So, this isn't original though. Not that I'm sure there really is much actual original thought out there. This though is more of a reflection. I went to go visit a friend and his family at his church on Sunday and the Pastor's sermon got me thinking about this. I'll edit this and post the link to the sermon when they put it up. It was good. He's British. That's the easiest way to establish immediate credibility with an audience.
I wonder if my Michigan, occasionally mistaken for Canadian by those from the South, accent would establish credibility in the UK?
The passage he was speaking about was Acts 9:32-10:26. It's an insanely long passage. Normally, I think there should be rules about length of passages but he developed it well enough that it was ok.
He started out talking about how Peter was the focus of attention for most of the beginning of Acts and then he kind of disappears while we see Stephen, Phillip and Saul. But now in Acts 9:32, the hero returns and heals some people and then goes and reaches Cornelius with the Gospel. In his very British delivery and description in cinematic terms I started to imagine my favorite show of the 21st century, LOST. There were some weeks that certain characters would disappear but you knew when you saw them again that something good was going to happen. Or you realized that the writers had forgotten about them for awhile.
The pastor had me hook, line and sinker in this story of Peter returning to the story to go out and expand his territory of ministry. Then, he said that wasn't how the story was at all.
Peter wasn't traveling around Judea as part of his expanding celebrity or even greater ministry. He was simply doing and confirming to others to do what had already been done. His raising of the dead girl named Tabatha 9:36 forces you to think of Jesus' raising of the young girl he calls damsel, but more specifically, Talitha in Mark 5:41.
If I'm losing you, hang on for just a bit...
The difference was that Peter raises the girl in the name of Jesus Christ while Jesus raised the girl in His Own Name. Peter goes on to receive a vision telling him to go reach Gentiles. He has to be told 3 times in order to convince him of it. Phillip has already reached out to the Ethiopian at this point. Peter isn't doing anything new. He is simply part of a larger story.
That story is Jesus'.
The ministry is Jesus'.
When Peter tells Cornelius in Acts 10:26 not to bow to him because he's only a man, he's speaking from the experience of someone who has failed enough to know that it isn't his ministry.
We are simply the undeserving tools that Christ has for some reason decided to use to bring people in contact with Him. It's that contact with Him that changes everything, we don't do anything. Anything.
It's so easy to look at success of a ministry and see our own efforts. The truth is that Jesus Christ was the only one to ever heal in His own name. He was the only one to forgive sins in His name. He was the only one to ever save anyone.
In an age where celebrity pastors are valued and megachurches are envied, we need to remember that we are simply men (and women) that at our very best are being used by Christ to do His ministry.
If we ever got a glimpse of what that really means, the sure privilege of it would drive us into introducing people to Christ every chance we could.