Bad Motives and Gospel Advancement
What's your motivation for sharing the gospel? Self promotion? Gospel advancement? Maybe both?
Published August 8th, 2017; Updated August 9th, 2017
Main point summary
Christ-centered preaching, whether from a sincere heart or not, is cause for joy. Why? Because Christ is proclaimed.
What is your motivation for sharing the gospel? Just take a moment or two to ponder that question. The reason I ask is that I can personally attest to having gone into the pulpit hoping to have impressed others. I hate to admit this but it's true. Of course, I have wanted the name of Jesus and his gospel message to be heard above all else, but deep down somewhere lurking in a crevice of my heart was that seed of selfish ambition just waiting for germination? What about you? Haven't you ever struggled with this? Maybe you were trying to impress your seminary professor or another pastor. Maybe, even like the people in this text, you wanted to make a name for yourself at the expense of someone else - another pastor, church member, or seminary student etc. Maybe you have found yourself preaching Christ or doing ministry out of a spirit of competition hoping to "do it better" than the other person(s) in your area of ministry. The scary thing about this is that it can be downright subtle. If we're not careful, we can preach Christ or do ministry with the subtle motivation in hopes to make a greater name for ourselves. Preaching or doing ministry in the name of Jesus becomes a veneer for selfish ambition. The irony in all of this is that in our desire to sow the seed of the word of God we also will be watering the seed of selfish ambition laying dormant within our hearts. Yikes! What does Paul have to say about all of this? Obviously, he has experienced some pain and suffering of not only being in prison for preaching the gospel but also pain and suffering from others who were at odds with him and sought to harm him and his ministry. They were proclaiming Christ in some kind of selfish manner in an attempt to hurt his reputation. Paul's surprising response to his opponents "success" is that he really doesn't care. In fact not only does Paul not care but he rejoices. He rejoices knowing that the name of Jesus is being proclaimed - whether it be out of selfish ambition or from a true heart of love for God and others. For those of us who have struggled with selfish ambition let us rejoice in knowing that by God's grace his word and the name of Jesus is still proclaimed! Let us rejoice in knowing that God does not throw the baby out with the bath water. By God's grace, your words can still be used to bear fruit! Praise Jesus for this! However, Paul does give us a prescription for selfish ambition. He may rejoice in the proclaimed name of Jesus however it is important to note he does have a wonderful recipe to assist in waging war against the flesh. The antidote he prescribes for selfish ambition is to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Look at how Paul beautifully lays out the prescription in Philippians 2:3-8 . Paul tells us to do nothing from selfish ambition and points us to the ultimate example of what that actually looks like. Paul points us to Jesus and shows us how the Creator of the universe humbled himself by leaving glory to serve messed up people like you and I. Jesus was the premiere example of looking to the interests of others as opposed to his own personal interests. He emptied himself so that you could be filled with his perfect righteousness. He lowered himself so that you might be raised up. He died on a cross that you might have life. If you want to look to Jesus don't look up. Look down to your dirty feet and see him with a towel wrapped around his waist. See him bent over serving you and loving you in ways you would have never imagined (John 13:3-17). And when you see and remember this let us have this mind and follow in his footsteps.
b Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry,
On the one hand we have people are preaching the word of God in a resentful and competitive manner
but others from good will.
while on the other hand we have people preaching the word of God from a love for other and a love for Jesus.
The latter do it out of love, c knowing that I am put here for d the defense of the gospel.
That is , one the one hand you have those that preach because they love Jesus and they love others. These people are not competing with me. They know that God has sovereignly put me where he has put me to do what he has called me to do.
The former proclaim Christ e out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.
On the other hand you have those who preach Christ who are self-absorbed. They are not genuine but rather want to cause me more pain and suffering while I'm in prison.
So what do I think about all of this?
Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Whether Christ is preached out of selfish ambition or from a true heart of love I do not care. I only care that Jesus is preached. And since this is happening I am overjoyed.