The title of this blog post says a lot about my thinking lately. John Piper once said that every sermon a pastor preaches should become an "exposition of exaltation." He said it many years ago yet it is one those statements that I have never forgotten. Before I moved to Lawrenceville, GA in August of 2013, I had been a pastor for six years. Five years I spent at a small church in Selmer, TN and about a year and a half at a small church in Grand Junction, CO. Those were difficult years, but they were also precious years. Most every Sunday and Wednesday throughout those years I was either preaching or teaching something from the text of Scripture. When I read John Piper's statement above I felt compelled to always make that my aim. Most anyone who has some degree of speaking ability and knows something basic about the Gospel can preach a sermon. But not just any one can exalt Christ in the process. When John Piper said a sermon should be an exposition of exaltation, God used it to remind me that I am not just preaching to feed the sheep or to teach others something about God. I am preaching as an offering of worship to Him. As I preached, I needed to be worshipping. I needed to love the One I spoke of so much that every ounce of me wanted to tell the truth about Him to others, to exalt in Him as I spoke about Him. This past year I have hardly done any preaching or teaching at all. And I do admit that was by design. In December of 2011 Lori and I went through a very difficult circumstance in our lives where I was fired from my church for preaching and teaching what I felt was biblical and true. After that I did not know what to do. I was hurt and very discouraged because I had given five years of my life there and planned on giving the rest of it. Over time I met with another pastor of a Reformed church who needed help in Grand Junction, CO. So I moved my family out there. The church was a mighty blessing to us after the hardship of the last one. They loved us and served us. And eventually they voted me in as their second teaching elder. What a joy it all was to pastor along side a like-minded man, who believed in the same doctrines and preached with the same passion for truth that drove me. I thought I could spend the rest of my life there. But after about a year of that I noticed that although my wife put on a good smile everyday, she was sad inside. She was still broken over the tragedy of the last church. She was hurting and I was not caring for her very well. In an effort to quickly get back into "ministry" I forgot to care for my wife. The church in Colorado allowed us to live in the church building rent free, but other than that they could not afford to pay me. So I worked two other jobs just to pay our bills, and buy groceries. On top of preaching and teaching I realized I was doing too much.
God opened up an opportunity for me to work in Atlanta, GA for enough of a salary that I would only need one job. Lori needed some time away from full-time ministry. She needed to live in a home that was only ours. I was preaching and teaching, which I love almost more than anything, but my sermons were no longer expositions of exaltation because I was tired and weary and even sad myself. And at the same time I was not caring for my wife the way that Christ commands husbands to in Ephesians 5. So in August of 2013 we moved to Lawrenceville, GA, started attending a Bible believing reformed church, which I am extremely thankful for (thank you Brother Robert & Christ Reformed) and I took a break from full time ministry...I took a break from preaching and teaching. I never intended for this to be a permanent break. Both Lori and I agree on that but after almost a year now, it has been a good break. A needed break. We moved into our own home for the first time in a year and half and we have just enjoyed being a family. I have come home every night, attended our church on Wednesdays and Sundays and spent time in the Word together and with no other expectation on me. So, now to the point of this blog post. Just because I have stopped preaching and teaching and do not know when I will start again on any kind of regular basis, doesn't mean that the desire to preach and teach is no longer there. The desire never once left me. I hear something or I read something in the Bible and immediately I start wanting to tell others about it and to teach on it. I am just built that way. I am not ready yet to return to the pulpit, so instead I am going to start using this blog again as my outlet for truth, my outlet to teach and preach. My prayer above all else is that every post will become for me an "exposition of exaltation." I look forward to sharing with you soon. But I would write this blog whether any one read it or not.
When we, as a society, wink at, turn our heads and even approve
of the murder of unborn children, the first problem is NOT the conditions it
takes place in, the first problem is that we have already become an accessory
to murder. The only reason people are talking about this particular case
is because of the degree to which this doctor performed abortions. But the most
horrible thing about all of this is that this will be seen as an extreme case
that everyone should be against...some abortions are better than
others...NO...NO...NO!!! Abortion is sin whether it happens in a garbage dump
or a palace, whether it happens immediately after conception or at 9 months.
And our country stands and watches with an eye of approval, until images that
shock us come out that reveal not an isolated instance, but the truth about all
abortion...it is sin. And the wrath abides not only on those who perform them
but on all those who approve of them. Why is this nation Shocked at Dr. Gosnell
and the conditions of his clinic and his actions? Because they are embarrassed
that the true condition of abortion itself was exposed and not hidden behind a
neat, curtain or wall. America needs to wake up but it will not. The world and
it's lusts are passing away...true believers in this nation will alone stand
against this horror, not because it is first hurting women and babies (and it
is), but because it is against God and we love Him more than this world and the
things it approves of.
Romans 1:32 and although they know the ordinance of
God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do
the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Planned Parenthood itself are the BIGGEST hypocrites of all
in all of this. Because they think what they are doing is different than what
Dr. Gosnell does. That is almost laughable!!
John 17:4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
These are the Words of Christ just before He goes to the cross. This is a prayer from God the Son to God the Father.
This is my favorite verse in my favorite Gospel in the NT.
These are, in my opinion, the most important Words spoken by Christ during His earthly ministry in all of Scripture.
And there are two reasons I have for believing this.
1) First of all, the fact that He speaks these words to His Father just before He goes to the cross is amazing to me. It is amazing because He has not yet done the final work He was sent by the Father to do, to die on the cross.
2) And that is the second thing that amazes me about this text. He uses the past tense verb of "having accomplished" the work. Yet on the cross we know that He says, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).
Jesus had not even gone to the cross yet, and still He says to the Father, "I glorified You on the earth (during His earthly ministry) having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do."
The question I find myself asking here is how can Jesus say that He has accomplished the work that the Father sent Him to do and yet He has not even physically died on the cross yet?
The answer I come to sends me into a glory-filled song of praise.
We cannot simply read isolated verses and have an accurate view of their meaning. We must read all Scripture in the context in which God placed it. Therefore John 17:4 is in a chapter of the Bible where Jesus is praying to His Father about the very specific work that He sent Jesus to do. And when Jesus does that work, God the Father is glorified.
The question is, what is the work which God the Father sent God the Son to accomplish? The answer allows us to see how He can say here that He has both accomplished the work and yet still says on the cross, "It is finished."
I believe that work is expressed best in John 17:12
While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
Christ came to keep and guard those men which God the Father gave to Him. Look at how well He kept and guarded them.
"Not one of them perished."
And He only adds the "son of perdition" (the son of hell, Judas Iscariot) here because it was ordained for Christ to choose Judas to betray Him.
In other words, Christ kept all of those who were meant to be kept. He guarded all of those who were meant to be guarded. Not one person who God the Father elected for salvation perished under the watchful care of Jesus Christ. Not one.
In John 17:12 Jesus was only speaking about the eleven disciples, but those are not the only ones Christ was sent to keep and to guard and to pray for.
John 17:20 is proof of that fact:
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their Word;
Let me make something very clear here, "their word" is referring to the Word of God itself. The disciples were the first men commissioned by Christ to preach the true Gospel and many of them even wrote Scripture itself. Their Words were the Words that began the process of bringing salvation to men who would believe on Christ and be joined to the church.
Acts 2:41-43 is the first and most powerful example of that fact
So then, those who had received his word (the Word of God through the mouth of the Apostle Peter) were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
Added to what? Added to the first local church there in Jerusalem.
Back to John 17. Christ not only prayed for those eleven disciples before He went to the cross, but He also prayed for all the rest of those who would be saved and follow Him. He was praying at that moment for all of the elect children of God around the world who would ever come to faith in Him.
They will have the same care over them as the disciples had - the care of Christ. The result of that care will be the same as the disciples: "Not one of them will perish."
Here is where we come to the greatest truth in all of Scripture and why I love the Word of Jesus in John 17:4 so much.
None of the elect will perish because He was sent by God the Father to die for them, to substitute His life for theirs beneath the wrath of God, and He would send the Word of God to them.
When they hear the Word of God their hearts will be regenerated, they will believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and spend their entire life serving Him in their local church.
This is the beauty of the Doctrines of Grace. They hinge on one glorious fact - substitutionary atonement. All who God the Father sent Christ to die for, will come to Him and all who come to Him, He will not cast out and they will never perish!
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out...this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
This is the foundation of the Doctrines of Grace...A completely victorious Savior...why would we not glory in Him? He will have victory as the one who accomplished everything the Father sent Him to accomplish...He already has.
All that is left now is for Him to return and claim His prize!
In my next post I will summarize what the rest of the Doctrines of Grace teach and how the church is reformed by them.
A very wise pastor of over 30 years once told me, "There is a big difference between preaching reformed theology and actually reforming the church."
To that I gave a hardy amen. I have seen that difference up close and personal. People can live with their pastor preaching right doctrine. Many times they even invite it. They may question some of it or simply not understand all of it.
But as long as their pastor is patient and willing to show his people that these doctrines are biblical, most of the time they will at least be willing to listen, even if they disagree.
2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Most of the time people are willing to at least listen if all you ever do as a pastor is preach right doctrine; however the problem becomes when you try and take that right doctrine and place it in people's every day lives and challenge them to live by the Word of God.
That is when I find that most of the objections begin.
Some of you, who have been through splits and revolts in your own church due to doctrine (such as Calvinism) are questioning my sanity right now, thinking of all kinds of instances where people rose up in arms over doctrine they did not agree with. I understand that and it does happen. But I believe the doctrine itself is a small part of the issue for most people.
Most people only get upset when they start to understand what the doctrines demand of them personally.
But if you are listening to doctrine that does not demand anything of you personally then you are listening to there wrong doctrine!
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
That is what the Christ does and so that is what any doctrine that promotes Christ does. It pin points the areas in your life where you have placed your family or your comfort or anything in this life before Him and calls you to repent and follow Him!
I will give you a perfect example I have experienced in my own pastoral ministry:
There was a woman in my congregation who called me after listening to one of my sermons and she asked me, "Pastor, are you a Calvinist?" As a man who does not like to be labeled by a term that could or could not describe me based on the definition of Calvinism, I quickly responded by saying, "Well, that depends on what you mean by 'Calvinist.'"
And she rattled off mostly untrue statements about what Calvinism meant, mainly that men were mere puppets and that we did not believe in evangelism or holding people accountable in their walk with Christ.
So I went over to her house the next day and spoke for several hours on what I did believe as a Calvinist or someone who holds to the Doctrines of Grace.
While I was there I came to find out that what she was really upset about was not the doctrine itself but what the doctrine meant to her pride and to her family.
At one point she stopped me and said, "So what you are saying is that even though I have been a Christian for 30 years, that I have been wrong about how God saves people the whole time."
And I responded by challenging her and saying, "Well, if you were, wouldn't you want to know? Doesn't the Bible tell us to examine everything we believe by the Word of God and not simply by what we have always been taught?"
She responded with the fact that she could not handle that. And then the conversation quickly spiraled out of control as her emotions took over.
I found out that one of her sons was currently lost and living in the world and she was afraid that by believing that God had elect people that He sent His Son to die for that her lost son would not be included and she could not handle that either.
Which, by the way, is not a Calvinistic problem at all but a faith problem. I would argue that the God that Calvinism presents would actually give her a greater reason to hope in her Son's eventual salvation than any other doctrine or God could she could believe in. Why?
Because there is absolutely no sin or no amount of disbelief that her son could currently be living in that would keep an elect child of God from the regeneration that Christ purchased for him on the cross.
She must continue to simply pray for him and be a loving witness of the Gospel to him in the meantime.
She was placing more faith in what he could do for his own salvation than what God has already done on the cross. And that is not faith. That is a stubborn pride filled desire to see her family members saved in her own way.
I have talked with countless people who come to the same conclusions about what they will or will not believe based on what it means for the salvation of their living or dead relatives.
One pastor I know started preaching correct doctrine and then applying that to leaving behind cults and false teaching. None of his people had any really problems with that until they started to see that following this would mean having to reject the Masonic lodge. And then war broke out in this pastor's church. Many of his deacons and prominent leaders were Masons and would rather forsake the church than their precious but heretical lodge.
People are fine with doctrine that sits on the page of Scripture but does not have to touch them in their homes where they live, and in their businesses where they work, and in their marriages and parenting. Why?
Because that is where doctrine calls for change. That is where doctrine invades the wrong in our lives and seeks to correct and change it and kill it and create the new and the right.
The whole point of knowing right doctrine is to allow it to conform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
If we are not first willing to change, if we are not first willing to see the wrong ways we live in our homes or work in our businesses, then we are not willing to turn from these things and repent.
If the pastor keeps preaching that doctrine must change these things, then they not only question the change, but they question the doctrine. They tell the preacher to stop preaching so much on the these things that they have heard over and over again.
Why? Because they are not offended by the doctrine but by the God with whom the doctrine brings them face to face.
They do not love Him and they want to avoid Him. But they find that in the kind of preaching that brings the doctrine so close to their lives that they cannot avoid Him.
This what it means to reform a church: to take the right doctrine and place it in their living room where they cannot avoid the one true and living God who is absolutely sovereign over all things, most importantly the salvation of His church.
Psalms 115:3 Our God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases
When a pastor decides that He must preach the God of the Bible, the people who sit under his ministry must face the God who is, instead of living in a world where they make Him up based on their fears or preferences.
They will either face Him in a humble admission that their lives are full of sin and pride, repent and allow Him to change their lives, or they will face Him in a prideful arrogance that says "I will only believe in Him if He is the God I always wanted."
2 Timothy 4:2-4 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
A WORD TO PASTORS: Pastors I encourage you to never stop preaching the God who is, because your people need a real God who deals with real sin in their lives. They may not like it, but not only were you not called to please them, but when God does open their eyes for the first time to see Him, they will run to Him and your church will quickly move from those who simply tolerate doctrine to those who love the God of Scripture.
My next post will be part 2 of what it means to "live our lives by the Doctrines of Grace" and I will lay out briefly what these doctrines mean and how they not only teach us who He is, but also how we might live in response to who He is.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Did you ever notice how strong Paul's language is here to young pastor Timothy?
This is no request or suggestion. This is a charge. Not just any charge, Paul adds extra emphasis with "solemn charge."
In Greek, this carries the idea of a "severe warning." A warning that carries a great cost to himself and his ministry if he fails to carry out this charge. Because this charge is not simply from the apostle Paul, it is from Christ Himself.
The charge is to preach Christ to His church and nothing less than Christ. Earlier in this same letter the apostle Paul reminds Timothy where this charge originates: 2 Timothy 1:14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you...This treasure is a two fold treasure: the treasure of the Word of God itself and the calling to preach it. This is the treasure that Christ Himself has entrusted to Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands... First Christ gave Timothy the gift to preach the Word of God, which is the same as calling him as an elder and pastor and then He gave Timothy as a gift to the church, so that they could benefit from Word of God and the ministry that Christ called Timothy into.
Why did Christ charge Timothy to preach the Word to the church and to "guard this treasure, which has been entrusted to him?"
Why is the apostle Paul warning Timothy that everything depends on the preaching of the Word of God in the church? Why such a serious charge? 2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Paul is so urgent with Timothy and calls the preaching of the Word a "trust" that must be guarded because the church needs the preaching of the Word, but the world around (and in) our local churches is constantly attacking that Word and seeking to pull believers away from it.
That is why the church never stops needing instruction. Remember Paul urged Timothy to preach the Word continually, "in season and out of season."
I think that is one of the biggest problems in the local church today. God gives a preacher, who rightly understand the urgency of his calling, to a local church, and yet most of those who sit under his teaching do not see how desperately they need the Word.
This is a huge reason why so many people in the local church do not embrace their elders and pastors as gifts from the hand of Christ Himself.
I think that is why the author of Hebrews pleaded with congregation members to obey their leaders and listen to them. Because even if they don't see the urgency of their need, their leaders do. That is what their leaders (their pastors and elders) have been gifted and called to see).
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
But rebellion is in the heart of every sinner. And sinners fill up the church. And that is why when God was commenting on the state of his people in Isaiah He called them rebels from birth: Isaiah 48:8 You have not heard, you have not known. Even from long ago your ear has not been open, because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; and you have been a rebel from birth.
And that is why when Christ set up the church He set it up with structure in mind and authority.
Authority always brings out some rebellion in sinners. Everyone is fine until someone tells them something they don't want to hear. Or tells them to change something that they don't want to change.
If you have been sitting in a church for even a few months and you never hear something that your flesh does not like, then you are in a bad church. A pastor that only preaches the parts of the Word of God that make you feel good is not preaching the Word. He is purposeful using the Word to gain followers, not to show sinners their need for Christ.
I'm not saying that your pastor should be a jerk either. But he is an authority. He is a steward of the Word of God. And as a steward, He must speak for Christ, not for himself. And the first thing Christ does with every sinner is expose the places in his life where he is still in rebellion to His Word. And then He takes the Word and slowly begins to cut out your will and replace it with His.
Rebellion comes from pride and the first place we see pride rear its ugly head in the local church is when its members decide to come up with every excuse in the world not to obey their leaders and not submit to their teaching.
If this wasn't a problem, the Lord would not have inspired these words. Hebrews 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.
And in the NT you see this kind opt language over and over again about the role of a pastor, "keep watch," "Guard," "lead," "be alert."
Why? Because rebellion is always at the door way of every local church and in order for the Gospel to thrive there, rebellion must be killed and the desire to submit and follow the Word where it is preached must live!
In 2 Timothy 1:14, Paul urges Timothy to "guard, that which has been entrusted to him."
He tells him to guard the Word because it will be attacked, and then in Hebrews 13:17 the writer is pleading with the congregation to see that is exactly what their elders have been called to do on their behalf, "for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account."
Christ sent elders into the local church to "guard the Word" as a precious treasure and only as they guard the Word from being attacked can they then effectively "keep watch over the souls" that Christ has given into their care.
Pastors are not simply preachers of the Word, they are also guardians of it and watchers over the souls of their people.
Most people who sit in local churches today have no clue of the heavy responsibility this is to their pastor. Which, again is one reason why they do not embrace him as a gift.
If you are a member of a local church please read this carefully.
The church never stops needing the instruction of the Word of God from their pastor and elders. Never. You can never know too much about how the Gospel applies to your marriage or to your parenting or to your work life or to your relationship to your parents.
You always need instruction and your pastor is called by God to give you that instruction. And to protect you from following any other instruction but the Word of God. That is his calling.
So unless you have strong Scriptural evidence that his instruction to you is unbiblical...DO NOT REJECT IT!
Your pastor is called by Christ to, "be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."
Why? Because you never stop needing to be "reproved, rebuked, exhorted and instructed" by the Word of God.
Because the moment you stop allowing your pastor to preach the message of the Gospel into your heart and life, the moment you start shutting off your ears and closing down your heart because you get your feelings hurt, is the moment that you are the most vulnerable to attacks and the lies of Satan.
The moment you stop listening to the Word is the moment you start listening to self. And Satan will start pulling on your heart strings. The pride within you will raise its ugly head and convince you that you deserve to be treated better and you don't need your pastor's wisdom and instruction anyway. And then you will start looking around for a message that is more appealing to your flesh.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.
On one occasion, the apostle Paul was encouraging the Ephesian elders to continue faithfully instructing the Ephesian church because if they failed to do this the people would fall into the temptation of Satan. True teachers of the Word must remain faithful because false teachers (vessels of Satan) are always there to whisper in their ears and pull them away.
Your pastor is working hard guarding the Word of God from being twisted and watching over your soul so that you don't hurt yourself and your family and your testimony. And even more important, your pastor is trying to keep the church healthy so that it does not hurt the name of Christ.
Be on guardfor yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
You need to wake up. Your pastor was not given to you to appeal to your flesh and to make you feel good about yourself. He was given to you by Christ to preach the Word of God into your life so that you might repent of sin and be "conformed into the image of the Son."
The word of God is not a gentle pillow that you can rub your ego on at night and rest softly in your sin. The Word of God, according to Hebrews 4:12,
is sharper than a double-edged sword, and is meant to pierce through your flesh and dive into your soul...it judges the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Word of God, faithfully preached by your elders is meant to expose your sin and show it to you. Don't reject that. Because the moment you do, Satan is ready to destroy you.
1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Christ gave you a pastor and elders because we not only need to constantly be instructed by the Word of God, but we need called and gifted men to protect protect us from following error.
So leave your pride that says that can never happen to you. If it couldn't, the Word of God wouldn't warn you so much about it and it certainly wouldn't urge pastors to watch out for it.
Your job is to remain humble and teachable toward him in that instruction. Because God has given him to you for that very purpose. God gave pastors to His people for their good.
Embrace your pastor and your elders as the gift of a guardian and a watchman for your soul. When he accepted the call to pastor your church, he laid down his life for that purpose.
2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.
What should the church want from their pastor-elders? What should they look for in a pastor or elders? What should the church expect their role to be?
The most important question that the church should ask when addressing issues like this is, "Who decides the role of the pastor?"
Where did the role of the pastor originate? Where did it come from? Did it come from pastors? Did it come from congregations? No.
The role of the pastor did not originate from any man. The role of the pastor did not even originate in the church. It originated from Scripture. And therefore Scripture alone must dictate what the role of the pastor should be in the church.
Believers should want what the Bible wants. They should want a pastor that lines up with the Biblical qualifications not with their own feelings, thoughts and opinions. Our opinions really do not matter when it comes to deciding who our pastors should be and what his role is in the church.
Only God's truth matters when it comes to things that originate with Him and everything does! He chooses equips godly men for pastoring and shepherding the flock and then His Spirit alone calls them into the ministry.
Acts 20:28 ...the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God.
Therefore when it comes to deciding who our pastors should be and what role they should carry out in the church we must start with Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), "conforming everything in our lives to the Word of God."
NOTE: Let me preface all that I am about to say with this quick note. I am going to write a separate blog at a later time about those men who call themselves pastors but who are not faithfully preaching the Word or shepherding the sheep. Because there are those men out there and they are a threat to the church rather than a blessing to it. Paul spends a lot of time in his letters to Timothy warning him about these false teachers and urging him to remove them from the body. But today I am only addressing how the church should treat men who are truly called to the position of elder and are faithfully carrying out that role.
So this is going to be my first series of posts on the same topic: how the church is called by Scripture to view their pastors and elders. I'm not sure how many of these posts I will do, so bear with me. I just know that if I try to shove everything into only one you will sit here for far too long.
I have one major issue to deal with in this first post on the role of the pastor and I will leave the rest to the following posts. And that is that Christ gave pastors to the local church and therefore the embers of the church are called by God to recognize them as a gift to them from His hand.
In my previous post on our view of the local church, I mentioned that because worldliness has crept into the church it has given many of its members (professing believers) a low view of the church.
The first place where that becomes the most visible is how the congregation treats their pastor or elders.
That is why we must correct our mistreatment of pastors and change our wrong expectations of their role by pointing out very clearly this biblical truth: God gave pastors to the church. God gave pastors to the bride of Christ!
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stare which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Because God gave pastors and elders to the church to lead the church, it makes perfect sense that if you have a low view of the local church then you will have a low view of your God-given leaders. And you will develop wrong expectations as to why they are there.
In order to keep us from developing unbiblical expectations of the pastor's role, let's begin by looking at two biblical words from the text we just read: "He gave"...
Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some...as pastors and teachers
Let's just think about those two words for one moment. "He gave."
Where else do we see those two words in Scripture? The first place that probably came to your mind was
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...
And who did God give His Son to? The world? Yes, in a sense, but if you read that verse in context He actually gave Him specifically to the church that is presently in the world. He gave Him to the elect, who live in the world among every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9-10 ...for you were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
When God gave His Son to the world, He was specifically giving Him to the church in the world, to purchase them out of the world.
It was a sacrificial giving. It was a giving of Christ to take on the punishment of the cross. Christ went to the cross not for a general purpose but for a very specific purpose: to purchase the salvation of His elect children around the world. Every one of them will one day come out of the world and live with Him eternally in heaven because He purchased them.
So God gave His Son to the church and He gave the church to His Son.
John 17:6 I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.
As we discussed in my last post, there is nothing more precious to Christ than His bride. It is a gift to Him from His Father. He laid down His life to purchase her out of her sin and gave her new life. First the Father gave Christ to save the church, and now that Christ has saved His bride, now He wants to nourish her with the Word of God.
So Christ gave a special gift to His bride, to serve her like He does, to lay down their lives for her and preach His Word to her. Christ gave His church pastors.
Those same two words that are used to tell us that God the Father gave Christ to His church are now being used to tell us that God the Son gave pastors to His church.
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Why did Christ give pastors to His church, to His bride? How do they best serve the church?
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some...as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
He gave pastors to His bride to equip them and build them up in their salvation.
The church is called the body of Christ because it has His name on it - it has His blood on it. It bears His death marks, His seal.
Therefore there is nothing more important to Christ than to uphold the reputation of His name and His Father's name by strengthening and building up the body of Christ.
How does He do that? By giving to them pastors and elders who will faithfully and patiently preach and teach that Word to them, thus equipping them with a greater understanding of the Word of God.
2 Timothy 4:1-2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Do you realize your great need for the Word? Are you hungry to understand it better and to apply it to your life?
Then be thankful! Be thankful that God gave you a pastor that is willing to study hard to teach it to you and your family.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
Is the Scripture not clear on this point? Christ is a gift to the church to save the church and to give it life, where there was only death. Pastors are a gift to the church as well, to work hard to continually point the church back to Christ!
If you love Christ, then you should love your local church. And if you love your local church, then you should love your pastor who serve you in that church in order to point you to Christ, the life and breath of the church.
Based on everything I have discussed in this post, I have three major challenges for you. And I am giving you these challenges with the presupposition that you actually have a biblically qualified pastor or elders in your church. Because if you don't you should honestly evaluate why you are still in that church.
1) So first of all, if you have elders that are faithfully pastoring you with the Word of God, then you only have one option: You must view them and their ministry as a gift from the hand of Christ to you and your church.
2) Secondly, if he is a gift from the goodness of Christ to you, then do you treat Him like a gift? Do you encourage him? Do you faithfully pray for him? Do you go up to him from time to time and just tell him how much you appreciate the fact that he spends hours in his study preparing to preach the Word of God to you and your family every week. 3) Finally, if he is a gift from Christ to your church, and if he is spending hours preparing to preach the Word of God to you and your family every week, are you listening? Are you listening to the Word as intently and as passionately as he is preaching it? If you are sitting there during His sermons twiddling your thumbs and day dreaming, you are not receiving Him as the gift Christ intended Him to be! You should be preparing your heart throughout the week to hear the Word of God and learn from him. And then you should seek not only to hear it, but to apply it your life and be changed by it. If He is preaching the Word of God to you, then every week is an opportunity to grow or change something in your life so that you can move closer to Christ and further out of the world.
That is not only what every true pastor wants from his people, but more importantly that is what Christ wants from His people. Pastors and elders are simply called to lay down their lives to make sure that you know exactly who Christ is and what He is saying.
The more you start viewing your pastor as a gift, the more you will start really listening to Christ and being changed by His Word.