Praying for Jay Collier

Be praying these things for Jay Collier, our newest elder among Mambrino Baptist Church.

  1. A gospel minister is made competent by grace

Pray for Jay to depend on grace to do the work among us and not on his own intellect. Pray for Jay to boast in his weakness and depend on grace. He will be tempted to fear because of his weaknesses. Ask God to make his grace known to Jay.

  1. A gospel minister ministers the gospel

Pray for Jay to deliver the gospel like a faithful workman. Pray for him to be a skilled master builder working always with the gospel. May God help Jay apply the gospel to the unbeliever and believer.

  1. A gospel minister is aware of Christ

Pray for Jay to boast in and depend upon Christ.  Pray for Jay to work by the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way Jay is going to make it as a pastor among us is if he is aware of how the Father, Son, and Spirit make him competent for this work.

  1. A gospel minister is fruitful

Ask God to use Jay to bring many sons and daughters to faith in Jesus Christ. Ask God to use Jay to disciple believers, reconcile family members, heal marriages, and instruct the saints.

  1. A gospel minister is ambitious

Ask God to give Jay clarity concerning the work he needs to do among us. There is much to do. What is Jay’s role? Pray and ask God to show Jay how to please Christ as he works among us.

The Blessing of Deacons

Text: Acts 6:1-7                                                                      4/23/2017

Main Point: God has blessed his church with deacons.

Church polity, or government, can be a lot like money. We can trust it, put our hope in it, or ignore it. It is easy to find a person who puts her trust in money. This person thinks she is okay because she can pay the bills, has sufficient insurance, and is saving enough for retirement. Money makes her feel safe. Others put their hope in money. This person thinks he will be happy if he gets a little more. He lives in a constant state of frustration because he doesn’t have what he thinks he deserves. More money would solve his problems, or so he hopes. Still others choose to ignore the subject of money. I think this is where most of us are, seeing that American credit card debit recently crossed the one trillion-dollar threshold. We don’t care if we can pay for it, don’t even think about that, just buy it. This leads to crazy amounts of stress because we know we are in trouble but we never really know how much trouble. Just go buy something else and forget about it.

I bring this up because many of us think about church structure or polity like we think about money. Some of us put our trust in polity. This person thinks she’s okay because all the offices are there and they are all filled. We’re safe because, while the world is changing rapidly, the church remains the same. The way this person “does church” provides comfort and security. Still others put their hope in the church. After trying to bring change to the political world and failing, this person turns to the church. If only he can get the church in order then he will feel like he’s done something. He can’t change the world but he can change this church. His hope, his legacy, is polity. Still others, and again it’s probably most of us, ignore polity all together. Like forming and keeping a personal budget, forming and keeping a biblical church structure just isn’t a priority. We ignore polity because, after all, just getting ministry done is ultimately what matters. We’ll let the eggheads fight about polity while we go win souls for Christ!

Like order and structure in our families, like order and structure in our finances, God has revealed his intentions for order and structure in the church. We put our trust in the gospel, not in polity. We put our hope in Christ, not in polity. And we will not ignore polity. Instead, we seek to understand how we out to behave as a church. There is a blessing for us in a proper understanding of the offices of member, elder, and deacon. Having looked into congregationalism and the office of pastor/elder/overseer, we now need to seek God’s blessing through the office of deacon.

Acts 6:1-7

I. We want deacons because they bless the church in many ways

Deacons are awesome. The more I study this office and the more I spend time with faithful deacons, the more I see how helpful deacons actually are. Let’s talk blessings, #blessed

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by protecting and restoring joy in the body

In Acts 2 the church is in a most excellent state. They are growing in the gospel, they are caring for one another, prayers are being answered, and as any has a need the church body is meeting those needs. Acts 2:46, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The church in Acts 2 is marked by glad and generous hearts. They are sincere, happy, and focused on caring for one another. But then things go sideways; Acts 6.

Acts 6:1, as the church grew, so did the number of needs. When the number of needs grow, but the people available to meet those needs does not grow, it is a recipe for strife. The Hellenist widows, that is the Greek speaking Jewish widows, began to complain about being neglected in the daily distribution of food. They were hungry and had no means of income. The church was responsible for caring for its poor but these women were being overlooked. What was the outcome? Complaining started to happen. No longer were they looking after one another resulting in glad and generous hearts. They were growing bitter.

The solution was to create a new office, an office that hadn’t existed previously in the temple or in the synagogue. The office of deacon was created in order to restore and protect the joy of the church. Biblical deacons bless the church by helping address conflict in the body. Deacons are spiritually-mature gospel-saturated men. They have been given authority to meet needs and help the church. Don’t complain, go to the deacons. Deacons bless us by protecting our joy and unity. Also,

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by meeting physical needs

This is the model we see in Acts 6. When we compare the qualifications of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 we see quickly that their character qualifications are almost identical. What differs is their job descriptions. While elders must be able to teach, there is no similar requirement of deacons. The title, deacon, gives us insight into their job. Deacons are set apart by God to serve the church like a table-waiter. This is why, among us here at Mambrino, our deacons are actively involved in benevolence or mercy ministry. When a member of the church or community comes seeking financial assistance, it is the deacons who respond. What if you need work done around your house? What if something needs to be fixed on church property? Deacons bless the church by meeting physical needs. Go and ask them for help. Go be blessed. Deacons bless us with joy, they bless us by meeting needs, and

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by encouraging biblical elders

I gave this truth to you earlier regarding elders; biblical elders bless the church by encouraging biblical deacons. When elders do their teaching and equipping work it frees the deacons to focus on their ministry of meeting needs. When the deacons focus on their ministry of meeting needs it frees the elders to focus on their ministry of teaching and equipping. We need clarity in these offices so we can do more better. Faithfulness in one office encourages faithfulness in the others so that the church is blessed. Another avenue of blessing relates to discipleship.

  • Biblical deacons bless the church by modeling and encouraging sacrificial service

Every Christian is called to serve others (1 Pt 4:10). Every deacon is a servant. So, should we pay deacons to serve in our place so we don’t have to? If we have biblical deacons are we off the hook? No, we should look to deacons as models of ministry. Just as we look to elders to teach us how to rightly handle the word of truth, we  also look to deacons to teach us how to rightly meet the needs of our members and neighbors. Deacons set the pace for service in the church.

Romans 12:8 tells us some members will be particularly gifted with generosity and doing acts of mercy. I think it is a fair connection to say the deacons should be actively looking for and encouraging those members who are gifted in the body to perform acts of mercy. Deacons should be multiplying themselves, equipping others to meet needs. So, deacons do not just bless the church by meeting needs. They also bless the church by setting the example and raising up others who are glad and generous givers. We need deacons because they are a blessing and now

II. We need to think about the church as a family

In many ways, deacons are to elders what wives are to husbands. Stay with me, and think about responsibilities. It is the responsibility of husbands and elders to lead. It is the responsibility of wives and deacons to help accomplish the mission in the family and in the church. When husbands and wives neglect or overstep their responsibilities then the family suffers. When elders and deacons neglect or overstep their responsibilities then the church suffers. The dysfunction of the family is mirrored in the dysfunction of the church.

We need to clarify roles. Deacons are not do-boys or yes men. Wives are not slaves. The offices of deacon and wife carry identity, work, and authority. A deacon’s identity is a servant of a particular church. His work is to meet needs in order to protect and strengthen joy. His authority is to collect and disperse funds as well as train and send out ministers of mercy in the church. While elders and deacons are not essential for the existence of a church, they are both necessary for a healthy church.

I want to offer an honest word of critique aimed squarely at us pastors. One of the reasons churches struggle to enjoy a biblical leadership structure is elders seem to be faithful to the church about as long as husbands remain faithful to their wives. When the going gets tough, elders and husbands either check out or run off. The difficulty finding faithful pastors should not surprise us. It is difficult to find faithful husbands. We need elders who will stick around and labor for the good of the church like a husband and father sacrificing and working for the good of his wife and children.

But it takes two to tango. Beware of the non-committal husband and

  • Beware of the insubordinate and nagging wife

The sheer number of horror stories and jokes about deacons reveals a glaring problem. Deacons and elders work together for the good of the church. When deacons refuse to work with the elders there will be big problems. Avoid deacons who think their calling is to keep the elders in check, constantly nagging and complaining. Deacons who want to stir up controversy in the church, are as helpful as an insubordinate or nagging wife. And I think it is necessary to note that a great deal of the problem with bad deacons can be tied to bad elders. When the office of elder is neglected or abused then the office of deacon will suffer. Likewise, when the office of elder is faithfully discharged then the office of deacon will most likely blossom and vice versa. So please do not hear this as an indictment of deacons as a class and it is certainly not the case for our deacons here. We are blessed with faithful, godly, and biblical deacons. It is our responsibility to raise up and affirm more men like them.

  • We do need to challenge common misunderstandings about deacons

We must also beware of the unfit deacon. To keep the image going, beware of the unfit girly-deacon. Now there is nothing wrong with being girly. Women should look and act like women. But men should look and act like men. Women should not look and act like men and men should not look and act like women. Deacons should act like deacons. So, what should we avoid when raising up and affirming deacons? Look back at the way deacons should bless the church. If deacons bless the church by meeting physical needs then we should avoid selfish men. Ask, does he actively and sacrificially work to care for people in need? Then he should be considered. Next, if deacons bless the church by encouraging biblical elders then we should avoid men who don’t understand polity. Men who play the devil’s advocate, or like controversy, are unfit to serve as deacons. Never affirm a man who likes to stir the pot. A deacon’s responsibility is to speed up and advance the work of pastors, not serve as a check or governor on their work. A deacon’s responsibility is to strengthen and protect the joy of the church. A man who constantly produces strife and conflict is unfit for the office.

Another common misunderstanding is seeing deacons as a separate branch of government, like elders are the Senate and deacons are the House of Representatives. I understand the sentiment but if taken too far, the separate branches idea puts elders and deacons at odds with one another. Some may even think elders are Republicans and deacons are Democrats, so that opposing philosophies or personalities are encouraged. Maybe you have heard of schisms in other churches trying to get their man elected as deacon in order to represent their desires in the church. This is not helpful or biblical. Instead of being a separate branch of government checking the authority of elders, deacons are mature and godly workers who help keep the elders going. Instead of houses of government, think about a team. The elders are like coaches and the deacons are like trainers. Both groups work together to keep the team healthy and help each player improve.

That leads us to a helpful form of deacon ministry

  • Task specific deacons

In Acts 6, those men weren’t chosen because they met the qualifications. They were chosen because they met the qualifications and there was a job to do. These proto-deacons of Acts 6 were charged with making sure the Hellenistic widows were cared for by the church. They had a specific and helpful job description- make sure all the widows have enough food and money for daily life.

Originally, it appears that deacons served the church through what we call benevolence. Deacons have particular responsibility for caring for the poor. If someone has a financial need then they should go to the deacons. Additionally, it is right for us to think about the deacons taking on those tasks in the church that must be done but are not necessarily related to teaching. Tasks like greeting, benevolence, counting offerings, building maintenance, running the sound board, and setting up for church meals could easily be given to task-specific deacons. Do the members need help around the house, a ride to the doctor, or meals during illnesses? Then you members should go and take care of those needs. As those needs multiply or continue over a long period of time, we should expect a deacon to take the lead to ensure the need is met. So please do not think that deacons do all the work. Elders and deacons work together to make sure the members are healthy and able to do the work.

As we move forward as a church, it is my recommendation to you that we adopt task-specific deacons. The starting point is not with a man but with a need. The elders, current deacons, and the members will work together to determine these needs, find suitable men, and then appoint them to the work. Deacons should not continue on in the office indefinitely. It’s not once-a-deacon-always-a-deacon. Instead, it’s here’s a need that is distracting or dividing the church and here’s a man to meet that need. When the need no longer exists, or the man needs a rest, then he no longer serves as a deacon. He returns to the regular work of a faithful member.

As we close this morning I think it will be helpful to step back and get the big picture.

III. The big picture

  • In a healthy church, every member is being equipped and doing ministry

Here, I remind you that we are all in need of sanctification. No one here is perfect. We all need to helped along against sin, toward Christlikeness, and with the work God has given us. We all experience seasons of need. So, if you see a need, meet that need. Do you see guests among us? Go and greet them. Do you see members who need encouragement? Go and encourage them. Does someone need to be discipled? Offer to meet up to read the Bible and pray together. Is something old, worn, or messy? Clean it up or replace it. We are after every member ministry. Let’s get specific.

  • In a healthy church, every elder is equipping the members for ministry through preaching, teaching, and overseeing ministry

The primary task of pastors is to shepherd the sheep. Elders are under-shepherds, entrusted by Christ with caring for the members. Are you struggling against sin or with unbelief? Are you wanting to grow in godliness? Come and be fed through preaching and seek out opportunities to talk with your pastors. But elders can’t do everything.

  • In a healthy church, every deacon is protecting and strengthening joy by doing what needs to be done

Are you discouraged, unable to pay your bills? Go seek the help of a deacon. Are you a single-lady or widow and need work done around your house but you are afraid to just call someone in the phone book? Go seek the help of a deacon. Do you see something around the buildings that needs to be tended to? Go talk with a deacon. As elders help us lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us, so also deacons help us lay aside the physical and financial distractions that so easily entangle us.

When we talk about biblical members, elders, and deacons we are talking about a healthy church that enjoys Trinitarian unity. We want our unity to match and proclaim the unity of God himself. Oh, how good it is when the family of God dwells together in spirit, in faith, and unity. Oh, how good it is when we have biblical members, elders, and deacons. Let’s pray and work for unity.

True Ministry, Colossians 1:24-29

True ministry is joyful, agonizing, and full of Christ

Last week we ended with the sobering call to continue in the faith. Those who remain in the faith will be presented by the Son to the Father holy, blameless, and above reproach. If you don’t remain in the faith then you will not be presented to God holy, blameless, and above reproach. Those who live life with Christ are welcomed into the joys of our Father but the one who abandons Christ will be cast out into the darkness of a forever hell.

One of our priorities as the church is to encourage one another to keep believing and obeying the gospel. We want nothing less than the obedience of faith (Romans 16:26). We take the command of Hebrews 12:15 seriously, ‘See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.’ Your faith is a great concern to us and our faith must be a great concern to you. As your pastor, I am concerned about your faith.

The Apostle had a personal, at times uncomfortable and costly, love for his brothers and sisters. He understood he had been made a minister in order to help others remain steadfast in the gospel.

As Paul writes we can track his thinking. In Colossians 1:15-19 Paul teaches the truth concerning the magnificence of Jesus the beloved Son of God. In verses 20-22 Paul explains how we who were cut off from God can now be reconciled to God through the bloody cross of Christ. The power and reality of life in Christ produces the warning to remain steadfast in the gospel. Don’t forsake this glorious gospel! Only through the gospel can you have life.

All of this writing about the gospel caused the Apostle to think about what it means to be a minister of the gospel. If people must remain steadfast in the gospel then what is the minister’s role in helping others remain steadfast? What must a pastor be about if that pastor is going to be faithful? Let’s look at true ministry and let’s pray for even more faithfulness here among us.

Here is God’s Word. Read Colossians 1:21-2:3

I. True ministers are called by God

Ephesians 1:7-10 helps us understand God’s plan (read it).

God has a plan. God has a stewardship. God is not some distant ruler. He is overseeing the daily business of his creation. God’s plan, Ephesians 1:10, is the same word as God’s stewardship in Colossians 1:25. Here’s what I’m driving at

  • God is in charge and gives his ministers a charge (25)

Paul opened this letter with the words, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1). Now in verse 25 he writes, “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you.”

Paul knew he had been made a minister by someone else for the good of someone else. He called himself a minister in verses 23 and 25. He was a servant, a diakonos. As such he was under the command of another and serving for the good of another. As Paul faithfully depended on Christ and fulfilled the ministry, God would be glorified and the church would be built up.

Every true minister understands his place as one under a commission. God has called and God will provide so that God’s purposes are fulfilled. It’s not about me or my plans it’s about God’s plan to unite all things in Christ. God’s charge on his ministers is plain: preach Christ.

  • True ministers preach Christ (26-28a)

Paul defined his ministry when he wrote, “Him we proclaim.” To the Corinthians he wrote, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). Paul wrote many things and said many more. In this massive volume of warning and teaching there was one central unifying theme- the mystery of Christ in you. Paul never got over the wonder of how God could forgive such hostile and filthy sinners such as himself. He never moved beyond the glory and goodness of not just being reconciled to God but being reconciled to God by being joined to Christ.

One of the brightest displays of the glory and mercy of God is in the overwhelming inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God. God did not choose one or two Gentiles for the sake of his reputation. No, the massive number of Gentiles brought into the people of God shows the riches of his loving kindness. That non-Jews are included is a gracious mystery.

For ages and generations God had been progressively revealing more details concerning the coming Messiah. The Jews were listening to God and they heard him promise a coming king who would deliver them. The details were not all there but the promise that this Christ would be amazing beyond all comprehension was crystal clear. A savior is coming!

Peter wrote, “Concerning this salvation the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and enquired carefully, enquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:10-11). For ages and generations the prophets had been looking for this suffering glorious Savior.

Who will the Messiah be? How will it all work out? It’s a mystery. Now the mystery has been revealed. God revealed it. God chose to make all the details known not by telling what will happen but by sending Christ and doing everything God had planned. God is working his redemption plan.

Verse 27, “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

It is simply breathtaking that God would forgive us. God’s plan is marvelous and rich. It is unthinkable that God would give himself to us. Think on this mystery- Christ in you.

Believer, reconciled to God through Christ, Christ is in you. You have the hope of glory. You have the greatest treasure; the thing of greatest value. You have the power of God. On your own life is impossible but with God, now that you are in Christ, all things are possible. Right now you have the hope of all eternity. You have life. You have forgiveness. You have God. God’s plan is to glorify his beloved Son through your salvation.

God’s plan is fulfilled through preaching the word of God. The word of God is the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ coming to live in you. You shouldn’t have this love, this forgiveness, and this life. We shouldn’t have it. But we do! We have Christ and because we have Christ we will continue steadfast. It is not our works that cause us to continue in the faith. It is Christ in us that causes us to continue in the faith. Those who do not continue in the faith prove they never had Christ.

The implication of this fact is true ministers do not tolerate quick fixes and false messiahs. The wisdom of man is foolishness compared to this glorious life transforming, hope giving, relationship reconciling gospel. True ministers preach Christ. The God who is in charge has given this charge: preach Christ. Preach Christ for the saving of souls. Preach Christ so the church remains steadfast in the gospel.

Bring the word of God to fulfillment. That’s the charge God gives. It reads like this in verse 25, “to make the word of God fully known.” That’s a fair translation but it’s wrong if you take it to mean all a minister does is teach. Literally, verse 25 says, “to bring the word of God to fulfillment.

God’s plan to glorify his Son through the redemption of a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation did not stop when Jesus ascended back into heaven. No, God is still working his plan and that plan involves you and me. It is the minister’s job to proclaim Christ in such a way that people understand their role in God’s plan. A true minister wants nothing less than every person fulfilling their God given role with the power only God can supply. So yes we must teach the full council of God. But teaching is not enough. We teach for your obedience- so that you find your place. This is work

II. True ministers labor like Christ

Christ is the example for all true ministers so

  • True ministers warn and teach like Christ

Jesus had used the positive and negative- this is what you are to do and this is what you should not do. If you follow Jesus you gain the good but if you disobey Jesus you receive only wrath (Jn 3:36). Since it was Christ who commissioned Paul to be a minister it is no surprise that Paul’s ministry mirrored that of Christ.

Look with me at verse 28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. The true minister’s goal is your maturity. We can settle for nothing less than Christ-likeness. It is not enough that you have been saved and are reading your bible and praying. God’s charge for me is your maturity.

I will stand before God one day and give an account for how I have ministered God’s word to you. I want to be found faithful on that day therefore I must, and the other pastors here must, toil and work for your maturity.

This work is a work of the word. It’s two pronged- warning and teaching. True ministers graciously and patiently warn. This is a ministry of correction. When you are wandering into sin you should expect to be warned. When you begin to dabble with something that will erode your gospel-stability you should expect a minister of this church to admonish you- to correct you. This is not pride this is love. Gracious firm correction according to the word of God is what God has charged his ministers to do.

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Many have misused this passage to give a pastor or group of pastor’s absolute authority. The point is not to dictate someone’s life, what they wear and how they spend their money. Even where they vacation! The point is to remember that pastors are to care for souls and lead them out of sin. Follow their lead into life.

By the way, admonishment is a ministry of every member. As the word of Christ dwells in us (Colossians 3:16) we are to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. Because we believe God and care for one another we will admonish one another. You will engage in the ministry of correction if you love the church. Pastors will lead out in this and also in teaching.

As we proclaim Christ we warn everyone and teach everyone. Teaching is the positive side of formative instruction. It is easy to forget that all people need to be taught. We all need the help of another who will teach us to obey all that Jesus commanded.

This whole “Christ in you” is a mystery. You need to be taught. You need to be taught the difference between good and evil. You need to be taught how to love. Paul told Timothy to take what Paul had told him and entrust it to other faithful men who will be able to teach others (2 Tim 2:2). In Titus 2 older women are told to teach younger women what is good- how to love their husbands and children, how to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive. This active teaching by ministers and by the mature keeps the people of God moving forward fulfilling the word of God. The absence of teaching by pastors and mature men and women causes the word of God to be reviled.

The people who live and work around you can open a bible and read what God expects of you. They can read God’s expectations of you. Do you know God’s expectations of you? Do you know how to obey those expectations? Do you see that Christ can be trusted to work in you to fulfill those expectations? Expect your pastors and the other mature men and women in the church to be teaching you.

A healthy church will be filled with members who joyfully embrace the teaching and correcting ministry of its ministers. We will joyfully embrace this ministry for the stability of our own souls. True ministers warn and teach like Christ and

  • True ministers suffer

Concerning persecution Jesus said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Mt 10:25). If the world bad-mouthed, mocked, persecuted, and finally killed Jesus we should expect the same. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).

Look back at verse 24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

While a true minister should expect suffering there is a distinction that should be made. Paul is talking about suffering, not because of sin or stupidity, but suffering because that minister is seeking to fulfill all that God’s word commands. When you seek to live a godly life and when you seek to warn and teach everyone you will be persecuted.

As an ambassador of Christ a true minister will take upon himself those persecutions meant for Christ. They are Christ’s afflictions. They are caused by Christ and his glorious gospel. For the sake of the church a true minister will suffer. There will be difficulties which arise which are caused by obeying God’s word.

Yet this suffering leads to rejoicing. Paul says something crazy to our modern ears, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings.” Why does he rejoice? Because he gets the pay off? No he rejoices in his sufferings because he sees how his sufferings benefit the church.

Listen to this explanation of joy in suffering from Philippians 1:12, “I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

Paul’s faithfulness to the word of God produced suffering; he was persecuted for obeying God. Christ made him faithful and kept him faithful in suffering and the church reaped the benefit. Paul’s faithfulness to the word of God encouraged stability in the people of God.

What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not some deficiency in the atonement. What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is the continuing persecution of Christ by the world. Since the world cannot hit and slander and kill Christ, the world will hit, slander, and kill the body of Christ. The afflictions meant for Christ will fall on us. As we faithfully embrace suffering according to the will of God we will make the power of the gospel evident. Faithfulness in suffering will produce stability in others. A true minister understands that the goal in life is the maturing of the church not the gaining of comfort.

In order to protect the church and mature the church the true minister will take it on the chin. Your progress and joy in the faith are worth suffering for. Christ suffered for you and so will a true minister.

III. Embrace true ministry

This application cuts both ways. First, as a minister who desires to be a true minister I must embrace true ministry. My goal must be your Christ-likeness, your maturity. This means I must give myself to prayer and study so that I can strive to warn you and teach you according to God’s plan not according to your desires, my desires, or the world’s desires. I need you to pray for me- pray that I will be a true minister who is able to rejoice in suffering for the benefit of the body.

The second application of the truth, embrace true ministry, is for you. Embrace true ministry for your own good. God’s will for your life is your sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). God’s plan is to make you look more and more like Jesus everyday. In order to accomplish that God has given you righteousness in Christ, the Spirit’s daily leadership, His inspired word, and ministers who keep watch over your soul. Embrace the benefit of godly men who labor with God’s energy to present you mature in Christ.

I want to highlight two aspects of this ministry here. First, we put a member or family in the bulletin every week so the body will pray for and encourage that member.  We systematically work through the church membership in alphabetical order wanting every member to be cared for by the body. Second, a group of men meets monthly. Each man is given two names, again working alphabetically through the church membership in order to contact that member. We want to care for you and bear your burdens according to Galatians 6:2. We do this because we want you to remain steadfast in the gospel. When you get that visit or that phone call know that minister is there to help you follow Christ. Embrace his ministry as he seeks to warn and teach you and together let’s grow in Christ-likeness.

God Gives and Judges; 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7

Main Point: Pride is destroyed through the understanding that God gives and God judges.

 We all face two great dangers. First there is the danger of feeling like failures because we have not lived up to our standards or the standards of another. And second, there is the danger of being judgmental because we have lived up to our standards or the standards of another. We can live in sinful guilt or sinful self-righteousness. And what is the remedy to all this? The commitment to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. We must rest our approval hungry hearts in the justifying grace of Christ. And we must commit ourselves to not go beyond what is written. God sets the standards for me and for you and for all of us. God sets the standards for pastors and for pre-schoolers. God sets the standards for moms and for ministers.

Understanding that God loves us and justifies us corrects the danger of seeking the approval of man. You are already approved by God! And understanding that God gives what we need and judges accordingly corrects the danger of pride.

Let’s unpack all this in the text: 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:7

I. God has graciously given us all things (1 Cor 3:21-23)

  1. All things are yours because you are Christ’s

1 Corinthians 3:21 makes an amazing statement, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours.” Romans 8:32 says the same thing, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

The context of the Romans 8 passage emphasizes two main things: love and justification. After assuring us that God will graciously give us all things the following verse says, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn. The remainder of the chapter proclaims boldly that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 8:39). You are loved and justified.

Think about what has been done for you: God has given his own Son for you. Christ has become for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Co 1:30). There is now no condemnation for the greatest of sinners because Christ has taken our sin upon himself (Ro 8:1). And more than just taking our sins on himself Jesus gives us his status as sons (Ga 3:26; Ro 8:14). Through Christ you have been justified. You, sinner wracked with guilt are declared not guilty because you have been joined to Christ. In Christ you are dearly loved and finally justified.

But there’s more. Look again at 1 Corinthians 3:21, “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All things are yours because all things belong to Christ and you are Christ’s (ca Col 1:16). You do not need a man or a group or a club in order to have security and identity and worth. You do not need a man in order to validate yourself. You are Christ’s!

Now, in Corinth the people were trying to establish their worth by connecting themselves with a particular leader and then proving that their leader was the best leader. But here’s the problem

  1. When we choose teams we deny who we are and Who owns us

Imagine the owner of a great estate telling everyone that he belongs to the gardener. Imagine the owner of the skyscraper telling everyone that he belongs to the welder. We commit the same foolish mistake when we try to draw our identities from who we are with, how much money we make, the school we went to, or the car we drive. Look at 1 Corithians 3:21 again. “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.

We must all derive our identities from Christ. You are Christ’s. You belong to the One who upholds the universe by the word of his power. You are friends with the One who must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet (1 Co 15:25). You belong to the One who defeated sin and the grave and he gives his life to you. Build your life and your sense of self on Christ.

Think about this: If it’s good enough for Christ it’s good enough for you. Verse 23 says, “and Christ is God’s.” You don’t have to read through the gospels too many times before you see that Jesus has an incredible sense of belonging. He knew His Father and what it meant to be His Son. He had great joy, perseverance, and purpose. It didn’t matter if everyone on this earth abandoned him he would never be alone (Jo 16:32). Knowing you belong to God and he will never leave you alone produces a great amount of security. It is precisely by reconciling you to God that Jesus gives you his peace (Jo 14:27).

For you or me to try to gain security in this life by attaching ourselves to anyone or anything other than Christ is such a waste and it will only leave us empty. Church, because Christ is everything and has given us everything there is no room for us to take pride in anything other than God. We are to boast about God. He has graciously given us all things in Christ. Trying to feel better about yourself or gain something for yourself because you belong to some man is just wrong. But it is also wrong to think you are superior because of Christ and then go around judging other unfairly.

Let us be on guard against judging men incorrectly because

II. We are not capable of final or omniscient judgments (1 Cor 4:1-6)

Let me offer a word of warning here. We are not capable of pronouncing final judgment over someone’s life but God has given us standards by which we can judge. And we have been given standards by which to judge pastors. You see, pastor’s are not untouchables or exempt from judgment. 1 Timothy 5:20 instructs the church this way, “As for those [elders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” What we must do is not go beyond what is written. Judge what God instructs you to judge and do not judge what only God can judge. Let me give you the two main things you can judge and the one thing you cannot:

You can judge a pastor’s content

You can judge a pastor’s actions

You cannot judge a pastor’s motives

We are given our first two requirements in the description of Paul and Apollos in verse 1

  1. Pastors are servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries

As servants of Christ pastors must obey Christ. This word for servant has been used to describe a soldier’s shield bearer who must obey his master’s orders or the under rower at the bottom of a ship who pulls at the oars as his master commands. The church must form its opinion of a pastor according to this description: Does he live as a faithful servant of Christ? Does he obey Christ’s commands? It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t do what you want, does he do what Christ wants? This is how to regard pastors: as servants of Christ and as stewards of God’s mysteries.

A steward is a person who has been given authority over the household of another. Today it’s the equivalent of a manager. There is an owner who has ultimate authority because of ownership and there is a manager who oversees the daily distribution of the owner’s goods. This means pastors are responsible for seeing that the mysteries of God are faithfully distributed to the members of the household. And the mysteries of God are the same as the secret and hidden wisdom of God in chapter 2:7. So we’re talking about the gospel and what it means to live according to the power of the cross.

Listen to how Jesus describes a faithful steward or household manager in Luke 12, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (12:42-43).

The main responsibility of a pastor is to faithfully distribute the gospel truth to the household of God. As slaves of Christ pastors must labor to give the church what it needs at the proper time. Therefore judge a pastor’s content. Be like the noble Bereans of Acts 17 who eagerly received what the Apostle said and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. To judge a pastor’s actions means to look at how he is living and see if it matches his message. Does he live in pursuit of the Christ he preaches? Does he live life in agreement with the cross? The requirements found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 instruct the church to judge a pastor’s life; carefully investigate what he is doing. Verse 2 says that it is required that stewards be found faithful or trustworthy distributing the master’s goods at the proper time. Is he faithful to God’s calling?

Now in response to this requirement, and subsequent judgment, verse 3 is truly amazing. Paul doesn’t care if they judge him. You see, when we understand who we are in Christ and when we faithfully obey Christ trusting Him to provide in us what He requires of us there is an amazing freedom of conscience. Look at verse 3, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.” Precisely because Paul had lived as a faithful slave and steward he did not fear the judgment of the church. In fact, he did not even judge himself. Christ had equipped him, given him a task, and he had obeyed. If the church wanted to judge him and if the church wanted to say that he wasn’t as good of a preacher as the next guy that’s fine. He knew he had been faithful to God.

Verse 4 gives the reason for this amazing freedom, “For I am not aware of anything against myself.” He had faithfully discharged his duties. He had given to God’s people what they needed at the proper time. His conscience was clear. He was secure in Christ and it did not bother him one bit for people to say he wasn’t a good preacher. But notice this isn’t the mentality of an untouchable. He didn’t consider himself beyond judgment or immune from any judgment because he was an apostle. Paul understood that

  1. God will judge

Look at verse 4 again, “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” Paul was acutely aware of the fact that he would give an account to his Owner. God will reward Paul’s work in God’s field. God will test the work to demonstrate if Paul had built with gold, silver, and precious stones or with wood, hay, and straw. Because each one of us are fallible and cannot see the big picture or even the next picture we are not capable of pronouncing final judgments. We are not able to test the spiritual lasting ministry of anyone. We cannot search the motives of one another’s hearts so we must stop passing unbiblical judgments.

Look at verse 5, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes.” We may think that it is our day to judge. But we don’t get to sit in judgment over Christ’s servants. Instead of condemning a person because of our preferences or plans trust that God has already set the day for judgment and it is the day of Christ’s return. And when Christ returns, verse 5, “he will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Here is the sobering truth that when each of us stands before God he will not simply judge us on what we have done but he will judge us on why we did it.

On this day of judgment by Christ and not on the day of judgment by man each will receive his commendation from God. Some of those we deem successful will be shown as wasters. Some who labor faithfully, unknown, and unappreciated will receive a great reward. Paul understood that the day of God’s perfect judgment was coming. So, he was content in response to the condemnation of the church he planted and the people he loved to leave the judgment to God. He didn’t walk around in self-righteousness claiming that he didn’t care because they were idiots. He lived knowing that the day of judgment is coming and God can be trusted to reward faithful labor and reveal shoddy work.

So, we have the right to judge content and life. But we cannot judge motives. We can’t see the depths of a person’s heart. So, if someone sins he is to be rebuked (Lk 17:3). But if someone doesn’t do what we want him to do we must remember that he is responsible to Christ and God will judge him. We don’t get to judge based on our desires or pet issues.

Now what is important to grab onto here is that this truth is for your benefit. You get the benefit of knowing how to live and faithfully discharge your responsibilities under God your judge.

III. All of this is for your benefit (1 Cor 4:6-7)

Look at verse 6, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”

  1. What has been written is sufficient

God has told us what we need to know about ourselves and others in relation to his standards. It is our responsibility to go as far as God says go but do not go beyond what is written. The particular command they were told to not go beyond was “that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” Because they were judging incorrectly they were getting inflated egos; harming themselves and harming one another.

Men and women have the uncanny ability to judge themselves and others according to unbiblical standards. We start to think that people are thinking this or that about the way we do everything. Here is a great benefit for you: do not go beyond what is written. Take God’s requirements for a particular role and rest in Christ as he provides everything you need to meet those requirements. Don’t go beyond what is written. Don’t compare yourself favorably or unfavorably to the husbands, wives, moms, dads, business men, artists, or whatever who are around you. You belong to Christ. You be faithful to him and let the people talk.

In Christ there is the freedom to know what God requires of you and there is the freedom to not judge yourself by others. This is what the gospel does

  1. The gospel produces freedom not bondage

Paul writes in verse 7, “For who see anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

What is true for Paul and Apollos is true for the rest of us. Think this way

1. You are a servant of Christ and a steward of God’s mysteries

We are told in 6:18, “you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” You are a slave of Christ and as such you must embrace your God-given roles of child of God, neighbor, friend, church member, husband, wife, son, daughter, mom, dad, grandmother and grandfather. In every avenue of life live as a slave of Christ. You belong to him and that is the best news ever. In Christ you have already received everything you need for life and godliness (2 Pt 1:3). Now as you depend on Christ and live according to the wisdom of his cross be a steward of the mysteries of God. Open your mouth and speak of Christ. Do not speak in defense of yourself. Speak of Christ and faithfully unpack God’s wisdom for each situation.

2. Be free from false guilt

Wouldn’t you like to gather with a group of your peers and not wonder or worry what they think about you? Don’t you want to say with the Apostle, “I am not aware of anything against myself”? You can in Christ. When he becomes your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption he sets you free from guilt. He will forgive you of your failures and strengthen you for the future.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Not the freedom to do anything you want regardless of God’s will. No, ours is the freedom from the past and the freedom to faithfully and joyfully embrace the future. Church, Christ is not for you in heaven after you die. Christ is for you right now. Be free from guilt because Christ has paid your penalty in full.

3. Be free from other’s opinions

Wouldn’t you love to honestly say with the Apostle, “it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court”? When you know Christ is for you and in him you have been given all things why do you worry about what other people think? Now it might be because of sin and the encouragement and exhortation of your Christian brothers and sisters is right and good. But fear and anxiety over the opinions of others often has more to do with the fact that we have stopped listening to what God says about us and started seeking the approval of man. We must care exponentially more about what God thinks of us than what others think.

In Christ there is freedom from worry and anxiety concerning other people’s opinions. That is certainly for your benefit. Next

4. Be free from pride

You might not care what others think about you and you may think that you have done everything right simply because you are a self-righteous. You know you are self-righteous and pleased with your religion when you think only a little about the day when God will judge your secrets and your motives. When we live openly before God it frees us from pride because we see all that he forgives us for every day. It’s hard to judge other people when they fail to meet our standards when we know we have failed to meet God’s standards. These things have been applied to Paul and Apollos so that you will be free from pride and so that you will

5. Make Christ your boast and joy

Do not boast in yourself; you belong to Christ. Do not boast in your accomplishments; every accomplishment is due to the grace of God given to you. What do you have that you did not receive? No one sees anything different in you. You’re just like us. You are in desperate need of grace and you are deeply loved by the Father. Boast in Christ. He is your every-thing and in Him is everything you need. He is glorious; the only Son of the Father. He has become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. My prayer is that you have much to think about and much to thank Christ for. Let us go to the Father and boast of Christ.

4, To God Be the Glory

Should you brag about your pastor?

While studying 1 Corinthians I put this together. I hope it helps you understand how to treat your pastor.

There once was a man with loose screws. God graciously gave him a screw driver in order to tighten those screws. But instead of using that screw driver as God intended the man went around bragging that his screw driver was better than all others. This man’s problems became more pronounced because he would not use the tool that God had given for the end that God had given it. He treated the screw driver like a trophy and did not use it as a tool. In the same sense, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers have been given to the church in order to equip the church. If we glory in men and worship men we are using what God has given for the wrong purpose. Teachers are tools to be used not trophies to brag about.

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

To Your Advantage; Hebrews 13:17

Text: Hebrews 13:17                                                       5/11/08 p.m.

Thesis: A church that functions properly is full of advantages.

 

Intro: Tonight I want to show you one of God’s many and wonderful truths.

The truth is a church that functions properly is full of advantages.

Our passage tonight makes a distinction between church leaders and the congregation, the pastors and the members.

When these two groups faithfully fulfill God’s calling on their lives there is a harvest of joy.

The sad thing is we do not have to look very far to find the harvest of pain that is brought in when these two groups deny God’s calling on their lives.

We’ll look at one verse tonight, Hebrews 13:17, and see what God has to say to these two groups in the church.

 

Read Hebrews 13:7-17

 

I) God calls leaders to lead

a)      To lead means to live in such a way so that others hear what you have to say and follow your directions.

i)        Again, as with last week, we have the illustration of Joseph ruling over Egypt.

Acts 7:9&10 say, “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.

ii)      God made Joseph ruler, or leader, over Egypt. Ruler in Acts 7:10 and leader in Hebrews 13:17 are the same words.

iii)    You see, God places men in authority positions for the benefit of others.  Through Joseph God provided the provision needed to keep His chosen people alive.

iv)    God gave Joseph oversight of the raising and storing of grain so that Egypt could be a blessing to the nations.

v)      So, with the humility of a child and the lowliness of a servant leaders must exercise authority in the church for the benefit of others.

vi)    For a marriage and a church to work properly God has ordained different roles. God makes a distinction between church leaders and the congregation as a whole.

vii)  God does this in the same way that he makes a distinction between the roles of a husband and a wife.

viii)            The husband leads and loves his wife the way Christ leads and loves the church.

ix)    Under the authority of Christ, pastors lead and love the church.

x)      And we need to be clear that leading is more than preaching.  Preaching is a large part of leading but so is setting the direction of the church as God leads.

xi)    God gives leaders to the church so that it can be clear where the church is headed and how the church will arrive there.

xii)  I admit this is one of my weaknesses as a pastor but through the power, love, and self-control given by the Holy Spirit my weakness will work out for the glory of Christ and the building of this church.

xiii)            I do not pretend that means I need to just sit back and wait on God. I must do the work of seeking God, listening to the wisdom of others, and articulating the vision God gives.

xiv)            During either the 1st or 2nd week of June I plan on getting away for a few days to pray, fast, study, and worship with the express purpose of finding out how God wants me to lead Mambrino Baptist Church.

xv)  When that day gets closer I will let you all know so you can be in prayer for me.

xvi)            What I hope comes from that time and the years ahead is the development of a clear plan for making disciples.

xvii)          In Hebrews 13:17 God tells me that the day is coming when I will stand before Him and give an explanation for how I led this church.

xviii)        I must keep watch over your souls as one who will give an account.

xix)            A pastor must speak and lead in such a manner that souls are clearly challenged by the commands of Christ.

xx)  There should be no lost person who enters this church that does not understand God’s command to repent (Acts 17:30).

xxi)            There should be no Christian who enters this church that does not understand the call to follow Christ with their entire life.

xxii)          I will give an account for every encouraging word spoken rightly as well as every encouraging word that I did not utter when it was needed.

xxiii)        I will give an account for every word of correction spoken right as well as every word of correction that I did not utter when it was needed.

xxiv)        I will give an account for how I handled God’s Word and led you to follow Christ.

xxv)          You are ultimately responsible for your soul. But if I do not sound the alarm and you are taken away by your sin then your blood will be required on my head.

xxvi)        Every leader leads out of love for Christ and the church for whom Christ died.

xxvii)      Every leader leads knowing that God will require a reckoning for every soul on the church role.

xxviii)    God calls pastors to lead and

II) God calls church members to follow their pastors’ leadership

a)      Obey your leaders and submit to them

i)        To obey means to hear someone and to act accordingly.

ii)      This is what he said to do so this is what I will do. That is against our natures so we need the Spirit’s help.

iii)    To submit means to willingly put oneself under the loving authority of another.

iv)    That also is against our natures so we need the Spirit’s help.

v)      Now a person does not need to be told to do something that they do naturally and joyfully.

vi)    I do not need to tell Abigail to splash in the puddles after the rain.

vii)  But when something is against our wills and not what we would consider a good idea we need to be told to obey and submit.

viii)            Abigail needs to be told to clean up her toys before we go outside and play.

ix)    I need to be told to lead and you need to be told to obey and submit.

x)      But here’s the grace of God. When we do what we do not naturally want to do namely lead, obey, and submit it is for our advantage.

xi)    When we joyfully fulfill God’s calling His will is done, lives are changed, and the kingdom of Jesus Christ moves forward.

xii)  But when we buck, when like the Apostle Paul we kick against the goads, we find ourselves kicking against God which never works out in our favor.

xiii)            The advantages are many. There is the blessing of unity. There is the blessing of souls being saved. There is the blessing of broken lives being restored.

xiv)            God intends for this church to be a powerful tool for bringing the good news of Christ to every living room and to the ends of the earth.

xv)  Are you willing to work and sacrifice for that? If so, it will be to your advantage.

xvi)            If you are not willing to work and sacrifice for that then coming to church will just plain ole stink.

xvii)          I want to lead and I want you to follow so that everyone is blessed. For that to happen we must all sacrifice and when we do everyone will taste the advantage of obedience.