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Christians need to be ‘marked for ministry,’ Richards say

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–People who try to minister without a belief in the inerrancy and “total truthfulness” of the Bible are “deceivers” who deceive themselves and deceive others, said Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“Without the trustworthiness of the Word of God, we have no ministry,” Richards said during a Feb. 2 chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

“The Word of God is all that we need as a sufficient guide to tell us how that we might in our ministry be proficient and how that we might serve [God] to please him,” he said.

Citing Exodus 29, Richards spoke on the Aaronic priests who were marked with blood to consecrate them for service to Yahweh.

Believers today also need to be “marked for ministry,” he said, and should display the evidence of God’s work upon them.

In the Exodus passage, God instructed that a ram be sacrificed and its blood used to mark the right ears, right thumbs and right big toes of Aaron and his sons to set them apart as priests.

The mark on the ear, Richards said, could symbolize the hearing of the Word of God, which produces a number of responses.

The first response is to believe it, because the Bible is trustworthy and without error, Richards said.

Believers must also experience God’s Word, he said.

“It’s not enough to be orthodox in our theology. There are a lot of people who are straight as gun barrels and twice as empty,” he said.

Thirdly, Christians are to proclaim the Word, Richards said.

“If you’re marked on the ear and you hear God’s Word, you will echo the sentiments of Jeremiah in chapter 20 in verse 9 when he said, `It’s like a fire shut up within my bones, and I cannot forebear.’ I must preach, and preach the Word,” Richards said.

Richards castigated the type of preaching that leaves nominal Christians with their self-esteem intact but does not communicate the gospel.

“The question remains, has the Word of God been effectively and faithfully proclaimed, penetrating the comfort zones and veneer of self-satisfaction with the truth of Jesus Christ?” Richards asked.

The mark on the thumb symbolizes “doing God’s work,” Richards continued.

“God has given one institution through which we are to express our gifts — and that is the church,” he said.

Richards reminded his audience that “God’s supernatural call upon our life is inexplicable. There is no way that we can measure it, no way that we can somehow categorize it, but it is nevertheless a valid and genuine experience, the calling of God.”

Obedience to the call should be evidenced in the church, Richards said.

“Start New Testament churches. Pastor New Testament churches. Give, sing, worship and fellowship in the New Testament church. Let it not be a lost age of churchmanship,” he said.

Those called to do God’s work will work with unswerving commitment, Richards said, noting that it’s a word “out of sync” with today’s culture.

“Oh, we may falter and we may fall and we may stumble and we’ll definitely make mistakes and errors, and even sin, but if he’s called you, he’ll enable you to carry out the task,” Richards said.

Commitment must be balanced by compassion, he added, in loving people as they are so they might become molded to God’s will.

The mark on the big toe “is our walk in God’s way,” Richards said.

“We can preach like [Southwestern President Kenneth S.] Hemphill, or write like [former Southwestern professor Calvin] Miller, but without a personal walk with God, it will all come crashing down,” Richards said. “God has called us to walk in his way. That means separated from sin. He is calling us to holiness, and I fear what has happened is we’ve become slackers in our Christian walk.”

Sin has not changed, Richards said, but Christians’ tolerance for it has.

Believers need to get the mark on the big toe so that they can have “power with God and power with people,” he said.

“Let us cease being anthro-centric and be theo-centric,” Richard exhorted his listeners, “so that we may turn our face heavenward.”

Constituted in November 1998, the Southern Baptists of Texas is a state convention of about 273 churches.

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  • Cory J. Hailey