Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A HEART FOR THE MISSIONS


CULTIVATING A HEART AND MIND FOR THE GOSPEL GROWTH
Acts 20:17-38
How does it feel to listen to a person you love and respect for the last time? It is very emotional, isn’t it? Imagine listening to your pastor shortly before he goes to be hanged for preaching faith in Jesus Christ? Tears would flow freely especially when you know he is going to die. This is the sort of a sermon you are going to hear today. This is the only speech directed to Christian believers in the book of Acts.
Paul held up his ministry as an example for the Ephesian elders in order to fire them up with zeal and knowledge for the gospel propagation and growth. He was also trusting that the Spirit of God would inspire them to more zeal for good works. He lived a transparent life so that he could say, "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews”. Paul served the Lord with great humility, commitment and zeal. The greater zeal than he had while a Judaizer, because it was now activated by the Holy Spirit. He was totally sold out for the gospel in that he served the Lord with ALL humility. If there is one ingredient needed in the service of the Lord is humility, if there is one character needed for the faithful Disciples of Christ, it is humility. Augustine very well captured the importance of humility by saying: For those who would learn God’s ways, Humility is the first thing, Humility is the second, Humility is the third.
My purpose toady is to cultivate in you, the Spirit and Word of God, a mind that is mission oriented. A missional minded believer must be submissive to His Master and be willing to serve. Why? You could be serving sin and the devil where it not that Christ set you free. Therefore, let us consider how to cultivate missional mind in reference to Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders. Four things you may consider on how to cultivate a missional mind:
1.      CONSIDER PAUL’S MISSIONAL EXAMPLE (18-21)
This is what he talked about of his ministry:
1)     I kept back nothing
He gave the believers everything that they needed for their spiritual growth. He did not keep silent in fear of hiding something from them that might have been beneficial (cf. v.27). He conveyed to them the riches of the salvation in Christ and the Spirit of God caused them to be attracted to Him so that they believed. It is our intentional purpose as elders of this church to keep noting from you.
We are committed to making sure that you know all you need to know so that you will be made wise for salvation and so be thoroughly equipped for every good work, that our Father may be glorified in you. It should be your principle to those that you have gospel influence to keep nothing from them. Keep back nothing from your children – read with them through the Bible and seek to explain it. That is why whenever we meet we seek to expose you to as much Biblical truth. The other day pastor Underhill started preaching through the book of Judges – very bloody reports are recorded, something that many would not want to preach from. But we know that God’s redemptive plan was being unfolded and we have no business withholding what God wants you to know. Be there this evening. Recently we read through the book of Leviticus with my family because it my policy to expose them to the whole counsel of God.
2)     I preached to you and taught you.
He proclaimed the gospel in the worship places – synagogues, etc., but also he taught them daily in the Tyrannus Hall (19:9). His preaching was never done in secret. He publicly preached the Word in the city of Ephesus so that everyone had the opportunity to listen to the message of salvation. His preaching was never limited to the lectures to His disciples; He also went from house to house to instruct the people in the riches of the Word… he was always everywhere with the Word of God.
This is the duty of every Christian – to sell freely the pearls of the gospel, wherever and whenever the Lord has placed Him. Why don’t you have a consistent devotion with your family? Would it be that you make excuses? It might be that you say that you are not able to teach. But surely everyone is expected to teach one way or the other – mothers teach their children to cook – because they know it. How can you say you do not know when you have been taught yourself?
3)     I testified to both Jews and Greeks.
He did not discriminate in sharing the testimony of salvation in Christ. He ministered and presented the Word of God to his own people the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. He was all things to all people so that he might win them over to Christ. He was a Jew to the company of the Jews and a Gentile in the company of Gentiles. He did everything possible to further the gospel of Christ (1Cor. 9:19). He never used His call to the Gentiles as an excuse not to preach the gospel. He testified to them about the salvation that there is for all who place their faith on Christ Jesus the One and only Saviour of all sinners.
He proclaimed of the repentance toward God and faith in Christ. These are the two sides of the same coin. Both Jews and Gentiles need to repent and have faith in Christ – whether old or young you need to confess and renounce your sins to God who you have offended gravely. You have to put your trust, faith and confidence in Jesus Christ. The purpose of my preaching today and all gospel preaching is to bring you to repentance, where you denounce and confess your wickedness and sinfulness and request God to be merciful to you. Whenever you hear the Word of God preached to you are to see your sins and trust in Christ. Faith in Christ is stopping to depend on yourself for anything pertaining to this life and godliness and cleaving to Him for all eternity as the anchor of your soul.
The task of every minister is to be a minister of God’s Word, not a minister to please people. He ministers the Word to the people but He first must be what God called Him to be – to bring to them His Word that they may also become what God wants them to be. God has given every minister a trumpet to blow in order to warn them of the war with sin. God has given every Christian a remedy for the problems of this world. The remedy is announcing Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of sinners. It is proclaiming Jesus to be what He claims to be – the forgiver of sins, the Great God and Saviour, the good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the advocate, the great Physician, the great high priest who brings eternal reconciliation between sinners and the Father. If the trumpeter or the trumpet fails to produce a clear sound the effect is that people will be captives of sin. Failure to preach the full gospel message is cruel because the effect is that the hearers are going to perish.
2.      MAKE DELIBERATE PLANS AND GOALS FOR YOUR OWN MINISTRY (22-27)
Paul spoke of his future plans because it is proper for Christians to make plans and set goals. Paul had short term goals – to go to Macedonia (Thessalonica, Philippi), Achaia (Corinth) and back to Jerusalem. He also had long-term goals – Rome and Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28). Above all He had ultimate goal – heaven. This constituted his sense of direction in his life and ministry. He was under the arrest of the Lord to accomplish this and so he described this experience as one who was ‘constrained by the Spirit’ (v. 22). Although he had the revelation of the Spirit that imprisonment and afflictions await him there, he still had to go and do the will of God. Paul was a servant of Christ and so he did not count his life of any value or precious to himself. Remember that he who would want to save his life will lose it but he who will lose it for Christ will have it for all eternity. So Paul made deliberate plans so that he may finish his course and ministry that he had received from Christ. This ministry is of particular character – it was to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. He had to show people the generosity of God in offering free salvation to all sinners who trust in His Son Jesus Christ who has laid down his life to pay penalty for their sins.
This involves declaring the whole counsel of God. You cannot bring permanent relief to sinners without declaring to them the counsel of God. If there is one thing that you need to tell your relatives, friends and colleagues, it is the will of God – his counsel. So that they may know what they are – His creation, but those who have gone astray; they are object of His holy wrath because of the rebellion and depravity, and so they all deserve condemnation. Thankfully, God has provided His own Son Jesus Christ to save all who go to Him in faith and repentance. The message is to be preached in entirety – Genesis to Revelation every verse and chapter and book 66 books and nothing less. Never settle for a church that is not keen on declaring to you the whole counsel of God – many have compressed Bibles (they preach from very few passages). Not a passage here, a topic there – but it must be the whole, total sum of what God has revealed to His people so that you would be made for salvation.
Planning and making goals is consistent to the sovereignty of God. Making prior plans and setting goals is not inconsistent with a genuine trust in the sovereign will of God. Indeed, it is essential to seek the leading of God the Holy Spirit. The Word of God, prayer, circumstances, the counsel of pastors and Christian brethren and the proper application of Christian mind to the realities of our life situations constitute the means through which the Lord is pleased to guide us. The work of the Holy Spirit in our inner person is the essential thread that binds them together into one blessed unity of purpose and action. Given the reality of God’s provision for our guidance it would be foolish to drift from one challenge to another without a clear destination of purpose.
We must all work towards being fruitful for the work of ministry. This is not going to happen out of the blue, it must be as a result of well considered plans and goals, which are presented before the Lord and assessed in the light of His Word. We must always appreciate that our personal goals are not a substitute for looking to Christ – He has promised to never leave us, but to be with us always to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). So this is an ongoing relationship in which we progressively change our ways and plans to conform to His will. Paul listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit and followed in faith and found that his plans were modified by all sorts of unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, all our plans goals are to be set in the context of hope and the promises of God, and then we would be fruitful and bring honor to the Lord.
The reason why we come to church is not to fill the seats or a card of participation – it is to be equipped for the work of ministry. We come to be taught the Word of God that we may go to put it into practice – yes we come to be trained for the work of the ministry so that we may be fruitful servants. How else is Christ going to tell you, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of the Master.”? (Matt. 25:21) I want to warn you that being unfruitful is equal to one not abinding in Christ. Consider the words of Christ in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The question is what life goals do you have? Do you have any ministerial goals? What do you want to accomplish for the Lord this year? How about coming up with such goals as, I want to grow spiritually this year. I will therefore read through the Bible. I will devote ten minutes for meditating on the Word of every morning. In reference to being faithful to the Great Commission: I want to constantly bring the gospel to two of my friends – I will speak to them the Word of God once every week either face to face, by phone, text or email. I will have a meal with each of the two at least once every month at my cost. I will buy each of them Christian a book every year and will discuss it together with them.
3.      BEWARE OF HERESIES (28-31)
Elders have particularly an overwhelming task of pastoring themselves and all the flock that Christ purchased with his own blood. They are expected to ‘pay careful attention’ in doing this work. They are to measure this task by the content of the whole counsel of God. How can the sheep be ready for the enemies so many if they are malnourished and underfed? The preventive medicine, the vaccine, for you against false teaching is first of all being taught the whole counsel of God. The goal is to feed the sheep sufficiently, fully and balanced diet of the Word of God so that you may grow thereby to maturity so that you may no longer be tossed by every wind of doctrine. The effect is that then you would be able to combat all these false teaching. The aim of the shepherds is to protect you and to present you before the Chief Shepherd as worthy in His sight.
These men have been appointed by Holy Spirit as the overseers or bishops to watch over the sheep by caring for them as the shepherd or pastor. The effect is to your welfare and protection against the enemies. Those who preach the Word of God faithfully have been appointed not by men but by the Holy Spirit. Although the church chose them (Acts 14:23; 2Cor.8:19) it is not as democracy because an elder is not the elected representative of a constituency. Therefore the church is only to choose those whom the Holy Spirit is raising up to serve Him. The ministry of the elders flows from the Holy Spirit and so elders have to have a divine mandate to serve, and when it is evident that such mandate is lacking then they are to be removed by the church.
The work is even more daunting because there are false teachers who so easily target the sheep in order to devour them. Paul knew that after he was gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. This was not only true during the first century but is true of us even now. Contentiousness, false teaching, personal animosities, bad attitudes will arise from the enemy the devil sending his messengers to come and ruin the Bride of Christ. The elders are to be aware of the false teachers from outside the church who are out to devour the members of the body of Christ, because the devil seeks to deceive even the elect – if that was possible (Matt. 24:24).
Sadly the problem is even compounded by the truth that there will be “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Some will come even from among the church who are not genuine but are wolves pretending to be sheep because they have killed some other sheep and have taken up the skin and put it on. Elders are particularly called upon to be vigilant lest they lose the sheep entrusted upon them to wolves so that they are left only to watch over wolves instead of sheep! These men’s tactics are to distort the truth in order to gather a following for themselves. Many times churches divide not because of a thirst for a doctrinal purity but because of a thirst for power and influence over the flock! (See James 4:1). Distorted teaching often merely provides an excuse for divisions already in existence. The point is that it is the task of the elders to take care to preserve the doctrinal purity of the church.
This is to be done by following in the steps of those who are your leaders. Paul set an example to these elders in Ephesus. He told them, “… remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears”. Paul’s example of ministry was not cold and heartless showcase of the truth. He completely immersed himself his mind, heart and emotions to his task of ministry. This is what the author of Hebrews told his hearers, to remember their leaders, who spoke the Word of God to them and consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. We are to imitate Christ and His apostles. We are to imitate out pastors in the manner of service if we will be missional in our thinking, in our desires and in our lives.
You are also to beware of heresies now and consider the present prospects of sharing the gospel. We live during perilous times when almost every preacher of the gospel has one false teaching or the other. Therefore, we would be wise to open our mouths and present the truth. Paul presented to them the challenges of the past and of the future. The truth of the moment is to expect great progress of the gospel at present and be involved in it. He commended them to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build up. This is true of you here today. Yes there are so many false teaching doing the rounds, but the question is what are you doing? You have been commended to God – God Himself and to the word of His grace – how can you keep quiet when God has entrusted so much to you? How can you not be part of the gospel team to proclaim the excellencies of the one who conveyed us from darkness to the light of the gospel of grace?
The point Paul is making in verse 32 is that it is not about men because they are apostles like Paul or pastors like me or anyone else to do the work and produce results – it is God and the word of his grace. He pointed them away from any reliance on anyone or anything other than God. It is God who is able to keep you from stumbling and is able to present you before His glorious presence with great joy. The means by which we all are prevented by God from falling to the bait of Satan is by the word of his grace. The Holy Scriptures are rightly called the word of the grace of God because they contain a wonderful revelation of the grace which is fit and sufficient for our every need. The Scripture is the means of Christian birth and growth as Peter says that we have born not of corruptible seed but of the living and enduring word of God and by it we grow up into salvation (1Pet. 1:23; 2:20). This is the means of fighting all untruths as our Lord Himself faced Satan during His temptations on the wilderness. Jesus is the Living and abiding Word revealed in the Scriptures. He is the one who loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church (Eph. 5:25-27).
In this sense be very careful of the preachers you watch or the sermons that you listen. In case you want video sermons please come to us and we will be happy to provide you with Biblical sermons where the Word of God is faithfully preached. Be careful what books and literature you read and give to others. Be also careful with the internet. I have always said that it is not wise to give anything to someone before you have read it or listed to them yourself. When you give out books and sermons, discuss with the people you gave afterwards so that more benefit may be got from it. It is your task to shield those that you are disciplining from false teachings. This way you all would be established and grounded in faith and godliness.  Then God of all grace may confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
4.      MISSIONAL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO MATERIAL POSSESSIONS (32-35)
He who is a missional believer at heart is not just concerned about possession because the Lord clearly said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And again, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:15, 33-34).
Paul had obeyed these instructions and so he said that he coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Samuel had said almost the same thing when he was leaving his office, he said, “Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you." (1Sa 12:3). Covetousness is idolatry and no one can serve two masters. Because when one has been taken up in material possessions he loses his heart to a different destiny because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Integrity while in the service of the Lord is of the uttermost importance because He sees all you do.
A right attitude to money is being willing to spend it to meet the necessities of the other people. Paul confessed that the Ephesians knew of his attitude in the manner in which he spent his income to this end. “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.” A right attitude to material possession is to consider as money as something not to be to be preserved and hoarded, but to be spent for the sake of others. Paul did not just wait to be provided for by others, he served them by ministering to them both spiritually and materially – he provided for the needs of others. It is on such little things as buying someone lunch so that you may share the gospel or paying the fare to a fellow passenger in a bus so that you may talk; spending some money on buying a book for someone or burning a sermon on CD for a friend. It is such thing as willing to spend time on evangelism when you could be on your business. It is taking your leave to go on a month mission. It is making sure that you spend some time on devotion with your family etc that shows that you have made it your aim and ambition to please the Lord by gathering others to be His disciples.
Being tied to material possessions is also shown not just by what you own but also by the time you are willing to invest in order to gain more. It is especially magnified by comparing the time used to pursue material possession in comparison to the time spent in obedience to the Lord so that you may fulfill the Great Commission. Paul worked hard to meet his needs and those of those of others so as to be of great profit to the Kingdom of God. He said that in all things He had shown them that by working hard that … we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus … ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. It is our duty to help the weak because they need help anyway. Besides, the Lord promised more blessings to those who give than those who receive. For many of us we work hard to lift our standards of living and also so that we may leave to our children a decent inheritance. Nothing sinful in leaving the children with a decent inheritance but if we consider that we are stewards of the Lord’s wealth, as those entrusted with all that He has given us. Then we would be eager to invest more to the Kingdom of God. On this subject, may I recommend Randy Alarcon’s book Money and Possessions?
Randy seeks to explain six principles on giving:

a)     God owns everything, I am His money manager
b)     My heart goes where I put God’s money
c)      Heaven not earth is my home
d)     We are to live for eternity not for this life
e)      Giving is the only antidote for materialism
f)       God prospers me not to raise my standards of living but to raise my standards of giving

Whatever we have in this world we are to bear in mind that we will not take it to heaven – it is the work we do with the money we earn now that we will take to our destiny either for a reward or punishment. Remember this; He is no fool he who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he can’t get.
Paul finished his speech in prayer kneeling down and was such an emotional farewell because Paul said that they would never see his face again. As I finish, may I quote Charles Simeon: “What we may meet, tomorrow and next week and next year, in life, or whether we shall ever behold each other’s face again in this world, God alone knows. But let us live for God, and for eternity, let us live as we shall wish we had lived, when we stand before the judgment-seat of Christ to receive our eternal doom. Let us go forward in the path of duty, assured that the rest which awaits us will richly repay our labours and the crown of righteousness our conflicts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Be Subject To The Elders



                                                         
Like wise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for god opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1Peter 5:5

Just like the elders are expected to submit to the “Chief Shepherd” so is the church expected to submit to its eldership. We have already considered the work and responsibilities of the pastors from verse 1-4 and the basic responsibility is to shepherd the church of Jesus by exercising oversight willingly, eagerly providing examples to the flock.
But why would we think that this is an instruction for the younger men to be subject to church elders and not take it generally as referring to young men expected to submit to all elderly people? We appreciate that the word rendered ‘elder’ here may either refer to pastors as well as to the elderly. In such cases, the meaning of the word is to be determined by the wider context. Always the rule of the thumb in interpreting the Bible is ‘KEEP READING’.  In other words the context many times determines the meaning of words.
The use of the word ‘likewise’ in verse 5 shows that he is still within the same general subject of elders and those they are watching over, just as he did in 3:7. It means not ‘act in the same way’, but ‘continuing in the same subject’ do with relations in the church to do with elders (v.1) and others members in the church.
The word used for being subject, shows submission to those in authority not just respect. Even young people are not to be subjects to the elderly but are to respect and honor them. The law required respect to those in authority (Lev. 19:32)… the younger men used here would be compared to the ‘children’ to whom John wrote in 3John 4.
It would be unnatural to introduce different class of men of elders different from those of verse 1. Even if the same class, it seems strange that young men alone should be called to do what ought to be done by all. If Peter was referring to the old men, it is strange he had to use the same official title.
The elders who serve well by laboring in the ministry of the word and prayer are worthy of double honor, which includes high respect as well as providing good remuneration for them
Being subject to the elders simply indicates that there should be a general willingness to support the elders and obey their instructions, except where they direct one to sin.
Why younger people to be subject to the elders? Because they are most independent minded and even at times rebellious against church elders. On Friday I met with a young man just getting into the ministry and he said that many young churches in the churches that he has been in fellowship are dissatisfied with their churches and some are even leaving to go to other churches.
The point here is that if those who are likely to be most independent minded are all the more are commanded by the Lord of the church to be ‘subject to the elders’ then it follows that surely every one else must be subject to the elders as well.

1.      Why is it that church members are expected to submit to their elders?
You are to show your holiness by submitting to the elders not because they are special people in the sense that you aren’t, or more knowledgeable than they you aren’t or for any other reason that might not seem to be true of you, but because of their position and work as elders. God has called them to serve in the holy things and this is what is the meaning of passages like:
Hebrews 13:7, 17
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate them.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
1Thessalonians 5:12, 13
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
Firstly, they are agents of God to do you good
God considers elders as your leaders. He has placed them in your life to doo you eternal good of watching over your souls. No matter what might be your feelings about your pastors, never forget this good intention of God to give you men to watch over you.
Secondly, they will give an account to God for you.
This calls for much openness with the elders and you are to do everything possible to make them know what you are going through for prayer, counsel and fellowship. The primary duty of elders as pointed out in verses 1-4 is nothing other than to watch over you!
Thirdly, they are your examples
Because God has given you men that are his agents and committed to shepherd you then you are expected to imitate them. Draw an example from them, follow them as they follow Christ, be like them in their attitude of service to the Lord. If you will willingly be like your elders, in speech, conduct faith, love etc. then you are being profited and growing to maturity.

2.      What are the duties or responsibilities of the church members to their pastors?
Both this passage and the three above show that obedience and submission are the primary responsibilities of the members to their pastors.
1.      Obedience
The Bible is very categorical that you are to obey your leaders and submit to them. Obedience starts with a careful attention to the instructions and commands leading to following them through and through. The commands that are to be given by the agents of God to the church are from the Lord, the Chief-Shepherd who owns the flock. Remember that the elders are under-shepherds who serve the Lord by serving His sheep that He brings to the church. By obeying them you obey the Lord who placed them over you. After all, you also participated in their appointment.
Each one should be fully convinced of the divine authority of the elders and not just take for granted the things that are told him by the elders. It is for your welfare that a pastor comes to you to tell that it is not in order for you to do this or the other. It should never be taken for granted that you might as well be hearing the Lord speaking to you through them. The eyes of the elders are on you for the good of your soul as appointed by the Lord and so you will do well to listen.
2.      Submission
The elders are over you that is, they ‘rule over’ ‘direct’ or ‘provide oversight’ to the church so that, the church keeps heavenly anticipating the appearing of their Lord to take His church as His bride without spot or blemish or wrinkle or any such thing.
Submission is especially to be evidenced in them as teachers of the Word of God. This means that regular and consistent attendance to the teaching in your church by your elders is of the uttermost importance. You should never simply miss the blessing of having the word of God preached to you because of any simple excuse that comes up.
Moreover, punctuality in being there from the beginning helps the teacher a lot. Is it honoring to have all people come late for the Bible Study or service? Does not discourage the teacher to keep on repeating what he had already said?
Attention is of the uttermost importance when the Word is being preached to you. Why was Lydia converted? It is because the Lord opened her heart to pay close attention to the things that were being spoken by Paul (Acts 16:34).
Punctuality and regularity and attention among those who fill the pew as well as the pulpit is vital in all the churches of Christ. Or would you want me to come here late for preaching. You all would be horrified that any pastor would be late. But not so far from here there is a church, where the pastor comes only in time to preach!
You are also to afford the elders the time to bring to you not only public ministry, but also private ministry either in your house or in a personal conversation. Why is that you do not invite us to your home to share and fellowship, even answer a few of the questions that you might have?
Warnings, exhortations, rebuke and admonishing done privately by the elders are to be taken very well. Regard it as a privilege of a careful and well-considered attention that the pastor is giving you. What else is more customized service to you than a man who is committed to see you arrive at the bosom of Christ?

3.      Honor
We are told to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. This high respect to the pastors is based on the fact that they are in the service of the Master who saved you from sin, they are committed to the welfare of your soul. Therefore show honor to those who are over you in the Lord. This you will do by positively;
1)      praying for them
2)      supporting them financially
3)      visiting them
4)      encouraging them in words
Negatively it means that you would not entertain a criticism of your pastor by anyone. The Bible is very clear that, you are not to admit a charge against a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses (1Tim. 5:19). Many these days are very eager to slander their pastors or to lend a listening ear to those who gossip their pastors – this is not showing honor.
This is not to say that elders are perfect, but to show that they have a responsibility given them by God and we will do well to support them to serve us. It will be of no advantage to have a groaning elder. It will not do us any good to overburden them with unnecessary stress and pressure, when they are serving you. As opposed to the company for which you work, the church leadership is committed for the good of your soul – with or without your approval. The company on other hand wants to use you to make profit, mostly at your expense.

3.      How do you know that you are at the danger of flouting this command from the Lord because this is what He would like you to be?
We are to always ask ourselves if we are on the right track when it comes to becoming what the Lord would like us to be. We should never give an excuse for failing to do what the Lord has commanded us to do – because we know that it is for His glory and for our good that He has told us to do it.
 Our concern therefore, is to beware of the possibilities of wandering away from the Lord who loves us so much. We are to know that we ever are on the brink of danger of thinking that some things do not matter, or others to say that we are not to obey the commands of God because we live under grace!
If you realize that you are no longer happy with your pastors, you have resentments with them for whatever reason; it becomes very impossible to take kindly their instructions.
If there are constant grumbling and discontent, you may be sure that you are no longer being subject to the elders. When you are not eager or willing to talk with them, it is an indication that either you are not on the same page or you are hiding something, and the solution is one – to request to meet as soon as possible. I remember inviting a member of the church to talk with us and he wanted to know the agenda of the meeting before he came. But when we met this problem was solved.
You are never to take this attitude because it does not helpyou or us to have such an attitude to the elders. It shows lack of maturity, when you are not willing to talk anything with your pastor, and for us when you take such a position we will know that most likely you are concealing sin.
If you are not happy to give your money with cheerfulness, or generously to the church, it may be an indication that there are issues that need to be resolved.
If you become very critical of their preaching or you want to show that you know it more than they do. I am not in anyway supposing that there is no room for positive criticism on what is preached. Please if there is something that you need to be addressed, very respectfully come and tell us that you did not appreciate this or the other, or there is a need that you don’t think it is being addressed. Do so first of all with a bias that we are committed to your welfare in the Lord. We might see things different from the way you see them but we have prayerfully considered what we tell you.
All these are symptoms of a problem that can cause to be unfaithful to the Lord in as far this matter of being subject to the elders.
May the Lord help us to take very seriously this issue that it will not be the case in this church. That discontent and grumbling will never be the case.
May we be those who are united in mind and in spirit so that we may do exploits for the Lord. May the Lord grant that in obeying this command we may become more Christ-like in His humility and submission to the Father.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blessings of Grace

Passage Romans 16:1-27

Prayer
Our Father, my strength, I bless you for the multitudes of believing people who have gone before me, for those named in the Bible whose examples of love and loyalty to you I would like to imitate. Help me to be a helper, to work hard and to be approved like they were. Never let me be among those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine of your word. Help me be wise about what is good and guileless about what is evil, that through you Satan can be crushed under my feet.
Let the grace of the Lord Jesus be with me. O God, be my strength! To you, the only wise God, be glory forevermore. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Striving Together

Passage Romans 15:30-33

Prayer
God our Father, giver of joy and refreshment, help us strive together in our prayers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit, for every person who is proclaiming your word in difficult circumstances and places.
Be with them. Deliver them from their enemies. Let them find full acceptance among your holy people. Let them find joy and refreshment in their company.
In the name of Jesus we ask, praying with all our hearts that Israel according to the flesh will come to faith in your Son.
Amen.

Praying for Israel

Passage Romans 15:25-29

Prayer

Father, God of Israel, please give us generous hearts toward the Jewish people and indeed all people, throughout the world. "They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, and the patriarchs; and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.
"We know that "as regards the gospel, they are enemies of God" for our sake, but "as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers."
According to your word we who are not Jews are in debt to them. Since we have come to share in their spiritual blessings, put it into our hearts to share sympathy and our material blessings with them.
Help all of us come to share in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. In the name of Jesus we ask, praying with all our hearts that Israel according to the flesh will come to faith in your Son. Amen.

A Channel for the Word of God

Passage Romans 15:14-21

Prayer

Our Father, I pray that I may be full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct others who want to know about your salvation.
Give me a share in the priestly service of your Good News to the world. May I as a believer make (and be!) an acceptable offering, sanctified by your Holy Spirit.Help me to make it my ambition to speak of Jesus Christ everywhere to everyone.
Let me love your word so much that I will either go or help others go to places where it has not yet been proclaimed. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abounding in Hope

Passage Romans 15:1-13

Prayer
O LORD and Father, who welcomes all into your family,help us to welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed us, for your glory. For you taught us that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show your truthfulness - in order to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs, and in order that we who were not Jews might glorify you for your mercy.
May you, our Father and God, fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.
In the name of Jesus and according to his command. Amen.

Imitating Christ

Passage Romans 15:1-8

Prayer
Loving Father, God of steadfast love, may the strength you give us be used to bear with the failings of those who are weak, not to please ourselves, but to please our neighbor for his good, to build him up.
In this let us imitate Jesus, your Son, who did not please himself, but lived as it was written of him, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me."
May you, our Father, the God of steadfastness and encouragement, grant us Christians to live in such harmony with one another, in full accord with Jesus Christ, that together we may with one voice glorify you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus and according to his command. Amen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pursuing Peace

Passage Romans 14:17-23

Prayer
O heavenly Father, you who give brotherly love, how wonderful that your kingdom, your rule in people's lives, is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
May I, in serving Christ this way, be acceptable to you and approved by others. Let me and all the members of your family pursue what makes for peace and for mutual uplifting.
Please let none of us, for the sake of personal rights, destroy your work of grace in someone else. Help us to appreciate our rights, but help each of us understand that it is wrong to make others fall by insisting on them.
Guide us to see that it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that would make a brother or sister stumble. The faith that I have, let me keep between you and me. Let me find happiness in having no reason to judge myself for what I approve.
May I never do anything from the basis of doubt, because not acting from conviction is sin.
In the name of Jesus I pray all this, asking that you will give me love for my brothers and sisters. Amen.

Walking in Love

Passage Romans 14:13-16

Prayer
Our Father, to whom all will bow,please help me not pass judgment on others or despise them. Let me look to myself in view of the fact that I will have to give an account for my own self.
You have said, "As I live every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." Help me praise you now before the day of your judgment. Let my praise be willing and not forced.
Help me never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother or sister in Christ, and especially of some young person.
Don't let me injure anyone by exercising my rights. Let me rather walk in love toward all. Don't let my right to do something cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. Do not let what is good to me be evil spoken of.
In the name of Jesus I ask for the love and wisdom to so live. Amen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

THE SCRIPTURES


The Bible is the fully inspired Word of God and so does not change from one age to another.     Therefore the truths contained in the Confession, because they are wholly based upon Scripture, are as relevant today as when ‘the Elders and Brethren of many congregations of Christians, baptized upon profession of their Faith’ stated them in 1677.  King Charles II was then upon the British throne.  It was a time of persecution. 
This London Baptist Confession was based upon the Westminster Confession (Presbyterian) of 1646, and differed from it only on such important matters as the nature of the Church, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Church Government.
In 1688 a new King was on the throne and religious freedom came to Britain.  In 1689 this Baptist Confession was re-issued in London by 37 leading Baptist Pastors.  In England and Wales it became the official Confession of the Particular or Calvinistic Baptist Churches and remained so for the next two centuries.  In 1744 the Confession was adopted by the Calvinistic Baptists of North America, and called by them the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
The Confession written out below is a version in modern English, published by Carey Publications in 1975.


CHAPTER ONE: THE HOLY SCRIPTURE

The Necessity of Scripture
1. The Holy Scripture is the all-sufficient, certain and infallible rule or standard of the knowledge, faith and obedience that constitute salvation.  Although the light of nature, and God’s works of creation and providence, give such clear testimony to His goodness, wisdom and power that men who spurn them are left inexcusable, yet they are not sufficient of themselves to give that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary for salvation.  In consequence the merciful Lord from time to time and in a variety of ways has revealed Himself, and made known His will to His church.  And furthermore, in order to ensure the preservation and propagation of the truth, and the establishment and comfort of the church against the corrupt nature of man and the malice of Satan and the world, He caused this revelation of Himself and His will to be written down in all its fulness.  And as the manner in which God formerly revealed His will has long ceased, the Holy Scripture becomes absolutely essential to men.
(a)    For what Scripture is necessary – 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Isaiah 8:20, Luke 16:29,31, Ephesians 2:20.  It is necessary for godliness; but not, for example, for agriculture.
(b)   Why Scripture is necessary.
1.       General revelation is insufficient – Romans 1:19-21, 2:14-15, Psalm 19:1-3.  It is unable to bring sinners into a saving relationship with God; although it does leave them inexcusable for their unbelief.
2.       God has put His special revelation in writing – Hebrews 1:1, Proverbs 22:19-21, Romans 15:4, 2 Peter 1:19-20.  Note what the Confession says are the reasons for this.  Scripture is now the only way to know God’s saving will.

The Identity of Scripture
2. The Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, consists of the following books which together make up the Old and New Testament (the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament are listed).  All these books are given by the inspiration of God to be the rule or standard of faith and life.
3. The books commonly called the Apocrypha were not given by divine inspiration and are not part of the canon or rule of Scripture.  Therefore they do not possess any authority in the church of God, and are to be regarded and used in the same way as other writings of men.
(a)    What the books are (paragraph 2) – 2 Timothy 3:16.
(b)   What the books are not (paragraph 3) – Luke 24:27,44, Romans 3:2.

The Authority of Scripture
4. The Scripture is self-authenticating.  Its authority does not depend upon the testimony of any man or church, but entirely upon God, its author, who is truth itself.  It is to be received because it is the Word of God.
5. The testimony of the church of God may influence and persuade us to hold the Scripture in the highest esteem.  The heavenliness of its contents, the efficacy of its doctrine, the majesty of its style, the agreement between all its parts from first to last, the fact that throughout it gives all glory to God, the full revelation it gives of the only way of salvation – these, together with many other incomparably high qualities and full perfections, supply abundant evidence that it is the Word of God.  At the same time, however, we recognize that our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority is the outcome of the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
(a) Why the Bible is authoritative (paragraph 4) – 2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Timothy 3:16,
2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 John 5:19.  Because all the words of the Bible are the very words of God.  The Bible never criticizes itself as if it is mistaken.  The New Testament teaches the authority of the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Matthew 5:17-18, John 10:34-36, Matthew 4:1-11), not only in general, but even of the words written (see Matthew 22:32,41-46, Luke 16:17, John 10:35, Galatians 3:16).  The New Testament is the fulfilment of the Old Testament and so is united to it (Hebrews 1:1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:10-11).  Those who write it have the same authority as the Old Testament writers (Romans 16:25-26, 2 Peter 1:16-21, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 15:3-11, 2 Peter 3:1-2, John 2:22).
(b) How we know the Bible is the authoritative Word of God (paragraph 5) – John 16:13-14, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, 1 John 2:20,27.  This section is directed against Roman Catholics who believe that it is the Church that has the infallible authority to declare what is Scripture.  Although the testimony of the Church does have a certain value, it is the divine excellencies of the Scripture itself, as the Holy Spirit reveals them to our hearts, that convinces us that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.  If the Scripture itself shows it is the Word of God why do we need this ‘inward work of the Holy Spirit’ or ‘testimony of the Spirit’?  It is because of our sin which always suppresses the truth (Romans 1:18).  The Holy Spirit removes our blindness; He does not give a new revelation in addition to that of the Scriptures.  There can be no higher authority that God Himself speaking in His Word.



The Sufficiency of the Scripture
6. The sum total of God’s revelation concerning all things essential to His own glory, and to the salvation and faith and life of men, is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scripture.  Nothing, whether a supposed revelation of the Spirit or man’s traditions, is ever to be added to Scripture.  At the same time, however, we acknowledge that inward enlightenment from the Spirit of God is necessary for the right understanding of what Scripture reveals.  We also accept that certain aspects of the worship of God and of church government, which are matters of common usage, are to be determined by the light of nature and Christian common sense, in line with the general rules of God’s Word from which there must be no departure.
(a) What the sufficiency of Scripture does not mean.  It does not mean that everything is stated explicitly.  Some things are “implicitly contained”, e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity.
(b) For what purpose the Scripture is sufficient.  It is sufficient for “all things essential to His own glory, and to the salvation and faith and life of men.”  This is not to be defined in a narrow religious way, for the Scripture is sufficient to be the basis and starting point for every human effort.  For example, while not sufficient as a biology textbook, it does provide infallible teaching about creation and particularly the nature of man in relation to God.
(c) The Scripture is sufficient by itself without “a supposed revelation of the Spirit or man’s traditions” – 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Galatians 1:8-9 (see also Deuteronomy 4:2, Acts 20:20,27, Psalm 19:7, 119:6,9,104,128).
(d) Cautions about the sufficiency of Scripture.
1.   The individual must also exert mental labour – Proverbs 2:4.
2.   The Spirit must also teach – John 6:45, 1 Corinthians 2:9-14.
3.   “Christian common sense” must also be used – 1 Corinthians 11:13-14, 14:26,40.

The Clarity of Scripture
7. The contents of the Scripture vary in their degree of clarity, and some men have a better understanding of them than others.  Yet those things which are essential to man’s salvation and which must be known, believed and obeyed, are so clearly propounded and explained in one place or another, that men educated or uneducated may attain to a sufficient understanding of them if they but use the ordinary means.
(a) The Bible is clear – Psalm 19:7, 119:130.  Reasons: because it cannot be sufficient without being clear, and because it cannot be ‘firmly believed’ unless it can be understood (2 Timothy 3:14).  Clarity extends to “those things which are essential to man’s salvation”.
(b) The Bible is not equally clear in all its parts – 2 Peter 3:16.  This is only true of ‘some’ things, and it is only ‘the ignorant and unstable’ who ‘twist’ them ‘to their own destruction’.  The fault is not in the writings but in the persons.
(c) The Bible is not equally clear to all.  The Scriptures are clear enough to give a child the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).  They are clear enough to equip the man of God ‘for every good work’ = the whole range of his duties (2 Timothy 3:17).
Application 1 – The Scriptures are central in Christian guidance, for here we discover the will of God for our lives.  We must learn to study the Scriptures practically.
Application 2 – We must never think that it is impossible to understand the Scripture because great men of God have differed in their interpretation.  The source of error and confusion is always human sin.
The Availability of Scripture
8. The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek (that is to say, in their original languages before translation) were inspired by God at first hand, and ever since, by His particular care and providence, they have been kept pure.  They are therefore authentic and, for the church, constitute the final court of appeal in all religious controversies.  All God’s people have a right to, and an interest in, the Scripture, and they are commanded in the fear of God to read it and search it.  But as the Hebrew and Greek are not known to all such readers, Scripture is to be translated into every human language, so that as men thus acquire knowledge of God they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and ‘through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope’.
(a) The fact of its availability – God has preserved the Scriptures “pure”.  We do not have the original autographs, but thousands of copies which do not differ in any points of doctrine, with only slight differences.  This is why the Scriptures are the final authority (Isaiah 8:20, John 5:39, Acts 15:15).
(b) The necessity of its availability.
1.   The need for its translation: “as the Hebrew and Greek are not known to all”.
2.   The warrant for its translation: “all God’s people … are commanded … to read and search it”, and cannot do so unless it is in a language they understand.
3.   The extent of its translation: “into every human language”.
4.   The purpose of its translation: “worship”, “hope” (Romans 15:4, Colossians 3:16).

The Finality of Scripture
9. It is an infallible rule that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, that is to say, one part by another.  Hence any dispute as to the true, full and evident meaning of a particular passage must be determined in the light of clearer, comparable passages.
10. All religious controversies are to be settled by Scripture, and by Scripture alone.  All decrees of Councils, opinions of ancient writers, and doctrines of men collectively or individually, are similarly to be accepted or rejected according to the verdict of Scripture given to us by the Holy Spirit.  In that verdict faith finds its final rest.
(a) Scripture interpretation in particular (paragraph 9).  The basic rule of interpretation is “Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture”.  Note the following 4 applications:
1.   The New Testament must interpret the Old Testament (Amos 9:11-12 with Acts 15:15-18).  The Old Testament must always be read in the light of the New.
2.   Primary references to a subject must interpret secondary references.  Hebrews 4:12 has been interpreted to teach that man has 3 parts to his nature, but it is not primarily dealing with man’s nature.  The primary references are Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7.
3.   Teaching passages must interpret historical narratives.  For our teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit we must not first go to the narratives of Acts, but to John 14-16 and Romans 8.  A historical narrative can be unique, or record something that is evil.
4.   Never interpret one passage so that it contradicts another.  We must harmonize Paul on justification by faith (Romans 3:28), and James by faith and works (James 2:24).
(b) Religious questions in general (paragraph 10) – Matthew 22:29,31-32, Acts 28:23, Ephesians 2:20.  The Scripture is the final court of appeal (paragraph 8) as opposed to:
1.   Reason as the final authority.  We must use our reason, but only to examine the evidence in Scripture so as to understand and accept it.
2.   The Church as the final authority, whether popes, councils or pastors.  The Church has often erred.  The Church only has authority to command what God has revealed.  All Christians are commanded to search the Scriptures and judge the teaching they hear (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, 1 John 4:1-2).