Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Given to Equip and Build (Ephesians 4:12)

“He gave some … as pastors and teachers,” (v. 11) … “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:12, NASB95)

As we read in verse 11, God gave some as pastors and teachers and their role as such is to include equipping the saints. “Equipping” has the meaning of making someone completely adequate or sufficient for something whether it is through instruction of giving someone the tools or equipment that they need. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read that, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95) Both of these verses focus on the end of being equipped. One speaks to the person who is charged to oversee and conduct the teaching while the other to the source of that teaching. Both the person and the source come from God. The pastor-teacher is called by God to the role, and the Scripture (Bible, Word of God) is given by God as the true and unfaltering foundation of the teaching. As the man of God teaches the Word of God the people of God are to be equipped for their service to God.

In 2 Timothy 3:17 we find the words “adequate” and “equipped” used together. As the man of God (all believers) is made adequate through being taught the Word of God, and not is just some detached academic way, but by speaking to its effectiveness to point out wrong, lead back to right, and then instruct in following that right, we are made adequate. This word “adequate” is closely related to the word “equipped.” It might be said that the first refers to the person being qualified to complete the task and the second to the complete readiness to go out and do it. Both of them speak to success in doing the tasks of service set before us as we are made ready from instruction in the Word of God by men given by God to fill this role.

And as we to these works of service we perform what is necessary to accomplish an end which is building up the body of Christ. I remember years ago when I was doing a home loan for a pastor in southern California. He really didn’t want to put “pastor” as his job description and we joked together about what other terms He might use. One of those was the term “Body-builder.” What an apt description of the role given to the pastor-teacher, but someone given to the role of building up the body of Christ, and doing so in a way that is highly interactive and not classroom lecture with fancy media presentations. It is a hands on kind of relationship as the pastor or shepherd of the sheep given by the Great Shepherd has demonstrated for us with His own disciples.

In this we can take away several things. First of all, we need to be taught and God has given men to this task. The place for this teaching is as we gather together as one to hear, consider, and then apply to our own lives. Second, the teaching needs to be from the Word of God. It is critical in our choosing a church to attend that it be one given to accurately and effectively teaching the Word of God and not the opinion of man. There are many churches out there today who have discarded sound teaching or who do not emphasize its practical application to our lives. The role of the pastor-teacher is to make sure that the Word of God is taught in such a way in the church such that the people of God are equipped in service and moved toward maturity regardless of what the world around us might say or do.

I have to wonder during this current election cycle as I look at the so-called “evangelical vote” and find that a man who openly cuts down his opponents and who has waffled all over the board on biblical moral issues has garnered so much of the vote when there are others whose positions more closely align with those of Scripture and who openly profess their faith in Christ. I understand that there is anger and frustration out there, but is the way to respond? By giving heed to our anger and the words of anger, are we really living with hope as a people called to live by faith when the Word of God has shown us otherwise? The Word of God declares that we are not to be shaken by the evil one, nor are we to panic and take shortcuts in order to try to fix things ourselves or to avoid what we might perceive as even worse circumstances. We are to trust in Him, live according to His Word, and do this all by faith in our God who is immensely powerful to accomplish all that He intends in us and in the world. There is generally a separation between politicians and pastors, but there should not be a separation between the sound Word of God being taught by pastors leading to how we as Christians listen to, speak about, and choose our political leaders. One is to affect the other.

So much for the political outworking of this, but let’s also consider how we also respond to the teaching of God when it comes to walking right before God and man, as it comes to loving one another and reaching out with compassion to those in need, and as it pertains to walking beside those who are struggling and giving the comfort that we have learned from God to those who need the comfort of God. We are to continually sharpen one another and encourage one another to shy away from the world’s wisdom and apply the Word of God to all that we do. Lastly, knowing from the Word of God the great gift that we have been given in Jesus Christ, we can also boldly and with firm assurance declare this truth of salvation in Christ and Christ alone to others.

These and so much more all are out-working of the Word of God being implanted in our hearts, meditated on in our minds, and applied in our lives. And God has made this such a priority that He has called and gifted men to carry on this most vital task.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Joy in the Broken Latch

Fruit can be measured in a variety of ways. One of them is in that which the Holy Spirit does in us as we grow in Christ and are conformed to His image as evidenced by the list of Galatians 5:22-24. In that list are joy, peace, patience, and self-control (among others). For this next Sunday I am working on a message from Jesus' last "I AM" statement in John which is found in John 15:1, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser...." Jesus then said in verse 5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit...."

This past weekend we went through the event with the water heater. For those of you who did not hear about this one, well, needless to say it was a bundle of fun. Our water heater began leaking and soaked one of our bedrooms. Replacing it was not easy, and God really showed Himself to me in my the most frustrating of moments when I had no answers for a problem that surfaced or strength to complete the task. Tonight the challenge was the dishwasher (no not the human ones--they are capable). The latch stopped working and it would not close. At first I said that I would not deal with it tonight and probably not even this week. But then I realized how "escapist" that was, and I went in to look at the problem. After fiddling with it for a while it was very obvious that it would not work and no amount of playing with the latch was going to change this fact. So, I sat down quietly in front of the dishwasher and listened while I prayed. I asked Robin for a screwdriver, and I removed to top portion of the face to find that the handle was busted. There it was right in front of me--a broken part that could be replaced. I then went online and ordered a new one with the anticipation that it should arrive in two days. Unlike the water heater, I am hoping that this fix is that easy one, In the mean time we have plenty of hot water for the human dishwashers to step up and get the job done.

I started with Galatians by citing some of the things that the Spirit does in us as we abide in Christ. I am thankful that to a large degree I was able to experience joy and peace in this trial and especially thankful for some patience and self-control.

Practical object lessons for sermons (or for life in general) can be difficult. I hope that I don't have to relearn many of them. But then again I am reminded of the words James wrote, "Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of you faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result that you might be complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

In verse 9 of John 15, Jesus went on to say to His disciples, "Abide in my love. ... These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." Submitting those things that frustrate us most to the infinite hands and wisdom of God is a huge relief. There are many things that are outside of our ability to fix, but there is nothing outside of God's ability to see us through to His perfect end.

(By the way, it's now the next day when I came back to edit this some. And the message that I was preparing has been delayed a week while God has drawn my attention to a passage I thought we would have to skip over for lack of time. He provided the time, and He gave us His Helper which is the promise of John 14 where I am studying today.
"The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NASB95)