Tuesday, July 14, 2015

P2God's desire to improve pastors, deacons and churches together

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1 Timothy 3:15-16 "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself inthe household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

Yesterday we began considering how God desires to improve pastors and churches to go from where they're at to where Jesus wants them to be. As we labored on that main point, we discovered that it all begins with the pastor, since he is the spiritual leader of the flock. We all can improve. But we must understand that the call for improvement is not about moralism, applying coats of paint on buildings and putting in new carpets. Certainly such improvements have their place. Rather, a pastor and the local church he pastors must be humble enough and honest enough to say: "there is too much of me and not enough Jesus". That was yesterday's post. Today we will conclude this two-part series by considering how the Deacons function in God's desire to improve the church towards Christ-likeness.

God's place for Deacons in His project of improving the church to go from where it is to where Jesus wants it to be
As we have already mentioned, these same sentiments also apply to the Deacons and ultimately the church membership. The second section of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 focuses on Deacons. Deacons are the servants to the church. Minus the requirement for expounding God's Word, Deacons are expected to have the same level of moral and spiritual maturity as the Pastor. Deacons need to have sound Godly character (1 Timothy 3:8-10). Likewise, they along with their wives need to have a godly homelife and marriage if they expect to retain their qualifications. Paul then makes a point in 1 Timothy 3:13 to remind the church body that any Deacon who has served the church body well is worthy of double honor. The qualifications for Deacons, like the pastor, are impossible to achieve in the flesh. Unless we see Christ inside the Deacon working through and with him to accomplish the ministry, the Deacon ministry will quickly become frustrating. Everything having to do with the church requires dependency on God's grace. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

So why the list of qualifications for pastors and deacons? How do all of these qualifications aid in God's improvement of the pastor and the church. The Lord has so designed the local church to be a place where truth is communicated by the scriptures and reinforced by example. When we see pastors and deacons, we ought to see men who are improving, growing more consistent in their Christian walk, understanding of scriptures, relationships within the church and outside the church and people whom anyone would want to imitate. Jesus Himself was the epitomy of reinforcing the truths of the Christian life by example, which is why the New Testament authors constantly referred to Him as our template. (John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 John 2:6)
God is in the process of improving the pastor and his church.

He who has ears, let him improve for the sake of the Gospel, lest the Gospel lamp be removed!
Why is Paul going to such great pains to write an entire letter urging the church and Pastor Timothy to conduct themselves accordingly in the church? Two reasons:

1. The Living out of the Gospel is needed. 1 Timothy 3:14-15
Paul was concerned whether or not he would be able to get to Timothy personally and directly. The authority of 1 Timothy as scripture serves to bring God's very words to this young pastor and the growing Ephesian church which he pastored. Ephesus was a pagan city that needed a church modeling the Gospel. Jesus early on taught the importance of living out the reality of discipleship in John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love for God and one another ought to be at the center of church life. There is another important emphasis too that serves in modeling the Gospel before a watching world - namely holiness. 1 Peter 2:9-12  "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." Unless we as churches get things in order as pastors, Deacons and church members, the world will only be convinced that the church has a lot to say but not a whole of of action to back it up. As Josh McDowell in his latest book: "The God-Breathed Bible" notes, the Bible is about three main things: right believing, right behavior and relationships with God and each other. Strong church members who prize love and holiness will only do so as it is modeled by both the pastor and Deacons. 

2. The Living Gospel is needed. 1 Timothy 3:16
This final verse of 1 Timothy 3 spells out en example of the living Gospel. Jesus of course is central to the Gospel as the incarnate virgin-born Son of God. His ascension into Heaven is connected to His resurrection from the dead, which in turn was proceeded by His substitutionary death. The last half of 1 Timothy 3:16 deals with how Christians are to proclaim these truths to a lost and dying world. The "Mystery of godliness" in 1 Timothy 3:15-16 is set over against the "mystery of iniquity" that marks our day and age in 1 Timothy 4:1. Unless we proclaiming the living God faithfully, doctrines of demons will not only affect people outside the church but even on the inside of the church. It is important how we live and it is important to know what we live by - the Gospel. By the Gospel God is aiming to improve the church to go from where it is to where Jesus wants it to be. 

Closing thoughts
When I think of Paul's instructions to the church at Ephesus over which Timothy was ready to pastor, I was reminded of something the Apostle John had written to this same church some 30 years after the writing of 1 Timothy. In Revelation 2:1-7 the Apostle John relayed words from Jesus to this same church that failed to conduct itself as God's house. They did not improve, but only got worse. The result: they grew loveless, cold and were in danger of having the blessing and anointing of God permanently removed by Jesus. If a church and pastor fail to improve together, the Spirit of God is grieved and the Gospel witness is quenched. 

My prayer would be that pastors and churches in America would heed the words of 1 Timothy 3 and the scriptures and yield to the Lord in all humility and honesty. Its time to be better than we are and work with the Lord in being all we can be for Him.