Posts Tagged ‘faithful’

Paul’s Prayer for Believers, Part Two

Paul’s Prayer for Believers, Part Two

© C. O. Bishop 9/27/17 Cornell Estates 10/15/17

Philippians 1:9-11

Introduction:

Last time we were together, we began looking at the kind of prayer Paul offered for his fellow believers: and the very first thing we saw, was his heartfelt thanksgiving, partly that they had been the recipients of God’s Grace, and partly that they had been participants in the work of evangelism and discipleship with Paul. He went on to say how much he missed them, and recognized that it was God’s love that stirred his heart toward them. They were his brothers and sisters in Christ, and, on top of that, they were his dear friends.

So, when he prayed for them, his prayers were in earnest, and they were aimed at God’s very best blessing appearing in their lives. He did not pray for their physical or financial well-being at all, it seems, which is interesting, because they had all the same needs that we have today. We can learn from this passage, and others like it, what our priorities in prayer ought to be.

Priorities in Prayer

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

It is important, throughout the epistles, to see what the “prayer-list” of the various Apostles contained. It does not seem to bear much resemblance to ours, usually. Paul does not pray for us to get a raise, or get over the flu, or anything like that. There is nothing wrong with either of those, by the way, but in terms of priorities, I think we should see what is on the collective “list” of the apostles.  On this particular “short-list”, the Apostle Paul prays:

  1. That our Love may abound more and more,
  2. In Knowledge (Greek, epiginosko), and
  3. in all Judgment (Greek aesthesis),
  4. That we may approve things that are excellent;
  5. That we may be Sincere (from “eilikrinea”—“clarity, purity, sincerity”) and
  6. without offence until the Day of Christ,
  7. That we may be to the Glory and Praise of God.

Seven little items…all of them having to do with personal and corporate growth in the Grace and Knowledge of God. Notice that the first three on the list are the foundation for growth, while the remaining four are the result of the first three.

Foundation for Growth

I like the fact that the very first thing on Paul’s “list” is the same as the first thing on Jesus’ list (“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another…”). Over in Galatians, Paul confirmed the point Jesus had made in the Gospels, that Obedience to that “Law” would cover every other law.

It is also interesting to see that he points out the need for increase—for growth—Yes, we are perfect in Christ, but as a practical matter, there is a need for us to grow in that relationship. When a new mother declares her newborn baby “perfect”, she is not saying that she does not expect that child to grow…only that this is her perfect child and that she is eagerly anticipating watching that growth. God has declared your new nature to be perfect, (Ephesians 4:24 says it is created after God (in His likeness) in righteousness and true holiness.), but He urges us to grow in our relationship with Him, and, thereby, in our relationships with those around us, whether believers or unbelievers.

Three key elements needed for that growth include:

  • Love (Agapé,) as an over-arching life principle,
  • Knowledge: our personal knowledge of God and knowledge of his written Word, and
  • Judgment (Wisdom): Godly discernment and good decision-making.

The Agape Love is the motivation to do what is most profitable for the other person, the recipient of that Love, regardless of how it affects oneself. Jesus demonstrated this Love, by enduring the Cross for the Human race.

Knowledge and Wisdom are closely linked, but are not the same: One can know God’s written word intimately (even as an unbeliever) but be utterly lacking in the wisdom required to correctly interpret and apply it in one’s life. It is just a “piece of literature” at that level, and unlikely to bear fruit. But in fact, this “knowledge is not even a matter of just knowing facts, but rather, the “epiginosko” knowledge, which means an experiential, ongoing relational knowledge, as in, knowing a person completely, because of a long-term committed relationship.

On the other hand, given some knowledge, God can bring conviction, and turn knowledge into wisdom; thus, over a period of time, producing genuine discernment and good judgment.

Evidence of Change

The result should be that our beliefs begin to change in other areas as well. Beginning with the change of belief, by choice, to trust the shed Blood of Jesus as my only hope for salvation, and having placed my dependency therein, I am free to see the whole world differently, as well.

  • I can now approve things that are excellent. Paul points out to the Roman believers (Romans 1:32) that the unbelieving heart not only is itself given to sin of every kind, it gives its approval to those who also pursue the same sorts of sin. (Consider this: Why are the most popular movies always those centered upon themes of immorality, treachery, rebellion, self-will, violence, theft, etc.? )
    It is because all of us, by birth, are those who feed on sin, and that sort of story feeds our old sin nature. But according to this verse, with my new nature, and, by the Holy Spirit, I am capable of separating myself from my old “haunts”, as it were, and approving good things: righteous things, and things that are pleasing to God, as well as being a blessing to those around me. It will likely result in a change in my speech patterns, as well as my interests, and my desires, so that my new nature, more and more, is what makes itself evident in my life.In my flesh, this was not a real likelihood, because, though I might agree, academically, that such things were “good”, I would privately feel that they were “boring”, and I would yearn for the old “hog-wallow” of sin, because that was what I really approved of, regardless of what I might have said.

    My new nature feeds upon God’s Word and yearns for the presence of God, and the fellowship of other believers. So, the fact is, yes, I can now approve the things that are excellent.

  • I can be sincere. The old nature does not have the capacity for sincerity…only the appearance of it. Jeremiah 17:9 states that the heart (the unregenerate heart is implied) is “…deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Ephesians 4:22 states that the “old man…is corrupt (actually, ‘being corrupted’… the word is a present continuous verb) according to the deceitful lusts.”As an unbeliever, even when I intended to “do something good”, it was always for an ulterior motive—to be seen as a hero, or to gain some sort of social approval. It was never, ever, simply to be obedient to a Holy God. Such a thing never entered my mind, and if it had, I would have rebelled against the very idea. Submission to a Holy God was utterly repugnant to me. Self-centeredness was my only mode of operation, even if I tried to prove otherwise. I wanted to be seen as honest, unselfish, and “good”, but, in reality, I was completely the opposite. I was deceiving myself.

    But today, something has changed: I have a new Ephesians 4:24 says my new nature “…after God (in the likeness of God) is created in righteousness and true Holiness.” Notice that the new nature, or “new Man” as the KJV words it, is a created thing…this is not the Holy Spirit, but a new Creation: a new Me.

    The Holy Spirit is God…He is not a created being. But this new creation, the new Me, the new nature, the new man, is capable of genuine Christ-like motives and is, by nature, sincere: pure, transparent.

    There is sometimes a little confusion over this word—the Latin root for the English word “sincere” is “sin ceros”…”without wax”, and I remember being taught that the ancient potters would place their wares in the sun, to warm them, thus demonstrating that there were no wax-filled defects in the glaze. That is true, and all very fine, but the New Testament was not written in Latin: it was written in Greek. The word here means pretty much what we mean by the word sincere in English: “devoid of deception, pure, transparent, honest.” The Latin “sin ceros” was an entirely appropriate translation, as that glazed earthenware pottery, warmed by the Mediterranean sun, would certainly demonstrate the honesty of the potter or tradesman. It was a means of demonstrating honesty, purity, and transparency. That works for me. It’s just that for years I thought that the original word was “sin ceros”…and it is not: the root is “eilikrinea”—“pure, honest, clear”. And that pretty well describes the character of the new creation…the new nature of a born-again individual. Transparent: no hidden agenda; no “murky”, dark behavior.

  • I can be without offence. This sounds like a tall order, because there is always someone who is offended by some But the issue is that I personally am not to be the cause of someone else sinning. Particularly, that no one reject Christ because of me. If they are offended by the Gospel, then that is a different matter. Jesus warned us ahead of time that the Gospel would cause an offense. But we are not to cause the offense.Remember in Galatians we read that the nine-fold fruit (singular) of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness Temperance. Those sorts of behaviors do not cause an offense against either the Law, or another individual. We question whether we can actually live that way: Paul makes it clear that we can…but that it takes practice to become consistent in it.

If even our enemies can find no real fault in us except that we are Christians, then probably we are “without offense”. But, if there are other things that are causing others to think evil of the Gospel because they see those things in our lives, then we need to repent, and change our ways.

Is self-righteousness an issue? Pride? Gossip? Complaining? What sorts of things might we be doing that make us a bad testimony of God’s Grace? Those things are what must be changed.

Repentance means “turning around”…going the other way…doing what ought to be done instead of the wrong we have been doing.

  • We begin the cleanup with confession: Admit to God that those things are sin.
  • Repair the damage in relationships by apology if called for—righting wrongs that can be righted…admitting to the wronged individual that we were wrong to have mistreated them.
  • Then we DO the things that God calls for, treating others kindly, not talking behind their backs, not secretly despising them, but praying for their salvation and blessing from God. Be a blessing to them.

This is how we learn to be “without offense.”

  • Finally, I can be to the Glory and Praise of God. The result of all of the above should be that our lives begin to bring honor to God. That people watching will have to conclude that something genuine is going on in our lives, and that either we are wonderful people (we are not, and honesty demands that we say so) or that we serve a wonderful God. The former is not true, the latter most certainly is.

We want to live in such a way as to be a blessing to all around us, not a cause for cursing. We hope that even those who are enemies of the Gospel know that we can be counted upon to tell the truth, to share, and to treat others well. Doesn’t this open us up to people taking advantage of us? Yes, of course, it does! So, we have to be wise, as well. We have to be discerning about how we share, and how we help. Do we always give freely? What about when we can see that the money will not go to the perceived need, but rather, to buy alcohol or drugs? Might we not be better to give food or clothing, in that case?

This is where Wisdom and Judgment come into play. We do not want to be enablers to those who are continually making destructive or self-destructive choices. We do not want to help others to sin. On the other hand, wisdom often tells us to keep our foolish mouths shut, sometimes, and allow God to teach a person, instead of injecting our own thoughts into the existing mess.

But, when a person seems to be open to the Gospel, wisdom tells us how to present the truth to them in a non-judgmental way, so that they can make a clear choice regarding God’s Grace. We are to be a light in the darkness of this world. That light is to be characterized by three things:

The Love of God, the Knowledge of God, and the Wisdom of God, all flowing through us to produce the Light of God…not our own light, but only His light reflected in our lives.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to your Spirit, and change us into your likeness, so that we can reflect your Light and Love in the dark world around us.


The Work of the Shepherds; Part 3

The Work of the Shepherds (Part Three)

Job Requirements for Elders/Overseers/Pastors:

© C. O. Bishop 8/10/16; THCF 8/14/16

Titus 1:5-9; 1st Peter 5:1-4

Introduction:

Last time we had to stop short, because I had prepared too much information to be properly addressed in the time allotted, so we will begin with the qualifications of Elders, as we had begun two weeks ago. In 1st Timothy 3:1-7; we saw 17 individual qualifications listed, in that short passage. In the remaining two passages left to study (just nine more verses in all), we will find 16 additional requirements, some of which overlap those in 1st Timothy, somewhat, but we will not even cover the ones that are simply a repeat of the ones we discussed earlier.

I do want to preface all these verses with a comment that Paul sent to Timothy, in 2nd Timothy 2:2—He said that Timothy was to find men to teach…to raise up as teachers and leaders, but that he was to spend his energy teaching a specific kind of individual: He said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Timothy had to look for reliable individuals.  Was he not to feed the whole flock as well? Certainly. But the ones he was to train as leaders had to fit this mold.

Another passage, in 1st Corinthians 4:2, says “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” We will see today that the elders are made “stewards of God.” As such, it is imperative that they be faithful to the flock and to God…reliable overseers.

Titus 1:5-9 (Speaking about Elders)

5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

  1. Plurality of elders (as we have seen in every case) is taught here, in verse 5.
  2. Having believing children, not accused of riot or unruly. Verse 6 reiterates some of the qualifications listed in 1st Timothy, but expands upon the issue of children: This is where we get the idea that an elder’s children must not be “out of control”. There are people who take this to mean that “if he has no children, he is not qualified.” I believe if he does have children, and they are out of control, then perhaps he needs to deal with that, rather than further burdening himself with something bigger. Again, I think this is a case where “track-record demonstrates character”: one may have a reputation for having well-behaved children, and later those same children may choose to rebel and walk away from God. (Billy Graham’s son walked away for years, but finally returned.) If a man has children at home, are they in good control? That is the issue.
  3. The overseer (bishop, elder) is the Steward of God. He has been entrusted with the care of God’s flock, and he has to be faithful to feed the flock, and tend to its needs, as laid out in Ezekiel 34. There can be no laxity in one’s attitude toward the task. (See 2nd Timothy 2:2 Reliability is the issue. Can the flock count on him…always?)
  4. Not self-willed. The Man of God has to be in submission to God. This is not a popularity contest, or a personality cult, so there is no place for a big ego. This is a place to emulate Christ, in saying “not my will, but Thine be done!” This is a place to take a step back, and put other people’s desires and plans ahead of his own.
  5. Not Soon Angry. Patience and long-suffering should preclude a “short fuse”, or a bad temper. It should be really difficult to get a man angry, who is truly submitted to God.
  6. A lover of good Men. Who does he hang around with? This is the old “birds of a feather flock together” idea. If you can see that the people with whom he is most comfortable are those who are distinctly secular, or even ungodly, then maybe there is a hidden problem.
  7. Fair, in his dealings with others. Having a right walk with God, and demonstrating it, in his dealings with others. He treats others fairly.
  8. Separated to God’s service. He is no longer his own man. He belongs to Jesus.
  9. In good control in all areas of life. His sin nature is not in control…God is.
  10. Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught. Able to understand and remember sound doctrine—teaching—to the extent of being willing and able to stand for truth, and back it up accurately from the Bible. Paul goes on to say that there are some people whose mouths need to be closed by sound teaching, to keep them from engaging in false teaching. That is part of the elder’s job, in defending the flock from predators.

1st Peter 5:1-4 (Speaking to Elders)

1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Most of this passage is “task-oriented,” as to “how the job is to be carried out” but we can glean a few more job-requirement ideas, too, in terms of Motivation (Why do you do the job?), Attitude (How do you see yourself and the flock?), Behavior (How do you live, in keeping with your responsibility?) and Expectation (What should you expect, as an elder?)

Motivation:

  1. Not by Constraint. The task is to be done willingly, not “because you have to”. If you are unwilling, then don’t take the job. It is one thing to see the task as something that “needs to be done”, but entirely another to feel that you are being “forced” to do it. If you end up resenting the “burden” it will show in your relationships with the flock.
  2. Not for Filthy Lucre. The elder is not to be motivated by a hope for gainful employment. That is not what this is about. Virtually every good pastor I have known could have earned better money elsewhere, in a secular job, with less stress. I know of a few exceptions, but the issue here, is that money is not to be what drives a man to serve.
  3. Of a Ready Mind. The elder is both a “draftee” and a volunteer. He is called to this work, possibly reluctantly (consider Jeremiah 1:4-7), but he is also a volunteer (consider Isaiah 6:1-8.) Yes, you have been “called,” but you still have to say, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” You have to answer that call willingly.

Attitude:

  1. Not as Lords over God’s Heritage. You are not the “Big Cheese”. If you want this job so people will honor you, you really should find something else to do—be a politician, maybe, or an entertainer. This is not about power, or position, or personal glory; it is about service, and submission to God.

Behavior:

  1. Examples to the Flock. You have to take this one seriously. You are a role model, whether you like it or not. You are supposed to be leading by example. It is not acceptable to not “practice what you preach.” You must lead by example.

    This includes every aspect of a leader’s life…not just when he is at church, or “on display” in any other way. This is part of what it means to be “blameless”…above reproach. Does it require sinless perfection? No, it requires a consistent, reliable walk with God, consistently, reliably caring for the flock and your own family, not living for self.

Expectations:

  1. Finally: Expect your reward from Jesus. He is our master, and the one to whom we look for reward. If you get confused about that, so that being an elder or pastor is just a job; a way to earn an income, then you have forgotten whom you serve, and should just go get a secular job somewhere. If Jesus is really the One whom you serve, then all the frustrations of the job will just be part of dealing with Sheep, and you are actually joining the True Shepherd in His work, and you will also join him in his joy and His reward.

There is another side to the “rewards” issue. Hebrews 13:17 is actually talking to the flock, admonishing them to respond well to the leaders God has given them. But it includes something the leaders would do well to take to heart: It says “…for they (the elders) watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief, for that unprofitable for you.”

The Work of the Shepherds

“Tending the flock” (shepherding the flock) involves watching over the spiritual well-being of the local church; this is what it means to “watch for their souls.”  This is the specific task of elders, regardless of the title. Shepherds (elders, pastors, overseers…) have to “give account” to God for the well-being of the believers in the flock they serve. We are held accountable for what “happens on our watch.” From the perspective of the shepherds, we want to be able to give account with joy and not with grief. From the flock’s point of view, it is good if we can do the job of shepherding “with joy and not with grief.”

“Feeding the flock” involves faithfully teaching and preaching God’s Word. It requires that the elders invest in prayer, study, and time spent dwelling on, and digesting the Word. The scripture uses the word “meditation”, which means “dwelling on the Word in active thought, pondering and considering the meaning of scripture.” The false religions of the world use the word “meditation” to mean nearly the opposite: They mean the emptying of one’s mind of all thought, and opening one’s self to whatever comes to mind; drifting aimlessly, mentally “in neutral”, so to speak. “Meditation”, as a scriptural concept means dwelling on a particular concept, or passage, actively seeking to understand it. It is coupled with active study, reading the rest of scripture to see if further light is available elsewhere in the Word.

A well-fed church should be doctrinally sound, and spiritually encouraged; not confused, fearful and defeated. The flock is to be strengthened by means of the teachings of the Word of God, and the examples of the leaders, not weakened, or discouraged by lack of good teaching or the misbehavior of their leaders. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers (1st Corinthians 11:1) “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” He was leading by example. I would hesitate to say such a thing, but that is what we are supposed to be doing; leading by example.

The Care of the Shepherds

This particular local church has been mostly good to its shepherds, for the last 16 or more years. But I have been in churches that were quite dismissive, or even antagonistic toward their leaders. It was a grief to those men, to serve. That was not profitable for the church as a whole, nor for the individuals within the flock.

The Church cannot control how an elder must give account, that is to say, for his own actions, but they can maintain a good relationship with the leaders, so that the whole experience is mutually profitable.

One of the areas a church can address is in caring for the physical needs of their shepherds. I have known churches where it was taken to an extreme, where the pastor (singular) was living like a wealthy man. I have also seen the opposite, where the pastor (again, singular) literally did not have money to buy shoes for his children. Both extremes are unreasonable, unless that is simply reflecting the overall wealth or poverty of the local church. If elders are serving full-time, and serving well, they should be supported at a level at least matching the average for the flock. Shepherds have not taken an “oath of poverty.” One of the missionaries we support, Bob Nyberg, has a degree in mechanical engineering; do you suppose he could have had a better income as an engineer? He has served faithfully and sacrificially for 35 years or more, usually at a very low level of support, because churches look at his work and say “well, you’re not a ‘real missionary’.” In reality, his work has sent hundreds of “real” missionaries into their chosen fields of service, well-equipped to serve. He trains missionaries to learn languages, and to dissect those languages, so as to be able to make accurate translations of the New Testament. He taught Lori Morley, and she became an expert in that field. Isn’t he worthy of respect and support?

Caring for elders may take other forms: Some of the tribal churches work the gardens of the elders so that the elders can use their time for ministry. ALL of them depend on the gardens for food—if the elders can’t take care of their own gardens, they literally would have no food. Perhaps there are physical burdens that can be lightened, as an encouragement to the leaders. Things that would ordinarily take time from shepherding, in order to maintain a home or a vehicle: Firewood to be brought in, or other things that could help.

For the time being, this church is blessed with self-supporting elders… we are each supported in other ways, so as not to place a burden on the flock…but there may come a time when the elders will have to serve full time, in order to meet the increasing needs of the growing church. (That is a good problem!) We continue to financially support Pat James, in recognition of the faithful years he served the church. That is a good thing, too, and entirely proper.

1st Timothy 5:17, 18 (please write these down) makes some very clear statements regarding the support of Church leaders, while verses 22, 24 and 25 give solemn warning against being in too great a hurry to appoint leaders. You have to know them first; you don’t want any surprises, later on. I will leave those verses with you to study on your own.

Conclusion:

This has been a summary, an overview of what the scriptures say regarding the job of the Shepherds, and the qualification of Elders or overseers, as well as their care. We can review the scripture as needed, and, if you have been taking notes, I would hope that you will study these passages out on your own. They are important concepts to really understand.

I hope that we can take this teaching seriously, and apply it to our lives as a Church. When we look for leaders, we need to look for them the way God says to look, not the way the World looks. When we care for those leaders, we need to follow His word as well.

Lord Jesus, turn our eyes upon you, the Great Shepherd, and let us see your perfect example. Raise up men to oversee your flock. The Harvest is plenteous, as you have said, but the laborers are few. Make us your laborers, and raise us up into your service.