While it’s a common term and mission, discipleship as we know it in America’s church is dead. So dead that many believe that few are even being taught rightly by the scripture much less being brought into the Kingdom of God. Having a limited amount of time and a limited amount of webspace, there is no way one could attempt to revise and restore the biblical idea of discipleship, though many have tried. So, as a mark on the starting line, I hope to list a few things on my heart for the sake of future direction and discussion.
Discipleship is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the full and final revelation of God to man and in His ministry one can find the reality of what Jesus did and thus create a theology of growing others “to” the faith and “in” the faith. Jesus selected His disciples specifically, then He lived with them and taught them to invest in others for the sake of the kingdom. As they invested, they preached, proclaimed the good news of Christ and saw God save many through the hearing of the Word. (Rom 10:17) These who came to know God through Jesus Christ became part of the body, that is the church. The local church was governed by the Word of God through the apostles who “appointed elders (pastors) in every city to put in order what remained.” The flock was taught to “do the work of the ministry” to each other and teach others to do the same in the power and for the sake of the person of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing else.
Discipleship is evangelism.
“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” This is a familiar song in the hearts of the church, but ever so often she refuses to hear this portion but rather hears the “Go ye into all the nations…” While the church is to go, what it DOES as it goes is to teach the Gospel of Jesus as God plants the church and saves people by grace through faith. So, reaching people is teaching people, these things are not divided but one in the same. Any attempt to make “reaching” apart from rightly dividing the word of God is another gospel and as Paul states, “no gospel at all.”
Discipleship is what the church does, period.
So the church hears, believes, trusts, hopes, lives, loves and learns at the feet of her savior, the living Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us. So, the church is to hear the word, do the word, know the word, love the word, live the word, teach the word and all for the sake of the praise of the glorious grace of God in Christ. So, when the church thinks that “discipleship” is apart from the word, then she has forsaken her first love and must “do the things that she did before” so her Lord will not remove her lampstand (influence) from the world. The church around the globe is hard at work teaching people to understand and teach others the bible, but for some strange reason, the dominant church in the USA seems to have given way to personal growth, personal esteem, personal influence, personal ministry and personal preference instead of powerful purpose found only in God’s word. Just imagine, a people so hungry for power and never finding it because the grace of God (the power of God) is nowhere to be found because it is only given through the hearing and teaching of the word of God… Grace be with you.
Discipleship is personal, intimate and individual.
Widget companies can go the way of the assembly line just fine with identical outcomes having only a small margin of error. But when it comes to people, each one is unique and unable to be stamped as a cookie on a sheet. So why does so many congregations pour countless individuals into the same pot and then ask the question, “how can we get people to love the Lord and be committed?” They cannot be committed to the Christ they have never heard and they will not hear unless someone preaches to them and then they will not encounter the Christ-filled life without the church continually living together in the pursuit of God’s grace through His word. So, mass making of strong believers is like mass making of a bag of toenails. It’s gross and worthless. The preaching and the preacher should enable the body to do the work of the ministry while each one models unique but personal discipleship. There is no other way.
Discipleship is carried through teaching what accords with sound doctrine.
In the end the body of Christ will prevail as the holy and pure bride prepared for her groom. Until then she is to press and lean by faith alone on the promises of God through Jesus Christ who fully furnished and finished redemption by justifying a people for Himself through His blood having taken their guilt and debt and paid it in full. It is finished! So, let the church lives as the body of the Christ who bought her by growing as disciples who prove their adoptions as sons and daughters through the sacrifice of their living for the sake of glory that comes from God, not man.
The church will live eternally and she will do eternally what Christ has saved her to do because she no longer lives as her own but it is Christ who lives within her. Therefore, the perpetuity of sound disciples will make more and nothing will make this happen apart from the power of God the Holy Spirit through the simple and wonderful teaching of God’s word, not to the masses, but to the few who teaches the few who teaches the few.
This past week I have received dozens of questions but I had an email from a few weeks back that asked about challenges that pastors face and how they stand under the challenges. In a quick reply I realized that there are MANY challenges that could stand against shepherds and that they are too many to list and never-ending. Here are a few “thoughts” and then my reply.
Spiritual Battles of the Enemy – any type of struggle causing any type of struggle.
Spiritual Battles of the Flesh – this is obvious and would include temptation.
Spiritual Battles of the Mind – these would include feelings, hurt, pride etc.
Spiritual Battles of the Heart – the affections and lusts of the world vs. the affections of glory.
Spiritual Battles of the Word of God
Spiritual Battles are ALL for our good.
Challenges come in the form of people
Challenges come in the form of thoughts
Challenges come in the form of temptations
Challenges come in the form of time
Challenges come and they always will
What challenges (both private & public) are ‘Pastors’ facing daily?
How do they cope? Your insight would be truly appreciated.
I could list hundreds, but off the top of my head, here are the most critical:
CHALLENGE OF UNDERMINING BIBLICAL AUTHORITY
Pastors face the challenge of undermining biblical authority. This means that in the world we live in, it is often the “norm” to just do things that draw people or create environments that would appeal to the masses of the world. In doing this, the pastor demonstrates that he has no faith in God or His power to save.
Let me explain: God’s word does not return void, it goes forth and does that for which it was sent. (Is 55:11) Hebrew 4:12 says that the word of God is living and breathing. 2 Tim 3 teaches that ALL scripture is breathed out by God and is useful for success to all the men of God. 2 Peter writes that all that is needed for life and godliness is given to us by God’s divine power and Paul in Romans 1 says that God’s word and His “gospel” is His power unto salvation. It is also very clear in Rom 10:17 that the hearing of Christ’s word alone brings salvation, nothing else.
John says that the word became flesh, so the word is Jesus who speaks truth as He is truth and Jesus reveals the eternal glory of God to the fullest. If you turn to 2 Cor 4 you will see Paul teaching that there is in no way cunning or tampering with God’s word with any attempt to draw, lure, engage, entice, or incite people to faith or interest. But he says that if people are not interested or cannot see the gospel they preach it is because satan has blinded their eyes and through the open statement of the truth of the gospel their eyes can be opened.
All through Jesus’ ministry people came from near and far to follow him but they perished in their sins because they wanted food, healing, power, encouragement and hope but they didn’t see Him for who He was and couldn’t because they did not have ears to hear. So, to make a long answer longer, the word of God alone is all we need as pastors to successfully shepherd, reach and minister to all the people of the world.
CHALLENGE OF THE PAIN OF THE HEART & PRIDE
Pastors face fear, rejection, temptation, loneliness and other personal issues because the job is demanding, overbearing and at times “prideful” when everyone seems to think highly of us. Therefore, Pride is a problem with many of us if we are not careful.
CHALLENGE OF TIME STEWARDSHIP & COPING
Time – we need more and that which we do have is mostly spent wastefully. We think that “living” with others in their circles and interests is better than prayer, study and teaching of scripture. But scripture has clearly called pastors to shepherd through feeding, not fellowship per se.
How we cope in these matters is surely back to the number one problem… we HOLD FAST to the word of God alone for our needs and desires. He read, meditate and pray.
Secondly, we must be accountable to other men who share the wisdom, maturity and insight of the role of pastor so we are not led to the slaughter by temptation.
Finally, we intercede for ourselves and our flock through prayer as often as possible many times in every hour. We care and we focus on knowing that God will do what He will do and that the outcome of our ministry is not how people respond or who is saved or how big things become, but the faithfulness of God. If Noah had no converts, then he wasn’t a failure because God used him to faithfully preach Christ (2 Peter).
So an added challenge would be to measure success by the world and not the word.
As I post this response, I am reminded that there are millions more and that these could very well each be a series of discussions and thoughts. What challenges do you face pastor? How do you cope?
Did you realize that worshipping with your church is evidence of the grace of God and the ONLY “place” that a true believer can exercise his or her gifts and obedience in the context of love and truth? (Eph 4:11-16; Heb 10:25; 1 Jn. 3:14) Those that fail in this, fail in love. They fail in wisdom and fail in understanding of God’s truths. That’s why so often they fall away. If discipline is exercised biblically, they reveal God’s grace in their lives or they become islands, bitter, gossips, offended, and dead. Admonish each other and watch the power of Grace unfold in repentance, faith and powerful affection to the Christ and His bride!
To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:15-16 ESV)
From the beginning, we have prayed and followed God’s direction in all matters to best of our wisdom, and by His sovereign grace we have followed His leading and longed for service and obedience for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has been and always will be faithful and in Him we trust. In 2004, as we were in Roanoke, VA, we began feeling the need and burden to see a church planted in Claxton as a central point for church plants across the area. Despite popular belief, only 12 to 15 percent of individuals in Evans County alone are affiliated with ANY church and these numbers of church goers decline as the population changes each year.
Not only studies but also the biblical narrative reveals to us that planting new and smaller churches, even multiple congregations in the same city is best practice in regards to evangelism and ministry. It takes only a few seconds to look at many church roles to discover the truth about the “back door” of churches in America. Planting churches is one, not the only strategy to answer this issue and it is to this that my family, and I have been called.
From 2004 until 2011 we had conversations with many young men, church planters, local and remote pastors about partnering with us in church planting but never considered that we would be the ones moving to Evans County to start a church. But in May of 2011, the Lord changed it all, He put in both my and Robyn’s heart to come and we made open plans to make a transition within two years. By making our calling and plans public, we found God moving quicker than expected and the first Sunday in September we moved to Georgia from the East Bay of California and our plan after arrival scheduled things to begin about within about two years. Through word of mouth alone we scheduled a date for an informational meeting to be set in October of 2011. At that first meeting, we had over forty people attend and the consensus was that we would begin meeting weekly in bible study for the purpose of seeking a church to be planted.
Families from Lyons, Statesboro, Glenville, Pooler, Savannah, Rincon, Springfield, Reidsville, Vidalia and other areas gathered over the next few months until March of 2012 when we moved out of our living room into a small rental building that we currently occupy. All of us were astonished and are still amazed at the work of God. We have seen new life in Christ, baptisms and on July of 2014, we constituted with our founding families as members and today we have actively 58 covenant members including member’s children.
Having served in ministry in four states over nearly two decades, the heartbeat of the “bible belt” always seemed like a safe and sound location for church planting and in May of 2011 I contacted the GA Baptist Convention and spoke with Butch Butcher, the director of church planting and discussed with him about our plans to come and begin GraceTruth Church. He was elated and told me to contact Mr. James Bland, the Association Missionary or “Director of Missions” for Evans County to work with them in our efforts. I did, and that same day Mr. Bland said, “we don’t need you coming down here and messing up our current churches… we have enough Baptist churches here.” I attempted to help Mr. Bland see that we were not coming to move sheep from church to church but to reach the lost, equip the scattered and love the sheep. This conversation set the tone for the remainder of this portion of our experience.
When we arrived in Claxton, one of our first ministry plans was to assist a local church in Reidsville with their Fall Revival where I gave seven sermons and three plenary sessions with questions and answers over the week-long period. Some of those evenings Mr. Bland attended and offered a compliment to my teaching. We also in short time petitioned (Read Request) to be considered as an affiliated church of the local association where the response would be to assemble a committee to talk with me and our church leadership and then present us to the assembly of churches to be considered a “petitioning” church under watch care for twelve months.
As this process continued, the annual meeting of the association was at hand where we were supposed to be present and presented. Just a few days before the meeting I received a call from Mr. Bland that the committee needed more time and that they would not be presenting us at this time. Upon pushing, he gave me over ten reasons, of which all were petty assumptions, as to why he felt we were not “of like faith and order” even though we fully subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message. I requested a meeting with the committee that was honored in February of 2013. At this meeting of 2 hours and 22 minutes, (which is recorded and available upon request) many accusations were made about our doctrine and practice, but as the conversation moved on, we settled the minds of these men that we were indeed of like faith, but due to the polity differences, this group felt it would be confusing for us to be a part of the local association. At the final moments of our meeting, we asked for a letter to be written to GraceTruth Church as to why we had decided to remove our petition from the TEBA. Mr. Ross made the comment that Mr. Bland should maybe even come to discuss it with the church to help them understand our decision. Several of the credentials group actually indicated they felt we should be a part of the association. We adjourned the meeting with prayer and a spirit of acceptance and agreement that we would await the letter to GraceTruth and decide if Mr. Bland would come or not at a later date. This letter never came.
A few weeks later, James Bland joined as a provisional member, the fellowship of Elza Baptist Church in Reidsville where Luke Adams, an assisting Elder/Pastor with GraceTruth, was Sr. Pastor. Though several people were skeptical about Mr. Bland’s presence, he and Pastor Luke discussed the matter and the church received him for a period of six months in an attempt to “get to know the church”. Within a few weeks, Mr. Bland spoke up at a business meeting and accused Rev. Adams of being a false teacher and of not being Southern Baptist. (Notes of this meeting available upon request) After a quick rebuke and the adjourning of the meeting, Mr. Bland continued to pass out literature and cause division. Some time later, Mr. Bland was a guest preacher at Eastside Baptist Church in Claxton and on that day he preached against the “false teachers” that had come into the area and among his sermon’s errors were not only false witness claims against Luke and me, but also grave theological errors. This sermon was transcribed and several local pastors were alarmed. (Audio and Transcription available)
The next day, Mr. Bland had an unsigned letter sent to all the churches in the association stating that me, Luke and another elder, Dave Hanson (who moved his family from California to help plant the church) were indeed false teachers, divisive, non-Baptistic, not of like faith and order, and other things that were hellish to say the least. (TEBA Accusation Letter) GraceTruth church had removed her petition and already petitioned with another local association and the only letter that was to be sent was to her outlining our conversation in February. This letter caused a storm of confusion and two long-standing churches in the association: Rehoboth Missionary Baptist Church (see statement) and Hagan Baptist Church (see letter) submitted a formal complaint of sinful behavior and bearing false witness against brethren against the men on the committee. Their response was a short “we did not mean to state these men were hyper-Calvinist” sent only to the associational churches.
I personally sent two letters asking for repentance and an explanation and to date, I have had no personal response from any member of the committee nor have I been allowed to have a conversation regarding the circumstances except for this “receipt of our withdrawal“. While I am cordial around the men, their words and accusations and lack of repentance did damage. Because of the confusion, four of our families moved on and since that time, several preachers in the association have and are currently preaching actual series of sermons (so-called) against us, calling “those” that teach “such things” as unbelievers and wicked. The damage has caused harm to several marriages, not just among our congregation, but among some of the associational churches. Several people have left their church because the local pastors would not stand up for or against the claims. All-in-all, we have become ostracized and even long-standing friendships are strained as people are unsure as to how to relate to me and our members.
While many of the state leadership did dialog with us, none of them were at liberty to give biblical instruction on the matter and while some of them gave stern rebuke, no public statement has been made on this matter. While this may be odd, the GBC has a long history of public statements concerning misconduct and public or political actions that do not suit certain criterion, but when the scriptural mandate of unity and repentance is at stake, they remain silent. I pray that I may one day make a retraction of this post by way of an update. May the Lord bring us all together.
At the date of this post, May 24, 2014, in the last week, there have been two separate occasions where individuals have informed me or another member of our church that pastors and church members are continuing to gossip and cause trouble in an attempt to have our church removed from the area. Many other advocates have called for repentance and biblical discipline but nothing has come. Public leaders have joined the bandwagon, singing in the gossip wind in order to discredit the teaching of our pastors and one such letter was voted in executive committee to be “not received” and discarded while the people passionately hated the truth.
While things like these seem deplorable, and they are, they are not outside the sovereignty of God’s glorious hand and His timing and purpose in them all is good. Therefore, our desire is to be biblical and humble in our dealings and these men along with subsequent murderous slanderers are forgiven. In the future, the Lord will prove the substance of these claims but the damage will never be completely healed and these actions will have far reaching implication for years and decades to come. When the truth of God’s love or the touch of His ministry and the power of His word springs forth through the ministry of the family of GraceTruth Baptist Church, many will rejoice, then the enemy will come and remind them that we are “scary” or “different” and they will rejoice no more having had the joy snatched away. In the end, the men who allowed these things to happen will be seen for what they are; either brothers who are restored to fellowship with us and others or liars who are not in the faith. My pray is that of Paul’s who desired God to “grant them repentance that they may escape the snare of the devil.”
The Tattnall-Evans Baptist Association of Churches have allowed these actions by a large majority and gone against their own constitution and bylaws as well as the referencing to biblical mandates contained within. I pray that as time moves on all these churches (the Christians in them) can see and do what is right.
Many of you won’t believe this, but I have heard this more in the last two years than in all my 40 years on this Earth combined. Yes, I have heard these words from pastors, brothers in Christ, people who have visited worship services, people in town and aliens from outer space. Ok, not the aliens. I have heard this said from the mouths of these people and I have also heard this said by the actions of people. You know, those folks who avoid you for no reason. They tell you that they love you, but in reality, they don’t. They don’t know what to do with you. They talk nice in front of others, but look forward to the moment when they are able to slip away, hoping that you won’t call after them. For some reason these types of people have really begun to annoy me. And yes, that annoyance could be sin, but I am certain that it isn’t. First of all, I am really not annoyed with them, I love them and desperately want to engage in Gospel-centered life together with them, but I am annoyed at the premise that they consider themselves siblings in Christ. After all, if we have the same Father and are filled by the same God the Holy Spirit, then surely we can find a mutual, supernatural affection in Christ?!
I guess it’s not really annoyance, I think it would be better described as broken-hearted. Because the only fruit the is measured by the Christ is the fruit of genuine affection among believers; genuine affection through prayer, serving, crying, rejoicing and the like. But, if Christians have become so cold and “sociopathic” that they are unable to afford time for each other out of an inner desire to be moved by the Grace of God to obedient life-together, then something is very amis. So amis that it almost sounds like darkness instead of light. 1 John expounds on this in great detail that the false confessors of Christ in his day were known not by their messed up theology per se, but the messed up application of what they say the do believe; namely, a hatred of the people of God. You know what else if fascinating, that avoidance of other people without just cause and due process is a guarantee of one being dead in their sins! When conflict arises, the church, not just the “one congregation” but the church at large must desire to make fellowship a top priority. When someone calls us to work out an issue, we must be willing to listen, learn and love each other. When someone makes accusation, they MUST be willing to work toward a reconciled conclusion and do so by the commands of Christ.
James teaches that one must not be a respecter of persons and all through the NT we are taught that even our ENEMIES are to be blessed, ministered to, and prayed for. But when a brother or sister in Christ avoids you, then count it as it is; a certain argument that they should check to see if they are even in the faith. What in the world did Christ do in redeeming His church if they are not the church? Headless bodies carrying around bitters that causes division is one thing, but headless bodies that carry around apathy; well that is damning. Eternally damning. Now that I’ve moved onto the soap box, I’ll part with this small idea. I believe that it’s easy to understand when things are just “swept under the rug” so often for the sake of “peace.” But this is no true peace, but is the peace being preached by the Devil who lies all the time. Friends, stop listening to him, stop listening to him through the mouths of others and man or woman up and be a person of Christ; an agent of peace and truth.
If there is something that needs to be dealt with, the do it. Do it biblically, follow the course, follow the Spirit inside of you that is clearly instructing us through His word. Be a powerful agent for change and stop being a pig-headed fool that says by his actions, “the gospel is NOT the power of God.” It is the power of God and if God can reconcile us to Himself through Christ, then we are to be reconciled to each other. Now I am not talking about those removed from the church or those who HAVE BEEN pleaded with about false teaching but will not change. I am talking about you. I am talking about me. We are just as guilty of such things as anyone else. We know in our spirit that our siblings need us, but we cower, we hide behind stupid schedules and busy lies. This is not Christ but death. No wonder revival makes no ground among the churches of America; we are liars and find ourselves amidst wolves. Even the pagans love each other better than the church and it is now time for that to change.
Reach out, pick up the phone, answer the email, stop the gossip (yea, with your ears too) and make obedient and expectant grounds for reconciliation. If you try to no avail, then try again. If your child, sibling or spouse/parent didn’t respond, talk to you or come home for a week or so it would drive you mad. Well, saint, get angry but do not sin when your siblings have no time for the glorious mercies of Christ. Press and pray that God would make them see and serve them even when they tell you to get lost. As for those who just won’t talk to you, make it difficult for them not to. Go to them, knock on the door. If they shoot you, then die as a missionary for truth. (metaphor)…
 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;  the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Just a few quick words…. may the Lord be with us in this journey-yes He is Amen. Looking at the reality of how one is to deal with the devilish foolishness of non-preaching preachers who continue to savage the sheep of Christ. See the original text of Romans 16:17-18
Interesting choice of words by Paul. Looking, noticing and taking note of those who refuse to hear the word of God and thus make their own opinion on matters, even issues of practical theology, most certainly on doctrine. According to his writing to Titus, they are βδελυκτοὶ and should be marked and avoided because the deny Christ by their continued works against Him and His word. (Titus 1)
Next time you hear polemics, fodder and hooping and hollering from a pulpit, ask the man to exposit a textual proof within the context; then ask him if he has submitted to Christ in dealing with the one he’s flaming according to the text of scripture? If not, then rebuke him sharply, move on and leave him to the devil.
Pray that God may grant him repentance that he may have eternal life… at least that what Paul teaches Timothy. (2Tim2:25 μήποτε δώῃ αὐτοῖς ὁ θεὸς μετάνοιαν)
Do all of this knowing that the God of all love and mercy has granted you salvation through Jesus Christ and without this, you and I would be in the same boat: dead in our sins. Be gentle, guide and disciple, always being ready to give a reason for the HOPE, not the FEAR.
Christians do not FEAR false teaching, they worship the TRUTH in the midst of it and correct it with patience. Enough of the unfit ministers in a fit of rage! Let’s settle down and watch the grace of God give salvation to the hearers of His word!
1 John 2:28-3:3 shows us the full glorious reality that we have been adopted and given a certain hope in Christ Jesus whose righteousness we bare and who by His grace are able to walk in the light of holiness, not perfectly, but continually without fear of judgment or wrath. We abide in Christ because He abides in us and the anointing of Christ in us affords us an eternal hope of preparation (sanctification) as we await to see Him face to face we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another! Grace upon Grace! Amen.
Our pursuit of holiness is the outcome of our position as children, not a constant war of helpless expectation. Repentance is the state of the believer who then is able to abide forever in the finished work of Christ, striving in the power of Grace to rest in Christ who has prepared for us good works to walk in before the world began. (See Eph 2)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus because God is satisfied in Christ who paid the penalty of our sin. While we do grieve God the Spirit when we sin, we walk bold before our Father in forgiveness because our debt to sin is satisfied in the body of Christ.
Leon Kortenkamp’s Brushed Plate Monotype www.dspt.edu
Looking into the pages of John’s gospel brings the fullness of God’s glory to life as Jesus and all His majesty is perfectly seen. In John chapter six, Jesus performs His fifth miracle after feeding the multitude by meeting the disciples on the Sea of Galilee during a wind storm in the middle of the night. Though this short little interlude between the miracle of the feeding and the Bread of Life discourse seems as a segway to these events, the event itself is a bold and powerful teaching moment, for not only the disciples, but for the church today.
Jesus had just finished feeding a multitude, and teaching the disciples that He, the Son of God, can do everything with nothing. He even prepares them by asking the absurd question about where to buy bread, Andrew, God bless him, settles to prove to Jesus that even what they could come up with is really nothing. So Jesus in His compassion for the needs of the multitude, feeds them and has the disciples pick up twelve baskets of food, one for each of them, for their own provision. After this, the crowd desires to make Jesus their king by force, so He vanishes and goes to the mountain to pray, leaving the disciples to answer questions and deal with the crowd. As they make their way through the crowd with their baskets of bread, they get into the boat while the crowd watches, and they head out for the six-hour row to Capernum.
Now get this picture: The disciples were just taught that Jesus can do the impossible, and provide in abundance for every need. They had already witnessed a great storm at sea as Jesus slept, then awaking, He calmed the sea and storm. So the power of God in Christ has been evident to them. The careful thing to notice here in John 6 is that as these men are rowing away from the crowds they have with them the present memory of the provision of God; the baskets of bread. They have with them the memory and teaching of Jesus practices and provision through three years of ministry and yet, they find themselves in a windstorm, making it difficult to row. Several hours into the rowing they see Jesus on the water and the scripture teaches that “they were afraid.” They were afraid because they were attempting to go “home” to Capernum and the reality of the wind took their faith away. They were desperately depending upon their own power for survival and even as they were readily reminded, they forgot the provision of Christ.
Not only had they forgotten the provision of Christ, but they forgot the presence of Christ. They did not expect to see Him on the sea and thought He was a spirit and were filled with fear. They feared because the idea of seeing Jesus was the furthest from their minds. But Jesus had not forgotten them. If He had provided bread for them to eat, why would He not provide safety for their travels home? Jesus watched them, He is God and they had forgotten. Jesus never left them, though they could not see Him, He was there. He appeared to them and then He spoke to them, “It is I, do not fear.” These creative words produced a confidence in the heart of the disciples. It took their self-provision and fear and cast it into the sea of the Lord. They were relieved and they were “glad to take Him into the boat.” Jesus had proven His presence as well as His provision when they were faithless and unable to see.
One of the final aspects of this lesson is that Jesus was teaching them more than just material provision and physical presence, but He was teaching them of His divine power. Scripture says that when Jesus stepped into the boat, that it was immediately upon the land to which they were going. This means that with nearly three hours left of rowing, Jesus completed the task. Not only were the disciples fighting a losing battle against the wind, but they were fighting a losing battle against their faith. The flesh held them in unbelief, it held them in despair and it held them seeing only the physical world around them while ignoring the power that had so readily been shown and revealed and taught for several years. It is this moment when God steps in, it is the moment when man realizes that there is no hope, no way, no rest, no assurance at all and then God appears. God appears and provides and assures and assumes the lead when if man had continued, he would have died and failed.
God doesn’t help those that help themselves, He helps those that are helpless. For if a man can, then God won’t and doesn’t need to. Jesus allowed the struggle because it is promised. And even in the tempest of the sea and the darkness of life Christ was there. As the scripture teaches that Jesus went away to pray and it was dark, it shows us a time but more importantly it reminds of the truth of a Christless life; darkness. But the goodness of God appears, giving salvation at the right hour and the light has come into the world and the darkness will not overcome the light! The light of Christ is the salvation of God who saves the helpless and takes them home. The suffering in this life is going to happen and our battles are going to be fought one after the other, but when Jesus steps in, even though the sea still rages against us, the light has come and we are taken immediately into the place of justice, the Love of God in Christ!
So as we fight the good fight of faith we are going to suffer, it’s promised. And as we suffer, even then we remember that Jesus suffered to point of death and most importantly to suffer the fullness of the wrath of God the Father for the sins of all who believe. So, when Jesus takes us home, He prepares the way that goes through suffering, but the hope is not in the journey of peace, but the Prince of Peace who gives life! Jesus overcomes the faithlessness of man because He remains faithful and cannot deny Himself.
In Titus 3 Paul is clear that before God saved us we were foolish, given to fleshly passions and were hating one another. That is great news! This is the GOSEPL of JESUS CHRIST! Because this is true, the scripture is very very very very clear…. did I say very? Yes, very clear that those who walk in the way Christ walked are in Christ, and if they do not, then they are not in Christ. So the purpose of my writing today is to answer one simple question: Why do so many pastors live in disharmony, hate, envy, gossip and murderous ways against each other and people among them? Scripture names the reasons, let’s look at a few today:
This means that the guy who walks around talking bad, gossiping, hating others, not loving the brethren and feeling envy against others is an unbeliever. He may have “professed” Christ, and he may have even been sincere, but this profession is just like the one that the devil will proclaim, worthless. It’s just words, nothing more. He may even have great training and knowledge of scripture, but because of his life, and his lack of love, he is a worthless nothing of wicked proportions. Now before you call these statements as the like of their “kind”, let me show you the same thing in the Word of God.
They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:16 ESV)
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:1-11 ESV)
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6 ESV)
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:4-6 ESV)
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11 ESV)
So, the man of “god” that hates his brother is a liar. He isn’t a man of God, he is a man of the god of this world, the devil.
Pride Well, I could just really stop with the first one, because being a slave to pride is a mark of an unbeliever, not a true child in a common faith. But in all reality, many pastors hate their brothers and it is seen in pride. A sense of feeling better than others because of many things, including a “bigger” congregation, “better” social status, “brighter” fame and a “bolder” education. All of these things are of course NOT marks of the work of God, but things that even pagans do in the world with great success.
Murder The heart of a murderer is one who covets and hates with a malicious zeal, not the heart of a lover of good works prepared by God before the world began. So the foolish heart holds on to the traditions of men, the culture of the day, and rips the fabric of the sheepgate, disallowing God’s people from entering into the fold because these men are not of the fold of God. They are deceivers and self condemned.
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11 ESV)
So the heart of the murderer bares false witness, makes lies, accusations, false-confessions, creates stories to suit the “gossip” and tears the man of God down in order to establish a “tabloid” false reality for himself. These men must be silenced, for they are destroying families and mocking the very name and face of God!
They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. (Titus 1:11-14 ESV)
In the end, the way of these men is either death and judgment or repentance and eternal life.
Who are they?
They are those leaders in high places who continuously put for the moral effort to be Godly, but lack the power of God in their lives in many ways:
They lack the power of God in their knowledge of the truth
They lack the power of God in their obedience to the scriptures
They lack the power of God in their love for the brethren
They lack the power of God in seeking wisdom
They lack the power of God in proclaiming the gospel
They lack the power of God in living as Christ lived
They lack the power of God in ALL aspects of their lives because they only show the power of the flesh for the politics of their positions
These are the men who, for the most part, would be esteemed as the leaders of churches, the pastors of good repute, and yet they disallow the gospel’s power in their lives and have created a “new church” and a “new gospel” without any fear of what may befall them. They will not apologize NOR will they accept any open repentance from those who they say are guilty of falsehood. These men are seeds of iniquity and are awaiting a judgment that will not be quenched. They are known as the one’s who would be angry over this very writing and find fault with God’s word rather than standing on truth. They are pleasers of people and they SPEAK righteous things in public while condemning themselves to the lies of Satan behind closed doors.
These men will say that OTHERS are divisive and up to no good, while they refuse to allow any conversation for the sake of the faith of the elect of God. They do not care about the sheep, but just the monument of steeples, buildings, programs and faceless numbers that race into their presence to bow down to their oratory or charisma. They do not lead the people of God to His glory because they continually resist the spirit of God, and they preach man and his works, rather than God and His works. They deny the power of God as stated above, to the glory of their own kingdom that is nothing more than a fake castle at the base of the goldfish bowl. They refuse to reveal the love of Christ because it is not in them and they close their hearts to the needy, the broken the destitute, because “those people” do not look good on their arms.
Where are they?
They are among us, not on the TV, not in the obvious false teaching circles, but they are reading this message considering themselves the answer to the problem. They are preaching in pulpits across the world, this country, in the state of Georgia and in the pulpits of Evans and surrounding counties. They sit high above the masses and look pleased while the world is going to hell. They care more about their authority than their slavery to righteousness as they should lead people to that end; to the praise of the glorious grace of God. They may even be you and they could very well be me except by the grace of God.
What are we to do?
Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just once, but always! Our faith is a gift from God by His marvelous grace and it IS ALWAYS effective and ultimately evident in the lives of His people! Pastors need to unite around the gospel and stand for THE ONLY ONE TRUE CHURCH, the Body of Jesus Christ who purchased her! We as the church, if we are not together in learning, ministry, reaching, worship and glory then we WILL NOT BE TOGETHER in ETERNITY. I am not talking about small differences, I am talking about LOVING each other at the cost of ourselves.
We are not ALLOWED to hate anyone in this world, period. Especially those that claim the name of Christ. So, two things must happen: First, we must CALL OUT the sin of hatred and the actions of professing pastors who live against the gospel and second, we must REJOICE when they repent. But wait, it’s not just for pastors, it’s for all of us. We all are held to the same standard. We must care for all people, speak ill of no one, never speak evil and thus prove that we are indeed in the faith. Our glory is our humility and our power is the word of God.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15 ESV)
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:1-8 ESV)
See that we do well and prove God’s glorious grace rests in our hearts. The reckoning is coming brothers, the light OVERCOMES the darkness either by causing it to disperse and those in it walk in the light OR by shining light on the dark hearts so that the church will SEE THE TRUTH of it.
While trying to steer away from the ever so common polemic per se, it is necessary, for the sake of the Gospel-called men and the church of Jesus Christ who have been purchased by His blood, to further equip the saints and warn them of the continued encroachment of unregenerate clergy front staging the churches of the world. This series will exposit the text of Holy Scripture in reference to God’s calling and equipping of the man of God as one who will “give an account” for the shepherding. While not popular, I pray it will serve as a reminder to us all that the enemy is active and at work and that God will not be mocked. Further it will prayerfully expose darkness and bring many to the light of repentance as they are daily being fed sinful and man-centered garbage in the name of God’s Son.
It seems more and more today that many so-called Christians love to profess Christ as a merciful Lamb who paid their way to glory but have no evidence of such truth. The fact is that unless a man is born again, he isn’t saved and a whole-hearted choice to be saved isn’t salvation nor has it ever been. The outcome of such Christians is that they hate others, avoid people who are not like them, talk evil of others, even speaking evil of God’s people in authority over them such as presidents and governors while never laying their lives down nor their knees in prayer thus forgetting that their claim of redemption is neither true nor evidenced. While I could sit and show why this is the case, I think it begins with the shepherds who look over them. So, we will start there.
Please pray that the Lord’s will be done and if it is to be, this series and subsequent published book will further the cause of Christ. Hold fast to the confession of hope in Christ and may the Spirit of God go before us and show us all our certain savior and the vast need we have for Him.