To Heed or Listen?

alisten

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. – Proverbs 12:15

The life of a Christian can be marked by certain signs or fruits that give validity to their claim of Christianity. We live in a time and in a culture that many will say they are Christians. People will say things like, “I was born into a Christian family”, “I’ve always believed”, “I was baptized as a child”, etc, etc…

The Bible gives us instruction for Christian living and last week I talked about the role of Scripture in the life of a believer. If you don’t have any sort of a relationship with your Bible, no matter what you think or what you say, then Scripture says you most likely are not. Of course there are some extreme exceptions to that rule, such as the Thief on the Cross, but for most it’s not the case.

In the time since my conversion to Christianity I’ve seen and experienced a lot of people in the church world and in particular in our local gathering that bear fruits of salvation for a season. They experience life change, they come to all the meetings, they fellowship and do life together, but then something happens. It’s consistent that one thing drives them away.

My experience is that they will “hear” counsel, but they won’t “heed” counsel.

Many will hear…but the difference is do they listen?

The word (shama`) – to hear, to listen to, obey, yield to.

This is not very common in this day, because most of us think we’ve got it all figured out. We live in a world of rugged individualism, a world of autonomy, we desire our own freedoms and to be our own “man” or “woman”.

We might listen to someone and then weigh it out to see if it makes sense, but to obey is a completely different subject. Only if it makes sense for me will I do what I’m being asked to do.

In the book or Proverbs we see this message repeated over and over again, and I’m guessing this was done purposefully to get our attention.

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. – Proverbs 19:20

The word “listen” is the same word as “heed” in the previous verse; its meaning is far deeper than just hearing what someone has to say, it means that you will be convinced by the speaker with a desire to obey.

A wise man will “hear” (shama`) and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. – Proverbs 1:5

This surely begs the question who is the wise counsel?

In most cases this is where the church has failed to teach properly. I use the word “church” in a broad sense, but I’m in particular referring to a true church, a gathering of God’s people that places the authority, sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture as the rule by which we must live our lives, where the holiness of God is exalted and the sinfulness of man is exposed. A place where Jesus Christ is the focus of the only hope sinful man has for salvation and they attempt to live a life wholly pleasing to God and use Scripture as their guide.   There is certainly more to a true church, but if these are not in the forefront the gospel has no teeth.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Here we see the New Testament argument for Believers and this points us to who should be our primary line of wise counsel. This is speaking of the Elders in the church, and the word “obey” (peithō) means to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe.

The Elders should be persuading and most importantly we should be persuaded and not only persuaded but then listen to and obey.   Yield to them. “Wise” counsel should be informed and persuaded using the Word of God. This is the lynch-pin by which this must hinge.

Unless you are being asked to sin, you should be persuaded. It’s pretty simple, and if you are being asked to sin, from that you should flee. Elders have been placed over you as protection for your soul, and when you disobey, it’s unprofitable for you and it grieves them.

By today’s standards this is completely counter-cultural and hated by most professing Christians because most want to be in control which by definition is wise in our own eyes.

Many good Christians don’t have churches that practice this, nor do they even have good churches, and in that case you should seek out the godliest counsel you can obtain given your circumstance, but don’t use it as a crutch and an opportunity to sin. If you are given good counsel, listen to it, and obey it, because someone truly loves your soul and wants what is best for you.

 

Kevin

Shepherds

shepherds and sheep

As I mentioned last week we don’t think very much about sheep in this day and age and it’s logical that we think little about shepherds. The role of a shepherd has changed in this modern day and it doesn’t have the same meaning it had in biblical times. The work of a shepherd still exists today in areas of the world and people still care for sheep in the way that the scripture describes for us.

Let’s take a look at why the role of shepherd is important today for those of us that call ourselves Christians. The word shepherd quite obviously comes from the joining of the two words sheep and herd. So a shepherd is one who herds sheep. It can also mean pastor or one that works in the “pastures”.

1 Samuel 16:11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”

Isn’t it interesting that David was a shepherd, the man after God’s own heart and would be the first acceptable King, started as a lowly shepherd. We also see that Abraham, Moses, Jacob all were shepherds. Jesus described Himself as the “Good Shepherd” that lays down His life for His sheep. The metaphorical use of shepherding and the important role of shepherds are as significant for us today as it was in the times of Christ.

We can see that God uses the lowly to reveal His greatness. Shepherds were considered the bottom rung of society, shepherding was not a glamorous job. It was a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job. Sheep never stop being sheep. They need constant care and watching over. We saw in the article about sheep that they need constant watch because there is so much danger for them. They easily contract illness and cuts which can cause disease. They are very susceptible to attack from predators.

So you might say, “Well this is moderately interesting but how does it affect us today?”

There is a tremendous amount of New Testament application to the role of being a shepherd, but for the sake of this article, being shepherded. What does it mean to be shepherded by those called to be shepherds?

Ephesians 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…

As established above the word pastor here is the same word as shepherd (poimēn) which means literally or figuratively to be a shepherd or a pastor. We can see that Christ Himself has appointed men in your life to be your pastor, for what purpose…for the purpose of equipping you for the work of ministry and the edifying of the body.

This really is the primary purpose of the church and the work of those that are in ministry as pastors and elders. It’s not to stand on the stage and give you a pep talk about life, or provide you with a motivational speech to keep you going until next week.

The pastors job is bring the weight of scripture to bear upon your life. That you would be edified and equipped for the work God has for you. Not to fill the seats with his wonderful charm and quick-wit.

The shepherd will do the unpopular things to keep his sheep healthy. He will pin them down and pull bot flies out of their infected flesh. Doesn’t this make the 23rd Psalm come to life?

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures…” Just think about this for a moment, it’s not your own desire to lie down in a green pasture, you must be made to do it.

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” If you are a child of the King you will be led on the path of righteousness, for His name’s sake.

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Sometimes the shepherd must use the rod to correct, even when it’s unpopular.

1 Peter 5:2-4 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

What an overwhelming charge give to those that Christ has appointed. They are told to be examples and overseers. They are accountable for souls, and we generally just want to be sheep, right? We desire our own way, and we might want some accountability, but not too much.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Here is a charge to us sheep. We are to willingly place ourselves under the authority of our shepherds, as we willingly place ourselves under the authority of Christ. We have established earlier by looking at Ephesians 4:11 that Christ Himself has placed those shepherds and now we must obey and be submissive.

Why?

Because it is profitable for us! Doesn’t it make sense that when sheep have illness and disease and the shepherd digs out the nasty infection that can kill his sheep; that is profitable for that sheep? Do we make that connection? Have you considered the last time you fought against God’s desire for your life and you refused to obey or submit? If your shepherd was faithful in his calling, he did his job.

Did you fulfill your requirement?

May we humble ourselves today, for the plan God has put in place for the profit of His people.

Kevin

Is church membership Biblical?

belong

Recently I wrote about some friends that had left our church.  I continue wondering why, mostly knowing the answer, but have come to the conclusion they were not willing to pursue church membership and felt some pressure to do so.  The pressure didn’t come from a desire to have them under a thumb or somehow repress their freedoms, although they might believe that.  No, I believe the desire for membership came out of a biblical call to be under authority and willingly submit to church leadership.  I’ve written about this subject once before so I won’t rehash but here is the article authority, obey, submit

Many people want church to be a part of their life, at least on Sunday, and then they want their own life, their independence and freedom to do as they please when they please.  The author of Hebrews tells us this is unprofitable for them (Hebrews 13:17).

Why would it be unprofitable for them?  People really get upset when their lifestyle is being challenged, especially when they are very honorable, lovely and exceptionally moral people.  Possibly and probably they are saved.  It really comes down to one of two things.  They either are saved and in rebellion to God’s Word or they are not saved.  I’ve tried to figure out some middle ground so I could think “good” thoughts, but I don’t see it any other way.  Biblically I mean.  This is why it’s unprofitable, whether unsaved or in rebellion, neither is a good place to be.

The simple act of rebellion certainly calls me to consider their salvation.  Disclaimer: I don’t determine salvation.  God will do His good pleasure and He may use this circumstance to do remarkable work in someone.  That’s not my call, but if an apple tree produces thorns, it’s not an apple tree.  So I must challenge them, in love, to consider their testimony.

I’ve recently commented on another blog that I follow, and really like, about church membership.  I see lots of people calling it things that I don’t believe it is.  I believe God designed us to be in fellowship and He clearly calls us to be under the authority of the church.   Not to oppress us but to free us and to protect us.

Below are two well respected pastors that are of like mind.  These are both short and very powerful.  If you are struggling in this area, consider how God will work in your life when you willingly submit to His will.

Alan Cairns – Is church membership Biblical?

John MacArthur – Importance of church membership 

Kevin

When is it time to leave a church?

I had a conversation with a friend last night and he announced to me he and his wife were leaving our church.  I am grieving this loss and I began to think about why one would leave a fellowship of God’s Church.  There are certainly legitimate reasons to leave which I think primarily revolve around the lack of the gospel or truth.  If this is the case that person should go seek restoration and call leadership to repentance (Matthew 18:15-17) or in the case of a sinning leader scripture speaks clearly how to handle (1 Timothy 5:19).

What if we just don’t like what comes from the leadership?  This really is the point of the rub.  Can we disagree and still be in fellowship?  Can we be like-minded and still have some points of disagreement?  Paul tells us to strive for the unity of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).  This is a major problem, sinful man likes autonomy.  Merriam-Webster defines autonomy as “self-directing freedom and especially moral independence”, we like this don’t we?  Isn’t this what it usually comes down to?  I don’t like to be told what to do, if it disrupts my world-view I would rather rebel than consider my-self directed freedom.  Scripture is full of examples of this.

Matthew 8:19-20 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Do we understand that following Christ is difficult?  Have we not seen the many examples the Lord Himself has provided.  What about John Chapter 6?  This message was so shocking and so scandalous that Jesus ran them all off, all but the twelve that is.  This shook people to the core.  John 6:61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this.  He said to them, “Does this offend you?”  verse 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

But this was Jesus right?  If Jesus was the one getting up and preaching it would be no problem.  If He made challenging demands it would not be an issue.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who ruler over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief.  For that would be unprofitable for you.

The writer of Hebrews gives us clear direction that we are to be submissive to leaders in the church.

John MacArthur commenting on this verse:

That God is a God of principle, that God is not a God who says, do your own thing. But God has some very strong and very rigid and very clearly defined standards of behavior…

In order that those who read might understand that joy is produced by obedience. And in order the readers might understand that witness to the world depends upon the consistency of the pattern of their living.

And I want you to notice how this submission is ordered, verse seventeen, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves,” and we’ll stop there. Now here is a responsibility toward God. You say it sounds to me like a responsibility towards some rulers. Yes it is, but the wonderful thing that is evident in this text and evident in other texts in the New Testament is this, that God, now watch it, that God mediates much of His rule in this world through men. God has done that for a long time. Throughout the Old Testament God mediated His rule at times through kings, through prophets, through judges. And in this age God mediates His rule through Spirit-controlled men. Someday God will mediate His rule in the living Christ who sits on the throne of David and rules in the world and the kingdom, right? And He’ll mediate His own kingdom. But at this time God is literally ruling His people through certain Spirit-led men.

These men were ordered of the Spirit of God to have the rule of the church. They do not rule for themselves, they rule in the stead of Christ. They are called undersheperds, and that’s really what I am. That’s what your pastors are, that’s what any pastors are in any given church. So when in seventeen it says obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves, the submission here is not really to men but it is to God, as He rules, mediating His rule through Spirit-controlled men. So there were in that assembly, as in all early local churches gifted men, chosen by the Lord, granted to the church to rule.  You can read or listen to the sermon here:  http://www.gty.org/Resources/sermons/1642

Here is the issue.  Pastors and Elders are called to rule well.  Not for their own gain.  Believers are called to submit to them.  This is an act of the will, a decision to do so.  Many will attempt to say I’m submitting myself to God but they won’t submit to men appointed by God.  The truth is they are NOT submitting to God.  This submission thing is a big deal to God.

So what should we do if we disagree?  I’ve already shown above that we are to go to those that we have disagreements with or that have sinned.  Proverbs 1:5-6 A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.  If we don’t follow this we are doing the opposite.  Proverbs 18:1-2 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.  A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

The issue with my friends was persecution and trials that came from making tough decisions and challenging stances.  Are these sin issues?  They may or not be depending on how they are handled.  This is why one should attain wise counsel.  Didn’t Jesus teach us that persecutions would come when we stood on His truths?

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecute the prophets who were before you.  We know Paul affirmed this 2 Timothy 3: 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Jesus also said we should count the cost.  https://uncommonfaith.org/2012/11/16/count-the-cost/

Is this a salvation issue for my friends?  I hope not but I know the scripture shows them to be in rebellion to God’s Word.  I say that as the most loving thing I can possibly say to them.  They have rebelled against God’s authority through His Church.  Is it time for them to leave?  NO, it’s time for them to talk and work through the issues, not flee.  I hope they will attain wise counsel and search diligently to see if they are in sin.  I hope they will seek restoration.  This is what scripture call them to do.  What is my responsibility?  I must pray for them and I must plead with them to work through this.  If we call ourselves Believers then we have a guide book.  We must use that to seek truth and to seek like-mindedness.  Not because my opinion matters, but because God’s opinion matters.

Kevin