© 2013 Jasper Life Publications 1st Edition in English – February 2013 1st Edition in Portuguese – May 2012
Ministros de Deus Translated from Portuguese with permission of Editora Árvore da Vida All rights reserved by Jasper Life Publications Inc. Jasper Life Publications Inc. 725 Viscount Road London, Ontario, Canada N6J 4G9 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.jasperlife.com ISBN 978-1-926970-48-6 All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Bible text from the New King James Version® is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000. Other versions of scripture are indicated as follows: ASV
American Standard Version
1 Overcoming Pride..................................................... 7 2 Overcoming the Deceit of the Serpent................... 17 3 Lessons of Faith....................................................... 25 4 From Captivity to Freedom .................................... 37 5 Prepared to Be Useful to the Lord.......................... 61 6 Being Strong and of Good Courage to Conquer the Kingdom.................................... 79 7 Being Faithful to the Lord and Leading the Next Generation to Serve Him ..... 97 8 Doing the Fatherâ€™s Will......................................... 111
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Cor. 10:11)
Being a minister of God is to know His will and receive His commission to carry it out. This means that when we are constituted as a minister of God, He desires to use us to fulfill His purpose in the place and time in which we live. When reading the Old Testament, we see that in the past God chose and charged some ministers to cooperate with Him. Throughout this book, we will see that almost all of them started off well and were useful to God in that which He had entrusted to them. However, at a certain point they failed. We can extract precious lessons from the words recorded in the Scriptures, both concerning why those ministers received a charge from God and why they failed, so that we do not make the same mistakes and can faithfully fulfill the ministry God entrusted to us. As he describes the experiences some of Godâ€™s ministers had in the past, the author aims at using such stories as a mirror to us, so that weâ€”the New Testament ministersâ€”can 5
see our real condition and learn profitable lessons for our life and service to God. Our desire is that you read this book prayerfully with the same spirit. In order to receive light from Godâ€™s Word, humble yourself before Him and learn life lessons to be more useful to Him today, and eventually, reign with Him in His coming kingdom!
Chapter One OVERCOMING PRIDE LUCIFERâ€™S MINISTRY You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you (Ezek. 28:14-15).
In the beginning, the earth was beautiful, full of light and harmony. When describing how He created the world in the book of Job, God affirms that the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy (38:7). When we read Genesis 1:2, we see that the earth became without form and void. However, God did not create the earth in vain, but formed it to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18). God established and anointed a minister to govern the creation: Lucifer, whose name means son of the morning (Isa. 14:12). When Lucifer received that responsibility, he began to show off all his power and wisdom, being so skilled and capable. Thus, he gradually stood out among the angels. In the beginning, the archangel Lucifer was not rebellious, as seen in Ezekiel 28, â€œYou were the seal of 7
Ministers of God
perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones” (vv. 12b-14). Lucifer was perfect in his ways from the day he was created, till iniquity was found in him (v. 15). God had established him as the anointed cherub who covers. He had a high position—he was on the holy mountain of God and walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. The many precious stones that covered Lucifer represented the gifts or noble abilities given to him by God. They indicated his capability to carry out the responsibility entrusted to him. When God chooses someone to carry out a task, He equips and qualifies him, as he did to Lucifer. Lucifer’s heart was lifted up because of his beauty and he corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor (v. 17). Who could imagine that such a being would be capable of rebelling against God? PRIDE LEADS TO DESTRUCTION Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)
Lucifer was extremely capable and skillful. He was the main archangel and had authority over all other heavenly creatures 8
except God Himself. However, little by little, Lucifer forgot that everything he was and had came from God. Thus, pride sprang up in his heart. Dissatisfied, he sought an even higher position, and planned in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14). In principle, there is nothing wrong in seeking a higher position. However, pride led Lucifer to aspire to the same authority as God. Because of such pride and greed, God took Lucifer’s ministry from him—i.e. the charge to govern His creation— and cast him down to earth (Ezek. 28:16-17). Lucifer, the angel of light, became Satan, God’s adversary. Due to Satan’s rebellion and God’s judgment, the earth became without form and void (Gen. 1:2). The angels who followed Satan were cast out of heaven and became the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, the rulers of the darkness of this age (Eph. 6:12; cf. Matt. 25:41; Rev. 16:7-9). The living beings from the first creation that inhabited the earth at that time were also damaged by Lucifer’s rebellion and lost their bodies with God’s judgment, becoming the demons that inhabit the seas today (Matt. 8:31-32). We must be extremely careful with regard to ambition, dissatisfaction, and pride. Lucifer erred in those things and became God’s adversary. Because of him, the former world had to be judged. He also became ruler over the present world. However, in the beginning of the coming age, when the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is established, Satan will be cast down and bound for a thousand years (Rev. 12:10; 20:2). Finally, he 9
Ministers of God
will be fully destroyed after the thousand years by being cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (20:7, 10). Hallelujah! All these events are a warning to us, for as Godâ€™s children we received the commission to fulfill our Fatherâ€™s will. The Lord has qualified us to be His ministers. When He graces us with good results in our activities or when our service to Him is valued by others, we should be careful not to let pride take over our hearts. Whenever the Lord increases our capacity and ability, making us more useful to Him, it is normal for us to reach a higher position. For instance, among the saints that serve God are those who receive special abilities and whose responsibilities increase more and more in the church. When that happens, there is also the risk of them becoming proud and ambitious, wanting to achieve even more. The greatest danger we encounter as we serve God is pride. This especially applies to those that are more able, i.e., more talented. When our talents stand out among the other saints, we should humble ourselves, empty ourselves, and reject any feeling of superiority (Rom. 12:3). May the Lord have mercy on us so that, at the very first sign of self-exaltation, we may cast out any pride or dissatisfaction from our hearts. THE EXAMPLE LEFT BY THE LORD JESUS [Jesus Christ] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:7-8) 10
As already seen, the negative example set by Satan is to exalt oneself to the utmost, seeking an increasingly high position to the point of wanting to ascend above the heights of the clouds, to be like the Most High. That is why God took away his ministry and cast him down to the ground (Ezek. 28:17). On the other hand, the Lord Jesus set us a positive example by completely humbling Himself. He is our pattern of humility. When we are under His shining, our living is similar to the one described in Philippians 2:1-4, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The Lord Jesus knew His position as God’s minister, for He had left the position as God, in order to carry out the ministry entrusted to Him. He did not take advantage of the fact that He was God, but constantly made Himself of no reputation during his life on earth, being obedient to the Father, and suffering the humiliating death of the cross (vv. 5-8). As a result, God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name which is above every name (v. 9). The Lord Jesus’ ministry was not to do His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (John 5:30; 6:38). He also did not seek His own glory, but the Father’s (8:50). Jesus was faithful to the commission that God the Father entrusted to Him and fully carried out His work as God’s minister. 11
Ministers of God
LIVING BY THE SPIRIT TO OVERCOME PRIDE For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom. 8:13)
We should reject any pride existing in our heart so that we can exercise humility, in order to carry out Godâ€™s ministry according to the pattern set by the Lord Jesus. The most effective way to deal with our pride is to live by the spirit, denying ourselves. When we are controlled by the divine life that is in our spirit, we are aware when pride manifests itself in our soul in every situation, which allows us to immediately repent and confess our sins. Thus, we are free from pride and dissatisfaction, and Christ, who dwells in our spirit, spreads into our soul, saturating us with His divine life. Praise the Lord for the rich solution He provided for us: we just have to turn our heart to Him and become one with His life by calling on His precious nameâ€”O Lord Jesus! The only way to control pride and ambition is to live according to the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:5, 13). For instance, when a brother receives praise for something he shared in a certain meeting, he should be careful not to let pride take over him, by praying and emptying himself. Similarly, those who heard the compliment should not be envious. If we want to reign with Christ in the kingdom, we should deal with such situations and keep our heart from pride and selfexaltation by immediately turning to our spirit. By experience we see that this requires constant care and diligence, for it is not possible to terminate our proud nature once for all. In other words, even if we do humble and empty ourselves before 12
the Lord once, pride can manifest itself again at the moment we let ourselves be guided by our soul-life. Only by living in the spirit are we able to control our pride (Psa. 19:12-13; Gal. 5:22-23). FREED FROM PRIDE THROUGH GOD’S LIGHT I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6)
By living in the spirit, we are enlightened by the Spirit of God and can see who we are. This light is compared to that of the lights created by God on the fourth day: the moon, which represents the church, and the sun, which represents Christ (Gen. 1:14-16). The light of the fourth day helps us to see when our soullife manifests itself. In the initial phase of our experience with the Lord after we are saved, there is little light, just as that of the new moon, by which we begin to realize the proud condition of our soul-life. In our church life and service to the saints, this light increases more and more, helping us to see how our natural self’s pride is terrible. However, we need an even stronger light to remove this pride, such as that of the sun, which burns our impurities and makes the divine life grow in us. Praise the Lord, for He is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2; Rev. 1:16). He is merciful and does not shine His light upon us with all its intensity, but little by little shows us our ego. His light reaches us gradually, just as the sun shines its first rays at dawn and increases its heat until noon, “The path 13
Ministers of God
of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18). The midday sun typifies Christ manifesting Himself in His fullness. This means that when we are under His light, we repent and cast out from our heart what does not come from God—even that which we consider good and therefore, causes us to uplift our heart. The story of Job is an example of repentance under the light of God’s speaking. Only after he stopped giving excuses (Job 31:40) was God able to enlighten him concerning the pride hidden in his “good soul”. God used two huge and arrogant creatures—behemoth and Leviathan, which represent Satan— to show the pride he had in him (40:15; 41:1, 34). Job was enlightened by the Lord’s word and deeply repented (42:5-6). Those who live in themselves tend to be in that same situation. Arrogance and pride develops little by little without them realizing it, for they think that all their knowledge and ability comes from themselves. If pride is not restrained, it will quickly develop and grow, just as in Lucifer’s case. We are subject to finding ourselves capable of doing a lot and improperly thinking highly of ourselves, even when it comes to spiritual things related to God’s work. Comparing ourselves to others and thinking ourselves superior to them is the first sign of pride. Probably many of us have had such an experience, which is why we cannot say we do not have pride. Before believing in the Lord, we might have tried to restrain our pride without success, for it is inherent in our natural self. Pride is like a wild horse; if we do not control it, it can run out of control at any moment. Today the Lord still wants to shine a little more of His light upon us. If we live in the spirit, His light can reach us and, consequently, we will be freed from pride and kept out 14
of danger from self-exaltation. In the spirit, under Godâ€™s light, it will not be difficult to ask our spouse or children for forgiveness when we make a mistake. We will not feel that we are above others when we receive praise at work; we also will not try to fulfill the Lordâ€™s work in ourselves, trusting in our own capacity. When we are in the spirit, we depend on the Lord Jesus and only exalt His name. Hallelujah!