There is something deep inside a minister of Jesus Christ that longs to hear the joyous words, "Well done good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21, 23 NIV). But while the desire to be known as a faithful servant who finishes their ministry strong runs deep in all of us, not everyone who follows Jesus will hear these beautiful words. In Part I of the Keys To Finishing What You Start series we read from 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and saw that just because someone starts strong in ministry, it doesn't necessarily correlate to that person finishing strong. 
 
In Leviticus 8 God gives us 12 principles that display a pattern for longevity in ministry and following Jesus Christ. In this passage God is speaking to Aaron and his sons during their ordination ceremony as they started their priestly ministry.
 
Just because someone starts strong in ministry doesn't mean that person will finish strong in ministry.
 
In our previous post we investigated the first four principles we need to follow if we are to finish ministry strong. Today we are going to look at the next four principles and challenges that we need to listen to as ministers of Jesus Christ, beginning with number five. 
 
5. As ministers, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit to empower our work
“Then he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head, anointing him and making him holy for his work.”
- Lev 8:12 (NLT)
 
As part of the ordination ceremony, Aaron and his sons were anointed with oil. This anointing was the pouring of oil over their head which often ran down their beards and onto their clothes. This pouring of oil was to symbolize the Holy Spirit being poured upon them and covering their entire being. This was a sign of God’s presence dwelling with them, covering them, and moving with them all the time.
 

In the Old Testament we read that the Holy Spirit would "come upon" (or rest upon) a person for a specific time and to complete a specific purpose. Holy Spirit would come and go as He needed in order to complete the work He was given. One of the most famous occurrences of this in the Bible is found in Judges 14:6 where the Holy Spirit came to rest on a young man named Samson - 

"At that moment the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion's jaws apart with his bare hands."

- Judges 14:6a (NLT)

 

In our passage in Leviticus 8 we see that it is when the priests were anointed that they were considered holy to complete God's work. The ministry work itself is not necessarily holy, but it is God's anointing and Spirit's presence that makes the work holy.
 
In the New Testament, we read examples the Holy Spirit not only comes upon a person for a specific purpose but now also dwells within a person continually (Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:14). As ministers of Jesus Christ what an incredible blessing it is to have the power and presence of God with us ALL THE TIME! We need to remember to be filled with Holy Spirit’s presence continually (Ephesians 5:18b) and ask Him to anoint us for the task of ministering we have been granted (1 John 2:27).
 
The work of ministry in and of itself is not holy. It is God's presence and Holy Spirit's anointing on a person serving in ministry that makes the ministry holy!
 
Take the time to remember it is God who empowers us by His Spirit to do the work He asked us to do. It is because of His anointing that we become holy for His work. We do not earn holiness. The work we do as a minister is not holy on it's own. Holiness and God's blessing is not obtained by us through working hard in ministry – it is found through His presence working in us and through our life. Perhaps is it is more important for us to spend the time asking for God to make us holy through which we can complete his work, rather than asking for God to complete His work through us in our striving to become holy.
 
In the Old Testament, Holy Spirit would rest upon a person to complete a specific task. In the New Testament, Holy not only rests upon a person but now also lives in a person to empower them continually. 
 
How often do we ask for God to fill us with Holy Spirit? How regularly do we ask that He would anoint us for the purposes that He has prepared for us? How many times do we just do a task and expect to make a difference simply using our own strength/skill/talent rather than seeking for the Spirit's empowerment?
 
 
6. As ministers, we are to confess and repent of our sins before we minister to people
“Then Moses presented the bull for the sin offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the bull’s head, and Moses slaughtered it…”  
- Lev 8:14-15a (NLT)
 
The presentation of this first bull by the Aaron and the priests was given up for sacrifice in place of the sins that Aaron and his family had committed. The priests were to lay their hands upon the bull as a symbolic transfer of sin, saying that this animal stands in my place – and through the laying on of hands – they are like me. In that way the bull would take the sin and guilt of the priest, and the bull would take the place of suffering that the priest deserved to receive before the Lord. It is important to know that the first sacrifice made was that of a sin offering. While all the Israelite families would offer an animal sacrifice collectively and individually as a representation of the cost of their sins, it was important to God that the priests needed to confess their sins and seek peaceful restoration with God before any other sacrifice was made. Before the priests could minister to the people, they first needed to be made right with the Father. They could not help another if they could not help themselves.
 
Before the priests could minister to the people, they first needed to make peace with their Father.
 
In the New Testament we understand that it is only through Jesus and the sacrifice He made in our place that we can stand before the Father. It is in His perfect sacrifice that we are completely atoned and washed clean of our sins – once and for all. We have no requirement to lay our hands upon an animal and slaughter it in our place. Jesus' own selfless sacrifice did that for us. The Bible speaks of how sinful people from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds laid their hands upon Him through beating Him and crucifying Him (Mark 14:65, John 19:3, Luke 22:63, Matthew 27:30). And in that laying on of hands there was a transaction of sin between Jesus and the Jews and Gentiles - thus accounting for all the people of the world. Because He took sins from both groups of people, He opened the door for everybody and anybody to have their sin covered by His blood if we by faith repent and give our sins to Him (Romans 10:13).
 
Just like the Levitical priests needed to have their sin atoned for before they ministered before the people; we too must confess, repent and remember that we are sinners before we minister in the name of the Lord. We are no different to the people we minister to. There is not a divide of holiness between us and them. We are all sinful in our nature. We have all sinned, and we all sin each day. For we are sinners saved by grace through faith. Just because we are chosen to minister to people doesn't mean we are perfect and above the need of forgiveness. We all are in need of Jesus’ mercy to be upon us. We must first understand that we must be covered spiritually by the blood of Jesus' sacrifice before we can begin to minister to those who need Him. 
 
As ministers we are no different in nature from the people we minister to. We are all sinful. We all have a need for forgiveness and mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus.
 
Take time starting each day by remembering that we need Jesus’ mercy. Confess. Repent. Seek forgiveness with God and people you have wronged. Start each day from this humble place on your knees - clean and forgiven before the Lord. Because I think if we start at this point, then we will see each person before us as an opportunity to give the same grace we have received and be thankful for the mercy we can share to others. If we don’t, we might begin to think that we are better than those around us…. or worse still we might think that we don’t need Jesus at all for our salvation from sin….
 
Start each day from this humble place before the Lord. Then you will see each person as an opportunity to give the same grace and mercy you have been given.
 
How do you start your day off with God? How often do you confess and repent of your sins to God? Are you the first to seek forgiveness and restoration with God and others?
 
 
7. As ministers, we are to live a life of sacrifice before the Lord
“Then Moses presented the ram for the burnt offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head,  and Moses slaughtered it… Moses burned the entire ram on the altar as a burnt offering. It was a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded him.”
- Lev 8:18-19a, 21 (NLT)
 
The next stage of the ordination ceremony was to give a burnt offering of a ram. This was the second of the offerings given to  God. It was a sacrifice given to show a commitment of serving and honoring God with their life, not one given to be restored in relationship with God. The burnt offering was the act of killing and roasting an animal to symbolically say, “Just as this animal’s life is extinguished upon the altar for God, so too will I give of my life in service exhausting all my efforts for Him.” It is a sign of devotion and commitment to the Lord. A life lived given to the Lord is an offering that pleases the Lord.
 
A life selflessly lived for God is an offering that pleases God.
 
Just as the priests were to devote and commit their lives to the Lord to serve God, so are we to live our life devoted and committed to serving Him. Paul speaks about living our lives as a “fragrant offering to the Lord"  (2 Corinthians 2:15). We are to give of our life sacrificially to the Lord in our ministry. Serving people and working alongside people can be difficult, tiresome and exhausting. But giving our life to minister to these people is the life we have chosen to live – it is one that is a sacrifice. And we must not forget that Jesus commanded us to love one another in a similar way that He loved us, laying His life down for His friends (John 15:13).
 
Sacrificing our life to minister to God's people is the life we have chosen to live as ministers of Jesus Christ!
 
How often do you do something out of the ordinary to serve the Lord? How often do you leave “something in the tank” to be comfortable instead of stretched for the Kingdom? We did not sign up for the easy life on the broad path….we chose the narrow path that leads to life. What else can you give to honor the Lord?
 
 
8. As ministers, we are to entrust what we do and say to the Lord
 “Then Moses presented the other ram, which was the ram of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head,  and Moses slaughtered it. Then Moses took some of its blood and applied it to the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot. Next Moses presented Aaron’s sons and applied some of the blood to the lobes of their right ears, the thumbs of their right hands, and the big toes of their right feet. He then splattered the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar.”
- Lev 8:22-24 (NLT)
 
The ram of ordination was a second ram that was used in the burnt offering. With this ram’s blood Moses applied it to the ear, thumb and big toe of the Priests. Philo, an ancient commentator, references that “The fully consecrated must be pure in words and actions and in life; for words are judged by hearing, the hand is the symbol of action, and the foot of the pilgrimage of life” (from MyJewishLearning.com). Covering these parts with blood is symbolic for entrusting and submitting what they hear, what they hold and act upon, and what they stand upon to the Lord. 
 
"The fully consecrated must be pure in words and actions and in life." - Philo
 
As ministers of Jesus Christ we too must entrust to the Lord the actions we perform, judge the words we hear, and walk out the principles we stand upon. There must be purity, transparency, and integrity than runs through representatives of Christ in these particular areas if we are to stand out from the culture we minister to. It is hard to minister knowing that every little detail of what you do, say and believe is under the microscope from people around you. There is a pressure to be perfect or you let know God, yourself and others. However, when we trust these key areas of our ministry to God, there is a relief of the pressure to be perfect - one that brings freedom of unrealistic expectation and the fear of failure. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide your actions, to help you discern and judge the words you hear, to give you the words to say, and to teach you the principles worthy to live your life by. You will never regret it!
 
How regularly do you commit what you do, say, hear and live by to the Lord? Do people see you as being different to the culture around you through the way you live your life? Do you take the time to release the stress and pressure of living perfectly in your pursuit to follow Christ's example? 
 
 
God wants all of his ministers to hear the precious words quoted in Matthew 25, "Well done good and faithful servant." But full-time ministry is not easy. The grind of faithfully following Jesus day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year, can take it's toll on you. It can especially drain you if you are doing ministry in your own strength and in your own capacity. God wants us to rely on His Spirit, His promises, His leading, His strength and His provision as He builds His Church His way. As ministers of Jesus Christ let's continue to put into practice the principles He has provided for us in Leviticus 8. I pray that as you read, reflect and apply these principles that you will see God bless and further what He has given to you to steward; and give you wisdom to see the longevity that is possible through His strength.
 
Read on as we conclude the Keys to Finishing What You Start series by investigating the final four principles from Leviticus 8.

Published by Jeremy Thiess