Archives
Tag Cloud
: Mothers Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abraham’s Bosom Abuse Accounting Activism Adoption Adultery Affection Affliction Afterlife Alliances Altar America Analogy Angels Anger Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Apostles Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Baal Babylon Bad Baptism Belief Betrayal Bible Bitterness Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Book of Life Borders Born Again Bottomless Pit Bride Bride of Christ Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Carnal Celebration Character Childbirth Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Circumstances Civil Disobedience Clay Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Confidence Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Coveting Creation Creator Crisis Cross Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deceit Deception Decisions Defense Delegation Demon Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Endurance Enemies Enemy Environment Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Eternal Life Eternity Evangelism Everlasting Life Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Gods False Prophet False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Father’s Day Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Feasts of the Lord Fellowship Fig Tree Finances Fire First Coming First Resurrection Firstborn Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruit of the Spirit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles Gentle George Wood Giving Glorified Body Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly God's Will Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hades Hardship Harvest Hate Hatred Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Help Herod Hidden Holiness Holy Holy Spirit Home Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Idolatry Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Individuals Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Intermediate State Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgment Day Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kids Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lake of Fire Lamp Law Law of the Lord Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Life-Span Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Lowly Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Master Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Metaphor Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Minister Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Mystery Nations Natural Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Earth New Jerusalem New Man New Testament Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Covenant Old Man Old Nature Old Testament Omnipresence Omniscience One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paradise Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Path Patience Patriotism Peace Peer Pressure Pentecost People of God Perception Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Philosophy Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preach Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Prosperity Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Providence Provision Punishment Purgatory Purity Purpose Questions Racism Rapture Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Risk Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Sarcasm Satan Savior Schemes Science Scoffers Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Servants Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing She’ol Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Son of Man Sons of God Sorrow Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Birth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Strength Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teacher Teaching Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Grave The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Throne Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Tragedy Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Tree of Life Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Triumphal Entry Trouble Trust Truth Unbelievers Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Victory Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Visiting Ministries Voice of God Volunteer War Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Water of Life Weary Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Witnesses Witnessing Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast YHWH Yoke Zion

Weekly Word

Entries in Leaders (3)

Tuesday
Apr232019

Empty Promises

Mark 12:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 21, 2019.

Today is Easter Sunday and therefore we are going to look at another passage further ahead in Mark than we currently are in our exposition of this Gospel.  Next Sunday we will be back on course.

Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, celebrates the day that our Lord Jesus conquered sin and death.  It is easy to scoff at such things.  However, the amount of evidence regarding both his death (he did not merely swoon) and his resurrection is overwhelming (over 500 people testified to multiple accounts with many people at the same event).

We can hide behind the sophistication of modern man.  Yet, we still find ourselves in the same place as those in the first century or even two millennia before that.  We are still fallen people who are extremely broken inside and who need a savior.

Today we celebrate the reality that God has a plan to save us, and Jesus Christ is the man He has given to us to lead us to salvation.

The parable that we are going to look at this morning is one that Jesus told in the temple compound during the last week of his life.  This parable gives us a metaphor to help us understand just what was going on when Jesus was crucified and yet later raised from the dead.

Understanding the Parable

In verses 1-8, Jesus tells a parable that presses the issue of his coming execution.  The public is not aware that the leaders have decided to execute Jesus when they can, but Jesus does.  In this parable the metaphor has a biblical precedent from Isaiah 5.  There Isaiah tells a parable in which he states that Israel is the vineyard of God.  He even speaks of a tower for defense and a winepress.  This sets up an easy identification for the hearers, but also for us.

Let’s walk through the parable and identify each element.  First, we see that the man who owns the vineyard clearly represents God and, as we stated earlier, the vineyard represents Israel.  It would be better to use the phrase, the people of God, because this puts a better image in our mind.  It is not about a nation, but about a people who belong to God and are in relationship with Him.   The next element is the vinedressers, which are also translated as farmers or tenant farmers.  The Greek word that is used literally means worker of the earth and is where we get the name George.  The are the leaders of Israel who are supposed to ensure that the people of God are fruitful in their lives.  Technically, this means both the political and religious leaders, but it is told during his last week while he is in the temple.  So, it seems that the religious leaders are taking the brunt of the teaching- this is most likely due to the fact that the political leadership had long been separated from Israel with Herod (not from the tribe of Judah) receiving his position as king from Caesar.  I would quibble with the word tenant farmer, not because it ruins the parable, but because the emphasis is not on the fact that they are getting paid.  It is on the fact that their job is to oversee the vineyard and make sure it is fruitful for God.  They had taken their offices under the guise of performing the purposes of the Lord, and yet, too often these became empty promises that were not fulfilled.  They superficially performed the purposes of the Lord while all along serving their own interests.

Next, in our parable we see that the man sends servants at the appropriate time to get evidence of how fruitful the vineyard is.  These servants have been with the man and are the special or extra-ordinary teachers that God sent from time to time known as the prophets.  The leaders of Israel were also servants of God, but they represent those who spend their time in the vineyard all the time.  They are the day to day servants of God.  The prophets would come at special times with a special mission.  They would give direction and corrective instructions from the Lord so that Israel could be fruitful.  In light of the spiritual nature of the parable, the fruit that God is looking for is evidence that the people are growing in their trust of God and living according to His Word.  The very Scripture that the religious leaders took care to copy and memorize testified that the prophets were generally abused and often put to death by the political and religious leaders of Israel.  Thus, as God sent his prophets to help make Israel fruitful, they would abuse them and kill them.  Yet, later they would give lip-service to them.

This leads to the man deciding to send his beloved son.  Of course, this represents Jesus.  The parable presents it as a hopeful attempt to turn things around.  However, in many other places we are told that Jesus was sent knowing that he would be abused, executed, and excommunicated (i.e. thrown out of the vineyard).  Thus, the leaders would kill the Son and leave their promise to tend to the people of God for God’s purposes unfulfilled.

As the parable ends, we are left asking if it was really as bad as the parable shows.  Somewhere along the line, the leaders had lost sight that this nation belonged to God literally.  They existed for His purposes, not theirs.  They had edged God out by pushing Him high into the heavens, but using the system for their own ends.  When Jesus arrived on the scene, they could only see that Jesus would inflame the hopes of the people that He was Messiah.  Rome would then come in and quash it, while holding the religious leaders responsible for letting it happen.  They would lose their authority and that couldn’t happen in their minds.

Lest we seem too hard on the Israelite people, let’s use the parable as a set of glasses for our times.  If we look at our times religiously, we must confess that the leaders of the Church of Jesus have often fallen into the same mentality as those of Israel did.  We give lip service to God and His purposes, but we abuse and kill those prophetic voices that He sends from time to time.  O sure, there are real heretics that must be faced and rejected, but not everyone labeled a heretic throughout the Church’s history were so.  Our leaders have too often hijacked the people of God and their devotion to Him for their own ends and purposes. 

What if we look at our times nationally (the United States of America, or insert your nation here)?  Are not our leaders leading us in a way that serves their own purposes and do they not lack any care for what the God of heaven thinks?  Sure, there are anomalies, but the majority give God lip service at the best.  Was it not God who supernaturally enabled us to break free from the political tyranny of King George III.  Side note, it is interesting that George’s name has the root used in our parable.  He was King Vinedresser, but had come to think the vines were all for him and his pleasure.  The testimony of our forefathers is that we succeeded by God’s help, period.  Has not the Lord of America come looking, from time to time, for godly fruit by sending special, prophetic voices, only to be cast aside and ignored?  Are we not, as a society, killing the Word of God as we cast it aside and live for our own purposes?  Also, this begs the question.  Do you not know that your own life is itself a vineyard of which God has put you in charge in order that it be fruitful for His purposes?  His ways lead to life, but ours continually lead to ever more creative expressions of death.

God still has a plan that cannot be thwarted

The parable does get rather dark and foreboding.  Jesus in verse 9 asks the question.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  They are going to be removed and destroyed.  Ultimately, they will not succeed in their attempt to use God’s people for their own ends.  They will be removed and God’s purposes will continue unthwarted. 

The religious and political leaders would do exactly what this parable says.  They would reject Jesus, abuse him, execute him, and then excommunicate him.  This is why the book of Hebrews makes such a big deal about Jesus being crucified outside of the city gates.  This ancient sign of extreme banishment (extreme in that they also killed the person) was the ultimate rejection.  Hebrews 13:12-14 says, “Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”  We are in danger of losing the eternal for the sake of holding on to the temporary at all times.  Is it not better to surrender that which you cannot keep in order to receive that which you cannot lose?  You can and should trust God.  His plan is not thwarted, and cannot be thwarted, whether by man or spiritual powers in the heavenlies.

Jesus would be rejected and killed, but this would not extinguish the fact that He is the key component to God’s plan.  In verses 10-11, Jesus reminds the leaders of Psalm 118:22-23.  There the psalmist uses the imagery of building the temple of God.  In such building projects, the stones would be fashioned at a remote quarry and then arrive at the building site with some mark explaining its place in the structure.  The builders are the leaders of God’s people who are supposed to have the skill and knowledge to take the stone and put it in the proper place.  The psalmist speaks of a stone that arrives, but the builders reject it and cast it aside.  However, the God of heaven overrules them and uses it as the most important stone of all, the key foundation stone.  These leaders were rejecting the most important part of God’s plan, and He would intervene so that Christ would indeed be what He was sent to be.

Though our parable is challenging the earthly human leaders, there is another layer to this whole thing.  We forget that Jesus is very aware of the evil, spiritual forces around him.  Just as many of his sayings slighted the religious leaders who overheard them, so too they also slight the spiritual powers in rebellion to God.  This parable is no different.  There were spiritual powers who had been put in charge of the nations after the Tower of Babel incident.  These powers had abused their delegated authority and twisted the peoples’ hearts with false religion that lifted the rebellious spiritual powers up as gods.  They too were complicit in the execution of the Son of God and therefore fall under the same judgment given here.  In fact, the spiritual component makes even more sense than the human.  The religious leaders never looked at Jesus as the Son of God who must be killed so that they can inherit those who belong to God.  However, this makes perfect sense of the spiritual powers.  They knew exactly who Jesus was and apparently believed that they could kill Jesus and seize mankind for themselves.

Nearly 40 years after the death of Jesus, after a time of his disciples warning the nation of Israel of the coming destruction and God’s plan of escape, the Roman legions destroyed the city and dismantled the temple stone by stone.  The people of God, who clung to Christ, went to the world with this rejected stone that had now become the chief stone, not just of Israel, but of the whole world.  If you wonder what in the world God is doing then I would put it this way.  He is offering anyone who will an opportunity to be a part of His people, and to participate in a kingdom that will come into existence at the Second Coming of Jesus.  He is not as enamored with our buildings, institutions, and plans, as much as we are.  He is more interested in you, that you are bearing the fruit of faith, the fruit of trusting His Word and living for Jesus in this dark world.

This brings us to the reality that the promises of God are counterbalanced with the promises of the world and those spiritual powers behind it.  This world promises us better things if we will cast Jesus aside and pursue pleasure, or wealth, or fame and accomplishment.  All of these things still leave you feeling empty in the end.  Why?  They do so because we were not created to be satisfied with temporary and material things.  We are trying to stuff small temporary things into an enormous eternal space that is as vast as the universe.  You cannot fill it with the temporary.  Only God can fill that space.  Only a relationship with Him can fulfill the promise of peace and joy.

Over time the philosophies of the world have turned away from God and religion, and towards man.  We must do it.  No God will do it for us.  These are the mantras of humanistic materialism.  Sadly, too many Christians practically do the same thing by pushing God as far up into the heavens as they can.  He doesn’t intervene.  He expects us to do it for ourselves.  Such philosophies have no real basis for upholding good values.  We can pretend that love is a good value, but if we have a philosophy that states humanity is an accident and there is no absolute truth, then why is love good?  Is life precious?  Without God, we only find the precious nature of life ground out of us on every side.  Hopelessness and despair continue to reign from shore to shore and we have no peace because we have rejected the Prince of Peace.

You may feel like God has not kept His promises to humanity, but remember.  He is the God of the resurrection.  Jesus did not back away from the last step to the cross out of fear and lack of faith in His Father.  He showed us that if we would live for God all the way through our death, without turning back, then He will exalt us in due time.  There is a day when the people of God from every generation will be resurrected in the same way that Jesus was, almost 2,000 years ago.  I hope that you have made the choice to be apart of that day because the promises of God will never fail!

God will keep His promises to us.  If you have waffled on trusting Christ then do it today.  If you have been partially trusting Christ, yet basically floating aimlessly, then choose to fully trust Him today.  If you have been trusting Jesus, then don’t let this world rob you of your victory.  Jesus overcame this world by His faith in the Father, and therefore, He is given a place above every other name.  Through Him, you too can overcome and take your place at His side as the Father brings a fulfillment to every word that He ever gave us.  Jesus rose up from the g rave because He is greater than death.  Those who trust Him cannot be destroyed by death, but only made stronger!

Empty Promises Audio

Tuesday
Feb192013

Serving the Head Shepherd

Today we will be looking at 1 Peter 5:1-4.  In this passage Peter speaks to the elders within the Christian body.  Although you may not be an elder in the Church it is instructive to all of us how God would have us serve in any position of authority, whether as a parent, Sunday School Teacher, or fellow Christian.

Called To Be Elders And Overseers

Peter first lets us know that God calls some within his people to serve as Elders and Overseers.  The word elder refers to someone who is spiritually mature and wise.  Although it has an age aspect, the spiritual maturity is the emphasis not as much as age.  Thus Paul warns Timothy not to make a new Christian an elder, even though they may be physically older than others who are serving as elders.  The Greek word that is translated as elder is where we get the word presbyter or Presbyterian—more on that later.  Overseer is mentioned in verse 2.  It is more of a reference to one of the duties of an elder.  However it quickly became a title.  The Greek here is where we get the word Episcopalian.  The word bishop also comes from this word.  Throughout the New Testament the words elders and bishop or elders and overseers are used interchangeably.  However throughout history they have taken on different forms from one another.

Peter reminds them that he is a fellow elder, although a “special” kind of elder.  He is also an apostle of Jesus.  He was a witness of the teachings, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ.  He is not just an witness in that he saw it all.  But he is also a witness in that he is actively telling others what he saw and heard.  Peter was also a “partaker of the glory that will be revealed” (verse 1).  To be a “partaker” is to be one who has a share or portion in an endeavor.  Much like an inheritance, Peter has a portion that belongs to him in the glory that will be revealed.  This is clearly looking forward to that great unveiling of Christ at his Second Coming.  The curtain will be pulled back and the full Glory of Christ will be revealed to the nations.  However, Peter had “partaken” or had a “taste test” at the Transfiguration.  This event can be read about in the gospels.  Peter also speaks of it in 2 Peter 1:16-19.  Peter says that they were eye witnesses of his “majesty.”  What Peter had a taste of the other elders could only imagine and wait for the Second Coming.

At this point it would be helpful to have a brief, historical reminder of the governance of the Church that developed and changed through the centuries.  As Christians spread out and converted others to Jesus the groups began to grow and quickly needed leaders.  Thus we see in the New Testament a development of elders who would serve the spiritual needs of the Church and deacons who would serve the natural needs of the Church.  Generally one of the elders would stand out as a “leading elder.”  In fact generally such lead elders from larger churches would tend to have influence and sway with the elders of smaller or more rural churches.  Over time (500 AD) the Bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople were viewed as having authority over the churches in their areas.  A system had developed where the priest of a small church would answer to a bishop of the area, who would in turn answer to the “arch” bishop from one of these cities.  Of course this is highly simplified.  It the turn of the first millennium the issue of authority over doctrinal matters led to the division of the Eastern catholic church from the Western or Roman Catholic Church.  But it wasn’t until the Protestant reformation that the system of governance was changed at all.  Some Protestant groups retained the hierarchical system of bishops.  Thus the term Episcopalian is a reference to how the Church should be governed, i.e. by individual leaders accountable in series to a supreme leader.  Some felt that this system was too open to abuse through the years and called for a Presbyterian form of governance.  It focused on groups of elders who were accountable to a larger group of presbyters.  Even further groups have what is called a “congregational” governance which treats each individual church as sovereign in its own right.

Now the Bible does not tell us exactly what system should be used.  In fact it could be said that God has left that up to us.  However, it has given clear instruction that those who are spiritually mature and wise (i.e. elders) should watch over the people of God’s Church.  No matter what we are accountable to be leaders in God’s people.

Shepherding the Flock of God

So what are the duties of Church leaders?  Primarily they are to “shepherd” the flock of God.  Peter clearly uses language that Jesus had used personally with him back in John chapter 22.  Jesus told Peter that if Peter loved him then he would feed his sheep (not that Peter wasn’t a sheep himself).  This wording is also found in the Old Testament.  David in Psalms 23 recognized that God was like a shepherd to him.  Why?  He saw that God gave him spiritual drink and food.  He saw that God led him on the paths of righteousness that led to these places.  He saw that God was his protector and rewarder.  Thus the task of Leaders hearkens back to the very character of God.  Jesus had shepherded the disciples and now he wanted them to be like him to those they would be sent.  They would also need to raise up other elders to shepherd the flock of God.  Ultimately we are to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord’s stead.  What a weighty calling and one that we will be accountable to him.

Thus the term Overseer is not about dictatorial control.  Rather, it is about care and concern for well-being.  Perhaps the best example in our modern day would be to compare doctors with government.  A doctor asks all manner of personal, even embarrassing questions, that we put up with because in general we know they are using that information to help us or heal us.  Thus doctors keep personal information confidential and the best ones have good bedside manner.  However, when the government shows up, either as an auditor or a regulator of some sort, we do not have that same feeling that they are there to help us.  We know they are there to control us.  God’s leaders need to be like doctors.  They need to always operate for the spiritual health and well-being of God’s people.   If we lie to ourselves about what that is…well, then we will give account to the head shepherd.

Peter then describes the reasons we should lead and many that we shouldn’t have.  On the “not” side, he warns against serving because you were forced to, or in order to dishonestly gain (financial or otherwise), and not to “lord” leadership over others.  Positively, they need to lead because they are willing to serve their Lord this way and have a ready mind.  We also need to lead by example rather than being a dictator.  It is not our church and they are not our sheep.  We come alongside fellow sheep and point them to Jesus.  Words are cheap, but our life will back up (or not) what we say.

Thus leaders in God’s Church need to watch over the souls of those in their charge and willingly, lovingly help them to keep their eyes on Jesus in the midst of the junk of this life.

Serving Well Will Have Its Reward

God does bless us in this life, but it must never be the ultimate reward we seek.  At his appearing Jesus will bring with him our reward for serving well.  The chief shepherd will not just reward, but will also have some who say, “Lord, we prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and have done many wonders in your name.”    Can you imagine standing before the Lord and hearing, “I never knew you.  Depart from me you who practice lawlessness.”  Ouch!

Peter speaks of a crown of glory.  This crown is not a royal crown, but rather a victor’s crown for accomplishment.  The New Testament mentions several crowns such as: the crown of Life, the crown of righteousness, and the crown of glory.  It is not clear if these are different crowns/honors or if they are different words for the same thing.  However, the point is not the crown itself, but the unfading glory that will be ours when Jesus returns.  Our greatest reward is the fact that when the glorious Jesus shows up, we belong to him and him to us.  We will share in his great glory.

Final Thoughts

We are all a part of the flock of God and should resist those inevitable tricks of the enemy to separate us into clergy versus laity.  Leaders are not better than the people who are not leaders.  In fact they are in a far more precarious position of responsibility, with far more difficult temptations and deceptions to face.  Leaders should serve as a brother and those who are not in leadership should love them and recognize the burden they carry.  God has not given all his gifts to every believer.  We need each other and, if we trust God’s Word, we will help each other to cross the finish line of faith.

Serving Head Shepherd Audio

Thursday
May102012

Hope for the Church

For centuries since the Age of Enlightenment/Reason men have predicted the demise of Christianity , the Bible, and its institutions.  Others have tried to promote change in the church so that it can survive the modern era.  Both of these come from the overall impression that the Church will not survive as it is.

Let’s first recognize that there is a difference between “The Church” and “a church.”  The Church is the group of people from all generations, and all ethnic groups who have put their faith in God and believed on Jesus’ death to cover their sins.  It is a reference not to an earthly institution, but an invisible tie of faith between people of very different societies.  “A church” is a local gathering of a small subset of The Church.  Either way, it is good to distinguish that though we call the building they meet in a church, it is only because a church meets in that building.  A church does not need a building to be the church, though it is quite convenient.

When we question whether there is hope for the church, we generally have in mind denominations, buildings, real estate holdings, and such things.  But even if a local church disbands and closes its door, it does not mean there is no hope for those individuals.  They can still meet together or join other groups of believers.  They can still be a church without buildings, projectors, and instruments.  These things do not provide hope.  They only make it more pleasant to do what churches do: worship God, encourage each other, and share Jesus with those who do not know him.

We Already Have All We Need

In Acts 20:25-32 Paul knows that he is going to be imprisoned and eventually killed.  He knows that he will not see the elders of Ephesus again.  So, he meets with them and gives his last word.  It is interesting to see that he makes a huge point that they have all they need.  It won’t be easy without Paul, but Paul has given them everything they need, which he himself received from Jesus.

He had preached to them the kingdom of God, how they could be a part of it, and what it really was.  Jesus had said in Luke 17:21 that the kingdom of God did not come with observation, but was within our hearts.  One became a citizen in this new kingdom of God not by living in a particular geographical area or having a particular genetic link, but by simply having faith in the Lord, Jesus as God’s Anointed One (Christ) who has saved us from our sins.  Not only were they citizens, but Paul had given them the “whole counsel of God.”  (vs. 27)

The counsel of God is an amazing concept.  Can you imagine if there was a, for real, God.com that you could go to and put in your problem.  Then the instructions from God would come back to you.  God wants us to live wisely and so has given us counsel.  But they also had the "Whole" counsel.  The point being that they were not lacking anything.  There was no hidden instruction to be found in the 21st century.  Neither was God only giving the first century counsel, but saying to us today that we have to figure it out on our own.  God knew the church would need wisdom and through Christ and his apostles that wisdom was delivered once and for all to His Church.  We have all that we need.

We Need to Guard Our Hearts

Those who have everything have to guard it or thieves will break in and steal it.  So it is in the spiritual.  Precisely because the Church has been given such great wisdom, salvation, and Hope, the enemy seeks to steal it, kill it, and destroy it.  Paul compares The Church to a flock of sheep and the elders to shepherds.  As shepherds over God’s flock, they need to “take heed” and “watch.”

The term “take heed” means to bring something near for inspection.  Notice in verse 28 Paul tells them to inspect themselves and the flock.  If we don’t inspect ourselves first then we cannot do a good job inspecting others.  The reason this is so important is because of two threats.  The first is pictured as “savage wolves” from outside.  The second is believers who rise up from within and twist the truth in order to gain disciples after themselves.  The shepherds are to be introspective and inspective in order to ward off these threats. 

The term “watch” means to rise up as opposed to sleeping and lounging about.  To do a good job guarding the sheep, the shepherds would need to rise up and be vigilantly on the lookout.  This parallels with the “false teachers.”  Both parties “rise up,” but for very different reasons.  One leads in order to protect.  The other leads out of self motivation and with twisted teaching.  They draw disciples after themselves instead of after Christ.  These people think they are a church following Jesus.  But, sadly, they have become a lost group following the wisdom of a man.

Paul knew that this danger was so great that he warned them night and day with tears.  It concerned him greatly.  That is why in verse 20 he says, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you.”  Jesus has given us good shepherds to watch over the flock but they need to watch over their own hearts lest they pervert the truth of God and mislead the sheep.

Lastly Paul commends or entrusts them to God and His Word of Grace.  Grace is a gift.  Thus God’s word is a gift to us that has the power to build us up (strengthen us).  It also has the power to give us an place among his people both now and in the age to come.  So is the church going down?  Jesus said, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.   He wasn’t talking about buildings, cathedrals, and denominations.  He was talking about his true believers regardless of where they were.  Let’s quit looking at the natural and begin trusting in the one who has given us all that we need for life and godliness.

Hope for the Church audio