Leadership Profile: From Shepherd to Shepherd (I Peter 5:1-4)

Posted by on October 26, 1997 under Sermons

Place yourself in this situation. You have a very important decision to make, and this decision must be made. This decision will affect your future significantly. The truth of the situation is this: it will be impossible for your future not to be affected though this decision. One of two things will be true: your future will be much improved because of this decision, or your future will be much worse because of this decision. The potential for good or for bad in this decision literally is too great to be measured.

As you prepare to make the decision, you are keenly aware that it would be a serious mistake to make the decision by trusting only your own knowledge and intuition. You are acutely aware of the fact that for you to make the wisest decision, you need quality outside input that you can trust. You need good information and good insights that come from reliable people that deserve your trust.

You know two trustworthy, reliable people who have the kind of knowledge and insight that you need. One person is very knowledgeable, well informed, but has no actual experience. His knowledge is first rate, but his experience is limited to what he has seen. The other person is also very knowledgeable and well informed. He, too, has first rate knowledge, but he also has actual experience.

Because you want reliable information, which of these two men will you talk to? If it were me, I would talk to both of them. I would want all the reliable information that I could get from both men. I also would value the insights of the man with experience.

  1. I want to call to your attention what is perhaps the most critical decision a congregation ever makes.
    1. It has been said by many that the most critical moment in the life of a congregation is the moment that the congregation selects elders to lead it.
      1. There is more opportunity for harmful things to happen in that process than any other single process that occurs within a congregation.
      2. The process and the decision itself is filled with many opportunities for wonderful things or terrible things to happen.
      3. Once made, that decision will affect the future of the congregation more than any other single decision they make.
    2. Typically, congregations make that choice without adequate information or understanding.
      1. It is common for a congregation to have too little understanding of the spiritual needs and responsibilities involved.
      2. It is also common for a congregation to have an inadequate concept of what its leaders should be and do.
        1. As a result, too often the decision becomes far less than it should be. It becomes:
        2. A popularity contest within the congregation.
        3. A reward given to a man for his social success or his business success within the community at large.
        4. A movement to reject a person in the congregation that influential members do not like.
        5. A political campaign.
        6. A “choose up sides” situation in which groups with differences are determined to appoint a man “who agrees with us and sees things the way we do.”
        7. Or a purely pragmatic decision –“Who is best qualified to handle the money and make good business decisions?”
      3. Too infrequently does the decision focus on the real issue: who is the most capable to spiritually shepherd the members of this congregation?
        1. Who has the spiritual maturity, the Christ-like personality, the compassionate disposition, and is the inspirational example to guide and encourage us?
        2. When my world is falling apart, when I have more crises than I can count, when my family is in serious trouble, who would pick me up, minister to me in my crisis, and carry me on his shoulders if necessary?
  2. Suppose that we as a congregation were making that decision: suppose we were choosing elders.
    1. As we prepare to make this decision, we can go to two men who have reliable, invaluable information: Paul and Peter.
      1. Paul had tremendous, valuable information.
        1. He was inspired of God and guided by the Holy Spirit.
        2. But Paul had never been an elder.
          1. Paul had appointed elders.
          2. Paul had worked with elders as a apostle, as a preacher, as a teacher, and as a missionary.
          3. Paul had taught elders and given elders special instructions and charges.
          4. Paul had observed elders in many different places and situations.
          5. But Paul had never worked as an elder with elders.
      2. According to the profiles that he gave to Timothy and to Titus, Paul was not qualified to be an elder.
        1. Paul never married, so he was not a husband.
        2. He never had children, so he never had the experience of working with different personalities as head of a household.
    2. Peter also had tremendous, valuable information.
      1. He also was inspired of God and guided by the Holy Spirit.
      2. He actually lived and worked with Jesus, an opportunity Paul never had.
        1. In fact, Jesus gave Peter his name which meant “rock.”
        2. Jesus also told Peter that God revealed to him Jesus’ true identity before the other apostles knew it.
        3. After Jesus’ resurrection, before Jesus ascended back into heaven, Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep.
      3. And, Peter was an elder–he had actual experience in serving a congregation as one of its shepherds.
    3. This is my question: why do we have a history of placing great emphasis on Paul’s profile for elders in Ephesus and on Crete, but give little consideration to Peter’s instructions to elders?
      1. In Peter’s instructions to fellow elders, there is an enormous amount of insight into the kind of man who should serve as a shepherd.
      2. Why don’t we give equal consideration and attention to what both Paul and Peter said as we seek to prepare ourselves to make the wisest possible decision?
  3. Peter’s instructions to elders are found in 1 Peter 5:1-5.
    1. Please read those five verses with me (read).
      1. First, I ask you to notice this: Peter exhorts them, or encourages them, or urges them, but he does not do it as an apostle; he appeals to them as a fellow shepherd.
      2. Second, notice that he appeals to them on the basis of example.
        1. It is not a “me lecturing you” about what you should do.
        2. It is an “us” situation: it is sharing about us and our situation.
        3. Peter does not “lord” it over them as he urges them not to “lord” it over others.
    2. By what right does Peter urge his fellow elders to listen to his charge?
      1. He is a fellow elder–he walks in their sandals.
      2. He is a witness of Jesus’ sufferings–he saw him die, which powerfully evidences the fact that he had a personal understanding of Jesus’ mission and focus.
      3. He was a partaker of the glory to be revealed–he understands the destination and the reward of the flock.
    3. Then he emphasized the responsibility of shepherds:
      1. Their primary responsibility: shepherd the flock under your oversight.
        1. Stated in words more familiar to us, take care of the Christians in your congregation.
        2. Sheep are hard to care for.
          1. Their basic needs must be met continually–food, water, secure circumstances, safety are every day necessities.
          2. They need a caring person to watch over them–to see when they are injured, to see when they are not eating or drinking, see when they have a special needs because they are weak, to see when they have special needs because they are young.
          3. Sheep need taking care of, and that is the basic job of the shepherd.
        3. I do not believe that it is coincidence or accident that Christians as a congregation, as the church are referred to as a flock of sheep.
          1. Christians, like sheep, are hard to care for–they have constant needs and need constant attention–spiritual food, spiritual water, secure spiritual circumstances, safety are every day necessities.
          2. Christians need someone to watch over them–we need someone to notice when we are injured, not eating and drinking, are weak, or have special needs.
          3. The devil as a roaring lion is prowling around looking for victims to eat.
          4. There are wolves that love to rip a flock apart.
          5. We can hurt ourselves in a thousand ways.
          6. We need someone we trust, someone we listen to, someone we will respond to, someone who always has our best interest at heart to constantly look after us.
        4. As the flock, we Christians have created a serious, basic problem.
          1. At some point, we created an artificial distinction between taking care of the church and taking care of the sheep.
          2. Today we stress a responsibility for elders in a way that is not stressed in the New Testament–the elders must take care of the church, preserve the church, defend the church, and protect the church.
          3. But, too commonly, the church is not the flock; it is an institution or a doctrinal entity that exists separate and apart from the Christians.
          4. Thus we can urge the leadership to take care of the church even if it means that they hurt, damage, or destroy the flock.
          5. If elders function in ways that result in half the flock going into the world and rejecting the church, if they were “protecting the church,” it is a good thing to many.
          6. How can you destroy the flock while you protect the church?
          7. Too often we expect elders to do what is best for the church with too little regard for the well being of Christians.
          8. Such thinking would never have been understood by Paul and Peter.
      2. To properly shepherd the flock, this is what Peter said must occur:
        1. Shepherds are to exercise oversight; that is what a shepherd did for his flock–he oversaw them.
          1. He counted them.
          2. He noticed when one was missing.
          3. He noticed when one was limping and needed help.
          4. He noticed when one was sick.
          5. He noticed when one was in danger.
          6. He noticed the sheep in need, and that was the sheep that received his loving special attention.
        2. Shepherds of God’s flock do not do this because they are pressured to do it.
          1. They do this because they want to do it.
          2. They love their Chief Shepherd.
          3. They love the sheep.
          4. They know God’s great love for the sheep–when they know God’s will, they know how much He loves the sheep.
          5. They know the importance of the sheep to the Chief Shepherd and to God.
          6. Knowing that and loving the Chief Shepherd makes them eager to do the work of a shepherd–they find fulfillment and joy in helping the sheep.
        3. In my personal judgment, New Testament evidence indicates that at least some elders were supported as they served the congregation “full time” (our terminology).
          1. Don’t look at your shepherding opportunity as a job opportunity.
          2. Don’t regard your work as a shepherd as a role of authority and power.
            1. It is not an ego trip.
            2. It is not leadership through power and control.
          3. Shepherding is leadership through the influence of example–the flock follows you by its choice because the flock respects you, loves you, trusts you, and wants to follow you.
      3. Why would a Christian man ever accept shepherding responsibility?
        1. Because he loves and belongs to the Chief Shepherd.
        2. Because he knows the Chief Shepherd will return to receive his flock.
        3. Because he knows the Chief Shepherd will reward the shepherd’s loving care of the flock.

Before we as a congregation give loud amens to the emphasis on the shepherds shepherding the flock, let’s honestly acknowledge one other aspect of the need. The flock must want and respond to shepherding. We can’t demand that shepherds never involve themselves in our lives regardless of what is happening if we want to be a part of the flock that the shepherds love, take care of, and watch over.

Decisions: New People Ownership (Acts 6)

Posted by on under Sermons

    Have you ever heard this conversation between a husband and wife?

“I guess we made a bad decision about that, didn’t we?”

“What do you mean ‘we’ made a bad decision? I didn’t help make that decision. That was your decision, not our decision.”

“Well, I made it for us. I was thinking about you as much as I was thinking about me.”

“How could you possibly think that? When did you talk to me about it? When did you ask me anything about it? I didn’t know that you were considering that decision. In fact, I didn’t know anything about that decision until after you made it.”

“But I know you. I know how you think. I care about you. I want the best for you. I was doing what you would want.”

“That’s the problem. You think that you know what I want without talking to me. I never am asked to share my thoughts. You don’t ask for my perspective or my input. Do you really believe that you can read my mind?”

    Question: is this relationship having problems?
  1. More unnecessary relationship problems are created by poor decision making skills than any other single cause of unnecessary relationship problems.
    1. Typically, people in our society do not know how to make relationship decisions.
      1. Few people know how to approach a decision when it involves than one person.
      2. Too often, one person (with excellent motives) designates himself or herself as being the “right one” to make the decision.
        1. “I’ll make it.”
        2. “I will make it in your best interest.”
        3. “Trust me.”
      3. Few people have an approach, a procedure, or a method for making decisions in relationships.
        1. Too few marriages know how to reach “we” decisions.
        2. To few congregations know how to reach “we” decisions.
    2. In past generations, the typical approach to all decisions concerning a congregation often ignored the reality of relationship.
      1. There was a time, and in some congregations that time still exists, when the elders made all decisions regardless of the nature of the decision.
      2. The elders made them in closed meetings; the elders announced them; and the congregation was to accept them without explanation or question.
      3. Certainly, there are decisions that the elders should make alone.
        1. If it is a decision that concerns a specific directive from scripture,
        2. If they possess critical knowledge that the congregation does not have,
        3. If it concerns the specific teachings and instructions of scripture,
        4. They need to make the decision.
      4. But many decisions are not spiritual directives coming from specific instructions of scripture.
        1. Many decisions primarily involve matters of judgment or preference.
        2. Decisions primarily involving matters of judgment always need the congregation’s input.
        3. Decisions primarily involving matters of preference always need the congregation’s input.
        4. In both matters of judgment and preference, there may or may not be one best decision, but there will always be several good decisions.
        5. Different good decisions will always be based on different perspectives and different preferences.
      5. Decisions of judgment and preference virtually always involve relationship.
        1. These decisions always affect relationships within the congregation.
        2. Commonly, these decisions do not involve a right and a wrong.
        3. Commonly, these decisions involve wisdom and understanding.
    3. In these decisions, elders need to pray fervently that their faith and wisdom will help them avoid a deceptive, destructive trap.
      1. Elders do not verify their authority by making judgment and preference decisions.
      2. They do not verify their authority by imposing control.
      3. Leadership does not justify its existence by demanding that it has control of all decisions.
      4. Leadership does not justify its importance by demanding that it has control of all decisions.
      5. The deceitful, destructive trap is sprung on elders when they feel insecure in their leadership and assert authority by demanding control of all judgment and preference decisions.
  2. The book of Acts gives us a starting view of this type of situation.
    1. First, recall the background of the Jerusalem congregation, the first congregation of baptized believers after Jesus was raised from the dead.
      1. This congregation had an incredible beginning (Acts 2).
      2. The very first day it came into existence it had 3000 members, and it immediately began growing numerically at an incredible rate.
      3. From day one of its existence it was multiethnic in membership.
        1. It began on the day of Pentecost, one of the major Jewish holy days.
        2. That was one of the holy days that Jews made pilgrimages to Jerusalem from all over the Roman empire.
        3. The pilgrims were living in what we would call other countries within the Roman empire, and had been for generations.
        4. They had difference customs, different cultures, and spoke different languages.
        5. To make the situation more complicated, some of the pilgrims were proselytes–they were non-Jewish people who converted to Judaism.
        6. Some of the Jewish pilgrims and some of the proselytes were converted to Jesus Christ that very first day.
      4. Let me illustrate the situation in this way.
        1. Suppose we had a new congregation of 3000 members.
        2. Suppose 1000 of us were visiting Fort Smith from the delta in the deep south, were converted, and decided to stay.
        3. Suppose 1000 of us were visiting Fort Smith from New York City, were converted, and decided to stay.
        4. And suppose that 1000 of us were from Fort Smith; Fort Smith had always been home to our family, and we were converted on the same day the other 2000 were converted.
        5. That would be a challenge, but it would not be nearly as complex as their situation; theirs was more like having a new congregation with converts from Italy, Germany, Mexico, and Fort Smith baptized on the same day.
    2. At first, and for some time, things were incredibly good.
      1. They shared possessions.
      2. They took care of each other.
      3. They shared an incredible spirit and joy in worship.
      4. They ate together in homes.
      5. They sold possessions to acquire funds to care for special needs.
      6. Even when the congregation grew by the thousands, no person in the congregation was in need (Acts 4:34).
    3. As incredible as the congregation was, in time, problems developed.
      1. First, Ananias and Sapphira created a congregational problem (Acts 5:1-11).
        1. They decided to sell a piece of property to help those in need, but they did not want to give the whole amount of the purchase price.
        2. So Ananias brought part of the money to the apostles and presented it as though it was all of the money.
        3. Peter asked him why had he tried to lie to the Holy Spirit?
        4. Peter said, “You did not have to sell the land, and you did not have to give all the money. So why did you lie?”
        5. Ananias immediately died–right there on the spot.
        6. Three hours later Sapphira, his wife, came in and affirmed the lie.
        7. She, too, immediately died–right there on the spot.
        8. Their deaths really shook the congregation–everyone was afraid.
      2. Second, the ethnic differences created an ugly problem (Acts 6:1-6).
        1. The converts who came from other places in the Roman empire accused the converts who lived in Jerusalem and the area of deliberating ignoring and overlooking their widows when the food was distributed each day.
        2. Think about the seriousness and magnitude of that accusation.
          1. The people who sold land and houses and gave the money to care for these folks were the local converts.
          2. The men in charge of seeing that the money was properly spent and the food properly distributed were the apostles.
          3. Talking about a sensitive accusation!
      3. Pay careful attention to how this serious accusation was handled.
        1. First, the apostles did not react when accused.
          1. No, “Do you know who you are talking to?”
          2. No, “Do you know who we are?”
          3. No, “How ungrateful can you get?”
        2. Second, the apostles called the congregation together–considering its size, I don’t know how they did it, but it clearly says they did it.
        3. Third, the apostles said, “We do not need this responsibility. We need to be teaching, not distributing food.”
        4. Fourth, the apostles said to the congregation, “You need to solve this problem.”
          1. “You pick seven men to be in charge of food distribution.”
          2. “You select men you have confidence in, you trust, you know will do the job carefully and properly.”
        5. Fifth, the apostles set the parameters–they gave the profile or qualifications the seven men must meet; any man who fit the profile and was selected by the congregation was okay.
          1. They must be of good reputation.
          2. They must be full of the Spirit and wisdom.
          3. “You choose them; we will appoint them to the task.”
        6. Sixth, the apostles said that they would put these men in charge of this, and they would devote themselves to prayer and teaching.
      4. Notice what happened.
        1. The whole congregation approved of this approach.
        2. They selected seven men–and all seven had Greek names, not Hebrew names, and included one proselyte.
        3. The apostles appointed them by praying and laying hands on them.

A potentially disastrous problem that could have split the first congregation and dealt a major blow to Christianity in its beginning was resolved. It was solved because the congregation made and owned the decision. It was their choice. So they welcomed it. It was not imposed on them; it was owned by them.

And, again, we see the power and the beauty of participatory leadership. The apostles set the parameters. The congregation chose within those parameters.

The apostles had nothing to prove. They did not react to the accusation. They did not regard the matter a control issue. They wanted the congregation to make an extremely important decision. The congregation both made and owned the decision. In this I see an extremely important lesson: congregations accept and own decisions of judgment and preference that they make as a whole congregation.

One of the confusing problems I have encountered is the concept of “they” and “them.” Too many say, “They have decided that.” Or “They wanted it this way.”

At Judgment, you won’t say, “That was them.” Because it’s all us. We are God’s people. We all entered His family the same way. We were all forgiven in the same way. We all serve for our own salvation. It is just “us” as His people. When we become a Christian, we are automatically added to His church. I am then personally in relationship to God’s family.

We invite you to be a part of the people of God. Then grow in awareness and responsibility toward God and His family. What you have to give matters. Your presence is important.

We don’t save — Jesus does.

We want you to know the joy of salvation and the delight in the forgiveness of sins. We invite you, not because we are great, but because He is great, and we belong to Him.

Overwhelmed By Love!

Posted by on October 19, 1997 under Bulletin Articles

Being genuinely loved is overwhelming. It is not the fact that you are loved that overwhelms. It is the meaning of being loved that overwhelms. When you reflect on the fact that a wonderful person loves you enough to be your wife or husband, you are astounded. But when you seek to grasp the significance of that fact, you are stunned. You accept the fact, but you struggle with the meaning and significance.

God’s love affects us in the same way. Realizing that He genuinely loves “me” is overwhelming. The fact that He loves us individually is astounding. But the meaning and significance of His love exceeds our comprehension.

The bond of genuine love in a congregation has the same impact. A congregation filled with genuine love overwhelms its members and visitors. Such love is naturally obvious–you feel it as well as see it. The fact that it exists is astounding. Its significance exceeds comprehension.

Joyce and I are richly blessed by your love. Thank you for loving us! Once, after moving to Fort Smith, I was asked in a television interview about my wife. I stated–truthfully and without hesitation–that she was my greatest asset. I could not use my life as I do without her. It takes a very specific kind of person to be the wife of a preacher. It is not possible to explain all the ways that she supports and encourages me. Neither is it possible to enumerate all the ways that her devotion and service to our Lord blesses and compliments my efforts.

So many of you have told me how much you appreciate Joyce’s friendliness, love for people, sense of humor, and wit. Your appreciation for her is a great joy to me.

Your support and encouragement when she had surgery touched us. Though we were out of state, never were either of us concerned about your understanding. We knew you were praying for us and were “there for us.” In fact, we had an incredible double blessing. Our spiritual family in Oxford was also “there for us” and caring for us with the same love.

Last week you gave us a very generous check to help with the medical expenses of her surgery. Our medical insurance has an extremely high deductible. Your generosity paid the entire amount of the deductible. Thank you!

You do so much for us! You provide for our needs so wonderfully that I feel a sense of embarrassment when I consider all that you have done and are doing. Our love and appreciation for you never stops growing. My prayer never ceases: “Lord, help us be the blessing this congregation needs. May one of the ways that Your incredible love flows to them be through us.”

Leadership Profile: Crete (Titus 1)

Posted by on October 12, 1997 under Sermons

This evening we will continue to broaden and deepen our understanding of biblical leadership in a congregation. Tonight we want to look at the profile of a man who could become an elder or bishop in one of the congregations on the island of Crete. One of the principal reasons that Paul left Titus at Crete was to appoint elders in every city.

As we approach this profile, let’s briefly review a few things we discussed last week.

  1. Please remember:
    1. Congregations in the New Testament often enjoyed four kinds of leadership.
      1. Congregational leadership provided by an apostle.
      2. Congregational leadership provided by the Holy Spirit.
      3. Congregational leadership provided by evangelists, such a Titus.
      4. Congregational leadership provided by local elders.
    2. Last week I suggested that neither of the profiles in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1 was intended to become a check list of elder qualifications.
      1. Neither said anything about the quality of faith the man had in Christ.
      2. Neither said anything about the quality of love the man had for Christ.
      3. Neither said anything about loving the people in the congregation.
      4. Neither said anything about the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23).
      5. Neither said anything about Christian graces (2 Peter 1:5-8).
      6. If you want more discussion about these matters, please get a copy of last week’s lesson.
  2. The situations in the congregation in Ephesus (singular) and the congregations on the island of Crete (plural) were different.
    1. Let’s review Ephesus.
      1. It was the fourth largest city in the Mediterranean world.
        1. It was the religious center for Asia.
        2. It was a major center of commerce in the Roman empire.
        3. It had a wealthy, sophisticated, culturally advanced environment.
      2. That congregation had elders; elders had been leading it for several years.
        1. We know how the congregation began and how Paul worked there for three years (Acts 19; Acts 20:15-35).
        2. We know that they received leadership from an apostle, from the Holy Spirit, from an evangelist, and from elders.
        3. We know Paul was, in part, directing Timothy to address problems that Paul earlier warned the Ephesian elders were coming (Acts 20:17-35).
        4. We know that they had both good and sinful elders (1 Timothy 5:17,20).
    2. Consider Crete:
      1. For a few hundred years, this region was know for its piracy–in different ages, first the Greeks and then the Romans, had to suppress the piracy.
        1. They had an earned, deserved bad reputation.
        2. Paul quoted one of their own poets, Epimenides, who lived about 600 B.C., who wrote, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
        3. Paul only stated the prevailing opinion of Cretans in his day.
          1. Cicero wrote: “Indeed, moral principles are so divergent that the Cretans consider highway robbery to be honorable” (The Republic, 3.4.15).
          2. Polybius wrote: “Their laws go as far as possible in letting them acquire land to the extent of their power…and money is held in such high honor among them that its acquisition is not only regarded as necessary, but as most honorable. So much in fact do sordid love of gain and lust for wealth prevail among them that (the Cretans) are the only people in the world in whose eyes no gain is disgraceful (Histories 6.46.1-3.)
          3. Diodorus of Sicily related the story of a Cretan soldier who betrayed his army to the Romans. He scorned Roman citizenship; he wanted money Histories 6.47.5).
          4. (Historical research provided by Greg York.)
        4. For several hundred years the Cretans distinguished themselves by their greed, violence, and earthiness.
      2. A prominent, powerful group of Jews lived on Crete well before the first century.
        1. They obtained the protection of the Roman military is 141 B.C.
        2. A group of them were present on Pentecost in Acts 2 when Paul preached the first sermon about Jesus being Lord and Christ (Acts 2:11).
      3. We know nothing about the beginning the church in Crete.
        1. Paul once was a prisoner on a ship in the Fair Haven harbor (Acts 27).
        2. Later, after imprisonment, since he left Titus on Crete, he obviously visited the churches there.
        3. Congregations in Crete had leadership from an apostle, at least briefly; as was common, they had the Holy Spirit; they had the evangelist Titus for a while; but evidently not all congregations had elders.
  3. The question: is there any difference between the profile Paul presents in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus 1 regarding elders for these two places?
    1. There are both parallels and similarities.
      1. That should be expected because both places need shepherds.
      2. But are there discernible differences?
    2. By my count, there are sixteen characteristics listed in each scripture.
      1. I Timothy 3:1-7
        1. Above reproach.
        2. One wife.
        3. Temperate (not under the control of addictive behavior).
        4. Prudent (discreet, humble minded, modest).
        5. Respectable (decorous [conducts self in good taste]; not offensive to others).
        6. Hospitable (loves strangers, guests).
        7. Able to teach.
        8. Not an alcoholic.
        9. Not pugnacious (does not use physical force as a solution; not violent).
        10. Gentle (the opposite of pugnacious).
        11. Not contentious (a contentious man loves to quarrel, create disputes).
        12. Does not love money (not greedy).
        13. Actively provides leadership for his family.
        14. Actively guides and directs his children.
        15. Not a recent convert.
        16. Has a good reputation in the community.
      2. Titus 1:5-9
        1. Above reproach (stated twice, verses 5, 7)
        2. One wife.
        3. Children who believe, who do not live lives of dissipation and rebellion (do not act like the prodigal son before he left home–Luke 15:12,13).
        4. God’s steward.
        5. Not self-willed (not stubborn).
        6. Not quick tempered (Not easily angered).
        7. Not an alcoholic.
        8. Not pugnacious (does not use physical force as a solution).
        9. Not fond of sordid gain (not greedy).
        10. Hospitable (loves strangers and guests).
        11. Loves what is good.
        12. Sensible (self-controlled; mental soundness).
        13. Just (upright).
        14. Devout (holy).
        15. Self-controlled (exercises moderation).
        16. Clings to the faithful word so he can encourage with healthy teaching and refute those who contradict healthy teaching.
      3. Parallel qualities ( both reflecting identical qualities):
        1. Above reproach.
        2. One wife.
        3. Sound spiritual influence as a parent.
        4. Hospitable.
        5. Not an alcoholic.
        6. Not pugnacious.
      4. Similar qualities (not an exact emphasis, but areas of similar concern):
        1. Temperate (Timothy); sensible (Titus).
        2. Prudent (Timothy); self-controlled (Titus).
        3. Able to teach (Timothy); exhorts in healthy teaching and refutes contradictors.
        4. Not contentious (Timothy); not quick tempered (Titus).
        5. Does not love money (Timothy); not fond of sordid gain (Titus).
      5. Qualities that reflect a difference in emphasis:
        1. Timothy:
          1. Respectable or conducts himself in good taste; not offensive to others.
          2. Gentle.
          3. Not a new convert.
          4. Having a good reputation in the community.
        2. Titus:
          1. God’s steward.
          2. Not self-willed.
          3. Loves good.
          4. Just (upright).
          5. Devout (holy).
      6. Last Sunday night we looked at the situation and needs of the congregation at Ephesus reflected in 1 Timothy.
      7. Look with me at the situation and needs reflected by Titus in the churches at Crete.
        1. Titus 1:16–there are people within the congregations who profess to know God (because of their knowledge they understand God).
          1. However, the things they do deny God.
          2. They are detestable, disobedient (reject Christ’s guidance and authority?), and worthless for any good deed.
        2. Titus 2:11-13–God’s grace, which brought us salvation, gives us these instructions:
          1. Deny ungodliness.
          2. Deny worldly desires.
          3. Live sensibly.
          4. Live righteously.
          5. Live godly.
        3. Titus 3:1-7
          1. Obey the government.
          2. Be ready to do good deeds.
          3. Do not attack each other’s life and reputation.
          4. Do not quarrel with each other.
          5. Be considerate to everyone.
          6. Do not forget how foolish we were before we came to Christ.
            1. We were disobedient, deceived, and slaves to our own lusts and desires for pleasure.
            2. Our lives were consumed with malice, envy, being hateful, and hating each other.
          7. We changed for only one reason: God revealed His kindness and His love for people.
            1. God saved us.
            2. Not on the basis of our deeds or righteous conduct.
            3. But on the basis of His mercy by regenerating our lives by washing us clean and renewing us by the Holy Spirit.
          8. We are justified by God’s grace–that is what gives us a right to God’s inheritance, gives us the hope of eternal life.
        4. Titus 3:10–understanding this, reject the factious man after warning him twice because he is self condemned.
    3. Put all that evidence together and look at the difference in emphasis on the qualifications.
      1. This culture and society had hundreds of years of being self-indulgent, pleasure driven thieves who loved money and had no respect for people.
      2. As a society, their deeds and lifestyles were horrible.
      3. As a society, they were mean, violent, and hateful.
      4. When Christians enter Christ and are made a part of his church, they carry a lot of baggage with them.
        1. The Cretan Christians were no different.
        2. They needed shepherds basically like the shepherds in every congregation.
        3. But, to accomplish Christ’s purposes in the society and culture of Crete, they needed emphasis on taking care of God’s work (not their own selfish ambitions), on loving good (instead of loving the evil commonly honored in their society), on being upright (instead of being devious), on being holy (instead of being sensuous and earthy).
      5. Can you see in congregational leadership that the common needs that existed in the society and culture around them determined a significant part of the focus and outlook of those who could be leaders?
    4. Look at the difference in emphasis:
      1. Ephesus is a religious center in a large, successful community that has its own set of ethics and its own definitions of honor.
        1. The unique emphasis in elder qualifications stressed being respectable, being gentle, being spiritually experienced, and having a good reputation in the community.
      2. On the island of Crete you have an immoral society that steals, exploits people, and is prone to violence.
        1. Their ungodly society/community was not likely to respect anyone who had a “good reputation” as an honorable person.
        2. The unique emphasis in elder qualifications stresses being God’s steward (instead of serving an evil society), not being focused on “what I want,” being upright, and being holy.
        3. This emphasis addressed the special needs of their situation.

To me, the profiles drawn in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, do not create a “check list” of qualifications for a generic kind of leadership in congregations anywhere they exist in the world. To me, they stress this essential understanding: spiritual leadership in a congregation provides shepherding while addressing the real needs of the congregation in the real context of their existence.

New People Leadership: “Acts 1 Is Different”

Posted by on under Sermons

What a week! What a roller coaster ride! Something unbelievably successful happened and created one of the most exciting moments in your life! There was an adrenaline rush that created a fantastic, natural high. It felt so good, so right that you floated above the every day world. It was one of those, “Yes! I did it!” days.

Then, one week to the day, you had one of the “downest” downers you ever experienced. Everything crashed, and it devastated you. You plummeted into the darkest depths of the pit of pessimism. You were so depressed–and so confused! You thought nothing good could ever happen to you again.

Have you ever experienced a week like that? The people who followed Jesus did. It happened the week that he was executed. It started when Jesus entered Jerusalem while thousands and thousands of people cheered. Passover was a few days away, Jerusalem was splitting at the seams with people, and everybody was talking about Lazarus’ resurrection. Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem in the same way Israel traditionally welcomed a new king. The public was hysterical–people even took their clothes off and laid them in the road for Jesus’ donkey to walk on! It was bigger than a super bowl victory party!

That week Jesus was untouchable. His enemies could do nothing to him. Passover, the most important day in the Jewish year, was coming Saturday. What a time to put Jesus in charge of the nation!

Had anyone suggested that Jesus would be dead before sundown on Friday, people would have laughed at their stupidity. Kill the man who raises the dead! Don’t be ridiculous!

But it happened. Thursday night one of his own disciples betrayed him, and Friday afternoon he was dead. Roman soldiers executed him at the insistence of the Jewish public. Jesus was not only executed; he was also publicly disgraced.

The multitudes that followed Jesus for the past three years evaporated. The cheers died; an eerie silence lived. The miracle worker was dead. Sure, he had been raised from the dead, but that caused no major stir. Lazarus was alive and there for everyone to see doing everyday things everyday. But Jesus’ resurrection was different. It was real. His flesh lived again. He still had the wounds in his body. He was not a ghost. But he would appear, and then be gone. And that lasted for only 40 days (Acts 1:3) When he ascended into heaven, they realized that his frequent, unexpected appearances were over.

  1. After Jesus’ ascension, one hundred twenty disciples remained together as a group in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15).
    1. This group included eleven of Jesus’ special disciples, a number of the women who cooked and cared for Jesus and the twelve as they traveled from place to place, Jesus’ mother Mary, and his physical brothers.
      1. It was such a confusing time.
      2. After the ascension, the eleven disciples stayed in an upper room in Jerusalem.
        1. Before he ascended, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem.
        2. He told them that the Holy Spirit would come on them.
        3. When the Holy Spirit came, they would receive power.
      3. The group remained together the ten days between Jesus’ ascension and the day the Holy Spirit came.
        1. It says that they spent the time in prayer.
    2. These ten days were such an awkward, strange, confusing time.
      1. Throughout Israel’s history, the only saviors the Jewish nation had known were military leaders.
        1. Moses, their first leader, wasn’t, but he was so unique that there had been only one Moses.
        2. But Joshua was, and the judges were, and King David was, and in recent history the Maccabeans were.
      2. The nation never had a nonmilitary, resurrected Savior.
        1. They never had a Savior who would not fight.
        2. They never had a Savior who surrendered to the enemy peacefully.
        3. They never had a Savior who refused to destroy the enemy.
      3. They had had military leaders, and prophets, and high priests, and Rabbis.
        1. These were natural, flesh-and-blood, living leaders.
        2. They never had a leader who had been killed and was alive again.
      4. They had absolutely no idea about:
        1. What God had in mind.
        2. What Jesus had in mind.
        3. What was going to happen.
        4. Or how it would work when it happened.
      5. Jesus just said, “Stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes”–whatever that meant.
        1. “Know that you will have power when the Holy Spirit comes”–whatever that meant. (They used the power to do miracles, so what was different about this power?)
        2. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world.”
          1. Witnesses of what?
          2. Witnesses about what?
          3. Surely, he was resurrected, but what did that mean? How could God use that?
          4. And what was this business of being witnesses to the world? Jesus rarely left Israel’s borders when he was alive. What world?
      6. In 40 days of resurrection appearances, Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
        1. They didn’t understand–in fact, it really didn’t make sense.
        2. How can you have a kingdom if you don’t have a king?
        3. How can Jesus be king even if he is resurrected, but just makes occasional appearances?
        4. Very confusing!
  2. One day Peter told the whole group that they needed to replace Judas.
    1. He had been a part of the twelve’s ministry, and his vacancy needed to be filled.
      1. Peter cited Psalms 69:25 and Psalms 109:8 as proof that Judas had disgraced himself by betraying Jesus, and that he needed to be replaced.
      2. But there was a certain kind of man who was qualified to replace Judas.
        1. This man followed Jesus full time just as had the other eleven–and there is evidence that a number of people followed Jesus full time.
        2. He witnessed the work, deeds, and teachings of Jesus daily–he saw everything with his own eyes and heard it with his own ears.
        3. He started following Jesus when John baptized Jesus–the beginning point of Jesus’ ministry.
        4. He personally saw the resurrected Jesus.
    2. What happened then was very different, so different that it is astounding.
      1. Someone says, “I know what was so different.”
        1. “I read that Acts 1 would be in your sermon, so I read Acts 1.”
        2. “The astounding thing is that they cast lots to select the man.”
        3. I am so glad that you read Acts 1. That is wonderful. Casting lots does seem strange to us, that was not at all strange to them.
      2. What was casting or drawing lots? It was the kind of act we do when we draw straws, or draw a name out of a bowl, or something similar.
      3. Our immediate response is, “That certainly was a strange way to make an important religious decision.”
      4. Actually, that is the only thing about this decision that was not strange; in the Old Testament God often used lots to make known His decision.
        1. In Leviticus 16:8, on the second most important holy day in Israel, two goats were selected to be used on the day of atonement.
          1. One goat was given to the Lord by sacrifice.
          2. One goat was to be a scapegoat used to carry Israel’s sins away.
          3. Lots were cast to allow God to select which goat was to be used for what.
        2. Joshua 14:2 and 18:10 states that God was allowed to determine which section of land was given to what Israelite tribe by casting lots.
        3. Nehemiah 10:34 states God was allowed to determine which group of priest served in the temple by casting lots.
        4. Proverbs 16:33 states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
      5. I find it noteworthy to realize that this is the last time casting lots was used by the followers of Christ to involve God in the decision.
        1. From the next chapter (Acts 2) forward, such decisions were made in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
        2. A clear example is Acts 13:2 when the Holy Spirit told the prophets and teachers in the Antioch congregation to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work that the Spirit wanted them to do.
    3. “Then what is it about this decision that you consider to be astounding?”
      1. Peter did not pick the man.
        1. He obviously was in charge of that meeting.
        2. From Acts 2 through Acts 9 he would be the most popular and influential leader in the congregation at Jerusalem.
        3. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was one of Jesus’ closest disciples.
        4. But Peter did not pick the man.
      2. The eleven did not pick the man.
        1. They did not say, “We need to be sure to select someone who is compatible and meets our personal approval.”
        2. They did not declare, “We know better than anyone else who is needed to take Judas’ place.”
        3. They did not say, “Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is coming on us and giving us power, so we should be the ones to make the choice.”
      3. Had Peter said that he would pick the man, or, had the eleven said that they should make the choice, I sincerely doubt that anyone would have objected.
        1. That was consistent with the way things were done then.
        2. It would have been appropriate.
        3. But it is not what happened.
      4. The 120, the whole group, including both men and women, selected two men who fit the profile Peter presented them.
        1. From their human perspective, both men were equally qualified to take Judas’ place.
        2. From their knowledge, either Joseph or Matthias would be fine.
      5. But the apostles did not even make the final choice between the two men.
        1. They, the group, prayed.
        2. “You, Lord, know the hearts of all people.”
        3. “Show us which one you have chosen.”
      6. Please carefully note and remember this: The final, most important qualification was the qualification of the heart–and only God knew hearts.
        1. Does that mean Joseph, who was not selected, had a bad heart, and Matthias, who was selected, had a good heart?
        2. Absolutely not! It in no way means that Joseph had less faith or was less spiritual.
        3. It meant that Matthias had the heart best suited for the work of an apostle.
    4. “David, what is it that is strikingly different about this decision?”
      1. The number one thing is that the whole group participated in making the decision.
      2. Peter practiced what we now call participatory leadership.
        1. Peter, as the leader, set the boundaries of the decision.
        2. The whole group, working within those boundaries, made a decision.
        3. Both men and women in the group had a part in doing this.
      3. The leader led, but the whole group participated.
      4. And this is not the last time this happened.

A brand new kingdom would come into existence in days. No kingdom had ever been like this new one. It would function in a new and different way. It would be led in a new and different way. But why should that be surprising? A new people in a new kingdom who existed for a new purpose needed a new kind of leadership.

Don’t forget the declaration that Jesus is alive and He is coming back!

If you are a Christian, you are alive because God put life in you, just as He put life into the dead body of Christ. You are alive because He is alive. You are alive when you are in Him. The power is from God to give you a new life, to make you a new person. When He gives you life, you share in Jesus’ resurrection.

If you are not a Christian, are you willing to be baptized so you can get life? We would love to help you find the life that only God can provide.

How Can We Become Spiritually Stronger?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

How can we as a congregation become spiritually stronger? That is my first prayer for this congregation: “Lord, help us grow spiritually strong.” Certainly, I want numerical growth, involvement growth, and growth in our ministries. But, above all, I want growth that results in the strength of spiritual maturity.

The foundation of that maturity is a growing faith. Unless faith in God, His Son, and His Spirit increases, spiritual maturity cannot occur. For any congregation to grow in strength, it must grow in faith.

Spiritual needs must be understood and met. Evil has “customized” the problems and troubles it produces in our society. People who experienced significant rejection have unique problems. So do people who were unloved, or who were abandoned, or who grew up surrounded by evil, or who were abused, or who were betrayed, or who failed, or who have deep feelings of guilt.

All of those circumstances generate specific spiritual needs. These specific needs must be addressed. While the primary solution for every spiritual need is the grace, love, and forgiveness of Christ, the congregation, as a spiritual family, must minister to the special needs of its members with sensitivity and caring.

People rarely are too troubled to marry. Troubled pasts rarely convince husbands and wives not to have children. Faith does not change past circumstances. Faith cannot keep a troubled past from influencing the realities of one’s present. Even when we have faith, the past casts shadows on our families.

Even with good pasts, we have so much to learn about healthy, vibrant, loving family relationships. Knowing how to become loving, kind husbands, wives, and parents is not intuitive–none of us “just know how to do that.”

Aside from a growing faith, the second most important factor in becoming a spiritually mature congregation is helping families develop stable, loving relationships.

Carl Brecheen and Paul Faulkner will conduct a family seminar here the first weekend in December. Please come! Singles, marrieds, separated; troubled, divorced, happy; pre-parents, parents, empty nesters; young, middle-aged, older; please come! Bless yourself, and bless this congregation.

Leadership Profile: Ephesus (I Timothy 3)

Posted by on October 5, 1997 under Sermons

In churches of Christ we have great concern for doing Bible things in Bible ways. I totally agree that is a good and legitimate concern. But this is the question we immediately confront: how do you decide what is a Bible thing, and how do you decide the Bible way to do it?

As an example, consider congregational leadership.

  1. We want our congregations to have the same kind of leadership that congregations had in the first century.
    1. But deciding how to make congregational leadership a Bible thing done in a Bible way is complex, not simple.
    2. Congregations in the New Testament enjoyed four forms of leadership.
      1. They had leadership from the apostles.
        1. Without question, that was the best form of congregational leadership–it often was not well received, but it was the best.
        2. We all agree that the apostles were God inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit as no other Christians ever were.
        3. They also had the advantage of living and working with Jesus.
        4. They were the primary source of the Scripture that we trust and follow.
        5. For a while, the Jerusalem congregation had all of the apostles in their leadership.
      2. They had leadership from the Holy Spirit.
        1. The Holy Spirit was powerful and active in first century congregations.
        2. He also was essential in congregational leadership–the letters that became the New Testament were being written.
        3. With all the problems the congregation at Corinth had, 1 Corinthians documents that the Holy Spirit was very active in that congregation.
        4. Revelations and prophecies were essential to those congregations.
      3. They had leadership from evangelists.
        1. Evangelists were instructors, organizers, troubleshooters, and appointers.
        2. Timothy and Titus are primary examples of evangelists.
        3. Paul’s letters to these two men were instructions of how they were to work and what they were to do in specific churches.
        4. One responsibility was to help appoint local church leaders.
        5. Caucasian congregations in the United States have rejected this form of leadership within our congregations.
          1. We use it extensively in our mission work–we expect our missionaries to be proactive in the leadership of congregations on the mission field.
          2. But we do not accept or sanction leadership roles for evangelists in American congregations.
        6. Many African-American congregations use the evangelist in the leadership role of the local congregation.
      4. They had local men called elders, bishops, or presbyters–all referring to the same men–who functioned as congregational leaders.
        1. This is our primary form of leadership in Caucasian congregations.
        2. It was unquestionably a primary form of congregational leadership in first century churches.
  2. As we use elders for leadership, we make some basic assumptions.
    1. We assume that elders in the different first century congregations were the same kind of men.
      1. Today in our congregations we make that same assumption.
      2. I can testify that elders from congregation to congregation are not the same kind of men.
        1. I have worked under elderships for 35 years–since 1962.
        2. Few elders have attended as many elder meetings as have I.
        3. I have listened to elders make decisions since I was 22 years old.
        4. I can assure you that not all elders are the same kind of men, and that elders from congregation to congregation are not interchangeable.
      3. Generally, elders in all congregations do share some things in common.
        1. They are married.
        2. They have children.
        3. They are not divorced.
        4. They are not active alcoholics.
        5. They are not recently converted.
      4. One of my special blessings has been to work with some truly exceptional elders in different contexts.
        1. I have worked with some in mission focused congregations.
        2. I have worked with some in university congregations.
        3. I have worked with some in a typical urban settings.
        4. But these remarkable men were not interchangeable.
  3. Within our basic assumptions about elders as leaders, we have oversimplified congregational leadership.
    1. Our reasoning often has been:
      1. The Bible is the Bible.
      2. The New Testament is the New Testament.
      3. What Paul said to Timothy was identical to what he said to Titus.
      4. The circumstances at Ephesus and Crete were identical.
      5. The needs at Ephesus and Crete were identical.
      6. The composition of those congregations were irrelevant.
    2. So we take a concordance, look up all the references to elders, bishops, presbyters, put them all together, and reinforce our assumptions.
      1. Before we study what Paul said to Timothy and Titus about elders, we assume he said the same thing, so we approach it as if it were identical.
      2. We look at both as Paul’s check list of elder qualifications.
    3. This suggestion is worthy of serious consideration and thought.
      1. If you think about it, it is obvious that Paul never intended 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to be “the” check list for “the” qualifications for elders.
      2. There are some basic, critical qualifications not included in either scripture.
        1. Neither scripture says anything about the man’s faith in Christ.
          1. A congregation is in serious trouble if it entrusts its leadership to men who do not have great faith in Christ.
          2. A congregation can look forward to great blessings if it entrusts its leadership to men who do have great faith in Christ.
          3. A man can have little faith and meet the qualifications if we make a check list out of those two scriptures.
        2. Neither scripture says anything about the love the man has for Christ.
          1. A congregation faces serious problems if it trusts its leadership to men who have little love for Christ or who cannot express love for Christ.
          2. A congregation can look forward to great blessings when it entrusts its leadership to men who have and express great love for Christ.
          3. A man can have little love and meet the qualifications if we make a check list out of those two scriptures.
        3. Neither scripture says anything about the love the man feels for the people in the congregation–how important is it that the shepherd love the sheep, especially the wounded, sick, or erring sheep?
          1. We emphasize his “love of the truth” rather than his love of the sheep.
          2. Some leaders love the truth but do not love the sheep.
          3. Elders love both, but love of the sheep makes them great shepherds.
        4. Neither scripture says anything about the men having the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) or the Christian graces (2 Peter 1:5-8) which must live in any man who has the spiritual maturity to provide leadership.
      3. I suggest that 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are not a check list of elder qualifications.
        1. I suggest that each provides a profile of the kind of spiritually mature men that can be trusted to be shepherds in two different situations.
        2. To both Timothy and Titus, Paul says, “This is the kind of spiritually mature Christian men you are looking for in your situation.”
        3. A man could be spiritually mature and not fit the profile.
        4. Paul did not intend either scripture to be a checklist.
  4. Please take a careful look at the situation at Ephesus.
    1. Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the Mediterranean world with perhaps a population of a quarter of a million people.
      1. The city was the gateway to Asia.
        1. Caravans met the ships at Ephesus.
        2. Militarily, it had been a strategic city for around a thousand years.
      2. One of the most important and impressive temples in the world, the temple of Artemis or Diana, was there; Ephesus was the religious center of all Asia.
      3. It was one of the important urban centers of the Roman empire.
        1. It was a center for the business and religious world.
        2. It was wealthy, sophisticated, with significant cultural development.
      4. The congregation existed in a city “where it was happening.”
    2. This congregation enjoyed all four forms of first century leadership.
      1. Paul, the apostle, taught every day in the school of Tyrannus for two years, so this congregation had direct leadership from an apostle (Acts 19:8-12).
      2. As in all the congregations, the Holy Spirit was active (Ephesians 4:30; 5:18).
      3. Timothy worked with the congregation as an evangelist (1 Timothy 1:3-11).
      4. And they had elders.
    3. Evidently they had elders before Paul completed his long and effective stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-20).
      1. Later, as he passed near Ephesus, he called the elders at Ephesus to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:17,18).
        1. In that meeting, Paul said some striking things to these men (Acts 20:28-32).
        2. They needed to be on guard for themselves as well as the congregation.
        3. Their appointment to be shepherds was from the Holy Spirit.
        4. Men who were described as savage wolves were going to enter the eldership and the congregation and cause destruction among the sheep.
        5. Some of these very elders would exalt themselves.
        6. Some of them would tell the congregation things that would direct the congregation away from what was right and good.
        7. Some of them would deliberately create their own followings.
        8. Some of them would develop their own personal disciples.
      2. Before Paul wrote this letter to Timothy that we call 1 Timothy, Ephesus had elders–elders were in place there for some years before this letter.
  5. Now turn to 1 Timothy and follow me as you remember two things: Timothy is in Ephesus; and years before, Paul told the elders that some of them would become wolves.
    1. Look at what is happening:
      1. Certain men in the congregation are teaching strange doctrines (1:3).
        1. They are emphasizing myths, genealogies, and speculation (1:4).
        2. They are pursuing fruitless discussions (1:6).
        3. They make confident assertions they don’t understand (1:7).
      2. Some of these men have rejected faith and a good conscience (1:19).
        1. Their faith is shipwrecked.
        2. Paul names two men he has “delivered to Satan” to teach them not to blaspheme (1:20).
      3. Isn’t that what Paul warned would happen in Acts 20?
    2. The situation:
      1. The congregation had elders.
      2. Some of those elders were exceptional, worthy of double honor (5:17).
      3. Some of those elders were sinful and needed to be rebuked before the whole congregation (5:20).
      4. Those worthy of honor were not to be subjected to irresponsible charges–accusations must be supported by two or three witnesses (5:19).
      5. All elders were accountable to the congregation.
      6. In the matter of honor or charges, there was to be no bias, no partiality, and no action taken hastily (5:22, 23).
      7. If you want to see one contrast between the profile of a man you need as an elder and of a man you don’t need as an elder, contrast 3:1-7 with 6:3-5.
    3. The need:
      1. Timothy, the congregation needs more elders.
      2. It has some very good ones, and it has some sinful ones.
      3. It is not a matter of just adding some men.
      4. A certain kind of man needs to be added; this kind of Christian man; here is a profile of the kind of men Ephesus needs as elders.
        1. He is respected for his mature spiritual character within the church.
        2. His values stress the spiritual, not the material.
        3. He is a family man, so he knows how to love and work with people.
        4. He had the spiritual maturity not to be deceived by the unspiritual thinking going on in the congregation.
        5. The community respects him.

Can you see from the scripture that we are not talking about a checklist, but the profile of the kind of man that was needed to be a shepherd and overseer in the church at Ephesus?

A New People

Posted by on under Sermons

Do you know what basic problem is in the world? Do you know what the basic problem is in our society? Do you know what the basic problem is in the families of our society? It is the same basic problem in all of them! The basic problem is people.

Do you realize that every significant problem in our world is caused by people? Look at the problems in our society, and notice that the causes for every social problem is people. People cause the problems in our country. They cause the problems in our state. They cause the problems in our city. They cause the problems in our families. They even cause the problems in our congregation. It is always people!

We could solve all our existing problems if we just got a brand new people to inhabit this earth.

“David, that is ridiculous! That is worse than ridiculous –that is just plain stupid.” I know it. It is a gross, ridiculous oversimplification. I know that having a huge, world wide people exchange is ridiculous. I also know that if such an exchange were possible, it very likely would not solve anything.

But have you seriously thought about what God said about changing the world, or changing society, or changing families? God said that the key to causing this incredible, desirable change is new people. God never suggests that we import a whole planet of new people from some distant universe. God says that the people who are living in our world right now need to let Jesus Christ recreate them, to literally make them new people.

  1. May I ask you some very personal questions?
    1. I would like for you to be absolutely honest in your answers.
      1. But don’t answer out loud.
      2. Do not share your answers to anyone else.
      3. Just be brutally honest with yourself.
    2. Are you a Christian? “Yes.”
      1. When you were baptized, did you genuinely believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? “Yes.”
      2. When you became a Christian, did you sincerely repent, did you consciously decide to redirect your live? “Yes.”
    3. That being true, when you were baptized into Jesus Christ, what were your intentions?
      1. There are different, legitimate intentions at baptism, and we can have more than one intention.
        1. “Well, I intended to do what I understood I was supposed to do.”
        2. “My intention was real simple–I did not want to go to hell.”
        3. “My intention was to become a member of the church that was dedicated to being Christ’s church.”
        4. “My intention was to serve Jesus Christ as I made him my Lord.”
        5. “My intention was to do the will of God.”
      2. Now may I ask a much more personal question: when you in faith and repentance were baptized into Jesus Christ, when you accepted Jesus as the Lord of your life, did you have any intention of becoming a new person?
        1. “Do you mean did I intend to modify my behavior?” No, that is not what I mean.
        2. “Do you mean did I intend to change my habits?” No, that is not what I mean.
        3. “Are you asking me did I intend to take control of my life and accept responsibility?” No, that is not what I am asking.
        4. “Are you asking do I intend to put a stop to some visible forms of evil in my life?” No.
      3. “Then what are you asking me?” I am asking did you intend to become a new person–to think in new ways, to develop new emotions, new values, new motives, new purposes for living, new ambitions, new uses for life, etc.?
        1. I literally mean when you made the decision to place your life in Jesus Christ, did that decision include your conscious choice to allow Jesus Christ to totally change you as a person?
        2. Did you intend to become a different person, or did you intend to remain the same person that you always have been, but do some necessary things differently?
  2. Today the church confronts a very serious problem.
    1. The truth is this: the church always has confronted this serious problem, and it always will confront this problem.
      1. When you read the letters written to the churches of the New Testament, this serious problem is very obvious–you see it again and again in the congregations written in the New Testament.
      2. While this problem is as old as the church, it was extremely serious then and it is extremely serious now–and it will always be a serious problem.
    2. What is this serious problem?
      1. When non-religious people who are outside the church look at religious people who are inside the church, they are struck by the fact that the people in the church are not that different.
      2. Maybe they have a different lifestyle–but maybe not.
      3. Religious people like creature comforts just as much as non-religious people; they just focus on a different set of creature comforts.
      4. Religious people’s priorities outside the church often are not different at all.
      5. Religious people’s vocabularies may be different, their habits may be different, but basically they are the same kind of people.
      6. They really do not see or believe that Christ makes the people different.
        1. It may make a difference in how they behave in a specific circumstance.
        2. It may make a difference in what they say in some circumstances.
        3. It may make a difference in some of their habits.
        4. But the changes are external; the person does not really change.
    3. If we, as Christians, struggle to understand that belonging to Christ is supposed to change us as a person, we are not weird–many of the first Christians struggled with that same understanding.
      1. The Colossian Christians had a distorted understanding of what it meant to live the Christian existence.
      2. In chapter three Paul dealt with a key element of their distorted concept.
        1. Verses 1-4:
          1. This is what happened when you were baptized: you were resurrected in Christ–by an act of God, you were actually resurrected.
          2. If you were resurrected with Christ from a dead existence to a new existence, you need to focus your new existence on Christ.
            1. You need to let Christ teach you how to think.
            2. You need to realize that your entire existence is completely enveloped by Christ’s existence.
        2. (Verses 5-9) Your physical body no longer exists to be used for:
          1. Sexual immorality.
          2. Greed.
          3. Worshipping things or gods other than Jesus Christ.
          4. Anger and all its rage companions.
          5. Any of the evil behaviors and activities that characterized the old existence, the old self.
        3. (Verse 10) Because you are a Christian, you have a new self, you are a new person.
          1. That new self comes into full existence by focusing on the image of Christ to learn true knowledge that will produce the new existence.
          2. Christ created this new self when you were raised with him in baptism.
          3. Allow this new self to come into its full and complete existence–become the new person Jesus created you to be.
        4. (Verse 11) Please understand this fact: Jesus recreates every single person who participates in his death and resurrection.
          1. He does that to the most and the least civilized person.
          2. He does that to the Jew and to the non-Jew.
          3. He does that to the slave and to the person who is free.
          4. Every person who is in Christ has Christ in them; every person in Christ is recreated by Christ himself.
      3. Why did Paul tell them this? Simply because they did not understand it.
  3. David, are you really asking us to believe that people changed as persons because they believed in and entered Jesus Christ? Absolutely! I want you to believe it because it happened.
    1. Take your Bible, turn to Acts 2, and remember what happened.
      1. For the first time the resurrected Jesus was presented as Lord and Christ.
      2. This happened in the same city where Jesus was executed less than two months previously.
      3. Many of the people who heard this first declaration that Jesus was resurrected to be Lord and Christ were the same people who screamed for his crucifixion.
      4. When they realized they made a horrible mistake, when they realized that they demanded the execution of God’s own son, they were terrified (murdering God’s son is serious business!) and asked, “What can we do?”
      5. Because they believed that Jesus was resurrected Lord and Christ, they were told that repentance and baptism would result in forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit.
      6. Three thousand of those people were baptized, and a conversion explosion began in Jerusalem.
    2. As I paraphrase, look closely at Acts 2:43-47.
      1. Verse 43—The sense of awe that began on the first day of conversions continued–people were astounded at what God had done and was doing.
      2. Verse 44–The people who accepted Christ formed an incredible bond of togetherness.
      3. Verse 45–They were so devoted to each other because they were in Christ that they were determined to care for each other’s physical needs–even when it required selling property and possessions.
      4. This was not a “share the pennies” arrangement.
        1. Last weekend we took our three-and-a-half year old twin grandchildren to a recreation of a first century market place.
        2. As each child came through the gate into the marketplace, he or she was given a cloth money bag with 25 pennies in it.
        3. In the market place, for a penny, they could buy or do all kinds of things.
        4. My grandchildren were so thrilled with their bag of pennies that they spent them sparingly.
        5. When they got home they got into a fuss about how many pennies they each should have, so Dad equally divided the pennies and dictated an end to the fuss.
      5. These people did not divide the pennies–they took care of needs.
      6. Verse 46–They went to the temple everyday, likely to pray; they ate together in their homes; they were happy and genuine.
      7. Verse 47–They praised God (would that make you uncomfortable? would you know how to do that?) And people liked them!
      8. They were a new people! And it was not just initial enthusiasm after baptism–they were still doing this in Acts 4:32,33. It says there was not a needy person in that congregation of thousands!
    3. In an age of poverty, that was unheard of! In an age of prosperity, it still is!
      1. How would you like to be part of a congregation like that?
      2. Think you would love it? On which end of the prosperity spectrum?
      3. Would you agree with this statement? That could happen only because those people become new people.

I am not talking about manufactured differences. I am not talking about artificial differences. I am talking about actually becoming a different person. If I cooperate, if I allow Jesus to mold me into the image of the new creation, Jesus will mold me to be like him. There won’t be anything artificial about it. Naturally, week by week, year by year, I act, think, feel, care, and serve like Jesus. I adopt his purposes and his ways and his concerns. And that literally results in me being a new person.

Maybe you did not intend to become a new person when you were baptized. But the moment you entered Christ, Jesus created something from you that never existed before. When you realize that that same faith that placed you in Christ will begin shaping and molding you into a different person. If you refuse to believe that, Christ will never be able to do in your life what he intended to do the day he recreated you.

It has been so easy for us in the last two generations to be obsessed with what is right. We can be so focused on what is right that that becomes the only concern. This leads to cold, unsympathetic, formal congregations. They do what’s right, but it doesn’t change how they feel.

It is even more important to change into being what Christ wants us to be. When I become what Jesus wants me to be, I can do what’s right. (I can do what’s right with the same old heart, but that is not what God intends.)

Don’t forget about what’s right. But put first things first. Let Christ complete His creation. Do what’s right with a life of compassion. Get the focus right. Be a new person in Christ.

Simple Isn’t Simple Anymore–and Probably Never Was

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Some declarations break me out in a cold sweat. It is not the “hearing” that causes chills to run up and down my spine. It is knowing that I must do the “doing.”

“No assembly required” (so why is there more than one piece?). “Simple assembly required” (so why are the instructions five pages of gibberish?). “Anybody can do it” (never met him–could you introduce us?). “Anybody can understand it” (I still haven’t met him). “Easy for everybody” (and I still haven’t met that first guy!).

Seriously, we create major problems when we convince people that the complex is simple. When people expect the simple and encounter the complex, they are disillusioned. The consequences: they become skeptics and we lose credibility.

Would any of us affirm that it is simple to develop the love that endures? to find the “right person” to marry? to sustain a marriage for a life time? to avoid divorce? to rear children? to help adult children when they struggle? to find job security? to sell or buy property? to arrange financing? to go into business? to have a secure retirement? (You may extend this list by at least 100 additional items.)

The same problems are created when we convince people that the complex is simple spiritually. Would any of us affirm that it is simple to believe without doubt? to repent? to clearly distinguish between good and evil? to identify the specific sources of our personal temptations? to identify the specific causes of our personal temptations? to overcome temptation? to defeat addiction? to be spiritually positive? to avoid discouragement? to build a strong, vibrant faith? to maintain an active faith? to worship from the heart in spirit and truth? to pray?

Would any of us like to affirm that it is simple to understand the Bible? including the Song of Solomon? the Old Testament prophets? the sayings of Jesus? the “difficult sayings” of Paul? the book of Revelation?

The creator God is not simple. The Word who became flesh is not simple. The Spirit of God is not simple. When we over simplify Christianity and the church, we disillusion. Disillusionment gives birth to the skepticism that destroys faith. With those who seek faith, it also destroys our credibility.