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.

Leading and Following in the Church

The position of pastor and elder are often used interchangeably. The church recognizes spiritual authority and sets apart some leaders for specialized ministry.

Is Authority Good or Bad? We certainly have been on the receiving end of an authoritarian leader, but what about in the church?

  1. God rules over all: (Daniel 4:34-35) and has absolute authority (Genesis 1:26-28, and we are made in his image).
  2. God ordained authorities: Governments and Parents (Romans 13:1-7, Ephesians 6:1-4). Authority is good when God ordains it, for our own good.

Elders are Called to Shepherd: We are like sheep in need of a shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6, Ezekiel 34, John 10:14-18, Jeremiah 3:15, Ephesians 4:11, Acts 20:17-38).

The Pattern of Plural Pastoral Leadership: the author leads toward elder rule in a congregation. He is an advocate of shared pastoral oversight. It guards against authority abuse and helps leaders to discuss the direction of the church.

Shepherds After God’s Own Heart: As shepherd, these leaders have a great responsibility.

  1. They faithfully feed the sheep (Jeremiah 3:15, 1 Timothy 3:2)
  2. They resist and rebuke false teachers (Titus 1:9-10).
  3. They care for straying and ornery sheep (Acts 20:28).
  4. They watch over the souls of church members (Hebrews 13:17).
  5. They set an example for others to follow (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Elder Qualifications: it’s not for everyone.

  1. Character (1 Timothy 3:1-7, see also Matthew 5:27-30, 1 Peter 1:13, Titus 2:1-12, Romans 12:13, Ephesians 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:12).
  2. Competence (Titus 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 3:2, 4-5).

Deacons: Servants of the Church (Mark 10:43-45).

  1. Servants (Acts 6:1-7, 1 Timothy 3:8-13)
  2. Qualifications (Philippians 1:1, Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13)
    1. Elders are required to teach, however, deacons are not.
    2. Elders have oversight and shepherding role over the congregation, deacon have to manage their household well (1 Timothy 3:5).
    3. Elders are primarily the spiritual leaders of the church, deacon are the servants.
  3. Defining the deacon’s role: they serve the body and their needs, and preserve the unity of the church.

How Well Do You Follow? (Proverbs 14:28)

  1. Leaders are nothing without followers. Like a teacher without a class. Like a king without subjects. Like a coach without a team.
  2. We are all called to serve one another in the church (Mark 10:43-44) and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
  3. Deacons support (Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18).
  4. Deacons submit (Hebrew 13:17).
  5. Deacons respect and esteem (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Real Church Growth

The church is an organism (a living thing) more than an organization, and since all living things grow, what does that same about a church that doesn’t grow? Growth is called discipleship. It is a life-long process we call sanctification, becoming more like Jesus over a lifetime.

The Meaning of Discipleship: Listen Watch, and Follow (Acts 9:10, 26, 36).

  1. Listen to Jesus’ teaching (Luke 6:40, Mark 1:14-15, John 16:12-15, 5:39).
  2. Watch Jesus’ life (Matthew 9:35-38, 10:5-9).
  3. Follow Jesus’ footsteps (Luke 9:23-25, 1 Peter 2:21-25) We follow his life but also his suffering.

How to Grow as a Disciple: Instruction

  1. Why learning is crucial to discipleship: (Acts 20:32, John 17:17, Romans 12:1-2) God’s Words builds us up and sanctifies us. Our mind leads the way for our actions. It is God who speaks to us, bringing conviction, comfort, corrections, and encouragement.
  2. Who does the teaching? (1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:7-9, Romans 15:14).

How to Grow as a Disciple: Imitation

  1. Some things are better caught than taught.
  2. Timothy’s Models (2 Timothy 3:10-17, 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:2).
  3. The benefit of multiple models (Philippians 3:17-4:1).

A Culture of Discipleship: Culture defines what we think is normal; habits, expectations mores.

  1. Older teaching the younger (Titus 2:1-10)
  2. The centrality of the church in discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16) There are many ways and functions but we cannot do everything outside of the local congregation. The main way to grow in Christ is through the church body. Church relationship should be as normal as breathing. The church permeates everything, it is not a club or a program.
  3. Ar you making disciples? (2 Peter 1:5-8) Are these yours and increasing? Everyone called by Jesus is to be used by Jesus to reach others.

Others-focused Growth and a Focus on Growing Others: The New Testament is other-focused. We must seek to serve others, especially those in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Every Christian has a part to play on this team.

  1. How does Jesus define greatness (Mark 10:42-45)?
  2. How do we embody the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?
  3. Who must we strive to please (Romans 15:1-2)?
  4. Disciples made simple: it doesn’t take a super-Christian, and you can’t make the excuse that you have nothing to offer someone else. We are gifted to serve (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The Church’s Front and Back Doors

A building has bricks. A flock has sheep. A vine has branches. A body has members. Being a Christian means being joined to a church. Christianity is a team sport. Every team has a roster to know who is in and who is not. Members have privileges and responsibilities. The group has leaders who have charge over our growth.

Why Join a Church? The church is not just any social club. The church is a battleship, not a cruise ship. The church has eternal goals. Basically, the church exists for those who are not yet members.

The Embassy of Jesus: An embassy represents the king or president or people of another country. When people see us, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:13-20, 18:15-18, 19). The church has authority. One way for Christians to submit to the authority of Jesus is to submit to the authority of the church. When you are drafted in the NFL, you report to the new coach and receive the team’s playbook and jersey. You are not identifying as being on this new team.

  1. All those who believed were baptized into the church (Acts 2:37-41).
  2. It is assumed that every member is going to participate in a local church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Ephesians 2:19),
  3. It is assumed that members will submit to their leadership (Hebrews 13:17).
  4. It is assumed that members will submit to the church, not just join the church.

More Than a Name on a List: Many people don’t think much about church membership because they assume it is just your name on a list.

  1. Membership defines the church: every team has a roster to know who is in and who is not (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Some people are on the outside and we don’t expect that person to live for Christ. Membership carries implications that members will change their behavior. Membership defines the boundaries of the church, who is in and who is not.
  2. Membership defines the Christian life: Don’t give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 3:12-17). Never forget the “one another” passages; they cannot be done outside of the community. To have the greatest impact, there must be close proximity.
  3. Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness: these are promises for now and for eternity (1 Timothy 4:7-8, 1 Corinthians 15:10).
  4. God disciplines us for our good: that we might share his holiness (Hebrews 12:3-11). Discipline may be hard in the moment but pays off in the end.

Run Well, Stay on Track, Get Back on Your Feet: we discipline ourselves when training for an event, or learn to do something the right way. We must exercise to behave like a follower of Jesus.

  1. Help each other run well (Ephesians 4:11-13, 15-16)
  2. Help each other stay on track (Hebrews 3:12-13) don’t make the wrong turn (this is preventative discipline).
  3. Help each other get back on your feet (Galatians 6:1-5).
  4. The goal is to finish well (2 Timothy 4:6-8, Hebrews 12:1-2).

Dealing With Sin in the Church: what do we do with someone who claims to be in the church yet lives as though they don’t know God?

  1. Jesus’ instructions (Matthew 18:15-17). This is regarding sin against ourselves. The goal of this process is to bring repentance and restoration. When someone repents and asks for forgiveness, case closed (Ephesians 4:25). Other apostles carrying out the teaching of Jesus…
    1. Paul’s experience in Corinth with a sinning man (1 Corinthians 5:6-7) to exclude him from the fellowship.
    2. Paul commands us to warn a divisive person many times and then have nothing to do with him (Titus 3:10-11).
    3. John warns about having any fellowship with those who teach a false gospel (2 John 10-11).
    4. What about elders who persist in sin (1 Timothy 5:20)?
  2. The goal of discipline is repentance and restoration, not punishment (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).

Connecting Purity and Witness

What does it mean to become a Christian? Are we making disciples or simply converts? How does one understand salvation mean justification, sanctification, and glorification? Conversion is not reciting a creed, it is a conversation. It is not reaching some milestone or rite of passage but walking on a life-long journey of becoming more and more like Jesus.

What Makes Someone a Christian?

  1. Being born in America?
  2. Not being something else, like a Muslim or Hindu?
  3. Simply believing there is a God?
  4. Being a nice person or good citizen?
  5. Someone who prayed a prayer or walked an aisle?

Authentic Christianity: trusting in Jesus alone for save them from their sin. It is about God’s grace, our response of faith, and repenting of sin that has been forgiven.

  1. As Savior (Acts 2:21, 4:12, 16:31).
  2. As Lord (Acts 2:36-38, Romans 10:9-10).
  3. Proof – a transformed life (John 8:31-32, 14:15, Matthew 7:21-25) following his commands.

Are You Sure You’re a Christian? (Matthew 7:22-25, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 John 5:13). There are two tests to be certain.

  1. Belief (1 John 4:15, 5:1).
  2. Life (1 John 3:1-10, 11-18, 4:7-21).
  3. Patterns, not perfection (1 John 3:6, 1:8-10, John 14:15)

Christians Aren’t Born, They’re Made – meaning it is a process.

  1. By God (John 3:1-8, 1:12-13, Ephesians 2:1-3, 4-5)
  2. Through the gospel (1 Peter 1:23, Romans 10:9-17)
  3. Our response (Mark 1:15, Acts 16:13-14) repent, believe, baptism.

Evangelism 101: This is a privilege, not intended to produce guilt. Let’s define evangelism…

  1. Evangelism is telling non-Christians the good news about what Jesus did on the cross to bring salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
    1. God is holy (1 John 1:5) and creator of all things (Genesis 1:1).
    2. All people are sinners who deserve God’s wrath (Romans 3:10-19, Mark 9:48, Revelation 14:11).
    3. Jesus is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of those who trust their salvation in him, who rose from the dead (John 1:1, 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 7:26, Romans 3:21-26, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
    4. The only way to be saved from eternal punishment and be reconciled to God is to repent of sin and trust Jesus alone for salvation (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21).
  2. Examples of evangelism (Acts 8:1-4, 26-40).
  3. Mandate to evangelize (Matthew 28:16-20). We preach and God works out the details. We can’t force people to respond, that is the work of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 55:10-11).

The Church is God’s Evangelism Program: It is not up to individuals or para-church organizations, but the mandate of the church (the body of Christ). We faithfully preach the gospel, gather for worship, and grow in faith.

  1. City of a hill (Matthew 5:13-16).
  2. Displaying the gospel (John 13:34-35, 17:20-21).