Friday, January 20, 2012

Reforming the church is embracing God's gift of pastors part 2

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.

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).
Hebrews 13:17
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.

Acts 20:28-29

Be on guard for 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 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.

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