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How God Grows a Work

April 30th, 2018

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:2-3 NIV)

Christ envisioned the kingdom of heaven in terms of growth – like a seed planted that produces a crop, bearing a hundred times, or sixty or thirty times what was originally planted. Or like a small seed that grows into a tree that even the birds can nest in the branches (Matt. 13). Any pastor who does not have the growth of the church on his heart has certainly not grasped the reality of the work of Christ in this world.

But how does God grow His work? That is the question. Does He grow it by manipulation? Does He grow it by worldly means? Does He grow it by worldly advertisements, or by the preacher promising people will become richer or healthier or happier?

The passage from Psalm 147 above says that He grows it by love, by tenderly and graciously dealing with the brokenhearted, the hurt, the hopeless, the wounded, the damaged souls of this world. The gathering of the exiles back into Jerusalem was emblematic of the work of God in the growing of the church, and the ones whom God calls to come to Him through faith in Christ are touched by the love of God for them.

It is the great need of the church and of each individual Christian to experience God’s love on a deep personal level. Love builds up like nothing else can or ever will. That God so loved the world that He sent the Son to die on the cross for our sins is the seed of the gospel. Christ, who had no sin of His own, died voluntarily for yours and mine, and this is the heart and soul of the gospel.

Hurt people hurt others, and loved people love others. The one who is being healed by the love of Christ for him is the one who is also loving others in Jesus’ name. Love builds up. Love is patient and kind, encouraging, and tenderhearted. Love listens and blesses and hopes all things. To be a loving Christian must be achieved by the Spirit in us. This must be the great means by which the church of Jesus Christ grows. We are to love people into God’s kingdom. And we are to love them until they grow in grace and become His instrument to love and reach others.

…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.¬†From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:15-16)

BLOG: pastor's blog, Kingdom of God

The Good Shepherd

June 7th, 2016

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Christ is describing himself. No one can fulfill this role completely other than him. He is the shepherd and overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). He is the head of the church (Eph 1:22). He is the sacrificial lamb who is able to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He laid down his life for the sheep on the cross of Calvary, but this was no accidental death. It was planned and purposd before the creation of the world. Christ left heaven out of his love for us that he might save us (Phil. 2:6-8).

Yet it is also an ideal, the only standard, for those who would serve as pastors. “Pastor” means shepherd, and whoever would take on the title “pastor” of a Christian church must follow the example of Jesus and lay down his life daily for the sake of the sheep entrusted into his spiritual care.

He lays down his life through prayer and the study of the Word of God. Samuel said, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23). The apostles who served as the pastors of the church in Jerusalem said, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). These two matters go hand in hand – prayer must be grounded in the Word of God, and the study of the Word of God must be grounded in prayer. And both of these are at their finest when they are done in a certain earthly context.

When prayer and the study of God’s Word are disconnected from any earthly reality, any real needs of people’s lives, they do not rise to their highest potential. A medical cure must have a disease to treat. Medical research must also be directed to address the treatment and cure of disease. And the study of the Word of God and prayer are also at their finest when they seek to address the needs of human faces and lives and seek to answer real questions that are asked in today’s world.

This is the first and most important work of the pastor, for people in this world need to hear the Word of God. Today, 2,000 years after the birth of Christ, the sermon remains the most important tool in the hands of God to bring people to salvation and to spiritual maturity. The pastor should pray much and study much and seek to feed the people the truth of the Word of God. He must lay down his life daily in the study of the Word, in keeping himself up to date about trends and current issues and the concerns on people’s hearts. He must also know his own people and the struggles and challenges they face.

He lays down his life in counsel and advisement. A pastor must also encourage people and advise them. He lays down his life in the study of knowing how better to do this. Prayer also plays a big part in this role for he often finds himself dealing with situations where only the comfort, power, and grace of God can bring relief and deliverance to situations. He must not just be available. He must also be worth being available, be of such a spiritual life, of such a level of spiritual maturity, and knowledgeable about life and circumstances that he is able to help – as God enables him.

Into every situation he must be Christ and not himself – whether it is comfort, forgiveness, instruction, rebuke, resolution of conflict, or the help for the healing of souls.

He lays down his life in sacrificial and servant leadership. The pastor is a servant but has a leadership role to play. He is to be a leader who seeks to lead the church in the direction the Holy Spirit is guiding the church toward. He seeks to lead the church to do God’s will, not his own. Again, prayer plays a key role in this matter, as do study and experience and the wisdom of other counselors and mentors. He is to be an example to the flock, not a dictatorial leader who lords it over others (1 Peter 5:3).

He lays down his life in preferring the growth of the reputation of Christ and Christ’s people over his own reputation. If a pastor ever makes church and his own ministry more about himself than about Christ, he will have failed. As the undershepherd of Christ for the church (1 Peter 5:4), he must love those who do not love him, must treat them as Christ would even though they may treat him poorly. He cannot tolerate disrespect to the office of pastor – no more than a parent should tolerate their children’s disrespect to their office. Yet he is to teach gently and tenderly, being open himself to a rebuke that might be instructive, even if it is delivered in a poor and rude manner.

He must be willing to lay down his life for the sake of the church even if it means the ruining of his own reputation by gossip and slander. He has the right and obligation to confront those who spread falsehoods, but he must also learn the wisdom of the Bible, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). He cannot make his main mission in life the defense of his own person. His mission is the care of the body of Christ.

His joy is to see the church of Jesus Christ flourish and grow. His joy is to see people come to faith in Christ, grow in spiritual maturity, and become fruitful Christians. He rejoices not when he is lifted up but when Christ is lifted up, and when the people of God fulfill their destiny, “That [the church] may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [they] shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).

Only by living the crucified life, the life of “not I but Christ,” can any man fulfill the role of pastor. We must become less and less and He must become more and more. Our joy is not to hear the praise of man, but to hear our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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