I Believe in the Resurrection — An Easter Sunday Reading

I believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus died on the cross, his hands and feet held to the wood by metal spikes. I believe that his body was pierced by the soldier’s spear, and even the sun was darkened as all creation grieved the death of God’s eternal Son.

 I believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus’ body was placed in a borrowed tomb, where it lay for three days. I believe that the power of God, his heavenly Father, brought life to his dead body and rolled the stone away from the entrance so all might see that Jesus was no longer there.

 I believe in the resurrection. I believe that the unbelievable story of the women was true, just as the angel had announced: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

 I believe in the resurrection. I believe that there is no force in the universe that could stop, hinder, contain, or successfully oppose the risen Savior, my Lord, Jesus Christ. No nails are long enough to hold him to any cross unless he wills it to be so. No tomb can be sealed so tightly—by Pilate or Herod, or Caesar himself. Were there an army of a thousand men guarding the tomb, it would make no difference. Jesus said he would lay down his life and take it up again. And he did.

 I believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus appeared to eleven discouraged, defeated, demoralized disciples in a room where the doors were locked and all hope was lost. I believe that when he showed them his nail-pierced hands and his spear-pierced side, they fell at his feet and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” I believe that in the days that followed, hundreds saw him alive. All their doubt was removed; their fear was gone. What could the world do to them? Jesus was alive.

 I believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus lives today—as powerfully and perfectly alive as he was two thousand years ago, and for all time past and yet to come. I believe he empowers his followers to follow in his footsteps, fight the forces of evil, and find their peace and joy and eternal hope in him.

 I believe in the resurrection. I believe that Jesus calls women, men, and children to join him in changing the world, one heart and life at a time, starting with their own. One day soon, he will come again on the clouds of heaven with an army of celestial warriors whose numbers are beyond counting and whose power is beyond imagining. Then Jesus will establish his eternal kingdom, where there will be no more soldiers or spears or sepulchers or battles or bleeding wounds or crosses.

I believe all this because I believe in the resurrection.

 

By Ed Baker of Orchard Hills Church, Cedar Falls, Iowa. Published in Reformed Worship magazine, December 2011.

 

Three Encouragements for Pastors Pursuing Wandering Sheep

One of the unintended consequences of the pandemic has been the disintegrating weekly habit of attending the Sunday gathering. What should a pastor do when faced with wandering sheep, those who have left the safe pastures of the local church and found themselves in dangerous territory away from the herd?

Let me encourage you, pastor, to consider three things as you seek out wandering sheep.

First, be prayerful.

Paul commands that “supplications, prayers, intercessions be made for all people” because God “desires all people to be saved.” This is certainly true for pastors and their flock. Prayer’s importance lies in the power of the Spirit to work in the heart of the wandering. So, pastor, as we aim to persuade and plead with sheep to return to the flock, remember that in our own strength “our striving will be losing.”

One practical way to do this is to create a list of members whom you haven’t seen at church in a while. Simply pray for them on Saturday night to gather with some gospel-preaching church the next day.

Second, be patient. 

There are at least three types of patience that God produces while we seek wandering sheep.

The first type is pastoral patience with the sheep. There can be great temptation to frustration and anger as call after call, email after email, text after text goes unanswered. The call for the pastor is the same: “Be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Wandering sheep often know they are wandering, so a welcoming and gracious call to repentance may be a surprising response.

The second type of patience is procedural, relating to how quickly one may pursue church discipline. If you are in a church that practices church discipline (that’s good!), be slow in employing it on wandering sheep. Be quite sure, insofar as you can, that this member has truly abandoned the fellowship of the church and has no intention of returning. A good rule of thumb: the less you know, the slower you go.

Lastly, God desires to grow you in patience and gentleness. Seeking the lost is one way Christ conforms his servants to his likeness. Unlike Jesus, we are not naturally disposed toward gentleness and kindness, patience and understanding. So God often places difficult, seemingly unreachable people among us so that he may grow us to be more like his patient Son. Pastor, embrace the sanctifying work of God as you seek to shepherd the flock God has entrusted to you.

Third, be persistent. 

Prayer is essential, but so is pursuit. So after praying, keep reaching out. Don’t give up. Keep calling, texting, and emailing. Your persistence is a secondary means by which Christ seeks out the wandering. It is a privilege to be used by our Lord to bring back what is rightly his. So, pastor, as you grow weary in pursuing, remember that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). If that wandering sheep belongs to Christ, have confidence that “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4).

 

Nick Gardner, Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Article orginally appeared on 9marks.org

10 Lessons About Leading the Lord’s Church I’ve Learned the Hard Way

By Joe McKeever

This is not the final list. I’m still learning.

Most of what follows about leading God’s church is counter-intuitive. Which is to say, it’s not what one might expect.

In no particular order….

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, have wanted to lead big churches, wanted to grow their church to be huge, or wanted to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than you would ever think.

Small churches can be healthy too; behold the hummingbird or the honeybee.

Trying to get a huge church to change its way of thinking can be like turning around an ocean liner.  Even so, the Lord’s teachings about the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 17:6) should forever disabuse us of the lust for bigness.

I will spare you the horror stories of pastors who have manipulated God’s people and lied about numbers in order to create the illusion of bigness.  Forgive us, Father!

Two. Lack of formal education in the preacher is no excuse.

The pastor of the small church often has far less formal training and education than he would like. As a result, he often feels inferior to his colleagues with seminary degrees. I have two thoughts on that…

One.  It’s a mistake.  He can be as smart as they are and more if he applies himself.  Let the Lord’s preachers not be overly impressed by certificates on the wall or titles before their name.

Two.  He can get more formal education if he’s willing.  Some of our seminaries have online programs that make seminary education practical and affordable.

My dad, a coal miner, had to leave school after the 7th grade. But he never quit learning.  He took courses and read constantly. When God took him to Heaven, Dad was almost 96. Our mom had to cancel four or five magazine subscriptions he was still taking and reading.

Some of the finest preachers of God’s word I’ve ever known have had little formal theological education.

Three.  There are no lone rangers or solo acts on the Lord’s team.

He sent them out two by two. (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1)

The preacher who says pastors are not allowed to have friends and thus shuts himself off from colleagues in ministry has bought into a lie from hell that causes him to deceive himself and limit his ministry.  While a pastor may choose not to have close friends among his own members, there is every reason for him to make friends with other pastors and ministers who serve the Lord well.  Failing to do so limits himself and hurts the kingdom work.

Furthermore, he must have co-workers alongside him. Paul needed Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and many others. Read the last chapter of I Corinthians and ask God to forgive you for trying to do this work alone.

Four. Doing a job by yourself is easier than enlisting and training someone else, but it’s violating your calling.

“Make disciples,” said our Lord.  That mandate calls for us to help people come into the kingdom, then nurture and grow them to the point they will know the Word, can share the Word, and can make disciples of others.

Barnabas did not find it convenient to leave Antioch and travel to Tarsus “to seek Saul” (Acts 11:25).  But in doing so, he connected the man called as an evangelist to the Gentiles with the opportunity of a lifetime.  We are forever grateful to the best disciplemaker in Scripture, Barnabas!

Five. I cannot lead people to do what I’m not doing.

God did not send me to be a talker, but a doer. Not as a coach only, but as a player-coach.  It is enough for the disciple to become like the teacher, said our Lord.

So, as a pastor and church leader, my job is to show them how. Not just tell them.  (James 1:22 and I John 3:18).

Six.  Not only is it hard to get started tithing my income or sharing my faith (and a hundred other discipleship things), God likes it that way.

Watch the butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.  The struggle, we are told, is a necessary part of its development.

Only people of faith and determination will set out to learn to tithe and witness and understand the Bible, then stay with it  until they are able to do it well.  Everyone else drops by the wayside, intending to wait until it’s easy.  In doing so, they’re asking for and expecting what never was and never shall be.  “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

The members of your church need to be reminded that God does not need their money.  He is not suffering from a cash flow problem. God is trying to grow disciples.  That accounts for the hundreds of teachings on money in the Word. When are we ever going to understand this? When are preachers going to quit fearing criticism and teach stewardship until people do it!

Seven.  God makes His leaders servants, not bosses or lords or bigshots.

I keep running into husbands who want to lord it over their wives because “God made me the head of the home and told you to submit!” Such men may call themselves believers, but they are pagan to the heart and have probably never been saved. They certainly don’t know the first thing about God’s word or Jesus’ heart.  If they did, they would know that they are sent as servants. “Even so, Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

Bullies on the playground or dictators in the pulpit are cancers on the body, and must not be tolerated.  The parable of all parables on this subject is Luke 17:7-10.  We must keep saying to ourselves–even when we have done everything Jesus required– “I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty.”

Eight.  The more righteous we are, the less we will be aware of it.  “Moses knew not that his face did shine” (Exodus 34:29).

I said to the 75-year-old saint in our church, “Marguerite, you are the most Christ-like person I know.”  She didn’t flinch.  “Oh honey,” she said to her young minister, “if you only knew.”  I did know, in a way, but have learned a hundred times since:  Those closest to the Lord are the last to know it. The nearer to the light we get, the more imperfections and blemishes we will see.

Beware of ever thinking you have arrived. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Nine. The Lord’s servants who serve well are going to run into the buzz saw of opposition from the nay-sayers, do-nothings, status-quo lovers, and carnal. That’s no fun, but it’s not all bad.

Reading the mandate of the disciples in Matthew 10:16ff, we cannot say we were not warned.  But it has ever been this way.  We are swimming upstream in a downstream world.

Jesus prepared us for this by saying that whoever receives us is receiving Him, whoever listens to us is listening to Him, and whoever rejects us is rejecting Him. (See Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16.).  If being treated like Jesus is not enough for us, we’re in the wrong calling.

Ten.  Not only does the Lord allow His choice servants to suffer sometimes, He even plans for that to happen. See Matthew 10:16ff.

Caesar ain’t coming to  your revival, preacher. So, the Lord is going to be needing someone to get arrested for preaching. Then, when the high and mighty ruler has to decide on this case, he will order the saint in chains to “tell us what you’ve been preaching.” That’s how it worked with Paul (see 2 Timothy 4:16-17), and how it has been with His choice servants ever since.

When Paul and Silas were falsely charged, then beaten and jailed, even though their backs were open wounds and they were hungry, tired, and hurting, “about midnight, they began praying and singing hymns of praise to God. And the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)  They’re always listening and watching when God’s people suffer unjustly.  That’s a fact which God uses to reach many for Himself.

No one wants to suffer.  No one volunteers to hurt. But sometimes it’s the only way.

What God’s faithful must never do is groan and bellyache and say, “Why me, Lord?”  Your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave  you.  Early believers rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer.  (See Acts 5:41).

http://joemckeever.com

A Call to Sound Doctrine: The Pastor’s Job Description

By Paul Tautges

The apostle Paul’s ministry offers an ideal model for today’s pastor, but I fear it’s one many churches today have lost sight of.

Consider Paul’s goals: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28, NASB).

He sought the spiritual maturity of every believer—Christlikeness. To this end the apostle employed Christ-centered proclamation and the teaching of biblical wisdom, of which Christ is the embodiment (Col. 2:3). So should we.

Sadly, evangelical churches today don’t share these priorities. Instead, there’s a noticeable shift away from theology toward something closer to therapy.

PRIORITIZING SOUND DOCTRINE

According to the Bible, pastors must prioritize teaching doctrine so that congregations learn to think theologically. Jesus commands us to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” (Matt. 28:20). “Teaching” comes from didasko, meaning “to give instruction.” [1] The noun form simply means “doctrine.” [2] Paul likewise says that elders possess oversight in order to protect against wolves “speaking twisted things” (Acts 20:30). They’re to equip the saints for the building up of the body, less church members be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

And so, teaching doctrine was a high priority in the early church. The believers described in the early chapter of Acts were “continually devoting themselves to . . . teaching”—that is, to doctrine (Acts 2:42)

The Thessalonians, too, responded to the gospel with eagerness and applied it to their lives. Paul writes, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thess. 1:6–7).

PRIORITIZING THERAPY

Evangelical pastors today, however, have shown less interest in teaching theology and more interest in offering therapy. One scholar studied thirty years of the periodical Christianity Today, particularly its column “A Layman and His Faith,” and then offered this conclusion:

In these three decades [1959–1989], the laity had apparently moved from a doctrinally framed faith, the central concern of which was truth, to a therapeutically constructed faith, the central concern of which was psychological survival. Christian truth went from being an end in itself to being merely the means to personal healing. Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness. [3]

This shift has had disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. Any time the rock-solid foundation of the Word is displaced believers will be washed out to sea. Theologian David Wells even noticed this thirty years ago:

I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant. [4]

Throughout his book, Wells offers examples of the shift away from a doctrinally based faith to an experience-based form of Christianity.

SOUND DOCTRINE PROTECTS, BUILDS UP, NOURISHES, AND CLEANSES

When feeling good about oneself becomes a higher priority than knowing one’s soul is right with God through the application of sound doctrine, the systematic teaching of biblical doctrine becomes more important than ever. It’s indispensable to the disciple-making process because doctrine protects, builds up, and nourishes believers (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2).

Os Guinness reminds us that “sound doctrine” in Greek literally means “hygienic” and “health-giving.” [5] It cleanses the mind and feeds the body.

Conversely, bad doctrine undermines faith and damages believers. Church shepherds must therefore be discerning and not allow man-centered, Christianized self-help theory to permeate the church and redirect the eyes of believers off Christ and onto self (see Acts 20:28-32).

BAD DOCTRINE LIKE GANGRENE

Bad theology is like poison that invades the bloodstream and destroys the body. It kills the church from the inside out, whether it’s preached openly from the pulpit or shared subtly in the counseling room. The apostles warned of “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1–3) that hold undiscerning believers “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). Therefore, church leaders must instruct men “not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) because “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15–18).

Gangrene is a deadly disease. Spreading throughout the skin tissue, it leaves portions of the body dead and in need of amputation. The disease starts when there is a lack of blood flow, and the resulting shortage of oxygen to the body parts causes tissue to die. Once dead, the tissue becomes numb and turns black, leaving only one effective treatment—removal of all dead tissue and the exposure of infected areas to oxygen under high pressure, thus killing the bacteria that can only live in oxygen-free tissue.

Consider this as an analogy of theology in the body of Christ, the church. Sound biblical doctrine, like oxygen, is needed to sustain spiritual life. When there is a lack of sound doctrine, the poison of false theories begins to spread underneath the surface of the skin until the infected area of the body dies. Once dead, it becomes numb to any danger. To remove false doctrine from the church requires amputation, followed by intense doses of pure doctrine to force the error out.

TEACH SOUND DOCTRINE

Church shepherds must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our teaching ministry: “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” says Paul (Titus 2:1).

A basic requirement of being an elder, he instructs, is the ability “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

As believers are grounded in the Word of God and taught to think about everything in their lives from a God-centered, biblical perspective, their minds will be renewed, and their faith nurtured (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Tim. 4:6). Gary Johnson’s comments are fitting:

A healthy Christianity cannot survive without theology, and theology must matter today, especially in our mindless and irrational culture. It should especially matter among evangelicals who confess saving attachment to Jesus Christ. But current challenges to the authority of the biblical gospel often come from within our churches, from practitioners who are increasingly uninterested in serious theology. [6]

If we’re committed to biblical shepherding, we must take doctrine seriously, since the ongoing spiritual health and growth of our disciples depends upon it.

Author’s note: This article is drawn in part from Paul’s book, Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding (Shepherd Press, 2018).

[1] W. E. Vine, Merrill Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1985), p. 619.

[2] Ibid., p. 180.

[3] David F. Wells, No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 209–210.

[4] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] Os Guiness, “America’s Last Men and Their Magnificent Talking Cure,” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 15/2 (1997), p. 23.

[6] Gary Johnson, “Does Theology Still Matter?” in John Armstrong, (ed.), The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), p. 57

By Paul Tautges

Article originally posted on 9marks.org.

Paul Tautges is the senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.
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