The Elder as Shepherd

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter encouraged us with the fact that more trials are coming and we ought not be surprised about it. But he also said that judgment is coming and it will begin with the house of God. As we move to Chapter 5, Peter begins addressing a group we haven’t seen to this point.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter talks about the elder as a shepherd and mentions the term elder here for the first time. He addresses the elders who are among you in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He counts himself among them as a fellow elder. Peter exhorts them. This is an interesting word. It means to encourage or address in a manner of comfort and instruction. It was not a word that describes sternness or a command to obey. Peter says, “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder.” Peter was an elder like those he was addressing. He did not approach them with the authority of his apostolic office. He did not use these words because he was the head of the church; or because, he had any pre-eminence over the other elders. Remember Alexander Haig? He was the Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. After the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, Haig was quoted as saying, “I’m in control here.” Do you think Peter would he have used this language if he was the “head of the church” on earth?

Peter wanted the elders to understand that he was one of them, not over them, but a fellow elder. He speaks with humility and compassion. Remember, he just told them, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Peter is concerned about the order and government of the church as well as submission and devotion. It is with this background that Peter speaks with the elders, those who are leaders, administrators, and judges in the church.

Let’s look at the term so we can get a better understanding of what it means. Eldership in the N. T. church followed the example that the Lord established for Israel. Gen. 50:7 speaks of elders in the house of Joseph. Elders of Moab and Midian are mentioned in Num. 22:7. Abraham’s servant is mentioned as having charge over “all that he owned” in Gen. 24:2. During the exodus from Egypt, the elders of Israel formed a definite group whose authority was recognized in Ex. 3:16-18. The ordinance of Passover was given to Israel through the elders as recorded in Ex. 12:3. Moses structured the government of Israel to include judges to govern groups ranging in size from 10 to 1000. 70 elders of Israel were granted a vision of God in Ex. 24 and were later filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied in Num. 11. Elders continued in a governing fashion during the exodus, through the exile period, and after exile. Each Jewish community had a council of elders or presbytery as mentioned in Luke 7.  In Chapter 20, Luke also mentions, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” in the temple confronting Jesus. When Christ made atonement for sin on the cross, His sacrifice eliminated the need for a priestly office, but the government of elders continued. Paul distinguishes the gift of rule and the gift of teaching when speaking of the functions of the office and ordained elders in the churches he planted. Administrators as well as teachers served the church. Jesus spoke of scribes that seemed to indicate these men were specially gifted in teaching and preaching. The ministry of teaching elders is emphasized in the New Testament, but Peter seems to emphasize the governing aspect of elders and likens an elder to a shepherd, a term that means feeding as well as oversight.

Elder comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which means elderly. Some denominations are governed by a group called the presbytery or elders. There are several words for the office of pastor that are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Each describes a different function of the office. Here, Peter concentrates on the shepherding aspect of an elder. Peter exhorts the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherd comes from the word poimaino. Peter knows about this word first hand. It is the same word that Jesus used to describe Peter’s responsibility to His sheep in John 21 when He called Peter. Shepherd covers two aspects of an elder’s responsibility. The first is feed which represents the real aspect of feeding.  It is providing nutrients. For the shepherd, it means leading the flock to green pastures. It means making sure the flock has everything necessary to ensure their physical well-being. The second aspect of shepherding addresses the care, guidance, and protection of the flock. A shepherd was to offer proper food for his flock and to govern it.  We call this exercising the office of pastor. It means, as a good shepherd provides for the wants and needs of his flock, the pastor of the church is to furnish food for the soul so the faith of believers may be strengthened. Notice the elder is shown as a shepherd leading his flock rather than a cowboy driving them. Sheep do not respond well to force and neither do the people in God’s flock.

It takes a special man to shepherd the flock. It can be discouraging and disheartening when the sheep don’t follow the lead. But you don’t quit. The sheep need proper nourishment.


How Great is God’s Love

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we looked at some contrasts between the anti-Christs and those people in the church. The church has the incredible promise of eternal life, but the anti-Christs do not. We are to abide in the Spirit and He abides in us and leads us to truth. This morning, John begins a new section in his letter.

I hope you’ll look at 1 John 2:28-3:1 with us.

The first thing you see is the love of a shepherd. John’s love for the church comes across clearly in v. 28. He gives them another word of encouragement. This is really the conclusion of the previous section, but he also begins a new train of thought. He calls them little children just as did in 2:1. The encouragement once again is to abide – to remain in Christ. Amidst all the false teaching of the Gnostics, hang in there with the truth. Don’t waiver; don’t bend; don’t compromise from what you know to be true. Abiding in Christ gets us ready to see Christ. In an effort to help people decide between doing or not doing something, the question is often asked, would you be ashamed if Christ appeared and found you doing that? Abiding in Christ gives us confidence to, “Not shrink away from Him at His coming.” The idea is when you are actively engaged in an intimate, growing relationship with Christ, you can have confidence. Your understanding of Christ deepens, your love for Christ deepens, your desire to please Him deepens, and your confidence in Him deepens. Don’t shrink back from what you know to be true. Don’t shrink back from the Word; don’t shrink back from Christ. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) You might say, I’d never be ashamed of Jesus, but when you have an opportunity to take a stand for Christ and don’t, by default, you’re shrinking away. When you feel like you’re distant from Christ or you’re not hearing from Christ like you should or like you used to, it’s not because Christ is different. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. In John 15:4 Jesus said, “Abide in Me and I in you.” We can have confidence in Christ because of who He is and His proven track record.

How can John say have confidence and don’t shrink away? He says in v. 29, If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” It’s really a statement of fact. John has used the word know 14 times in the 29 verses of Chapter 2. The people in this community of believers know a lot and John uses that to encourage them to once again, walk holy. It’s not enough just to know it. What is the standard of righteousness? The standard is Christ. Webster defines righteousness as the characteristic or quality of being right. My Greek English lexicon defines it as the act of doing what God requires. Righteousness is doing what is right in the sight of God. How do we know people are saved? They practice righteousness. That’s in the present tense. They practice righteousness and that is a clear indicator of salvation. It is the righteousness of Christ that sets apart the one that has the knowledge and has made the life changing decision of a new birth. They’re not engaged in habitual sin, they’re not walking in sin. Remember, it matters little what we say. It matters what we do. “Everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” This is a spiritual birth, not a physical birth. John loves this concept of new birth. In his Gospel it is the experience of a new birth. In his letters, it is the evidence of the new birth. In John’s mind, you can’t have the experience of salvation without the evidence. John Stott said it this way, “A person’s righteousness is thus the evidence of his new birth, not the cause or condition of it.”

Don’t miss the significance of this new birth in the first phrase of 3:1. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.” We’re children of God because we have experienced a new birth. That gives us the privilege and honor to be called a child of God. John says, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us.” That’s a command. Once again John points out how much God loves us. The phrase, “how great” occurs only seven times in the N.T. God’s love is incredible; it is immeasurable; it is unearthly, it is unimaginable. When you reflect of God’s love for you, it should drive you to your knees in awe and wonder and praise. “Bestowed” is a perfect tense verb. That’s significant because the perfect tense means something that happened in the past, but has permanent consequences for today. He bestowed His love and we are called children of God. What’s even more incredible is that His love knows no bounds. His love is the same for the crack addict as it is the church goer. His love is the same for the drunk as it is for the deacon. His love is the same for the blasphemer as it is for the Bible study teacher. His love is the same for the prostitute as it is for the preacher. But that doesn’t mean He wants you to stay the way you are. We are children of God.

In certain circles today, names still mean something. In political circles, being a Kennedy is synonymous with Massachusetts, being a Daly – Chicago, being a Bush – Texas. In sports, it is the Mannings with football, in racing it is Petty, Earnhardt, and Andretti. In Hollywood, the names are Douglas, Southerland, and Baldwin. In church circles the names are Graham, Falwell, and Stanley. As children of God, we share the name of the One whose name is above all other names, that at the very mention of His name, “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11) There is power in that name! But even beyond sharing the name of God, we actually become God’s children – a member of God’s family. That is how great a love God has for you.

Why is there such a separation in the world? John tells us in the last part of v. 1. “For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” Remember John’s command from 2:15? “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” World in 3:1 is the same Greek word meaning the secular, humanistic society that surrounds us. It is a society that is collectively against God and His Son. The world does not, cannot understand why we are the way we are. It doesn’t understand how we can stand unwaveringly for truth. It does not understand biblical morality. It doesn’t understand the idea of putting others first. To finish this out, read John 15:18-25 and see what Jesus says.

So when people hate you for your stand with Christ, know that the world hated Jesus before you. The world has an opposition to Christ so you need to expect there will be opposition to you; at work, at school, at Wal-Mart, and sometimes at home. Rejection by the world is an indicator that you are a child of God. John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Romania 2010 Update

We’re back! I wish  I could have updated throughout the week, but internet was at a premium in the villages. Over the next week or so, I’ll be putting down my thoughts and giving a synopsis of what we did each day. Overall though, it went very well. It was great to see old friends and establish new relationships. The Gospel is alive and well in the villages of Southeast Romania.

For now, I am exhausted. Preaching and teaching so much is very taxing on the brain and the spiritual warfare was very present. The time difference didn’t help much either. Stay tuned!

The Power of Influence

You can listen to the podcast here.

In Matt. 15, Jesus performed many miracles: He healed the, “Lame, crippled, blind, mute and many others.” He fed the 4000 with seven loaves and a few small fish. Amazing things were happening. Sending away the crowds, Jesus heads to Magadan, also known as Magdala. In Chap. 16, Jesus teaches the disciples and challenges them about the principle of influence. Some might call it discipleship. I want to challenge you to be a discipler and a disciple.

Who will influence your behavior?  You need to be on guard, so here are some principles to follow. So how do you get involved? Let’s see.

I hope you have your Bible so you can read Matt. 16:5-12.

We need to choose carefully who we listen to. Just because someone comes in the name of God, doesn’t mean you follow them. If that is the standard, you will follow after any cult or schism that comes along. Choose who you listen to carefully. This applies to every area of your life. If you’re a business person, there are thousands of people out there just waiting to tell you how to do it. There are experts in every area of life. Anytime a crisis erupts, the experts come out of the woodwork. If you want to improve your marriage, there is a conference for you. If you want to be a great husband or wife, there are tons of books for you. Having trouble raising children?  The bookstores are full of ways you can be the model parent. With only minimum effort, you can find something on any topic under the sun. But whose opinion really matters?  Who’re you going to listen to?

When it comes to securing eternal life in Heaven, there are hundreds of ways out there, but they can’t all be right so who’re you going to listen to? Oprah talks about finding the divine within you. Others say you must be a member of a certain church. Still others will say unless you are baptized, or baptized in a certain way, you cannot get into heaven. Some say you have to pray to gods other than the true God to get to heaven. Others will say you can’t get into Paradise unless you pledge loyalty to Mohammed.

In choosing carefully, there are two standards that must be followed. First there is biblical authority. Not in the sense of someone that can quote Bible verses for you. Biblical authority in the sense that what someone says lines up with the teaching of the entire word of God.

The second is results in their lives. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about what the world calls success. Has God radically transformed the person? Don’t you just love the people that like to tell you how it should be in your life, but they don’t practice what they preach?

Exercise caution when looking for a discipler. If I want someone to help me raise children, I’m not going to consider someone that has no children. If I want to someone to help me be a great student of the Bible, I’m going to find someone that is a great student of the Bible. When choosing a mentor, you need to look not only at the results in their lives, but how that person produces results in others. Not every great athlete becomes a great coach.

Consider the Pharisees and Sadducees. In the fruit and results test, the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t measure up. They didn’t exhibit the love of God, the mercy of God, the compassion of God, the forgiveness of God. Both groups preached a sour, lousy, legalistic approach to God. They wanted everyone to look and act just like them. Jesus said, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:6) A little leaven influences the whole batch of dough and continues to influence it. Choose your mentors carefully and listen with a filter. When you make coffee, you use a filter so the grounds don’t get into the coffee. If your filter has ever folded over and you swallowed grounds, you know why you use a filter.

You need to learn to discern when something doesn’t fit with God’s Word and you filter out what doesn’t fit. My wife is preparing to teach Bible study leaders about handling a difficult passage. She found a good resource online and at the end of the article, it presented an about the author bio. It said, “The author,  . . . . helps those grieving the loss of a pet to understand the Biblical evidence that proves they live on.  His most popular book, ‘Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates’ delivers hope and comfort to the reader in a very gentle, yet convincing way.” I’m pretty sure we don’t need to take the time to dig into whether or not our pets are going to be in heaven. Just because the author has a doctrinal position that I don’t agree with doesn’t mean I disregard all of his teaching.

That’s what Jesus was saying about the Pharisees and Sadducees. All of their teaching was not bad. If it was, Jesus wouldn’t have said “Beware.” He would have said, “Don’t listen to a word they say.” The Pharisees and Sadducees taught some correct things. They taught that people should be obedient, should worship God, should look for the Messiah. They should pray, tithe, and fast. They also taught some things that were way off the mark. They taught that the oral law or traditions of man were of equal weight as the written Word. We have groups today that teach the same thing. Col. 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” They taught that following God was not a matter of mercy and grace, but a legalistic code of rules filled with do’s and don’ts.

The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t even get along with one another. The Sadducees were a small elite group composed of the priestly family. They denied all aspects of the supernatural; angels demons, miracles, and the resurrection. They rejected all but the first five books of the O. T. They were liberal in order to gain the favor of Rome. The Pharisees were more closely associated with the common man. They accepted the entire O. T. as well as the oral law. Neither group was always wrong and neither group was always right. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to completely ignore and reject them, He told them to, “Watch out and beware.” In 1 John 4:1, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Test what you hear. How does it measure up with God’s Word? When someone opens the Word of God, is it consistent with the teaching of the Word? No matter the source, TV, radio. . . is it consistent with the Word?

There is one overriding principle. If you are going to listen with a filter, then you must KNOW the Word of God. No mentor, no teacher, no preacher, no pastor can ever substitute for your personal study of God’s Word. No one should take that place, and no one absolves you of your responsibility to carry out the command in 2 Tim. 2:15. The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to spoon feed their followers so they could control them and give them just enough information so there was no discussion, no disagreement, no objection. Not everyone agrees with me an that’s okay. Know your position and why you believe that way. We should be open to discussing and studying the Word of God, but the Bible must be our authority.

Lots of people today don’t believe in spanking.  What’s the Bible say?  It’s our authority. There are so called experts that say to improve your sex life you should fantasize about relationships with others. That doesn’t line up with the Word of God. There are pastors and ministers who during counseling, advise their counselees to divorce their spouse. That doesn’t line up with the Word of God. Find a mentor, but listen with a filter . . . the Bible is your filter. You won’t be able to blame your mentor for your decisions. You can’t blame your parents if you wind up in jail. You can’t blame your spouse if you have a lousy marriage. You are the one that is responsible for your actions. You are the one responsible to discern truth. We are a society that points the finger of blame at everyone except those truly responsible.

Who are you going to listen to? Who will you allow to influence your life? Who will you allow to influence your child’s life?

If You Hate V8 . . .

V8 Juice. I’m drinking one right now, well I was when I started this. You either love it or hate it. Based on the comments on my Facebook page a while back, I’m amazed at the passion people have.  The same passion is there whether you’re a lover or a hater of V8. I’ve made two posts on Facebook about drinking V8. The first garnered 18 comments and the second had 20 comments. Wow.

I got to thinking about V8. It has all the vitamins and nutrients a person needs to grow strong and healthy. There are two full servings of vegetables in every can, that’s every single can. That V8 got me thinking. I thought, you  know, V8 is a lot like Jesus. While we can get two full servings of veggies from a can of V8, everything you need to make you spiritually healthy is found in Jesus. BUT. Here’s a sticking point for some people. They like the nutrients found in V8, but they don’t like the taste. In other words, we want the benefit of the veggies without the pesky method in which it is delivered. I’ll just take a multi-vitamin . . . and hand me another Twinkie.

That’s the way we are with our Christian walk too. We want to be like Jesus, but we don’t want to have to go through any trials, suffering, or hardship to make us like Jesus. We don’t want to learn to walk like Jesus, we just to take a pill, look at the Cliff Notes, or read an article. If you want to grow strong physically, you need to eat right, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and get sufficient rest. If you want to grow strong spiritually, you need a regular diet of spiritual food with plenty of living water. That means quiet time (Mark 1:35) with the Lord; time in engaged in prayer (Matt. 6:6, 2 Thes. 5:17, 1 Tim. 2:1). We need to have individual Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15) and we need to fellowship with other Christians (Neh. 8:8, 1 Tim. 4:13, Heb 10:25). For most folks that means we need to be connected to a local church. You can read a post about that from my friend Erik Braun.

The bottom line is you need to be connected to God individually and corporately. I hope the church you’re connected to emphasizes a devotion to God’s Word and exercises biblical discipleship. While these principles are certainly spelled out in Scripture, if we practice the lost art of disciple making, I believe we’ll begin to see the power of God move throughout these United States. . . . and then maybe we can win the world.

I know, now you’re thinking . . . I could have had a V8.