The Biblical Role of The Preacher

Posted: September 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Many people are pretty proud of the fact that they know the difference between a “pastor” and a “preacher.” However, just because you don’t call your preacher, “pastor,” doesn’t mean you really understand the biblical role of the preacher. Here are a few things we need to understand about the biblical role of the preacher.

1. He is a Spiritual Leader

Sometimes, when we understand the distinction between elders and preachers, we act as if one is a spiritual leader in the church and the other is not. We act as if our elders are leaders, but the preacher is simply a “hired hand.”

Consider the leadership instructions Paul gave to young Timothy and Titus. Obviously, Timothy and Titus were not dictators of congregations, or even “pastors” of congregations, but they were spiritual leaders.

Of course, we must understand that leadership in the church is much different than leadership in the world. In the church, we follow Jesus’ example of leading through serving (John 13). Preachers should not exalt themselves to a position of greater importance in the church (Matthew 23:6-12). In fact, if they want to lead as Jesus did, they must humble themselves and assume a servant’s role. They must NEVER take the attitude, “I can’t do that lowly job. I’m the preacher. Let someone less important do that.”

And we must understand that a title, or a position, does not make anyone a leader. Preachers do not become spiritual leaders simply because they are “preachers.” Leadership is about character and spiritual maturity. Paul sent Timothy and Titus to do the work of evangelists because he knew these men had the necessary qualities to lead people toward godliness.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Your preacher is not any more important than you. The work he does is not any more important than the work you do. But understand that he is a leader. Most likely, he is doing his best to help lead you to heaven.

2. He is Not “the Minister”

Often we call our preacher, “the minister.” The word minister means “servant,” so obviously a preacher should be a servant in the congregation, but not “the” servant. Often, we treat preachers as if they are “hired” to do the work no one else in the church has time to do, or the work no one else in the church wants to do.

We need to understand that a preacher does not work “for” a congregation. He works “for” God and he works “with” a congregation. A congregation should not think of the money they pay their preacher like an employer thinks of the money he pays his employees. When an employer hires someone, he does so because his time is worth more to him than the money he pays his employee. “I will give this man $8 an hour to sweep the floors,” the employer says, “because I would rather spend $8 than spend my time sweeping the floors.”

Sometimes we treat preachers like this. We act as if we hire them to do the preaching, evangelism, visitation, etc. that we would rather not do. “I’d rather put money in the collection plate,” we think, “than have to make hospital visits myself.” This is not the way we should think about the financial support we give the preacher.

Biblically, the preacher’s job is not to do the work “for” the congregation, but to equip the congregation to do the work. Instead of being “the” minister, he is supposed to help make everyone into ministers. Consider what Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-12:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Do you see? Paul said that the role of both evangelists and shepherds is to “equip the saints” (that’s all Christians) “for the work of ministry.”

Your preacher’s job is to equip you, through his teaching and example, to do “the work of ministry.” Obviously, if he is to equip you through his example, he needs to be working. If he is not working hard, he cannot equip others to work hard. But you also need to understand that if you find yourself saying, “Well, that’s not my job. That’s the preacher’s job. That’s why we pay him,” you probably don’t understand the biblical role of the preacher.

3. He is Not the “Pastor”

This may be the hardest of the three points to communicate. You see, many of us do not call our preachers, “pastors.” We understand that the elders of a congregation are actually the shepherds (Acts 20:28). And this is the way it should be. But as much as we understand the distinction in titles, I’m not sure we always understand the distinction in roles.

Who do we call when we’re sick? Do we call the elders, as Scripture instructs (James 5:14), or do we call the preacher? Do we expect him to be the one to do most of the counseling, visiting, restoring, etc. in the congregation? Isn’t it funny that we don’t call our preacher, “pastor,” but we often treat him like that’s his job.

This is not to say, of course, that a preacher shouldn’t visit the sick, counsel, etc. Of course he should. He’s a Christian (all Christians should do these things) and he is a minister in the congregation. But the primary men doing these things should be the elders. Treat your shepherds like shepherds and your preacher like a preacher.

The Evangelist

Part of restoring New Testament Christianity is restoring the role of the evangelist. We cannot be content to restore only the name, we must restore the position. As the word “evangelist” implies, his primary duty is to proclaim the Good News. He is a communicator. He communicates the Good News to the lost, so they can be saved; and he communicates the Good News to the saved, so they remember to Whom they belong.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, we see that an evangelist (1) communicates, not from his own mind, but from the word of God, (2) communicates in season and out of season, (3) communicates reproof, rebuke, and exhortation, and (4) communicates with patience and teaching.

Please don’t think you’ve “hired a preacher” so you don’t have to work. After all, part of his job is to equip YOU to be a minister!

-Wes McAdams

 

 


Love: Bears, Believes, Hopes, Endures

Posted: September 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We understand that the “love” of 1 Corinthians 13 is not “erotic lust” or “affectionate feelings,” but unselfish, genuine, and active concern. It is the love that Jesus had for ungodly men: con-artists, child molesters, wife beaters, homosexuals, pornographers, murderers, rapists, and all other sinners. As unseemly as these folks are, Jesus cared for them deeply. He died for them just as He did for “good” people. He even died for the mob that mocked him, spit in His face, smote Him on the head, and nailed Him to the cross. “Father, forgive them,” He said in a genuine appeal to God. This is the same love that we as God’s children must have for our enemies: to pray and provide for them (Matt 5:43-44; Rom 12:17-21).

This knowledge is important to grasp what Paul meant when he wrote: “Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). Love, according to these charges, challenges each of us to “count others better than himself” and to not look “each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others” (Php 2:3-4). This Christ also did (Php 2:5-8).

Bears All Things. “Bears” actually means “to cover” and likely refers to passages that say, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Love bears with sinners to help them and to lift them out of the corruption in which they are mired. This likely is James’ meaning when he speaks of converting those who err from the truth that we might “save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Love that sincerely cares cannot forsake those who have transgressed and fallen from the faith. It seeks, as the writer of Hebrews, to win them back unto the only sacrifice for sins (see Heb 10:26-30).

Believes All Things. Love places the best construction on what others say and do. We are sometimes quick to believe the worst about others—often on the slimmest of evidence. It is not always easy to know if brethren are joking with us when they make critical remarks as though they are teasing. Excuses offered—a “migraine” or “sinus infection”—for absence from the assembly “week after week” are sometimes hard to accept. Do these things only happen on the weekend? Love “trusts” while seeking to verify.

Hopes All Things. Love sees light at the end of the tunnel. Life is always bad to lots of folks, but love hopes and sees value and benefit in a crisis, tragedy, ill health, and a multitude of other problems that overshadow life. Love is bound up in faith that assures God’s people of heaven, but guarantees them that even now struggles work good in their lives (see Heb 11:1; Rom 8:28). This love is tied to faith and hope and has visions of peace and joy and greatness in the Lord—even when we are hurting.

Endures All Things. “Endures” means to “bear under” a burden without collapsing. When we love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves, nothing can weigh us down. We will always stand firm. We can accept brethren with crude personalities, distasteful manners, harsh attitudes, cutting remarks—even weird fashions or hair styles. But beyond these we can endure brethren who mistreat us, lie about us, cheat us—even a wife/husband who is unloving, uncaring, and abusive. Yes, brethren! Love cares and the one we love, regardless of his/her hostile ways, must not drag us down from loving concern amidst unkind, immature, perverted ways.

These are tough words that Paul writes to a church that was childish, carnal, factional, and unloving. He defines love and itemizes its qualities so that the most infantile brother among them can understand how to treat his fellow brothers and promote unity and peace (see 1 Cor 13:4-7).

-L. A.

 


Are You Excited?

Posted: September 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

When I was younger I always looked forward to the week of our gospel meeting. My reasons for feeling that way might have been a lot different from what they are today, but that anticipation is something I’ve carried with me through the years. I hope we can encourage the children here at Kirkwood to have that same type of excitement. And maybe it will be contagious to some of us adults as well.

As a child, I looked forward to seeing my friends every day of the week. I had very few friends at school and didn’t have that much in common with many of my peers. My closest friends were at church. During a gospel meeting we got to spend a lot of extra time together. The longer our parents visited, the more time we had to play.

As a child, I looked forward to talking with the visiting preacher. Most of the time the preachers stayed in our home and ate at least a meal or two at our dinner table. I felt so grown up and important when they would talk to me and ask me questions. I made sure to be on my best behavior, in the hopes that the preacher would send a compliment my way. More than once a visiting preacher would commend the young people from the pulpit and encourage us for listening attentively and taking notes during the week. We loved the attention.

As a child, I looked forward to all the food. Sunday afternoon potlucks at the Rec Center were a highlight of the week. My flimsy styrofoam plate would creak under the pressure as I piled it high with one dip of just about everything in sight.   Mom saved her best recipes for feeding the visiting preacher and I looked forward to the nights he would eat at our house.

Today, I look forward to the spiritual feast. Though my mind may struggle like the styrofoam plate to retain all that is taught, my soul loves the spiritual nourishment it is able to receive night after night. The preacher has saved his best sermons for this week and I love the opportunity to glean from his insight of God’s word.

Today, I still look forward to visiting with the preacher. Some of the greatest encouragements during the week come from personal conversation, not just from the pulpit. And as the preacher has labored so diligently to edify us, I value the opportunity to be an encouragement to him. At the end of the week, I want him to be spiritually recharged as well, by seeing the zeal of the brethren here.

Today, I still look forward to seeing all my friends. I treasure the time I am able to spend with my spiritual family. As encouraging as the visiting preacher can be, assembling with the saints throughout the week is what makes our gospel meetings so uplifting. God designed the assembly as an opportunity for us to stir one another up to love and good works .   It’s such a blessing to be able to spend a full week of singing, praying, and sharing in the study of God’s word. I’m excited! Are you?

-Grady

 


You Are Not Your Own

Posted: September 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Citizens of the United States are probably as free, independent, and autonomous as any men have ever been. Except when we infringe on the “rights” and the “freedom” of others, we are at liberty to do pretty much as we please. Although there are risks in this kind of society, most of us would not have it any other way. We cherish the rights to “life,” “liberty,” and the “pursuit of happiness” and are willing to accept whatever dangers that may entail.

The majority of Americans, however, relish this freedom for the wrong reasons. Freedom, to many citizens, means the right to do what they want when they want regardless of any principles higher than their own lusts. The “land of the free,” let’s face it, has significantly succumbed to humanism, a philosophy that says there is no God and that man is the center of the universe. Man must, therefore, decide for himself what is good and no one can argue with any of man’s conclusion. Nothing, it turns out, is any longer sacred in the “home of the brave.”

Freedom means the right to abort an infant merely because the mother wants to. Freedom means the right for a husband or wife to join himself or herself to another’s mate because he/she wants to. Freedom means the right of a father or mother to walk out of their family roles because they want to. Freedom allows a man or woman to join in marriage with one of the same sex because they want to. The list of deviancies has no end—reaching outward to the lewdest, crudest, and most degrading practices the human imagination can conceive.

Christians, though the law of the land approves, public media condones, and society practices these things, must remember that they march to a different drummer. The words and the score for their lives have been written by a divine lyricist and the sound of this music exudes a spiritual melody. It is music to the soul rather than the ear. Its message says: “Ye are not your own”; “Ye were bought with a price”; “Glorify God therefore in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20)

“You Are Not Your Own.” Christians, as the name implies, belong to Christ. They know that their “bodies are members of Christ” and that they are joined to the Lord as one spirit (1 Cor 6:15, 17). When a Christian is added to the Lord he becomes one with him and relinquishes control of himself. The Lord takes over. As Paul said of himself: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 3:20). Christians are not free to do as they please.

“Ye Were Bought with a Price.”Christians belong to Christ because they were purchased by his blood (Rev 5:9-10). They have been redeemed from sin and must continually ask themselves: “We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” (see Eph 1:7; Rom 6:1-2). Christians have forsaken sin to wait in hope for “the redemption of the body” when they will be presented to God without spot or blemish(Eph 4:30; Eph 5:26). They forsake sin to in hope wait for heaven.

“Glorify God Therefore in Your Body.” A Christian belongs to Christ, is redeemed from sin by His blood, and must therefore use his body to honor and glorify God. God’s word works in his heart and he lusts not after the flesh but yearns to please God. He knows man was created in God’s image and that in his body dwells a spirit that only finds rest and peace in following the wisdom of his infinite Creator who designed man and reveals in His word what genuinely satisfies the deepest needs of his soul (see Gen 1:26-27).

-L. A.

 


Legalism: Its Meaning and Application

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Members of churches of Christ have for years insisted upon Bible authority for all that they believe and practice. They are known to oppose doctrines and observances that are not based on New Testament teaching. As a basis for this view they often quote Galatians 1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” They also note 2 John 9: “Whosoever goes onward and abides not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God.” Their goal is to “speak as the oracle of God” by speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent (see 1 Pet 4:11).

This approach to scripture sets them at odds with denominationalists who, for example, without Bible authority substitute “sprinkling” for “immersion” when baptizing believers. Some of these believers contend that authority is not necessary because God looks on the heart rather than the method. They also note in the words of God Himself, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matt. 12:7). To them Christians “are under grace, not law,” and anyone who insists on biblical authority for beliefs and practices is a “legalist.”

Even our own brethren in recent years have applied this viewpoint to the use of “musical instruments in worship,” “sponsoring churches” for support of preachers, “benevolent institutions” for the care of the needy, “kitchens, gymnasiums, and recreational facilities,” “choirs, quartets, and singing groups in worship,”—even the “Lord’s Supper on Saturday nights.” Brethren who insist on authority for these things do not, they are told, understand that “the law was given through Moses; and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Those who commit to following precisely what the New Testament teaches are viewed as legalistic Judaizers.
“Legalism” can be defined as “strict conformity to law.” If that be the meaning, many of us plead guilty. Even the apostle Paul says of himself that while he lived not “under the law” of Judaism he was not “without law to God” and lived “under law to Christ” (1 Cor 9:20-21). While rebuking the Galatians for following the law of Moses, he taught them to “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 5:1-4; 6:2).

But legalism also means: “The doctrine of salvation by works or strict adherence to a religious code rather than by grace.” Salvation by this definition demands perfect obedience. Of this Paul writes: “Cursed is everyone who continues not in all the things that are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Gal 3:10). Since “all have sinned” and “there is none righteous, no, not one,” we know that “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (see Rom 3:23; 3:9; Gal 2:16). Paul condemned “legalism” when he wrote that salvation “is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph 2:8-9). Legalism of this kind is unbiblical.

Members of churches of Christ know that without grace no one can be saved. But they also know they are to abide in the teaching of Christ. Is this legalism? That depends on the definition of “legalism.” They certainly understand that no man is perfect and that no man is justified by strict and flawless obedience to God’s commandments. They do believe, though, that sinners must obey God’s commandment to be baptized into Christ’s death, where by God’s grace Jesus’ blood washes away man’s sins (Rom 6:3-4). This is salvation by grace—not legalistic works of perfection. Christians who sin must likewise obey God’s commandments to repent, confess, and pray to obtain forgiveness by grace through the blood of Christ. That’s God’s will, not legalism (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:8-10). Grace does not excuse any man from obeying God.

-L. A.

 


Evangelism Report – August 2014

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

August has been a busy month and it looks like September is going to be even busier. We have a lot of exciting evangelistic efforts on the horizon.

First of all, our gospel meeting is only two weeks away. Now is the best time to start inviting your friends and neighbors. It gives them plenty of time to make plans to be here, but not so much time that they will forget about it before it arrives. We have both full page flyers you can post on bulletin boards in your community and smaller cards that are easier to carry around and use for personal invitations. Pass out as many as you can, we can always print more.

This coming Thursday morning I’ve signed up to evangelize and pass out invitations at the STLCC campus across the street. I’ve had many good conversations with students on campus in the past and am hopeful to make some good evangelistic contacts.

We are also planning to canvass the Kirkwood community with flyers this coming Saturday morning. Anyone who wants to help out is welcome. The more participants we have, the more houses we can reach. And the more seeds we sow, the greater chance of finding the good soil. We will meet at the church building at 9am Saturday morning to split up into groups and organize who will go where.

Above all, be constantly praying for the success of our meeting. Be praying that those invited will come with open hearts and be convicted by what they hear. Be praying that Brother Shouse will have strength and wisdom to proclaim God’s word effectively. Be praying that each and every one of us will fulfill our roll in stirring each other up to love and good works. And pray that all involved will be encouraged, edified, and brought closer to the Lord.

Our gospel meeting isn’t the only exciting thing on the horizon though. We have also just set up a Bible Study group on Meetup.com. You can check it out and join by going to www.meetup.com/STL-Bible-Study/.

As we have stated before, this site is intended to help organize small group gatherings (or “meetups”) in our community. We are using it to advertise Bible study opportunities throughout the city. These studies within themselves are not intended to bring someone to the point of conversion. They will not address topical issues, but simply be examining and discussing the Biblical text. While many different doctrinal issues may be touched on, our main goal is to create contacts and whet people’s appetites for further Bible study on a more personal basis.

We currently have two recurring “meetups” scheduled. “Sunset Hills: The Book of James” will meet on every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at 7pm, beginning Oct. 2. We will gather at the St. Louis Bread Co. near the corner of Kirkwood and Watson. We have approved this gathering with the restaurant management staff, but need to limit attendance to a maximum of 15 people.

“Des Peres: The Book of Ephesians” will meet every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at 7pm, beginning Oct. 14. We will gather at the West County Mall Food Court where there will be no shortage of seating.

It is our hope as time goes on to get more studies started in different parts of the city. The more times, locations, and areas of study we offer, the better chance we have of reaching people. If you are interested in helping organize or leading discussion in a meetup group please let me know. You don’t have to “teach” per se. God’s word is the teacher, we’ll all just be fellow students. Feel free to stop and ask me any questions you might have.

While the main goal of these studies is evangelistic, this is also a wonderful opportunity for us to be encouraging and uplifting one another. It could take time before we see much evangelistic fruit, but studying God’s word together is never a waste of time. Please do what you can to support these efforts and keep them in your prayers.

-Grady

 


Grateful for the Work God Gives Us

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Cor 12:17-18).

The Kingdom of Christ is a realm where definite work is done. To be a Christian is more than an honorary status conferred upon us; it is a manner of living, a way of life. If we have the idea that “being” a Christian involves no more than the passive enjoyment of being saved, we have a thing or two to learn about the New Testament. There, Christians worked and served, actively and energetically. The body of Christ does things!

But just as the body of Christ has work to do, it’s also true that the individual members of the body each have a unique part to play in that work. If we’re Christians, we don’t simply have a generic contribution to make; we have a particular work to engage in that is uniquely our own. Each of us is a one-of-a-kind package of strengths and abilities, and we’re going to have to answer for whether those gifts were used in ways that were well suited to us.

Most of us are aware that the church is compared in the New Testament to the human body, a unified organism made up of many different parts, all of which contribute uniquely to the body’s activity. Almost humorously, Paul asks, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?” The body simply could not function without having different parts that do different things.

We know this, and yet what do we do? We identify certain types of Christian service as more important, and we spend our lives fretting over who has which ability. In a word, this is sinful.

In the Lord, we need to take three steps: (1) We need to prayerfully discover what it is the Lord wants us personally to be doing with the abilities we have (or can acquire). (2) We need to get comfortable in our own skin and accept the role that is ours to play, regardless of where it ranks on any worldly scale of values. (3) We need to rejoice in our role and be grateful for the work God gives us. After all, God has set us in the body “just as He pleased.”

“The Lord knows us as we really are. He gives each of us work to do. He understands what is most appropriate for us, what will be helpful to Him, and what will be good for others” (Teresa of Avila).

-Gary Henry

 


Sickness and Death – Why?

Posted: August 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Sickness, suffering, and death have always posed serious questions and problems to the world in general and to the saints in particular. Many people through the ages have wondered aloud: “How can a God of love allow men to endure so much suffering of so many kinds?” And large numbers of folks have even denied the existence of God because of the presence of sickness and death. Do Christians have a response to this supposed dilemma?

To begin with, the problem is one of degree and not of substance. Every parent takes a look at his own family and asks himself whether discipline or punishment is ever necessary. We all surely agree that there is both “good” and “bad” in our children? Do we not further agree that parents must respond to the “good” in their children differently from the way they respond to the “bad” in them? When our child is “bad” is not correction necessary to his/her well-being? Is it an injustice by the parents to the child if punishment is administered? Is not the “good” or “well-being” of the child served by corrective training that comes through chastisement?

How, then, must God in whose image man has been created respond toward the offspring of His own creation? Is it an injustice to the human race if their “Father” allows evil to be punished? How could anyone in a civilized society answer “yes” to this question. Criminals, do they not, deserve punishment and must be prosecuted for their crimes against society. May a God of love forego vengeance as discipline for a sinful race? Is not some form of discipline necessary and in the best interest of the human race—and is there any among us who is not deserving?

That, then, raises the essential question: Why do we have sickness, suffering, and death among us? Only Christians can answer this question. We who believe the Bible is a revelation from God understand that sickness and death are God’s curse on the human race to discipline man’s transgression of divine law (Genesis 3). And this curse befits all men because all have sinned (Rom 3:23).

This is profoundly seen in the cross of Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave His Son—offered Him in death. Jesus is the only innocent person who ever lived and who doesn’t deserve the discipline of death. Yet He agreed to bear in His body our sins and become sin on our behalf (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 5:21; see Is 53). Viewed as a sinner, by virtue of bearing in His body our sins, Jesus had to die to satisfy God’s justice so man can be forgiven. The crucifixion of Jesus exemplifies the horror of sin and, from God’s perspective, the vengeance sin deserves. It is in the death of Jesus particularly and in our own sickness and death that the “evil” of sin is displayed from God’s viewpoint.

Does this mean that each person’s sickness, suffering, or violent death is a result of some specific sin he has committed? Obviously not! Some of God’s finest servants have suffered and died violent deaths and some of the most evil men of history have enjoyed excellent health and died painlessly. What it does mean is that sickness and death prevail within the human race because sin prevails—and that these conditions serve as disciplinary reminders to man that God hates and punishes sin.

Again, our problem with sickness and death is a matter of degree—its severity. We see the importance of discipline for children, but as finite beings cannot understand God’s discipline. Sickness, suffering, and death seem too extreme to our limited and finite minds. And yet beyond this time of vengeance the love and blessings of God glow in the hope of eternal righteousness when God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” and “death” and “mourning” and “crying” and “pain” will be no more (Rev 21:4). Yes, God is love! Don’t ever doubt it.

-L. A.

 


Making God’s Goals Our Own

Posted: August 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

If you were to sit down and write up a list of all your goals in life for the next 5 to 10 years, what would they be? Career goals? Education goals? Vacations that you want to take? House projects you want to accomplish? Debts you want to pay off or purchases you’ve been saving up for? Goals for your relationships or family?

How many of them would be goals for your relationship with God? …spiritual goals? Would they even make the list?

Maybe we should think about it this way. If God were to write a list of goals for your life over the next 5 to 10 years, what would they be? Surely fulfilling His purposes for our life should be of utmost importance. It should no longer be we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2:20). The love of God must reign supreme in our hearts (Matt 22:37-38). The love of Christ must control us (2 Cor 5:14-15).

So, what would God’s goals for our life be? Goals in spiritual growth? Maturing in things like faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Pet 1:5-7).

These goals can sometimes be hard to measure. But we can set bench marks for ourselves in things like Bible study and prayer. We can aim for more consistent communication in our relationship with God. We can set aside time to read and pray on a daily basis, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes. We can set goals to read through the New Testament or the entire Bible in a year. We can keep prayer lists to keep track of who and what we need to be praying for.

How about goals in overcoming temptation? We can identify the sins we struggle with most and keep alert against their approach. Try going a whole week without complaining, without saying a single unkind word, or without indulging a lustful thought. Set goals in being a better steward of your time, your body, or your possessions.

How about goals in church service? Set a goal not to miss a single assembly this month or to get every Bible class lesson completed. Work toward being able to teach a class or give a short talk. Multiply your talents and try serving in ways you’ve never served before. Visit or call someone who needs encouragement at least once a week. Make it your goal to greet and get to know every visitor that enters our doors. Find some work that needs to be done and volunteer to do it.

What about goals in evangelism? Jesus’ entire purpose in coming to earth was to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). It was for this He suffered and died on the cross. Should it not be one of our highest goals in life as well? Don’t set a goal for converts, but set a goal for contacts. We never know where the soil will be fertile, but the more seeds we sow the better chance we have of finding that good and honest heart.

Try to personally invite at least 10 people to our gospel meeting. Post flyers on every available bulletin board in your community. Pass out at least one business card a week. Write down a list of 20 acquaintances you could offer a home Bible study and if you’ve crossed them all off, go find some more.   You never know what they’ll say until you ask.   Expand your comfort zone, build your confidence, and equip yourself to teach.

So, what are your goals for the next 5 to 10 years? What are your goals for this year, this month, this week? What are your goals for today? Spiritual maturity doesn’t happen by accident. It takes hard work, and it happens one purposeful day at a time.

We must apply all diligence if we want to make it up the stair steps of spiritual growth (2 Pet 1:5). We must make God’s goals our goals and then pursue them with all our might. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). Drifting through life with half-hearted efforts to reach God is not enough. Life is a race, heaven is the finish line, and we must run in such a way that we may win (1 Cor 9:24). That is the ultimate goal that should dictate all others in our lives.

-Grady

 


Keep It In Context

Posted: August 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

As a principle, keeping something in context is everything. In our Bible study, taking something out of context can be disastrous. It is easy to cherry-pick passages, use them as proof-texts, and make the Bible say whatever suits our fancy.

But sometimes the phrase, “keep it in context,” is also abused. It can easily become a phrase that substitutes for, “I disagree with you, and because I am always right, then you are obviously taking things out of context.”

“Keep it in context” is not a catch-all for showing others how wrong they are when they disagree with us. Using the phrase (or other such terms like, “contextually”) does not automatically put a passage in context, nor does it prove we are right because we said the magic words. In all fairness, if we believe that someone has taken something out of context in a discussion, instead of just saying, “keep it in context,” we might want to point to what we believe that context is. If we cannot show how or where something is taken out of context, then do we have a right to say that others have taken it out of context?

In short, there is a difference between actually keeping something in context, and simply invoking the terminology to prove we are right.

To keep something in context requires a number of observations. For example, we might ask the following questions:

1. What is the overarching context? What is the immediate context? What is the historical context? What’s going on in that time and place that may affect why or the way something is said?

2. What is the occasion for the writing (particularly in the epistles)? What is the purpose of the work?

3. What is the literary context? Is this historical narrative? Poetry? What is the genre? What is the nature of the symbolic language employed? How is language being used?

4. Who is speaking? To whom? When? Why? How? (You know, the typical questions are never out of place)

5. Is this meant to be limited to its own setting, or does it cross over time and culture? (Is anyone supposed to be building an ark today?)

This is not exhaustive, but these illustrate the kind of questions we would want to ask of a given text. Keeping something in context takes thought and study. Let’s not just say it. Let’s work at it.

-Doy Moyer