Instrument or Expression?

Rev. Tony Cooke

Many years ago, a minister received an impacting note following a service. The person wrote:

“For me ’twas not the truth you taught, to you so clear, to me so dim. But when you came just now, you brought a sense of Him.”

What a powerful insight! When we preach, when we interact with people, we must do more than bring information. We must bring “a sense of Him.” Informational ministry is one thing. Inspirational ministry is another. But God has also called us to incarnational ministry—manifesting his very character.

With the Spring weather, I’ve recently been able to do some yard work. I’ve had certain tools that I’ve been using, such as a rake, a shovel, and some pruners. All of these are helpful as functional instruments, but they don’t reflect me—my character—in any way. How often have Christians prayed, “Lord, use me. Make me your instrument, etc.” 

While the heart cry is commendable, God wants us to be more than mere instruments in his hands; he wants us to be an expression of his very heart, nature, and character. He wants us to reflect him! He wants us to be more than functional. He wants us to be transformed people who actually reflect and represent him! Jesus said, “…the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher” (Luke 6:40 NLT).

The descriptions below from Peter’s first epistle all reinforce the idea that the Christian faith is not one of passive spectatorship, but profound involvement from the core of our being. The life of God is to be expressed in the transformation of our character, actions, and relationships. 

Christians are called to: 

  • A Rejoicing Life: “…You rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 NKJV). 
  • A Vigilant Life: “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control…” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT). 
  • A Holy Life: “You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15 NLT). 
  • A Trusting Life: “Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God…” (1 Peter 1:21 NLT).


  • A Loving Life: “…You must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters…. Continue to show deep love for each other…” (1 Peter 1:22; 4:8 NLT). 
  • A Transformed Life: “Get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech” (1 Peter 2:1 NLT). 
  • A Priestly Life: “…Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT). 
  • A Proclaiming Life: “…That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV).


  • A Virtuous Life: “This is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15 NKJV). 
  • An Honoring Life: “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17 NKJV). 
  • A Unified, Compassionate, and Humble Life: “Be like- minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8 NIV). 
  • A Prepared Life: “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). 
  • A Prayerful Life: “…Be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7 NKJV). 
  • A Hospitable Life: “Be hospitable to one another…” (1 Peter 4:9 NKJV). 
  • A Stalwart Life: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith…” (1 Peter 5:8–9 NLT). 

As you read that very powerful list of the lives we are called to live, I hope you kept in mind that every single one of these descriptions is from a single, relatively brief New Testament epistle, 1 Peter. 

Prayer: “God, I want to be more than an instrument in your hands. I want to be an expression of your very nature, character, and love. I pray these traits Peter described will be worked into and manifested from the very core of who I am, and that they will flow out of me as a transformed believer. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Note: The list from 1 Peter is taken from my book, The End of Spectator Church: Answering God’s Call to Full Engagement.