with those trapped in Mormonism or deceived by the new age, pleading with those who are indifferent, pleading with those who are the objects of God's wrath, pleading with them to accept the free gift of God's grace, the forgiveness of sins, pleading with them to come into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ the Son.

This is the call to ministry every Christian receives as a result of being a new creation. You cannot separate the two.

William Booth, who founded the Army, understood well the call of Christ, had this to say to those who said they were not called"

"Not called!" did you say? "Not heard the call." I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him id you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. God stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there. And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world."

Paul says, I do what I do because of who I serve, I do what I do because of what He's done for me, I do what I do because of who I am, I do what I do because of what Christ has called me to do, but there is one final motivation, one final incentive and catalyst for my ministry and that is the stewardship of the gospel.

V. Motivated by stewardship of the Gospel

I do what I do because of what He has entrusted to me.

Look in verses 19, He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

We have the truth, in a world filled with untruth, filled with doctrines of demons and the wisdom of fools, we alone have been entrusted with the truth.

We are to manage this truth, this word of reconciliation, as a steward of an estate that has been entrusted to our care.

Galatians 2:7 Paul tells us that he has been entrusted with the gospel –

Ephesians 3:2 Paul calls this the stewardship of God's grace

Colossians 1:25 He defines his preaching as a stewardship

I Thessalonians 2:4 Paul says, we have been entrusted with the gospel

What is it God has entrusted to us? Is it simply a message on how to be good and live a nice life? Is it a message that will simply make people happy or make them wealthy? Is it a message that will simply help people get along with one another? It is simply a message that informs them about the order of creation or the veracity of the scripture?

Or is it a message that will save their dying souls from an eternity in separation from God? A message that will change their eternal destiny from one of damnation to one of glory? The importance of the message, the magnitude of the message should determine the passion with which we preach it.

And to whom has He entrusted it? Is it only the evangelists? Is it only the preachers? Is it only the missionaries or only those who've been to seminary? Are those the only people to whom He has entrusted the message? Or has He entrusted it to each of us?

The scripture makes it very clear, He has put this word of reconciliation in each of us, He has made each of us ambassadors.

Conclusion

He did not choose the angels to preach it, for they could not experience it. He did not choose the beast of the field or the fowl of the air to preach it, for His Spirit does not live within them. He has chosen you and me, fallen men and women, boys and girls, who have received His grace, who know His forgiveness to share with those who do not. It is only given to us, but the original language says, "Placing in us the word of Reconciliation." It is in the heart of everyone who truly knows Him and it cannot help but come out.

God is calling each of us to see the lost around us, to see where they are headed, to an eternity in Hell. He is challenging us to wake up and do what Jesus created us to do; to become the evangelist He created us to be. Let Him re-ignite the passion in your soul. Let Him make His word like a fire within your bones, in Jesus, in your reverence for Him, in His love for you, in what He has made you to be, in what He has called you to do and in what He has entrusted to you.

Allow me to suggest three simple things you can do to put this message into practice in your own life.

  1. Evaluate your motivation for ministry – Why do you serve the Lord? Are you motivated by the same things that motivated Paul? If not, why not?
  2. Ask God to reignite your passion for lost souls – Paul was motivated by a love for God and a love for the lost. Every Christian should have those two loves. Do you have them? If not, will you ask God to return them to you?
  3. Begin to practice God's call on your life – Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit your activities to the Lord and your plans will be achieved." If we begin to practice what we know God wants us to do, He will turn our hearts around.
Dr. Calvin Wittman is pastor of Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He serves as a trustee at Criswell College, and regularly contributes to Open Windows, a monthly LifeWay devotional publication.