Leaders Who Are PROVEN

Leaders Who Are PROVEN

There is talk all the time about leadership. Leadership in the government (having just come out of an election year), leadership on the football team (listening to commentators talking about various players each Saturday), leadership in the home (that whole marriage roles conversation), even leadership in the church (like the role and function of a pastor, the staff, deacons, and teachers). Leadership is not necessarily all about control and authority, because leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell says that leadership is influence. When you have influence over a person, group, a company, or a church, you are a leader.

It’s about influence that moves people to do things that they likely could not have done without leadership. I suppose a glaring biblical example of the lack of leadership may be found in the Book of Judges. There are two verses that tells us that everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25, it’s even found in Deuteronomy 12:8). By the way, Proverbs offers a little commentary when it comes to people doing what is right in their own eyes… “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15) and “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

In the Titus 1:5-11 passage we read earlier, Paul is coaching Titus on leadership. We can learn much from what we read in Scripture, if we only we take the time to read it, understand it, and seek ways to apply it. Here is how Paul describes church leaders:

Blameless (above reproach) – Their work for the church, as well as their interactions with others outside the church, are to be of such moral quality that they do not bring shame or in any way disgrace the body of Christ or the name of Jesus.

Above reproach, however, does not mean without sin. No Christian lives an entirely sinless life, nor will we until we get to heaven. Above reproach means that the leader’s life is free from sinful habits or behaviors that would hinder his setting the highest Christian standard and model for the church to imitate (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3). Remember that leadership is influence.

In the same way, the leader must not give reasons for those outside the church to challenge its reputation or integrity. Being above reproach means that no one can honestly bring a charge or accusation against the Christian leader (Acts 25:7; 1 Peter 3:16).

Husband of one wife – this does not mean that a church leader must be married, or even male, but probably means the person is faithful to the vows he’s made to his wife, and not a polygamist.

Has children who believe – this does not mean that a church leader must be a father or have children walking with the Lord. How many of us have raised our kids in the church yet they today have nothing to do with the church, maybe even nothing to do with God? At some point all human being must make their own decisions about who they will serve. What I mean is that since children have soul competency before God, their rebellion and wild nature cannot disqualify a church leader from effective service to God and this church.

Paul throws in some negative qualities:

Not accused of dissipation (which is indulgence, immorality, depravity, corruption) or rebellion – basically the leader is not overbearing, quick-tempered, given to drunkenness, violence, dishonest gain.

Then on the plus side:

The leader is hospitable, he or she loves good, is self-controlled, holy, and disciplined, holding firmly to sound teaching and doctrine.

So, as we look at leadership today, leaders are to be PROVEN. I am going to share with your six qualities of PROVEN leaders…

PASSION = Passion of Jesus, his mission, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission:

Passion is not a word often used in our culture, unless it is in the romantic sense of being passionate with or about your spouse, but the word is very accurate when it comes to our connection with Jesus.

This word passion fits right in with God’s greatest commandment, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, to love our God with all of our being (heart, mind, soul, and strength). Let me share some guidance from Scripture about how to awaken that in your life:

1) Get to know God. It goes without saying that we cannot love someone we do not know, so the place to start is to get to know God and understand what He has done for you. Before the command to love God is given in Deuteronomy 6:5, the statement is made, “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God is one LORD.”

One aspect of this statement is that the God of the Bible is unique, and the better we get to know what He is like, the easier it will be for us to love Him with our whole being. This also involves getting to know what He has done for us. Again, before the first command is given in Exodus 20:3, God states what He had done for Israel in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. Likewise, in Romans 12:1-2, the command to offer our lives as living sacrifices is prefaced with the word therefore–a word meant to remind us of all of the mercies of God toward us recorded in the previous chapters.

To grow in love with God, a person needs to get to know Him. God has revealed Himself in nature (read about that in Romans 1), but so much more through His written Word. We need to make daily Bible study a personal habit—as much a part of our lives as eating food every day. It is important to remember that the Bible is more than a book; it is actually God’s love letter to us, revealing himself through the centuries, especially through the ministry of Jesus Christ, His one and only unique Son. We must read the Bible, asking His Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about what He wants us to learn from it that day.

2) Pray like Jesus did. When we examine the life of Jesus (as well as that of Daniel and others who had a passion for God) we find that prayer was a vital ingredient in their relationships with God. You cannot imagine a man and woman growing in love without communicating, so prayer cannot be neglected without expecting your love for God to grow cold. Prayer is part of the armor we use against our greatest enemies (Ephesians 6:18). We may have a desire to love God, but we will fail in our walk with Christ without prayer (Matthew 26:41).

3) Walk closely with God NOW. Daniel and his three friends chose to obey God and refused to compromise in even the food they ate (Daniel 1). The others who were brought from Judah to Babylon as prisoners with them caved in, and are never mentioned again. When the Jewish prisoners of war had their convictions challenged in a far greater way, it was only these few who stood alone for God (Daniel 3 and 6). In order to ensure that we will be passionate for God LATER, we need to walk with Him NOW and begin to obey Him in the smallest details of life!

Peter learned this the hard way by following God “at a distance,” rather than identifying himself more closely with Christ before his temptation to deny Him (Luke 22:54). God says that where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also. As we invest our lives in God through serving Him and being on the receiving end of persecution for Him, our treasure will increasingly be with Him, and so will our hearts (1 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 6:21).

4) Eliminate the competition. Jesus said it is impossible to have two masters (Matthew 6:24). We are always tempted to love the world (those things which please our eyes, make us feel good about ourselves, and gratify our earthly desires – 1 John 2:15-17). James tells us that embracing the world and its friendship is enmity (hatred) toward God and amounts to spiritual adultery (James 4:4). We need to get rid of some things in our lives that compete for our alligience (friends who would lead us the wrong way, things that waste our time and energy and keep us from serving God more faithfully, pursuits of popularity, possessions, and physical and emotional gratifications). God promises that if we pursue Him, He will not only provide for our needs (Matthew 6:33) but will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4-5).

So, leaders are to be people who are passionate about Jesus and his mission and spiritual disciples.

RELATIONSHIPS = Relationships resulting in accountability and application in small groups:

A small group at church consists of a handful of believers who are connected by our common faith in Jesus. They meet together for Bible study, service projects, encouragement, prayer, and fellowship. As churches grow larger, these small groups keep people connected with one another. The goal of a biblically faithful church is to create authentic community through our small groups ministry, which fosters discipleship, prayer, connection, and accountability. The number of participants in each small group is generally limited so that deep and long-lasting relationships are cultivated and maintained.

The model for small groups is found in the book of Acts when believers met together in homes to eat, fellowship, and take communion (Acts 2:41–42, 46). They would read the apostles’ letters, discuss them, pray, and challenge each other to keep the faith (Acts 20:7–8). A small group that functions correctly is a little church within a larger congregation.

It is within these small groups that the “one anothers” of Scripture take place. When the Bible tells Christians to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), pray for one another (James 5:16), accept one another (Romans 15:7), and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13), it implies that we are in close relationship with other believers. On a practical level, in a church of several hundred, the pastor cannot visit every sick person or take a meal to every new mother. Regardless of how friendly or outgoing a member may be, he or she cannot personally know an entire crowd seen only for an hour on Sunday morning. Community doesn’t happen when we are looking at the back of someone’s head. Community happens in circles, not in rows. So, the pastor and staff rely on small group leaders to take care of the members of their groups. They are the shepherds of the small flock of members who are in their charge.

In many ways, the first-century church was a series of small groups. They all studied the same Scriptures (Acts 17:11), read the same letters from the apostles (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27), and obeyed to the same standards for community lifestyle (1 Corinthians 11–14). They met in homes throughout the week (Acts 2:46) and established close, personal relationships with each other (Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 2:17). When modern church groups strive for the same unity (Ephesians 4:3; Psalm 133:1), they are fulfilling the expectations Jesus has for His church (Matthew 16:18).

OBEDIENCE = Obedience to the Commands of Christ and the Teachings of the Bible;

The Bible has a lot to say about obedience. In fact, obedience is an essential part of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). For Christians, the act of taking up our cross and following Christ (Matthew 16:24) means obedience. The Bible says that we show our love for Jesus by obeying Him in all things: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). A Christian who is not obeying Christ’s commands can rightly be asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Obedience is defined as “dutiful or submissive compliance to the commands of one in authority.” Using this definition, we see the elements of biblical obedience. “Dutiful” means it is our obligation to obey God, just as Jesus fulfilled His duty to the Father by dying on the cross for our sin. “Submissive” indicates that we yield our will to God’s will. “Commands” speak of the Scriptures in which God has clearly presented His instructions, these “commands of Jesus, which I have studied over past decade. These are grammatical imperatives that must be obeyed, because they are not suggestions. The “one in authority” is God Himself, whose authority is total and unmistakable. For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded. It is our duty and privilege to do so.

Having said that, it is important to remember that our obedience to God is not solely a matter of duty. We obey Him because we love Him (John 14:23). Also, we understand that the SPIRIT of obedience is as important as the ACT of obedience. We serve the Lord in humility, singleness of heart, and love.

If we love God, we WILL obey Him. We won’t be perfect in our obedience, but our desire is to submit to the Lord and demonstrate our love through good works. When we love God and obey Him, we naturally have love for one another. Obedience to God’s commands will make us light and salt in a dark and tasteless world (Matthew 5:13–16).

VICTORY = Victory over sin through ongoing sanctification and integrity:

The key to victory in our struggles with sin lies not in ourselves, but in God and His faithfulness to us: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18; see also Psalm 46:1).

There’s no getting around it: we all struggle with sin (Romans 3:23). Even the great apostle Paul grieved over his ongoing struggle with sin in his life (Romans 7:18-20). Paul’s struggle with sin was real; so much so that he cried out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).

Yet in the very next breath, he answers his own question, as well as ours: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a).

Our key to victory in our struggle with sin lies in the promise of God Himself: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If God provides a way of escape, it seems to me, that victory over sin is a matter of making better choices with the help of the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside every believer.

The Proven disciple (and the Proven leader) will have this desire to please God in his or her life and victory will come over a lifetime of obedience to God’s Word. When we understand the battle and the enemy’s battle strategy, we can better live victoriously in this fallen world.

ETERNAL FOCUS = Eternal focus resulting in Evangelism and the Example of Jesus:

Personal evangelism appears to be a scary thing for a lot of believers. It is simply the act of a person sharing the gospel, the good news, with someone else. There are many different methods of personal evangelism, and it is a hot topic within Christianity. Books, classes, and seminars are dedicated to the subject of witnessing, soul-winning, and helping others find salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Not every method is effective or biblically supportable; according to Bible teacher Dr. John MacArthur, “Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know.”

According to a 2016 Barna survey, 73 percent of Americans claim to be Christians. However, after applying scriptural tests to those claims, only around 31 percent actually qualify as practicing Christians. The Bible knows no other kind of Christian (Matthew 7:19–21; 1 John 3:7–10). Clearly, what has passed for personal evangelism for the last several generations has not been effective. It’s time for something new. Not a new message, but a new method of reaching people for Jesus.

I’ve shared this before, but I like the BLESS strategy; I call it “How to BLESS your neighbors.”

  • BEGIN with Prayer. Helping someone come to faith in Jesus is a God thing, don’t leave home without prayer.
  • LISTEN to the people around you. Discover their needs, hopes, dreams, cares, problems, frustrations, joys, and desires by simply having a conversation and listening to them.
  • EAT with them, sharing a meal. Find a time to share a meal. People will open up when they are across the table of fellowship.
  • SERVE them in some way, meeting a need. After all this listening to them, how can you make a practical difference in their lives? Serve them.
  • STORY means earning the right to share YOUR story or HIS story. After you have earned the right, find a way to share one of two possible stories: YOUR story, which is your testimony, or HIS story, the plan of salvation in the Bible.

In our personal evangelism, it is good to remember that we are only responsible to God for our obedience, not the results of that obedience. We may present the gospel thoroughly and lovingly, and the person to whom we witness may hear and understand, but still choose to walk away. We are not responsible for that reaction, but only for the level of obedience involved in our presentation. Acts 1:8 tells us that we will be his witnesses, the only choice we have is will we be a good witness or a poor witness?

NURTURING = Nurture others in the faith through example, teaching, and leadership:

As I think about nurturing others, I think about family and parenting. While the Bible has much to say about physical parenting, we are also called to spiritual parenting.

When God led the Israelites out of bondage, He commanded them to teach their children all He had done for them (Deuteronomy 6:6–7; 11:19). He desired that the generations to come would continue to uphold all His commands. When one generation fails to teach God’s laws in the next, a society quickly declines. Parents have not only a responsibility to their children, but an assignment from God to impart His values and truth into their lives.

While the home is primary place for raising children (Sunday School and VBS is not enough) the church is also a place to nurture those around us. And it is not just for kids. Women get together on Tuesdays. Men of Steel gather at Denny’s on Wednesdays and the Noble Men meet in the fellowship on various Saturdays. Leaders are nurtured and actively nurture others. The growth never ends, not until Jesus calls us home.

So, these six characteristics will help us to be a PROVEN leader, and a PROVEN disciple of Jesus. A lost world is watching us, ad waiting for us to prove that we are who we say we are. We expect more out of our leaders. Remember that being above reproach does not mean we are perfect, but that we live in such a way that no one can honestly say that our behavior would bring shame on the name of Jesus or his church.

Maybe you heard something today, and you need to make some changes in your life. We’re here to help, no one does this Christian life thing on their own. At King’s Grant, we are first of all, a community of faith. You can grow into the disciple and leader God desires for you to be, and the church can help, you’re not alone.

Let’s talk to God about it…

PRAY: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. You know our hearts, motivation, and attitudes. You know where we fall short better than we know ourselves. May we rekindle our passion for you, your Word, and the mission you have in our lives. Help us to live a life of significance and influence. Help us to know your will and your ways and give us the courage to stand up for the cause of Christ. Lord Jesus, may you be glorified through your PROVEN people. AMEN.

Thank you for being a part of this worship and study time. If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us through the church website (kgbc.us/more). If you live in the Virginia Beach area, we invite you to stop by for a visit on Sundays at 9:30am or 11am or join us for midweek activities on Wednesday evenings (kgbc.us/midweek). Until next time, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you soon.

Identifying with the Apostle Paul

Paul: Apostle of Christ (2018 Film)

Conflict in the church. A member caught in some sinful behavior. Church discipline. What does it mean to forgive? Is church discipline just a self-righteous way to hold a grudge? Or do we have a vendetta against the offender? What about taking the log out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck in the other person’s eye? What about letting the one who is without sin cast the first stone? What about, turn the other cheek? How many times must I forgive my brother, seven times? Jesus said not to judge others, so who are we to judge? He also said to forgive others or the Father won’t forgive you.

  1. In our local context, who are the ones giving the church and the name of Christ a bad name? Can we honestly say that the defenders of truth are giving Jesus a black eye? Or those who are acting ungodly? Are the deacons causing all this conflict by being unforgiving or are they the ones dealing with it? Do we have members masquerading as godly leaders? 
  2. Is the issue our lack of forgiveness of the unrepentant offender? Do we just let it go? Is that the most loving thing to do, just forgive, forget, and move on?
  3. Are we supposed to just accept deception and lying and ungodly behavior in our church leaders?

Why don’t we take a walk through the New Testament to discover what the apostle Paul did when he confronted sinful activity in the church…

What are Paul’s disciplinary steps in Corinth? What did he say about ungodliness? What is the church to do to maintain it’s witness and holiness?

  1. How do we explain 1 Corinthians 5:1-2? Did Paul just tell them to forgive the bad behavior? Are we supposed to rationalize this away as a misunderstanding? Do we just agree that nobody’s perfect? Do we quote Jesus and say, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” What other interpretation can there be for the phrase, “remove him from your midst”?
  2. I have already judged this offender (Wait a minute… Jesus said we are NOT to judge [Matthew 7:1]. I don’t sense a holier-than-thou attitude in Paul, we prefer the word “discernment”) – 1 Corinthians 5:3
  3. Deliver that person to Satan (this seems extreme but it is apparently in the realm of possibility) – 1 Corinthians 5:5
  4. Your boasting is not good (do we boast that we are not the leaven of which Paul speaks?) – 1 Corinthians 5:6
  5. A little leaven raises the whole lump (this is a reality that when we give an inch, the enemy will take much more ground. We must stand for the truth and godliness. One principle of relationships is that we become more like those people we pal around with, the same with leaven in dough) – 1 Corinthians 5:6
  6. Clean out the old leaven (we need the new leaven of godliness, positive peer pressure if you will) – 1 Corinthians 5:7
  7. Don’t associate with that immoral person (more than likely, that person will drag you down more than you will help that person to rise up, again, another principle of relationships) – 1 Corinthians 5:9
  8. Don’t even eat with this so-called brother (Paul is emphasizing the “so-called” brother, questioning whether that person has experienced regeneration) – 1 Corinthians 5:11
  9. We are to judge those inside the church (Jesus said NOT to judge, but this refers to dealing [Matthew 7:1] with internal matters inside the body) – 1 Corinthians 5:12
  10. What part of “remove the wicked man from among yourselves” is ambiguous? – 1 Corinthians 5:13
  11. Are there no wise men among you to settle disputes (godly people are called to act in the midst of conflict) – 1 Corinthians 6:5
  12. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (while we love to side with forgiveness and the blessings of everlasting life, the consequences of ungodliness cannot be overlooked) – 1 Corinthians 6:9
  13. The goal of church discipline is godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and restoration (not to kick anyone out of the church) – 2 Corinthians 2:3-4
  14. “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” (they did not just forgive and forget, they dealt with the sin in the camp) – 2 Corinthians 2:6
  15. Forgiveness follows repentance (we can personally let it go without repentance, but leaders need time to recover and rebuild trust) – 2 Corinthians 2:7-8
  16. We are not ignorant of the schemes of Satan (we know who is the real enemy here, and Satan desires to take down church leaders to discredit the gospel and the witness of the local church) – 2 Corinthians 2:11
  17. The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing, (they don’t see how their actions are wrong) – 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
  18. “This fight” may be momentary light affliction, producing an eternal weight of glory (so stand strong in the battle, don’t give in to the darkness) – 2 Corinthians 4:17
  19. In fear of the Lord, we persuade men to leave sinful activity – 2 Corinthians 5:11
  20. Cleanse yourself from all defilement (accountability is a great asset) – 2 Corinthians 7:1
  21. Paul did not regret his letter that brought godly sorrow, (the sinner must be addressed or nothing changes) – 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
  22. We are ready to punish all disobedience (“punish” appears to be quite a strong word) – 2 Corinthians 10:6
  23. Paul acknowledges there are Christian workers who are false apostles, deceitful workers, and even Satan disguises himself as an angel is light, and his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (apparently, this is not a new strategy of the enemy) – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
  24. Paul does not want to show up in Corinth only to mourn over those who have not repented of their evil, who were still acting like pagans (confrontation is for getting people back on track, moving toward repentance and restoration, it is not for condemnation) – 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
  25. Test yourselves to see if you are even of the faith (for those who so easily exhibit ungodly behavior, Paul’s challenge is to see if you are really saved) – 2 Corinthians 13:5

What about in Romans?

  1. Paul rails at those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness – Romans 1:18
  2. God and his truth are self-evident (primarily regarding the existence of God) – Romans 1:19
  3. People (primarily unbelievers) are without excuse and cannot say they have never seen God, didn’t know about him, or know that he is revealed through his creation – Romans 1:20
  4. Their foolish heart was darkened (the light of Christ was not shining. How can a member of God’s forever family walk in such darkness? Well, the short answer is that when someone is in the dark, they figuratively cannot see that they are wrong) – Romans 1:21
  5. Professing to be wise, they became fools (their arrogance was their downfall) – Romans 1:22
  6. They exchanged the truth for a lie (we know that the truth sets us free) – Romans 1:25
  7. God gave them over to a depraved mind (in our stubbornness, sometimes God lets us have our own way, and we suffer the consequences of our poor decisions and actions) – Romans 1:28
  8. They not only participated, they gave hearty approval to those who practice these things (don’t allow yourself to be dragged into the darkness with them) – Romans 1:32
  9. Because of stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself (Paul thought he was all about God’s work until he had the Damascus Road experience) – Romans 2:5
  10. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil (the issue may not be losing one’s salvation because perhaps, some church people have never experienced regeneration. Check out Matthew 7:21-23) – Romans 2:9
  11. The law is written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness; we know what is right and true (perhaps this can only be stubbornness in not allowing God total control over our lives) – Romans 2:15
  12. Shall we continue to sin? (Paul’s answer is in 6:2, that we are to live as people who are redeemed, not like the world) – Romans 6:1-2
  13. We are to walk in newness of life (if we are saved, act like it and live like it, or at least are on the road of sanctification; we are to look and talk and act differently than the world) – Romans 6:4
  14. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, or obey its lusts (exercise discernment, sin is a choice, this reminds me of James 4:8) – Romans 6:12
  15. The mind set of the flesh is death (in addition to “flesh,” we might include other things on which we set our minds, those things become idols in the true sense of the word) – Romans 8:6
  16. The mind set of the flesh is hostile toward God (or any idol that we create and becomes a barrier between God and the church, his people, his flock) – Romans 8:7
  17. Seeking to establish a righteousness of our own, we do not subject ourselves to the righteousness of God 9we discern proper behavior by reading the Bible. We cannot elevate our sanctuary furniture or leadership attire to the level of idolatry) – Romans 10:3
  18. Do not conform to the world’s standard (the Phillips translation: don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold) – Romans 12:1-2
  19. Resisting authority opposes the ordinances of God (the context here is governmental authority, but we are to also live as people under the authority of Christ and his earthly leaders) – Romans 13:2
  20. Let us behave properly as in the day (not living one way at church and another way in the world, on the golf course, or the marketplace) – Romans 13:13
  21. Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to sound teaching, and turn away from them (this reminds me of Titus 3:10-11, these people are enemies of church unity) – Romans 16:17

How about in Galatia?

  1. Paul is amazed that they are deserting Jesus for some other gospel (much of the problem is Jesus plus something else, like becoming a Jew first. What we might do today is more subtle; saved by grace through faith, plus a pulpit, a choir, pastor in a suit, an American flag in the corner of the sanctuary, a hymnal in the pew – Galatians 1:6
  2. There are some people who are disturbing those in the church and distorting the gospel. Trouble-makers in the church is nothing new – Galatians 1:7
  3. Let that person be “accused” (Strong’s G331 a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction, anathema, a (religious) ban or (concretely) excommunicated (thing or person):—accused, curse. In Romans 9:3 (this is equivalent to doomed and so separated from Christ) – Galatians 1:8
  4. By doing the right thing, am I seeking the favor of men or of God? (Peter and John dealt with this before in Acts 4:19-21) – Galatians 1:10
  5. Even Paul had to put up with those who would defame his character and accuse him of lying – Galatians 1:20
  6. False brethren sneaked in to spy out our behavior, but we did not yield to them – Galatians 2:4-5
  7. Paul opposed Peter to his face when he did wrong – Galatians 2:11
  8. The rest of the Jews joined in their hypocrisy (we cannot blindly follow a leader without exercising discernment) – Galatians 2:13
  9. Paul saw they were not straightforward about the truth (of the gospel, some believers can be deceptive) – Galatians 2:14
  10. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched (deceived) you? (it’s like Paul is telling them that they should know better) – Galatians 3:1
  11. Paul fears for them, that perhaps he has labored in vain – Galatians 4:11
  12. Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth? – Galatians 4:16
  13. Paul wished he could change his tone in their presence, but adds he is perplexed about them – Galatians 4:20
  14. Keep standing firm and don’t give in to compromise – Galatians 5:1
  15. The one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment – Galatians 5:10
  16. Would those who are troubling you mutilate themselves (the topic at the moment was circumcision) – Galatians 5:12
  17. If you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another (read that verse again) – Galatians 5:15
  18. The deeds of the flesh are evident (immorality, impurity, sensuality, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions) and are not to be tolerated – Galatians 5:19-20
  19. Those who are spiritual are to intervene when someone is caught in sin – Galatians 6:1
  20. Whatever a man sows, he will reap (actions have consequences) – Galatians 6:7
  21. As Paul and Barnabas spoke the truth, devout women of prominence and leading men of the city instigated a persecution against them – Acts 13:50
  22. Jews who were disobedient stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against Paul and Barnabas – Acts 14:2
  23. The multitude of the city was divided between the Jews and the apostles (apparently, factions are nothing new) – Acts 14:4
  24. In Lystra, they were accused of being gods, and Paul and Barnabas tore their clothing and had to set them straight (we must confront false teaching and false statements) – Acts 14:12, 14-15
  25. In Antioch, they appointed elders in every church (leaders to protect and strengthen the flock, and further the mission of the church) – Acts 14:23
  26. in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement, they parted ways – Acts 15:38-40
  27. in Galatia, Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos teaching errors, and they took him aside to explain the way of God more accurately – Acts 18:26

How about in Ephesus?

  1. Change your behavior, walk in a manner worthy of the calling (this is not optional) – Ephesians 4:1
  2. Be diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit (unity cannot be present when the church has divisive leaders usurping authority and control) – Ephesians 4:3
  3. No longer walk as the Gentiles walk (as believers, we have a new character, desiring to conform to the image of Christ) – Ephesians 4:17
  4. Lost people walk in darkened understanding, excluded from the life of God (as children of the light, we cannot be content to walk in darkness) – Ephesians 4:18
  5. Paul expects better behavior since we are saved, you did not learn Christ this way, if indeed you even know him (as believers, we should know better) – Ephesians 4:20-21
  6. Lay aside all falsehood and speak truth (deception has no place in the congregation) – Ephesians 4:25
  7. Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth (as believers, our speech is different than those in the culture around us) – Ephesians 4:29
  8. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (this is the result of believers behaving badly and the church gets a black eye from the culture, we are supposed to be different) – Ephesians 4:30
  9. Forgive one another (but that comes after one has repented; never exercising retaliation or vengeance) – Ephesians 4:32
  10. Do not allow impurity or immorality among you (as believers, we can’t just let sinning go on unchallenged) – Ephesians 5:3
  11. Don’t let others deceive you with empty words (many people talk a good game but believers embrace the truth) – Ephesians 5:6
  12. You are of the light, so walk like you’re children of light (live what you say you believe) – Ephesians 5:8
  13. It is disgraceful to even speak of the things done in secret, but need to be exposed to the light (above reproach is not being perfect, but we will not bring shame on the Lord or his church) – Ephesians 5:12-13
  14. Be careful to walk as wise men (let’s not embrace the opposite) – Ephesians 5:15
  15. Our struggle is with the forces of evil more than the other person (the enemy seeks to drag us down, taking the church’s credibility with him) – Ephesians 6:12
  16. The seven sons of Sceva are confronted by an evil spirit, knowing these men were not authentic followers of Jesus (I recognize Jesus and I know about Paul, but who are you?) – Acts 19:15-16
  17. Paul challenged the Ephesians elders to be on guard for the flock (elders or leaders of the congregation have a duty to protect the flock from ungodly influences) – Acts 20:28
  18. Paul tells them that wolves will come in to lead people astray (these wolves came into the congregation and deceived the people, they looked much like the rest of us but were in fact, wolves) – Acts 20:29
  19. Paul tells them men from among themselves will arise, speak perverse things, and drawing others away (our speech can draw people away from the gospel message or the church) – Acts 20:30
  20. Paul did not cease day and night to admonish them (this sounds like a lot of admonishment by Paul) – Acts 20:31

How about in Philippi?

  1. We must help fellow believers progress in sanctification, in being sincere and blameless at the coming of Christ – Philippians 1:10
  2. We are to be filled with the fruit of righteousness – Philippians 1:11
  3. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ – Philippians 1:27
  4. Don’t be alarmed at those who oppose you, which is a sign of destruction for them – Philippians 1:28
  5. You should prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation – Philippians 2:15
  6. Beware of the dogs and evil workers with false theology – Philippians 3:2
  7. We press on toward the high calling of Christ – Philippians 3:12, 14
  8. Have this attitude in you, and if you don’t, may God reveal that to you – Philippians 3:15
  9. Those who set their minds on earthly things are enemies of the cross of Christ – Philippians 3:18
  10. The things you have learned, seen, heard, and received, practice these things – Philippians 4:9
  11. Paul confronted and rebuked the slave-girl who was interfering with their ministry and was annoying them – Acts 16:18

How about in Colossi?

  1. Constantly bearing fruit and increasing – Colossians 1:6
  2. Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects – Colossians 1:10
  3. We are delivered from darkness – Colossians 1:13
  4. We are redeemed so we might be holy and blameless and beyond reproach – Colossians 1:22
  5. Paul says to admonish every man and teach every man that he may be presented complete in Christ – Colossians 1:28
  6. Paul wants no one to delude the church with persuasive arguments – Colossians 2:4
  7. Set your mind on things above – Colossians 3:2
  8. Your body must be dead to sin or expect the wrath of God – Colossians 3:5
  9. Don’t lie to one another – Colossians 3:9
  10. Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you – Colossians 3:16
  11. Whatever you do in word and deed, let it be for the Lord Jesus – Colossians 3:17
  12. He who does wrong will receive the consequences of that wrong – Colossians 3:25
  13. Let your speech always be with grace – Colossians 4:6

How about in Thessalonica?

  1. Our gospel did not come in word only but in power, with full conviction, proving what kind of men we are – 1 Thessalonians 1:5
  2. You became imitators of us and of the Lord – 1 Thessalonians 1:6
  3. You all became an example to all the believers – 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  4. We imparted not only the gospel but our own lives as well – 1 Thessalonians 2:8
  5. We behaved devoutly, uprightly, and blamelessly before you – 1 Thessalonians 2:10
  6. Walk in a manner worthy of the God who called you – 1 Thessalonians 2:12
  7. Paul wants to present these believers holy and blameless to the Lord – 1 Thessalonians 3:13
  8. God’s will is your sanctification, abstaining from sexual immorality – 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7
  9. If we continue in worldly behavior, we are rejecting the God who gave us the Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 4:8
  10. Protect your heart and mind for when Christ returns – 1 Thessalonians 5:8
  11. Paul urges that we admonish the unruly – 1 Thessalonians 5:14
  12. Examine everything carefully and hold onto what is good – 1 Thessalonians 5:21
  13. Let no one deceive you, the apostasy will come first – 2 Thessalonians 2:3
  14. God will send a deluding influence so they might believe that which is false – 2 Thessalonians 2:11
  15. God chose you for sanctification – 2 Thessalonians 2:13
  16. Stand firm in what you have been taught – 2 Thessalonians 2:15
  17. Keep aloof from any brother who leads an unruly life – 2 Thessalonians 3:6
  18. You know that you are to follow Paul’s example, who did not behave undisciplined – 2 Thessalonians 3:7
  19. If anyone does not obey our instruction, take special note of that person, and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame – 2 Thessalonians 3:14
  20. Yet do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother – 2 Thessalonians 3:15

Paul addresses Timothy and Titus.

  1. Keep the faith with a good conscience – 1 Timothy 1:19
  2. Some believers have rejected and shipwrecked their faith – 1 Timothy 1:19
  3. Paul names two guys that he delivered over to Satan – 1 Timothy 1:20
  4. Paul must have again been accused of lying – 1 Timothy 2:7
  5. Paul gives a standard of conduct and qualities for the church leader – 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (in particular, be above reproach and be of good reputation)
  6. Paul talks about deacons (have a clear conscience, beyond reproach, first tested, dignified, have a high standing in the faith) – 1 Timothy 3:8-13
  7. Some will even fall away from the faith – 1 Timothy 4:1
  8. Some will have a seared conscience – 1 Timothy 4:2
  9. Godliness is always profitable – 1 Timothy 4:8
  10. Accusations against a leader should have 203 witnesses – 1 Timothy 5:19
  11. The sins of some men are quite evident and are not concealed – 1 Timothy 5:24-25
  12. Godliness is a means of great gain – 1 Timothy 6:6
  13. Serve God with a clear conscience – 2 Timothy 1:3
  14. No soldier entangles himself in the affairs of the world – 2 Timothy 2:4
  15. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed – 2 Timothy 2:15
  16. The walk of some men will spread like gangrene – 2 Timothy 2:17
  17. The Lord knows those who are him – 2 Timothy 2:19
  18. Flee from youthful lusts – 2 Timothy 2:22
  19. Paul desires men to come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil – 2 Timothy 2:26
  20. In the last days, Paul describe those in the church, concluding that they hold on to a form of godliness yet deny its power (so avoid such men as these) – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
  21. Some men will always be learning but do not come to the knowledge of the truth – 2 Timothy 3:7
  22. Timothy followed Paul’s teaching and conduct – 2 Timothy 3:10
  23. Paul tells them that there are some in the church who profess to know God but their deeds deny him, so they are disobedient and detestable and worthless – Titus 1:16
  24. Always show yourself to be an example of good deeds – Titus 2:7
  25. Reject a man who causes factions, after a first and second warning – Titus 3:10-11 (for such a man is perverted and sinning, condemning himself).
  26. Paul in Cyprus: Confrontation with Elymas the magician – “You are full of deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness” – Acts 13:10

Paul in Jerusalem:

  1. Don’t make it hard for people who are turning to God (like enforcing the traditions of men onto Gentile converts, just abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols, the blood of animals, and engaging in fornication) – Acts 15:19
  2. As believers, we must repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance – Acts 26:20
  3. Paul’s message was not popular but he told Festus that he spoke words of sober truth – Acts 26:25

So, in summary, we forgive personally, because that is what Christians do; but to hold someone accountable for their actions does not mean there is some self-righteous vendetta present. When the sin is against the body of Christ, sinful actions have accountability. We don’t just turn the other cheek, forgive and forget, or keep that person in a position of leadership. We cannot condone that sort of behavior in the church. 

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

This picture is on display in Room 5 at our church. It comes from the Book of Daniel. As the drunken king Belshazzar was at a feast, God sent him a sign: a human hand appeared, floating near the lampstand and writing four words in the plaster of the wall: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.” Then, the hand disappeared (Daniel 5:5, 25).

The king paled and was extremely frightened; he called his wise men and astrologers and enchanters to tell him what the writing meant, but none of the wise men of Babylon could interpret the words.

Daniel was eventually brought before the king and Daniel rebuked Belshazzar’s pride: although the king knew the story of how God humbled his grandfather, he did not humble himself. Instead, he dishonored God by drinking from the sacred items of the temple (Daniel 5:22–23).

Then, Daniel interpreted the words on the wall. Mene means “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.” Tekel means “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.” Parsin means “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:24-28).

Will you pray this prayer over King’s Grant? Lord Jesus, may this not be prophetic and applied to King’s Grant. Pray that our days are not numbered. Pray that God is not finished with us yet. Pray that we can do honest self-reflection to see where we are found wanting and deficient. Pray that God’s kingdom here will not be divided. Father, convict us toward repentance and help us to walk in obedience; exhibiting behavior, attitudes, and speech that are worthy of the God we serve.

Identifying with the Weeping Prophet

Jeremiah the prophet lived in the final days of the collapse and deportation of the southern kingdom, the nation of Judah. He was, in all likelihood, the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom. The two tribes of the southern kingdom were Judah and Benjamin. God had repeatedly warned Israel to stop their idolatrous behavior, but they would not listen, so He tore the 12 tribes apart, sending the 10 northern tribes into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians, in 722 BC. Then God sent Jeremiah to give Judah the last warning before He cast them out of the Promised Land, sending them into the Babylonian captivity, in 587 BC. Jeremiah was called to tell Judah that, because of their unrepentant sin, God had turned against them and was now prepared to remove them from the land He gave to Abraham.

No doubt Jeremiah stressed over the fate of his people, and he begged them to listen. He is known as “the weeping prophet,” because he cried tears of sadness, not only because he knew what was about to happen, but because, no matter how hard he tried, the people would not listen. Furthermore, he found no human comfort. God had forbidden him to marry or have children (Jeremiah 16:2). His friends even turned their backs on him. God knew this was best course for Jeremiah, because He went on to tell him about the horrible conditions that would arrive in a short time, with babies, children, and adults dying “grievous” deaths, their bodies unable to even be buried, and their flesh devoured by the birds (Jeremiah 16:3-4).

Obviously, the people of Israel had become so hardened by the numbing effects of sin that they no longer believed God, nor did they fear Him. Jeremiah preached for 40 years, and not once did he see any real success in changing or softening the hearts and minds of his stubborn, idolatrous people. The other prophets of Israel had witnessed some successes, at least for a little while, but not Jeremiah. He was speaking to a brick wall; however, his words were not wasted. They were pearls being cast before swine (Matthew 7:6), so in a sense, his words were convicting every person who heard them and they refused to heed the warning.

Jeremiah tried to make the people understand their problem was a lack of belief, trust, and faith in God,. They had an absence of fear that caused the people to take God for granted. They stopped putting God first and had replaced Him with false gods, those that would not make them feel guilty or convict them of sin. God had delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, had performed miracles before them, and had even parted the waters of the sea for them. In spite of all these displays of God’s power, they returned to the false practices they had learned in Egypt, even making vows to the false “queen of heaven,” along with performing the other rites and rituals that were part of the Egyptian culture and religion. God finally turned them over to their idolatry, saying, “Go ahead, then; do what you promised! Keep your vows!” (Jeremiah 44:25).

Jeremiah became discouraged. He sank into a deep depression. This can happen to us when we sense our efforts are not making a difference and time is fleeting. Jeremiah was emotionally spent, even to the point of doubting God (Jeremiah 15:18), but God was not done with him. Jeremiah 15:19 records a lesson for each believer to remember in those times when he feels alone, useless, and discouraged and whose faith is wavering: “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.’” God was saying to Jeremiah, come back to Me, and I will restore to you the joy of your salvation. These are similar to the words penned by David when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-12:15, Psalm 51:12).

What we learn from the life of Jeremiah is the comfort of knowing that, just like every believer, even great prophets of God can experience rejection, depression, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually, because our sinful nature fights against our new nature, that which is born of the Spirit of God, according to Galatians 5:17: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” But, just as Jeremiah found, we can know that the faithfulness of our God is infinite; even when we are unfaithful to Him, He remains steadfast (2 Timothy 2:13).

Jeremiah was given the task of delivering an unpopular, convicting message to Judah, one that caused him great mental anguish, as well as making him despised in the eyes of his people. God says that His truth sounds like “foolishness” to those who are lost, but to believers it is the very words of life (1 Corinthians 1:18). He also says that the time will come when people will not tolerate the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Those in Judah in Jeremiah’s day did not want to hear what he had to say, and his constant warning of judgment annoyed them. This is true of the world today, as believers who are following God’s instructions are warning the lost and dying world of impending judgment (Revelation 3:10). Even though most are not listening, we must persevere in proclaiming truth in order to rescue some from the terrible judgment that will inevitably come.

So, Here is a Little Personal Context:

I’ve been at my church for 15 years. In 2007, the mission statement of the church was, “Knowing Christ and Making Him Known,” which was a worthy goal of discipleship that leads followers of Jesus to engage a lost and dying world with the claims of Christ. As disciples, our mission is to reach those who are far from God, share the light and life that Jesus offers, and bring them into the local family of God. The church literally exists for those who are not yet members. Since we have this everlasting life, our destiny is secured, and we want to bring others into the family of faith. Our mission is to do all we can to populate heaven. While we share the gospel with those we know that do not know Christ, we gather as a church to worship and praise our Lord and Savior, and to be equipped for the task that is set before us (Ephesians 4:11-13), which is to help fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and live out the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). Anything short of that, we become just another social organization that has membership, dues, and social events (like the Tennis and Racquet Club or the YMCA).

In 2017, under the leadership of a new lead pastor, we focused our mission on three key values: community, faith, and love. Here is the statement that was developed, “We exist as a community of faith to extend the love of Christ and His Kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world.” [ Read More Here ] The three step process included 1) Member (community: guiding people to become members of the family of God and this local church), 2) Minister (faith: stepping up to discover our giftedness and find a place of service to Jesus and people in the church and the community), 3) Living on Mission (Love: this value compels us to seek daily how to be the hands and feet of Jesus, focusing on those who are not yet members of God’s forever family).

Somewhere along the way, church has become more about “us” than it is about those who are not yet members. It’s about what I want, and what I want in a worship service, like hymns out of the hymnbook from 1975, a choir in the loft, wearing robes, with a communion table up front, the altar Bible on display, a deacon reading the Bible and praying each week, with preaching from behind a pulpit, but no longer than 18-20 minutes, and never forget about the flag of the United States of America on the stage and proper attire of coat and tie for leaders (staff, deacons, ushers). While we liked it this way in 1975, I dare say that today’s generation will not want to get involved here when our service and surroundings are so old school. It is as if a vocal few in this congregation are telling our local community, “you’re welcome here, but you need to enjoy old school services like us. Don’t come in here with your new ideas for reaching people and changing anything.” It’s like courting a potential spouse yet maintaining an adversarial relationship. Who wants to get involved with that?

Enter into these hallways of peace and fellowship… division, chaos and plotting for control, “to take back our church.” Somewhere along my 15 years, leadership has become an enemy to subdue or overthrow. [ By the way, three of our six ministerial staff members left us in 2022 (contemporary worship leader, lead pastor, and then pastor of worship), at some point, we all ask ourselves, “Why am I here and what difference does it make?” For me, I was called by God in 2007 to be here, and he has not yet released me from that calling. ]

The challenge we have before us is all about hearing God’s voice and recognizing God’s leadership in the life of our church. Our goal is to speak truth in the midst of misinformation and even disinformation and sabotage. I sense we can have a teaching lesson on each of these points, but I give only an initial observation, noting what happened in Jeremiah’s day and how there is a modern parallel in the American church.

Enter the Example of the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah was called by God (Jeremiah 1:4-8) and never sensed a release from that calling. God had a plan from his very beginning, even though Jeremiah was a teenager at the time, and God let him know this was not going to be easy.
  • Jeremiah had a difficult message to tell the people (Jeremiah 2:11-13, 26, 32, 35, 37, 3:20, 25, 4:22, 5:2-3, 23, 26, 31, 6:8, 21, 9:13-16, 11:9-11, 11:22-23). It’s not easy to tell people that they have elevated their personal preferences into a place of idolatry. People don’t want to hear that message and will fight until the very end that their vision of church is all about God and not all about themselves. I have discovered when you try to remove their idols, they attack your character and motivation.
  • Jeremiah offers a word of hope (Jeremiah 3:12-15, 4:14, 7:23, 16:15, 24:5-7, 30:16-17, 31:8-9, 17, 23, 31:38-40, 33:1-3, 6-7). We envision a bright future for our church, one that is multi-generational, together in fellowship, serving together, growing into the image of Jesus together. To be a place of peace, acceptance, safety, and healing. Right now, there is fighting and factions that will drive good seekers away and young believers are now questioning what they have gotten into. Some actually believe that we’re trying to split the church, which was never on our to-do list.
  • Jeremiah dealt with those who did not tell the truth (Jeremiah 5:12-13, 9:8-9). We like to think the best of one another and cannot believe that one of our own would intentionally deceive others, but when someone has an agenda, kindness and civility often go out the window. As I have seen in politics, when the other side declares that you are something (racist, misogynistic, xenophobic), they are generally masking their own characteristics. Our local opposition claims the church staff’s next tactic is to engage in manipulation through deception and their narcissistic leader claims that he is the last obstacle to the staff’s hostile takeover of the church.
  • Jeremiah has people who refused to listen (Jeremiah 6:16-19, 7:24-27). God’s people refuse to listen to one another when they have their own agenda and demands. There have been plenty of conversations revealing little common ground. The USA has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists or considering their demands. What I have noticed over this past year, it doesn’t matter how much concession comes church leadership, it is still not enough, so why bother? If we can get the parties back to the table to have more conversation…
    1. On a side issue, let’s look at three examples in the life of Jesus. When Jesus told the truth to the rich young ruler and he looked over the options, the man chose to walk away. Jesus did not run after him to tell him he would lower the bar or make it easier for him. He didn’t give in to demands, Jesus told the truth and allowed the man to exercise his free will and walk away (Luke 18:18-27).
    2. How about the story of the invitation to the wedding feast? The feast was ready, invitations were sent, and the story is filled with people making excuses about why they could not come. So, since those invited people proved to be unworthy, the invitation went out to anybody who would come in (Matthew 22:1-10). Some grumblers even refuse to enter the sanctuary if a certain preacher has been invited for that week. Imagine for a moment our Savior looking at that behavior and saying, “I died on the cross for you and you can’t enter that sanctuary and worship me?”
    3. Then there is the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. He was disgruntled over the fact that he was at home the whole time (like a long-time church member) and there was such a fuss made over this sinner son who came back (reaching lost people for Jesus). While the father talked to that older son, we have no indication that the older son ever came in to the celebration (Luke 15:25-32).
  • Jeremiah had a word against the temple of the Lord (Jeremiah 7:2-5, 8, 11, 14-16, 30). The people in Jeremiah’s time were so far from God yet they still ran to the temple for God’s blessing. I suppose their hypocrisy was an insult to the living God. Perhaps they sought the gift more than the Giver. Perhaps they asked God to move over just a little bit so they can erect an idol that brought security, comfort, and familiarity.
  • Jeremiah spoke against their apostasy and lies and shame (Jeremiah (8:5, 8, 12, 13:22). I sense that God desires godly men and women speak up and defend the truth rather than allow the lies and misinformation to consume the hearts and minds of the congregation. Our focus has been on admonishing the unruly (1 Thessalonians 5:14) more than evangelism and discipleship.
  • Jeremiah spoke against their hypocrisy (Jeremiah 9:25, see Jeremiah 4:4). The prophet writes about the Jews who are behaving (or in reality), are not Jews. They say that they’re God’s people yet they have little to do with God and do not obey his commands.
  • Jeremiah wept for his people (Jeremiah 8:18, 9:1, 11:14, 14:11-12, 16:2-4, 31:16). I have not yet wept over my situation, but I have wept over the reputation of the church. When Christian people behave like non-christian people, the name of Jesus is diminished rather than magnified. People may give up on the church because of what they have experienced here. May all of us weep over souls who have been and continue to be damaged and abused by what we are experiencing in the congregation.
  • Jeremiah spoke again the idols of the people (Jeremiah 10:3-5, 8). Idols back in the day were these wooden and adorned statues set up to receive worship, which was a big no-no in God’s economy. The first two of the “big ten” commandments deal with having no other gods before YHWY and making an image of him. But today, idols come in all forms and enter into our hearts subtly. None are inherently bad, but we will take a good thing and elevate it to the status of idolatry. Try these on for size: it’s not really a worship service without… a pulpit, choir, robes, communion table, double passing of the communion trays, a deacon reading Scripture, leaders all wearing coats and ties, the large altar Bible up front, and the biggest push-back in worship so far has been the American flag standing in the corner. An idol is anything that comes between you and God. When someone says they will not enter the sanctuary unless the flags are in their regular place, that is a spiritual problem worthy of the prophet Jeremiah.
  • Jeremiah had people plotting against him and should be put to shame (Jeremiah 11:18-19, 21, 17:18, 18:18, 23). There is no place in the church for back-room, deals, meetings, and plots to overthrow it’s leadership. When God’s anointed are following God’s leadership and serving above reproach, with untarnished integrity, shame on those who stir up chaos and dissension over personal preferences that have risen to the level of unreasonable.
  • Jeremiah sets himself up as a righteous sufferer (Jeremiah 12:3) in contrast to the prosperous wicked (Jeremiah 12:1). The question is asked, “why we would stay in a situation that is so hostile?” While we at times question the ease and the prosperity of the wicked and the way of the righteous is often paved with adversity, I’m reminded that Jesus promised hardship in this life. The world will hate you (John 15:18), but we never expected this behavior from the church. Then, I have to come back to Jesus. His biggest critics, and those instrumental in his death, were “church leaders.” Why would I be exempt from hardship when my Lord went through so much for me?
  • Jeremiah has to tell the people that God is angry with their going backward (Jeremiah 15:6). God asked the question, “why have you forsaken Me? You keep looking backwards.” I sense this is at the heart of our situation, some vocal few in our congregation prefer worship to resemble 1975 and reject anything that might be considered modern. We like it the way we like it, and anyone coming here must understand that while they are welcome here, they need to act, dress, and worship the way we like it. New people coming in here have no right to change things; they must adapt to what we prefer here. After all, we are the ones paying the bills around here (that my friend is another topic all together).
  • Jeremiah endured reproach from rebellious people (Jeremiah 15:15). When God’s shepherds seek to lead God’s people, one might expect sheep to follow their shepherd. Rebellion against the God-ordained leader goes all the way back to Moses. It is shameful to be treated with such disrespect, but we endure reproach because of God’s call on our live (1 Peter 5:1-3, Hebrews 13:17).
  • Jeremiah took refuge in and rejoiced in God’s Word (Jeremiah 15:16). When things are at their worst, then God comes through with encouragement in his Word. God speaks truth through his Word and helps us through the adversity of life, even the adversity of ministry.
  • Jeremiah tells the people God is chastising the older generation who should know better (Jeremiah 16:11-12). This passage is condemning because of all the people present, the older ones should now better because they experienced God’s miracles, power, and presence through the stories of the Exodus. Then, they learned the lessons of the rebellious northern and southern kingdoms, seeing how the nations had forsaken the Lord and gone their own way. It should have been a warning to them about turning away from the Lord; they should have known better than end up here. We are similarly walking in the evil and stubbornness of our own hearts.
  • Jeremiah tells the people God has withdrawn his peace from them and he is not to console them (Jeremiah 16:5, 22:10). These verses are so sad, that these should not be consoled, we assume because they are getting what they deserve. Thank God for his grace, but this is a warning to heed.
  • Jeremiah says the heart (our emotion) is desperately wicked and cannot be trusted, so we must trust the Lord (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The worst advice anyone can give someone is to follow their heart. The heart tells you what you are doing is right when it very well might be fighting against God’s plan and design.
  • Jeremiah learns a lesson about God while at the potter’s house (Jeremiah 18:4-6). When the potter smashes the clay and starts over, the Creator of the universe can do the same with us. We are not too big to fail. God can remove his glory and watch us slowly die or start something new in another location.
  • Jeremiah is persecuted by the religious leaders (Jeremiah 20:1-2, 6, 26:7-8, 11) and imprisoned (Jeremiah 37:13-16) and held in a muddy cistern (Jeremiah 38:4-6). Pray that lawsuits will not be filed.
  • Jeremiah cries out and complains to God (Jeremiah 20:7-8) and wishes he was never born (Jeremiah 20:14-15). We all get depressed at times but there comes a point when we turn loose and trust God even more. Jesus tells us that he has overcome the world so we must take courage (John 16:33).
  • Jeremiah recognizes he cannot stop doing what God has called him to do (Jeremiah 20:9-10). If God has not yet released his servant from his calling and ministry, it is best to stay there and not run away. If God is moving someone to another ministry, he will make that clear at the right time. Moving TO something good is very different than moving AWAY from something bad.
  • Jeremiah warns that this house is going to fall (Jeremiah 22:5). If the vocal minority want worship to resemble 1975, this very well may be the preferred future they are embracing. Young families will visit and sense the church is too old school and not return. Existing young families will not feel accepted and will eventually find another church that wants them to be a part of their congregation. Then, with no young people coming into the church, older members will die off one-by-one over the next 10-15 years, until they come to the realization that they need to either adapt to bring in new members or slowly die and close the doors. How sad. This was not the vision of the founders or pastor Jerry. At the start, those planting this church did everything they could to reach people with the gospel. They made changes, sacrificed, adjusted their methods to reach more people, and they grew this church for the kingdom of God. Then somewhere along the way, we got it “just like we like it” and have rebelled and complained at changes that could bring in new families.
  • Jeremiah reminds them that God spoke to them in their prosperity but they had rejected him, so God will sweep away all of their shepherds (Jeremiah 22:21-22), and you will be ashamed and humiliated because of your wickedness. This church has had two recent pastors who challenged us to get out of our comfort zones and be all about the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Both of those shepherds have moved on lead people and organizations who want to do great things for the kingdom of God.
  • Jeremiah says that God will gather a remnant and provide good shepherds over them (Jeremiah 23:3-4). I have always been fascinated with the concept of the remnant. When we hear about 20 percent of the people doing 80 percent of the work, service, attendance, giving, and teaching, I sense the reason is the remnant, the 20 percent. People sitting in the pews does not create a church; but disciples committed to the mission of the church, make the church. Too many people sit on the sidelines watching others and criticizing; they’re not in the game, they are arm-chair quarterbacks. Church is a team sport and we all need to be at practice and in the game.
  • Jeremiah says the people should not listen to the false prophets (Jeremiah 23:16, 30-31) because they are making stuff up, not speaking for God (and he’ll put on them an everlasting reproach that cannot be forgiven – Jeremiah 23:40). When darkness comes over the house of God, the only way to dispel the darkness is to shed light on it. Truth will win over deception, manipulation, and agendas.
  • Jeremiah says that being a false prophet is dangerous (Jeremiah 28:15-17). This is a sobering passage. Don’t go there.
  • Jeremiah teaches about the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This is the whole reason we do what we do. When people get it, they get it, and it makes all the difference in their lives and in the church. The hearts of the people are transformed. Motivation to follow, serve, and reach out is internal rather than external.
  • Jeremiah writes down what God tells him and the king burns it (Jeremiah 36:23), which is replaced (Jeremiah 36:27-28, 32). Basically, the lesson may be, “the truth hurts” (Jeremiah 36:29-31). Jeremiah is tenacious in getting the message of God to the people. If he can’t be there to speak it, he’ll send his friend to read it. He had an attitude of, “whatever it takes, I’m willing to do it, even if it leads to imprisonment or death.”
  • Jeremiah gets respect for speaking God’s Word and they will listen to it, whether good or bad (Jeremiah 42:4-6). At some point, the people will listen to the prophet’s message from God and receive it, even if they don’t like what God has to say to them.
  • Jeremiah says to Baruch that God has built up this house and can also tear it down (Jeremiah 45:2-5). To me, this is a sober reminder that God is sovereign and can literally do whatever he wants.

Initial Research on Jeremiah is from gotquestions.org, with added personal context

It Comes Down to Mission

This is a repost from my Facebook feed. This is a great statement regarding mission and the church. The church may be the only organization that exists for those whp are not yet members rather than existing for the membership. That truth is difficult to swallow; when we believe church is all about us, wanting our own needs to be met, we lose sight of our purpose on this planet.