Day 18: May 20, 2018: We Preach Not Ourselves, But Jesus Christ
2 Corinthians 4:5-6: For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
As Christians we must constantly be working to keep ourselves out of the way. Even in matters of religion, in deed often especially in matters of religion, the pride of the human heart can thinly veil its self-promotion in a veneer of pretended piety. Under the cover of even a deep and genuine devotion to Jesus, the self-centered desires for recognition, influence, and financial gain can assert themselves and prove a constant snare.
The “disgraceful, underhanded ways,” and the “cunning,” and the “tampering with God’s word” which Paul disavowed (2 Cor. 4:1-2) certainly had at least some of their motivation in the desire to “preach ourselves” in the hearts of those who practiced them. Pride and selfish ambition are constant dangers to Christian discipleship and Christian mission.
That is why we must keep in mind and live by Paul’s word in v. 5: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Here the order is correct: we proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ, and we make ourselves the servants of others for the sake of Jesus. The foundation for this ordering is the greatness of what God has revealed in Christ: in the face of Christ we have the very “light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (v. 6). Jesus Christ reveals the living God to us. Jesus Christ brings us into a living relationship with God. All human vanities pail in comparison.
In order to continually keep Jesus first and ourselves as the servants of other people for Jesus’ sake, we must do at least two things.
First, we must guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23). We must always be aware of and on guard against the subtle ways in which our pride will turn our good intentions and good deeds into opportunities for self-promotion. This can be as simple-yet-dangerous as doing something kind for a neighbor, not so that they will give glory to God, but so that they will think highly of me as a good person. We must always pray that God will help our motive to be to glorify God above all else (Mt. 5:14-16, Col. 3:17).
Second, we must be bold enough to speak Jesus’ name and to claim our association with him. We must not be ashamed to be known as Christians. Rather, we should praise God that we bear that name (1 Peter 4:16). When we have the opportunity to do so, we should do and say things which let others know that we follow Jesus. We should offer to pray for our neighbors. We should invite our friends to church. We should explain that we care about justice for the poor and oppressed because Jesus does. We should invite other people to consider the claims of Jesus by giving them a Bible or a Christian book to read. If we are ashamed of Christ and his words, he will be ashamed of us (Mark 8:38). And why would we ever be ashamed of Jesus, unless out of prideful concern for our own reputation? So, let us rejoice in letting others know that Jesus is Lord. Let us be as bold as the apostles who “every day, in the temple and from house to house… did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42).
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started. “O Lord, help me to guard my heart against pride and self-promotion. Help me to want only to bring glory and honor to your name. Give me courage and boldness through the Holy Spirit to let others know that Jesus is Lord, and that I am their servant for Jesus’ sake. In His perfect name I pray, Amen.”