Friday, March 12, 2010

Romans Sermon #65 March 7, 2010

What Do You Mean. . . I Have Died To Sin?
Romans 6:1-7

On January 21, 2008, 81-year-old Feliberto Carrasco's family members found his lifeless, cold, and stiff body in his home in Chili. Believing he was dead, they called the funeral home who came and took his body away. He was dressed in his best suit and placed in a beautiful coffin and transported to the wake where right in the middle of the festivities, he sat up very much alive and very very thirsty. Once he was given a glass of water and was able to talk, he told his family that as he came to and realized everyone thought he was dead—he simply couldn't believe he was really dead because he was craving water so badly--but on the other hand, couldn't understand if he wasn't really dead why he was in this coffin?

Well, many of us have the same problem this man did—we too are having a real problem understanding and believing that as the Bible says—we have died to sin because many times it seems like we are craving sin so badly. Today we are going to be talking about this very subject--”What does Paul mean when he says we have died to sin.” So turn with me to Romans 6:1-7 and let's begin.

As we begin, let me warn you—you are going to be tempted to check out on me, thinking, this is way too heavy, too deep, and too complicated? Just tell me that Jesus loves me and that everything is going to be fine. But don't check out—try to stay with me and you will put down some deep roots into the solid ground of God's Word that will give you the solid footing you need to fight sin.

Notice that in Romans 6, before we ever get to the practical application of actually fighting sin in verses 12-23, we are told in verse 11 that we must believe what God has said is true of us. And the problem most of us have is we don't know what God says is true of us and since we obviously can't believe what we don't know—we really can't effectively fight sin. So, in order to live the Christian life the way it is designed to be lived and enjoyed so as to see God get the glory and us the joy—let's learn what God says is true of us in regard to sin now that we are saved.

The "we" Paul is referring to in Romans 6:2 are Christians - that is, truly justified believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. So the question we need to ask is: What does it mean that all believers have died to sin and thus are not able to continue in it?

Grammatically speaking, the word Paul uses in verse 2 for “died” is an aorist tense verb which is referring to an action that has already occurred “once and for all”. It is not referring to an action that is repeated but rather an action that occurred once and will not ever occur again in the believer's life. So, we need to find out--in what sense did the believer die once and for all to sin.

Now it is also important to note that Paul uses the definite article with the word sin. In using the definite article “the” with the noun “sin”, Paul is making the point that it is not that the believer has “died to sin in general” but rather he has died to “the sin”. In other words, he, in using the definite article, is not simply talking about “sin” or “a sin”, or “sins”. Rather, he is talking about a very particular and very specific “sin”--which he is identifying as “the sin”. And if we were to trace the antecedent of “the sin” back to its source we would find that “the sin” Paul is referring to in Romans 6:2 is “the sin” he was referring to in Romans 6:1 and which is referred to back in Romans 5:21; 5:20; and 5:12, which is the verse Paul began his discussion on “the sin of Adam” that threw the whole human race into its condition of sinful depravity and hostility toward God so that the human race was condemned to both spiritual and physical death.

Now, let's go back to Romans 5:12 and begin there so as to understand what Paul is referring to when he makes the assertion that all true believers have died to “the sin”. In Romans 5:12, Paul begins a section of teaching in which he makes the point that before our salvation we were in union with Adam and thus in union with Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden. However, in salvation—that union with Adam and with his original sin is broken and the believer is placed in union with Christ as well as in union with His activity of conquering Adam's sin on the cross of Calvary.

So, in Romans 5:12, Paul makes the point that through Adam, “the sin” entered the world. Furthermore, through the entrance of “the sin” into the world—death or as it is literally rendered, “the death” also entered the world and spread to all men.
Now, this “death” is primarily referring to “spiritual death” that produces or results in physical dying and ultimately physical death.

Then in Romans 5:13, Paul says that from Creation until the Law was given through Moses—sin was in the world. Now here, he does not use the definite article thus, he is referring to man's sinful motives, attitudes, actions, and words rather than Adam's original sin.

Now the reason why “sin” was in the world and really characterized the world was because it came about as the result of Adam's first sin in the Garden of Eden. In other words, Adam's sin as the “head” or “representative” of the whole human race, resulted in and still results in people sinning so that we do not become sinners by sinning—we sin because we are sinners—and in fact were born sinners. But note that Paul's point is that even though man sinned from the time of Creation until Moses—his sin was not imputed to him or counted against him or recorded so as to be held against him for the simple reason that there was no law in place to hold him accountable.

Now look at Romans 5:14. Here, Paul says, that nevertheless, even though man's individual and personal sins from the time of Creation until the Law was given in the days of Moses were not imputed against them—they still died. In fact, Paul writes, that “the death reigned over them”. And the reason why they died—in other words, suffered the consequence of Adam's sin, which produced “the death” or “the reign of death” is because they were seen by God as having been in union with Adam even though they were not physically in the Garden of Eden. In other words, God saw all people as in Adam and as doing what Adam did when he chose to sin against God.
And thus, since God saw us as being in union with Adam when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden—God attributed to every single human being that has ever lived “the sin” of Adam as well as the consequences of that sin which is “spiritual death”. And the proof that this is true is that everyone dies.

But then Paul takes us to Romans 5:15-17, and explains that just as when we were in union with Adam—Adam's sin was our sin and his consequences were our consequences when we come to Christ for salvation—we are placed in union with Christ so that He and His work on our behalf is attributed to us so that we can be saved from the consequences of Adam's sin—which was that we all became condemned sinners who enjoyed sinning.

Finally, he gets us to Romans 5:18-21, where he simply makes the point that those who have been saved by faith—have been placed in union with Christ and in this union with Christ have been made righteous in God's sight (v. 19) and placed under the reign of grace (v. 21) so that just as “the sin” used to reign in “the death”, “even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Don't miss the significance of Paul's point in verse 21 when he states that “the sin reigned in the death.” In essence, what he is saying is that the power of original sin or of the sin of Adam which was attributed to all people was derived from the fact that it caused the spiritual death of all people before they were ever born and that this spiritual death of which all people were included in resulted in them all sinning and then eventually all dying as well. Hebrews 2:14-15 makes the point that the devil, who tempted Adam to commit this original sin was the one who possessed this power of “the death”, which enslaved everybody through fear.
But, it also makes the point that the devil's power and thus “the sin's” power over spiritual death was broken and rendered totally powerless through Jesus Christ's death on the cross in our place and on our behalf. In other words, in the true believer's life, the old reign of “Adam's sin” which produced “complete spiritual death” has been destroyed and replaced by a new authority and a new reigning power in and over our lives and that is God's grace, which reigns in our lives through the power of Christ's righteousness that because it was imputed to our accounts guarantees to us not only spiritual life but eternal life.

And thus, Paul's point in Romans 6:2 is that when we came to Christ Jesus for salvation by faith in Him and in His finished work at Calvary—we died to “Adam's original sin” and “the spiritual death”, Adam's sin had produced in us so that it no longer has any effect or impact upon us. By virtue of the fact, that we were separated from Adam and placed in spiritual union with Christ—Adam's sin and the resulting spiritual death that took the form of hostility toward God and a love of rebellion toward God was removed from us so that we are no longer in the position of being estranged from God, being hostile to God, and being the unreconciled enemy of God.

In essence, when we came to Christ for salvation and were justified by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone—we died to the curse and the consequences of our old position in Adam. And thus we are no longer identified with his original sin and thus are no longer under the condemnation and effects of spiritual death—which can best be described as complete separation from God. You see, just as when a person dies physically—there is a complete break with the realm in which we live here on earth, so to, when we died to “the sin”--there was a complete break with the realm in which we once lived and with the ruler we once served which was “the sin”. And thus, Paul's point in Romans 6:2, when he writes: “How shall we who died to the sin still live in it?”--is simply that—if you are a truly saved person, God has produced such a complete break with your old condemned position and condemned standing before Him that it would be impossible for you to still live as though you were in that old condemned position and standing before God. Furthermore, in your salvation, God, in essence, crucified who you were before salvation with Christ so that not only have you died to your old position as a condemned sinner before God--but who you were as that condemned sinner died with Christ on the cross and then you were raised with Christ as a brand new uncondemned and spiritually alive person who while still bothered by and antagonized by “the sin” is no longer under its control or condemnation.

This is what Paul is telling us in Romans 6:3-7. Using baptism as the picture of our complete union with or immersion into Christ and all that Christ did and accomplished at Calvary—Paul tells us that when we were saved—we were in essence immersed into Christ so much so that we were seen by God as being in complete union with Him so that what was true of Him on the cross is true of us. So that, when Christ died—who we were before salvation died (Rom. 6:3). So that, when Christ was buried—who we were before salvation was buried with Him (Rom. 6:4a). So that, when Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of God, we too were raised as “new creations” in Christ Jesus, who can now enjoy a qualitatively new and different life than we used to live as those who were slaves to “the sin” (Rom. 6:4b-6).

What Paul is saying in verse 6 is that whereas sin is still alive and well—its power, which is huge has no viable connection to you any longer because the “old man” it used to be connected to is dead. The “old man” is not merely referring to our Adamic nature or our old nature but rather to a person--”the person we were in our unsaved state in union with Adam and who therefore lived life under the tyranny of sin and death”. So, when you were saved, what was crucified with Christ was not merely a part of you called 'your old nature', but the whole of who you were before you were saved. And the old you was crucified with Christ so that “the body of sin” might be done away with.

That phrase, “done away with” is the Greek word katargeo, which means: to make something idle or to cause something to cease. It has the idea of a permanent cessation of power. In other words, whereas God did not remove the presence of sin from you when you were saved—He so completely cut off its connection to you that it has no real power over you at all. One way to illustrate it would be to get into a car with a standard transmission and push the clutch and the gas pedal all the way to the floor at the same time. As long as you do not take your foot off the clutch all you are going to experience is an awful lot of noise because as long as that clutch is pushed all the way to the floor the potential power being generated by the gas pedal being pushed all the way to the floor is not able to engage the transmission and start it moving. And whereas the reving of the engine is loud, obnoxiously irritating, scary, and makes you feel like the car is in control—as long as there is no connection between the engine and the transmission—that car is not going anywhere.

Well, that is what happens to you as a saved person—whereas sin is present in you—all it can do is make a lot of noise—but it has no power over you—and thus you are no longer a “slave to it”.

Thus, as Romans 6:7 restates—the person who has died is freed from “the sin”.
And here in verse 7, we have the best answer for what Paul means when he says that the true believer has died to sin—it simply means we have been freed from it in the sense that we have been freed from its penalty which condemned us to spiritual death as well as its power which blinded us to the fact that God could be enjoyed far more than sin.

Finally, we were freed from sin's identity, which had become our identity as unregenerate, unsaved, and eternally condemned sinners. Listen, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is—you have trusted and are trusting in Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins—then you have been freed once and for all from all this and furthermore you have been freed from sin's ability to destroy, ruin, compromise, or diminish your standing and acceptance with God and thus, your assurance of His continued love and grace toward you.

You are completely out of sin's reach and thus cannot ever live under its penalty, power, or identity again. It is impossible. Sin still has the ability to antagonize, irritate, tempt, and otherwise try to deceive you into thinking it can defeat you but that is as far as its ability goes—it cannot ultimately defeat you for you have been freed from the worst it could ever do to you—which is to separate you from the love of God. Which is why, by-the-way, that Paul ends this whole section way down the road in Romans 8:31-39.

In other words, before calling us to fight our personal sin—Paul assures us that irregardless of how well the battle goes for us—we are still more than conquerors in Christ Jesus our Lord—and thus we can engage this enemy knowing we cannot lose or be separated from Him Who is the greatest treasure and pleasure in life—God Himself.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Romans Message #64 February 28, 2010

The Believer's Fight With Sin Is A Fight To Believe The Seemingly Impossible!
Romans 6:1

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States Navy and Coast Guard often practiced what was known as “shooting across the bow”. When these ships would come across other vessels which were not flying their colors and thus could not be recognized--warning shots could be fired toward those vessels, usually in front of the bow—so as to get their attention and make it clear that they needed to immediately hoist the flags, which would identify who they were and what nation or kingdom they originated from.

Interestingly enough, even today, warning shots are also used by U.S. military planes, to demand some action of an “unknown and unidentifiable” aircraft that is approaching or in restricted U.S. Airspace. The usual scenario, when this takes place, is that of fighter jets being scrambled to intercept the “unknown” and “unidentified” aircraft to make it change course and then escort it to an airport where it and her pilot are taken into custody. However, if this unknown and unidentified aircraft will not change course, the U.S. Military aircraft may, if given the command, fire tracer rounds in front of the suspicious aircraft, which would immediately make the point to the pilot of the off-course airplane—to either change course or be shot down.

Well—all this to say that last weeks study in Romans 6:1-2 was Paul's shot across the bow—to get the attention of people--who thinking they are believers—really aren't. It was also his shot across the bow to get the attention of believers who need to learn how to fight sin in their lives.

Let's read these two verses again and review his argument. Paul's main point here is that the true believer in Jesus Christ cannot continue on loving and living with sin as he or she did before coming to Christ for salvation. The key to understanding what he is saying in these two verses and really the entirety of Romans 6 is the word “continue” in verse 1. “Are we to continue in sin because we think God's grace will cover it?”

As we saw last week, this word is the Greek word meno, which means to abide comfortably with or in. Thus, the idea that Paul is putting forth is—Can a true believer continue to live comfortably with his sin? Can he continue to pursue sin without any conflict in his soul . . . is another way of putting it. And Paul's answer is an emphatic--”No Way—Its Not Possible!”

Because the true believer has died to sin—he can no longer still live in it. Oh, it isn't that he never sins or is never tempted to sin or does not struggle with sin--Rather, as a believer who has died to the reign, control, power, and spell of sin over his life, he now sees sin and his sin in particular for what it is and is no longer beguiled by it and cannot simply tolerate it with no conflict in his soul.
He cannot live comfortably with it and thus he will take up arms against it and he will fight it even if the fight lasts the rest of his mortal life.

And whereas, we know there are people who do believe they are Christians because they have made a profession of faith sometime in their lives—but who still live like the devil and have no problem doing so—that is not where most of us here are at—is it? Oh, we may have moments when we are living like the devil but we will have a problem with these, hopefully, few moments. I doubt very much that there is a sizable number of people here in this church who--while professing to know Christ--still loves, enjoys and participates in their sin experiencing no conflict in their soul and who believe their sin really doesn't matter because God's grace will cover it anyway. And Paul knows that very few of those who will continue reading and studying Romans to this point in the book are on this end of the spectrum where they are flaunting grace and pursuing sin with reckless abandon all the while professing to know Jesus. He knows, just as I know, and many of you know and have even experienced—that the true believer has a tendency to move to the other end of the spectrum--to the point where he becomes so discouraged in his fight with sin and his many defeats that he doesn't think and believe God's grace can help him.

Interestingly enough, I have found in my talks with believers that the scenario many have in common when it comes to sin is that they really do hate it and desire to fight it and be free of it--but more times than not—when the temptation to the particular sin they are struggling with raises its head—they end up after a bit of a very short skirmish—giving in—and then hating themselves and falling into a fit of despondency and despair. And in their despair, they usually tend toward three extremes.

The first extreme is looking at their sin failure and concluding that this is not consistent with being a true believer and thus I must not be a true believer—therefore, my profession of faith was not real and genuine therefore, I need to be saved—and so they will go to the Lord for salvation—again--and sometimes—again and again and again—all the while hoping they say the right words and really mean it in their hearts this time.

The second extreme that the despairing believer may tend toward if their theology allows for it—is to believe they have lost their salvation and need to be saved again. Now, since most of us understand the Scriptures to teach that the true believer is secure in his salvation and that it is Biblically impossible for the truly justified believer to become unjustified and thus unacceptable to God—our tendency is toward extreme number one—in which we keep trying to get saved again or toward extreme number three, which is, to become so entrenched in our despondency with the ineffectiveness of our battle with sin that we become discouraged to point of thinking the battle is hopeless and that we will never see it defeated nor us sanctified.

Well—again, Paul knows that these are the extremes most believers tend toward when their battle with sin has become embarrassingly ineffective and ugly. This is why, he gets our attention the way he does by 'shooting across our bow” as it were. You see, the first thing we have to have in the battle with sin in order to effectively engage it and keep it engaged in combat is the Assurance of our salvation. And this is why—he makes this strong point—that if you don't have a conflict with sin and are able to abide in it comfortably and with no conflict in your soul—you are not a true Christian. Now, the reciprocal truth is that if you do have a conflict with sin in your soul and you cannot live comfortably with it and you wish to be rid of it—it is because you are a true believer irregardless of how well you are fighting the battle.

You see, if we are to fight our sin as true believers we must fight our sin knowing we are true believers. Just as an unbeliever will not fight his sin—a believer who is not confident he is a believer will not fight his sin effectively. The Assurance of our justification and our acceptance before and with God is always the platform from which believers must start in their battle with sin. We do not battle with our sin so as to earn our salvation and consequently our acceptance with God. Nor do we battle with our sin so as to maintain our salvation and thus our acceptance with God. Rather, the reason why the believer battles his sin is because he is a believer and is therefore justified before God and therefore acceptable to God. In other words, the believer is not fighting to gain assurance of his salvation but because he has the assurance of his salvation.

The true believer fights sin because a change really did take place in his life when he placed faith in Christ and he really did die to sin so that now it is not normal for him to continue to pursue sin with no conflict in his soul over it. Thus, he fights sin because it is what a person who has died to sin because he has trusted in Christ for salvation and has become a new creation in Christ does. And so it is the very desire to fight sin and it is the very conflict in your soul that you experience when you do sin and the desire to stop sinning and really the desire that God would just take you home rather than allow you to continue to sin that is the assurance that you truly are a saved person. And this assurance is what gives the believer the confidence to stay engaged in the fight. And this is why Paul uses the little word “then” in Romans 6:1 to point us back to the truths we know to be true about our salvation and which are found in Romans 4:16-5:21.

Notice again, his very first question in Romans 6:1. “What shall we say then?”
You see, before he shoots his artillery barrage across the bow of our weak faith—so as to get the attention of those who need to be spiritually strengthened in their fight against sin--he points us back to those truths about our salvation. In essence, the little word “then” is making it clear that the the fact that you can no longer live comfortably with your sin is the evidence that Romans 5:21 is true of you and that you have been truly removed from the reign of sin and placed under the reign of grace where according to Romans 5:20 God's grace is always super-abounding toward us.

Furthermore, our new attitude toward our sin in which we cannot peacefully co-exist with it is the proof that we were truly reconciled to God through Christ Jesus Who paid our sin penalty in full as Paul tells us in Romans 5:6-11. And if we are having a fight with sin and are thus no longer at peace with sin in our lives it is because as truly saved people we are at peace with God as Paul teaches in Romans 5:1-2.

So—you look at all this and you say—OK--well there has been a change in my attitude toward sin since I trusted in Christ and it is true that I can no longer comfortably co-exist with my sin and you are right—whereas before I could sin and not give it another thought—now I can't sin without it causing me great conflict in my soul. So, yes it would appear that there is evidence that I am a saved person but if I am a saved person why can't I stop sinning? If I am a saved person why am I still struggling with sin? And why does it appear to me that my sin is getting the best of me so much of the time? In fact, if the truth be known—I am having a terrible struggle believing that I will ever defeat sin in my life and truly be sanctified and finally present blameless and spotless before the throne of God.

And here is where the little word “then” points us to what Paul has to say about Abraham in Romans 4:16-25. Paul tells us that just as Abraham was told by God to believe the impossible—that in spite of everything he knew to be true about himself and his wife Sarah, which led him to believe that there was absolutely no way it would be possible for them to have a child at their age—God would keep His promise and give them a son--so we too, need to believe what appears to be impossible to us—that one day we will experience total victory over our sin and see it lying dead at our feet. And that when it appears that we are not being sanctified and growing in our faith that we really are. And that everything we see and know about ourselves is telling us that becoming holy is an utter impossibility—that it isn't—because God has told us that He is going to make us holy and sanctify us completely.

Listen, in order to be saved, we had to believe that God could and would save wretches like us based upon His grace rather than upon our works. And the reason why that truth is so important for us to continue to grab ahold of even years after we have been saved is because just as we were saved by God when everything about us said it could not be true--so we are sanctified by God through His grace when everything about us and everything we know and see to be true about us tells us it is impossible.

You see the word “then” is pointing us back to not only the fact that God's grace super-abounded to us in our salvation which in human terms was an utter impossibility--it is also pointing us forward to the fact that God's grace super-abounds to us in our sanctification when in human terms it seems like an utter impossibility. In other words, just as God in His super-abounding grace saved a wretch like me when it seemed an utter impossibility--so God in His super-abounding grace will sanctify a wretch like me when it seems as though it is impossible.

Now, lets contemplate the difference between sanctifying and saving grace. We know that God's grace toward the unbeliever who comes to Him for salvation is able to cover any and all sin that he has ever or will ever commit. Saving grace is for the purpose of covering and dealing with all of our sin so as to truly make us acceptable to God. Well—if in saving grace—all of our sin, past—present--and future, has been taken care of by God so as to be totally forgiven, and in fact removed from us as far as the east is from the west so that as Paul says in Colossians 2:13-14--
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Then let me ask you what is the purpose of sanctifying grace? Obviously, it is not provided to us for the purpose of covering our sin or paying for it or making us acceptable to God—that is what “saving grace” did.

Rather, it is provided to us for the purpose of fighting our sin and believing that in the fight God is going to ultimately sanctify us just as He promised He would. You see, God's grace in sanctifying us also super-abounds to us—not to cover sin which is already covered but to fight sin which is overwhelming us. You see, when our sin is abounding and seemingly defeating us at every turn—God's promise to us is that His grace is super-abounding toward us for the purpose of fighting it and not only fighting it but continuing to fight it even when we are losing horrendously.

I think James speaks to this in James 4:4-6 where in writing to believers about this whole fight with sin sounds a lot like Paul in Romans 6. Look at what he says. In verse 4, he is basically saying that if you are professing Christ as your Lord and Savior yet see no inconsistency in living a worldly and sinful lifestyle so that it appears as though your real loyalty is not to Christ but to the world—then you are an enemy of God—irregardless of your profession of faith. Doesn't that sound like Paul when he asks--”Are we to continue living comfortably in and without any conflict with our sin that grace may increase—May it never be!”

Then James makes the point in verse 5 that God jealously desires the spirit He has made to dwell in us or our “new man” to be loyal to Him and not to the world or to sin. And then in verse 6, James makes the point that God gives believers a “greater grace”. Now keep in mind that in salvation—God gives unbelievers grace. In sanctification God gives the believer grace—so here we are not talking about “saving grace' as much as about “sanctifying grace”. And when James writes that God gives us a greater grace in our sanctifying fight with sin so as to be holy—it is not that it takes more and greater grace to sanctify us than to save us--but rather, that it takes a greater degree of grace in our lives for us to believe we will be sanctified than it did for us to believe we could be saved.

You see, when we were brought to Christ for salvation and told to believe that He would forgive us our sin and save us from our sins--we came to Him as people who had been blind to our sin and to its effect of having separated us from God. We came to Christ knowing we were sinners but never having fought sin—we never really understood its power. But as believers who have gone a few rounds with sin and who in the fight with sin have been pressed against the ropes and even knocked to ground more times than we care to remember—we understand sin's power and thus simply because we now know what we are fighting with and how able it is to run us into the ground—we need a greater degree of grace to keep believing that in this fight, which we seem to be losing more than we are winning that God really is going to make us holy and one day present us before His throne as blameless. And we need a greater degree of grace—which God is providing to us as believers—to not fall into the three extremes—we tend to fall into when we sin miserably as believers. We need a greater degree of God's grace to keep us from continually thinking we were never saved in the first place and that we need to go back and get it right this time. We need a greater degree of God's grace to keep us from thinking we have lost our salvation and need to go back and get saved again. And finally, we need a greater degree of God's grace to keep us from falling into despair and a despondency over our sin that tempts us to run from God in shame rather than to run to Him for help.

As James puts it in James 4:6-8, God has given us who are believers this greater grace in the midst of the battle with our sin to do four very important things that will make all the difference in the world when sin is getting the best of us.

1.God has given us a greater degree of grace to believe that we can submit to God rather than sin. (v.7a)
2.God has given us a greater degree of grace to believe that we can resist the devil and that he will flee from us. (v.7b)
3.God has given us a greater degree of grace to believe that not only can we draw near to God as believers but God desires us to draw near to Him even after we have lost a battle with sin and to believe that when we do draw near to God—He truly does draw near to us. (v. 8)
4.And finally, God has given us a greater degree of grace to believe that we can fight and deal with our sin in a way that produces holiness as we continually repent of our sin and humbly confess it to God. (vv. 8b-10)

CONCLUSION

When Herb Brooks got the nod to coach the U.S. Hockey Team in the 1980 Olympics to be held at Lake Placid, New York he knew that the team to beat was the Soviet Union or the Russians as we now know them. And Herb knew that he needed to change the way his young amateur US team played the game if they were to have a chance at winning a gold medal against a team that had not lost a gold medal game in 24 years. But in order to change the way his team played against this team the Americans had never defeated before—Herb knew he needed to change the way they thought about the game, their opponent, and themselves. But most important, he had to convince his team that not only could the Russian team be defeated—it could be defeated by a team made up of American college players—that simply believed they could do it.

Well, you know the rest of the story—this American Hockey Team did defeat the Russian National Team in a game billed as a miracle—because they had the confidence to believe they could. And you see, this is why God has given us a greater degree of grace in our battle against sin—we need this greater grace in order to believe the seemingly impossible—that our sin can be beaten and that we will be made holy and someday be presented as blameless before the throne of God.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Romans Series Message #63 February 21, 2010

The True Believer Is Dead To Sin
Romans 6:1-2

You know, back when Martin Luther unintentionally began the Protestant Reformation by preaching the Gospel--that sinners are only saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from any personal works or merits of their own—one of the charges brought against his preaching by the Roman Catholic Church was that if this is the case—that a person can be saved and in fact, kept saved, by God's grace alone irregardless of a person's works whether they be bad or good--then why be concerned about sin at all?

They went further in their attacks against Luther and his preaching to say that he and his false gospel were actually encouraging people to sin because after all, if God's grace is greater than all of our sin then why not keep on sinning?

But not only was his Gospel offensive to the Catholics—it also upset those groups which believed that whereas a sinner was saved by grace—his salvation was preserved by his own good works. They felt that to emphasize God's grace too much to believers was to do away with the very thing that would motivate them to holiness which was the fear of losing their salvation.

And finally, there were others within Luther's own camp who struggled with the idea that a truly saved person could not out sin God's grace. Whereas, they believed it to be true—they felt it wise not to proclaim it too much for fear that it would lead to believers pursuing sin with reckless abandon simply because they thought God would forgive them.

And it has been my experience in ministry that even today in churches that preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that some well-meaning believers sometimes struggle with the ramifications of preaching the truth that where sin abounds in the child of God's life—God's grace abounds all the more—especially, when it comes to others. What I mean is this—can you imagine the trouble that could arise within Christian circles if we taught this truth without qualifying it in any way. I mean—even though its true—would it be wise to teach a bunch of Christian teenagers that they can't out sin the grace of God and that irregardless of what their sin may be it can be forgiven by the grace of God and that their sin has absolutely no bearing upon their acceptance with God whatsoever. I mean—you might as well just tell them to go out an live like the devil because God will forgive them. As one man put it: “I love to sin and God loves to forgive so in order to enable God to do what he loves to do I shall do what I love to do and sin to my heart's content.”

Again, if it is true that my performance as a Christian has no bearing upon my acceptability with God and if it is true that I cannot out sin God's grace and lose my salvation—why worry about sin at all? To take it a step further—if indeed grace super-abounds where sin abounds—why not see my sin as the very means of making God's grace look really good in that it will require so much of it to keep me saved—making God look more gracious than ever?

But now—let me ask you—those of you who have been truly saved from your sins by the grace of God—this is not how you think is it?! In fact, all of this kind of thinking is completely foreign and even repulsive to the person who has truly been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Oh, he or she still struggles with sin and always will until the day they die and enter glory—but they will not revel in a new ability and freedom to sin. That is the mark of an unbeliever not a believer.

You see, the true believer is always amazed by God's grace whereas the unbeliever will always try to take advantage of God's grace and use it as a reason to sin all the more.

Whereas, we all struggle with sin and sometimes the struggle is just plain ugly because we just don't seem to be faring so well in the battle with our sin—as true believers we could never bring ourselves to seriously consider just giving up the fight and pursuing sin with “gusto” and then rationalizing it by saying that we are doing it all for the glory of God. A true believer cannot do this. And if this is where you are—thinking that because you have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ that you cannot lose your salvation and thus you have a free ticket to sin--then you are not thinking as a Christian thinks but rather as an unbeliever thinks and the reason you are thinking this way is because you are an unbeliever who is still under the reign of sin.

This is exactly the point that Paul is bringing us to in Romans 6 and which he highlights for us in Romans 6:1-2. Open your Bibles and let's read it.

Now the truth that these two verses and really the rest of Romans 6 is communicating is that:

The person who has been justified by faith in Christ Jesus has died to the reign and dominion of sin in his life and thus is no longer a slave to sin and therefore would never see God's grace as the motivation to pursue more and greater sin.

Now, obviously, this statement raises a big question in our minds, doesn't it—namely--”Then, why do I sin?” In fact—if I am truly a person who has been justified by faith and if I have thus died to the reign and dominion of sin in and over my life—why do I still have such an intense struggle with sin? And why, if I am no longer under sin's dominion and reign do I still find myself giving into sinful temptation and feeling as though I can't say “No”. Furthermore, if I have actually died to sin and thus am no longer under its spell or authority—why do I still enjoy sin enough to pursue it in disobedience to the Word of God? These are good questions and they are the questions that Paul wants to answer for us in Romans 6 as he explains to us how and why we have died to sin so as to no longer be held under its captivating spell.

In essence, Romans 6 is going to teach us how to fight sin for the glory of God and for the assurance of our salvation. And if we were to outline the passage it would go something like this:

In order to fight sin so as to glorify God and ensure that you truly are a person who has been justified by faith and thus is perfectly accepted by and acceptable to God . . . .

1.You need to understand what is true of you as one who has been justified by faith and thus saved. (Romans 6:1-10)

2.You need to believe what is true of you as one who has been justified by faith and thus saved. (Romans 6:11)

3.You need to act upon and live out what is true of you as one who has been justified by faith and thus saved. (Romans 6:12-23)

Now, if you listened carefully to my outline you will have noticed that I did not say: “In order to fight sin and win . . . you need to do the following”. Rather, what I said, is that “In order to fight sin . . . you need to do the following”. You see, Romans 6 is not teaching the doctrine of what is often referred to as “Sinless Perfectionism” in which some people claim that true believers should progress in their spiritual lives to a point of perfectionism in which they no longer sin. This is not what this chapter in Romans is teaching.

Rather, what it is teaching is that since the true believer will be engaged in a fight with sin throughout his earthly life—he better learn how to fight it. And the promise in this chapter is that if he fights these battles with sin God's way and with God's provision—he will see progress in the fight.

Well, today we are going to deal with the first point in how to fight sin as a justified sinner and the fact is we will probably not finish with this point today.

So....How does a truly justified sinner fight sin so as to prove he really is a justified sinner and thus glorify God?

1. He must understand what is true of him as a person who has been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's take a look back at Paul's original question in Romans 6:1 as we begin to flesh this out. His question—to be very specific and quite literal is simply this—“Can we who have been justified by faith continue to abide or live in sin in order that the grace may increase?” Now let's break this question down a bit.

First of all, his question is asking if something is possible for a true believer to do. And the thing he is asking about in regard to the true believer—the one who in Romans 5:1-2 has been justified by God and therefore is at peace with God and the one who in Romans 5:10 has been reconciled to God and the one who in Romans 5:12-19 was transferred out of union with Adam and into union with Christ and the one who in Romans 5:20-21 has been rescued from the reign of sin and placed under the reign of grace—is it possible for this one to continue to live in and abide in “the sin”, all the while thinking God's grace will cover it anyway.

Now the word that he uses for “continue” in this question is epimenomen. It comes from two Greek words, epi and meno. Epi is a preposition which has the idea of being in or moving toward close proximity to something so that you end up in it, on it, or resting upon it. Meno means to remain or to abide or to live. It is used of abiding and living in a house, in a country and even in Christ in John 15:4. The idea is that of living and abiding comfortably in a certain situation. Joined together to form epimenomen, the word has the idea of remaining, abiding, and continuing, in a place or a state of being that would appear comfortable for one to remain in.

Thus, what Paul seems to be asking is this: “Is it possible for a true believer in Christ Jesus to continue to remain, live, and abide comfortably in sin because he believes God's grace will increase enough to cover him in so doing?

Now, before we move on let's make sure we understand what Paul is not asking. He is not asking: “Is it possible for a true believer to sin?” That is not the question Paul is posing in this verse. Nor is he asking if it is possible for a true believer to struggle with sin.

What he is asking is: Is it possible for a true believer to live his life in a state of continued and persistent sin and be comfortable doing so presuming all the while that God's grace will cover it anyway?

And what is Paul's answer to this-- “May it never be!” Now in the Greek text his answer quite literally is: “Not...May it Be” or as we would say--”No Way....Is This Possible!”

And then, Paul asks another rhetorical question in order to help us understand why it is impossible for the true believer to peacefully and comfortably co-exist with sin. Look at the second part of verse 2. Paul asks: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Now let's unpack this question to see what Paul means.

The fact that it is a rhetorical question tells us that that the answer to the question is built into the question. In other words, when you were a kid and your mother asked—Johnny how do you expect to keep your room clean when you won't put away your toys? Well, the answer to this question is obvious—Johnny won't ever keep his room clean if he never picks up his toys. And in Paul's question the answer is just as obvious—we who have died to sin can't live in it—it is an impossibility.

Now in this verse the word “live” comes from the Greek word zao, which has to do with the act of living life. So, the point Paul is making is that true believers—because they have died to sin—cannot continue to live their lives in sin. They can't just exist and pass their days living in a peaceful, comfortable, and unconcerned coexistence with sin—it is impossible.

Now, we all know people or have heard of people who all the while professing to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are involved in openly sinful activities and are not troubled by it in the least. They don't see anything wrong or abnormal with their pursuit of sin and in fact, they even brag about it. And when confronted with it—they either become offended or just shrug it off saying something like--”Isn't God's grace a wonderful thing?” Well, it is a wonderful thing but it is not an excuse to sin.

Then there are others who, while professing to know Christ are secretly involved in personal, private, and hidden sins. And they have no problem pursuing these sins. They hide them because they know they would be embarrassed if found out—but they experience no conflict in their souls when it comes to pursuing these sins and often wonder why their more committed believing friends see them as such a big deal.

What both of these kinds of “professing” believers have in common is that they are living in peaceful and comfortable co-existence with their sin and not experiencing any kind of conflict over it in their souls. And this is what Paul is saying is an utter impossibility.

On the other hand, the experience of the true believer is that he too involves himself in openly sinful activities from time to time and even has his private sinful habits that he often desperately hides from others--but he cannot continue to pursue sin and live in his sin with any sense of joy, comfort, peace, or satisfaction. His heart is filled with conflict and strife as he pursues sin and continues to try to hide it. He is like David, who in Psalm 32:3-4, wrote: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” The true believer cannot continue to comfortably and peacefully co-exist with sin in his life—and not experience terrible conflict in his soul. Check out Romans 7:14-24 and you'll see the tremendous heart wrenching conflict the Apostle Paul endured in his fight against his own sinful lusts. This conflict will eventually lead the believer to engage their sin in spiritual combat because they cannot peacefully remain in this state of sin because they have in reality “died to sin”.

Now what does Paul mean when he says that the true believer has “died to sin”? Well, in the Greek text—it is an aorist indicative active verb, which simply means that Paul is talking about an act that took place once and for all in the believer's life. In other words, in every believer's life, without exception, there was a moment when he or she died to sin once and for all. Now—this is really what the rest of Romans 6-8 is going to explain. Suffice it to say today—that when you truly placed your faith in Jesus Christ and were justified by God and placed in union with Jesus Christ—you were removed from the reign of sin, the realm of sin, the dominion of sin, and thus the jurisdiction and the control of sin and the deceitful spell of sin in and over your life. Paul reiterates this very truth in Romans 6:7 where he states that “he who has died is freed from sin.” He further restates it in Romans 6:14 when he says: “For sin shall not be master over you . . .”

Now, this does not mean that you and I as believers in Christ will not sin and will eventually on this earth and in this body reach a state of sinless perfectionism. What it means is that we have been freed from a state of being in which sin is normal for us and comfortable to us and something we can continue to purposely and deliberately pursue and co-exist with.

One aspect of dying to sin and the aspect we are considering this morning is that when we came to Christ we died to sin in the sense that we died to sin's spell and ability to blind us to God and God's beauty and the utter ugliness of sin, which had caused us to live as those who not only enjoyed sin and pursued sin but who couldn't live without sin and thus who could live and co-exist indefinitely in and with our sin. Now, be careful to note that it is not that sin died—sin is still as powerful and as captivating and as alluring and as deceitful as ever—it is alive and well.

As Jerry Bridges writes in his book, The Discipline of Grace,

“Sin is like a defeated army in a civil war, that instead of surrendering and laying down its arms . . . continues to wage a guerrilla war. . . . Sin as a reigning power is defeated in the life of a believer, but it will never surrender. It will continue to harass us and seek to sabotage our Christian lives as long as we live.”

But—we who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ have died to sin's power, captivation, allurement, and deceit in the sense that we can no longer live peacefully and comfortably and enjoyably in it as one who can co-exist with it. We have to fight it and the true believer will fight it. Oh, the battle may not always be pretty or seem successful but if you are a true believer there will be a battle and there will be a fight and there will ultimately be sanctification.

If there is no battle, no fight, and not even a desire to fight sin in your life—it is because there has been no justification. As Paul teaches us in Romans 6:1-2, it is impossible for the true believer to live in a state of peaceful co-existence with his sin—he must fight it and it is the desire to fight and continue to fight sin rather than to peacefully co-exist with it that is the proof of his justification and ultimately the growing substance of his sanctification.

On the flip side, Romans 6:1-2 is teaching that it is impossible for the person who loves his sin and will not take up arms against it to truly be a saved person. Everyone of us in this room is either a lover of God or a lover of sin. There is no middle ground. And if in your heart of hearts, you know you have been a lover of sin but you desire now to turn from your sin and become a lover of God—that desire is called repentance. If you will give yourself to this desire and turn from and renounce your love for your sin and then by faith turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as your new love and embrace Him alone as your only Lord and only Savior from sin —you shall be saved and set free from the power and penalty of sin and given new life in Christ.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wanted: Visionary Leaders With Spiritual Credibility ~ Joshua 1-4

Leadership Transition Series Message #5
February 7, 2010



Have you ever considered what the difference is between a manager and a leader? Leaders have to be visionaries and managers don't. As Alex Montoya writes regarding leadership, “the main difference between leadership and management [is that] leadership provides the vision, and management executes the vision.” In other words, whereas, managers know how the ladder should be climbed—leaders know where to put it!

Another way of seeing the difference between managing and leading is that whereas management is primarily concerned about doing things right leadership is concerned about doing the right things. As one writer describes the difference: “Managers run around with clipboards and whistles making sure everyone is on the trail—while leaders are blazing the trail.”

When it comes to the church, we need both. We need the more managerial types to help keep us on track but without the visionary leader types we wouldn't even be on the track. And whereas, I have found there to be a surplus of managers in most organizations including the church—there always seems to be a lack of true visionary leaders who know where they are supposed to be leading us and how to get us there.

Now, when I refer to “visionary leaders”, I am not referring to the kinds of leaders and pastors who are setting their own personal agenda for the church. I am talking about the kind of leader who because he is grounded in the Word of God, has a good grasp of church history, knows his own people well, and enjoys a vibrant prayer life has a keen sense of where, how, and to what God wants him to be leading the people under his charge because he can see what others don't. As one man has said: “We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon.” So, what I'm really talking about when I say “vision” is spiritual insight and foresight.

When it comes to spiritual leaders who had this kind of spiritual vision—some of the church's greatest examples are found in our mission's history. While most pastors and church leaders in England in the 1700s were obcessed with their own congregations, faltering budgets, and problems with the government—William Carey was staring at a world map dreaming about taking the Gospel where it had never been. And while his church was engrossed in petty squabbling, Henry Martyn saw the Muslim world and became one of the very first to take the Gospel to what we now call Iran.

You know, in a sense, the leader needs to be like Balaam's donkey back in Numbers 22:22-33. While you're turning there, let me give you the background of the story—It takes place while the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Balaam, a false prophet had been requested by Balak the king of Moab to meet with him so the two could talk over plans to curse the Israelites so that the Moabites could defeat them in battle and drive them back to Egypt.

Now, let's read the story in Numbers 22:22-33.

The reason I say that the leaders of God's people need to be like Balaam's donkey is because they need to see what no one else sees so as to know what to do and what to say in order to traverse divinely ordained challenges and obstacles.

Perhaps a more positive example and one more to the liking of potential leaders than being compared to Balaam's donkey is that of Elisha who when the town he was in was surrounded by the armies of the king of Aram, who planned to kill him and his assistant—was not at all worried much to the anxiety of his assistant. And in 2 Kings 6:15-17, you have the story of what happened.

Here is a great example of the kind of vision or spiritual insight that the man of God who is to lead God's people must have. While everyone else is like Elisha's assistant and looking at the problem—the leader needs to be like Elisha and be looking for God's solution to the problem.

Spiritual leaders who know their Bibles and know their God are prepared to see what others who are not in the Word and are not intimate with God do not and cannot see. And these are the kinds of men we need in leadership—men with spiritual vision and insight. And so, the big job for the spiritual leaders of any church and especially for the leader of the leaders is to have a sense of what kinds of conquests and challenges the Lord has in mind for the church he is to lead. He needs to see not only what must be accomplished but what could be accomplished.

I love the story about the grand opening of Disney World. Walt Disney, who we all know designed and was responsible for Disney World becoming a reality—died before it actually opened. So, his wife was asked to speak at the ceremonies. She was introduced by a man who said--”Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this.” She stood up and politely said: “He did” and then she sat down.

But the leader can't just see what can be—he must be able to communicate that vision and furthermore instill that vision in his church. And then he must be able to inspire his church to pursue that vision. And if the leaders do not inspire, who will? So, besides being men who can see what others can't see and who can communicate what they see so that others can now see it—spiritual leaders must also be able to lead their people and inspire their people from the Word of God and through the power of the Spirit of God to pursue that vision irregardless of how many obstacles and challenges are in the way.

Biblical leaders must lead people to live above and overcome their circumstances rather than to succumb to them. This was the failure of the ten spies sent out to Canaan who upon their return to the Israelites offered a negative and pessimistic report on their ability to conquer the land (Numbers 13:26-33). And just as this story illustrates, there will always be within any group of people and leaders those who will see the glass half empty rather than half full. These are the people who, regardless of what good is occurring or what the potential for good is, cannot help but find the negative in it. And keep in mind, whereas these kinds of people may make great managers who are responsible for quality control—they don't make the best leaders as Moses found out.

This is not to say that leaders keep a blind eye to problems. It is to say that good leaders, fully aware of the potential and real problems of any endeavor, see the possibilities and forge ahead inspiring others to follow. Too many want-to-be-leaders are spreading among God’s people “a bad report” causing the people to lose heart and give in to their circumstances. I like the Chinese proverb which says: “Man who says, 'it cannot be done' should not interrupt man doing it.”

You know, when it comes right down to the nuts and bolts of church or any kind of leadership, for that matter, the leader's attitude often makes more of a difference in the end than his aptitude. But, in order to inspire others the leader himself must be inspired and that requires spending lots of time with the Lord and Head of the Church—Jesus Christ. What inspires me for leadership is God and the fact that God's purpose and God's goals and God's vision is so huge that it requires His power to accomplish it and thus being the leader of God's people in pursuing God's plans gives me a front row seat to seeing God's power at work in the accomplishing of His purposes—and that inspires me.

But, keep in mind, however inspired the leader is and no matter how great he has been able to communicate God's vision for the church—he will never be able to inspire those—whose hearts he has not won because they do not trust him. You see, for a man to win the hearts of those he is to lead spiritually so that he can inspire them to follow his leadership in spiritual endeavors—he must be a man who has spiritual credibility.

So, while the leader needs to have a spiritual vision for his people that comes from God and needs to know how to implement that vision as well as instill that vision in the people he is leading—if he does not have the necessary spiritual credibility before his people--his leadership will fail in spite of the grandeur of his vision and ability to communicate it. And today if you'll turn with me to Joshua 1, we will see this truth as well as how Joshua gained the necessary spiritual credibility so as to truly become the spiritual leader of God's people. These passages contain three important truths regarding the need for spiritual credibility.

1.Unless God's people know that God is with the leader he will never become their real spiritual leader. (Joshua 1:17)

2.Unless God works in the leader's life so as to demonstrate that He is with him—the people will not have confidence that God is truly with him and he will never become their real spiritual leader. (Joshua 3:7, 17; 4:14)


3.Unless God is with the leader he will never ever truly become a real spiritual leader whose spiritual leadership is noteworthy. (Joshua 6:27)

So, this of course begs the question—What does the leader need to do in order for God to “demonstrate that He is with him” so as to give the leader the necessary spiritual credibility to lead God's people? Look at Joshua 1:1-9. God promises Joshua that He will be with him and that He will never fail him nor forsake him twice in these 9 verses. He promises Joshua in verse 5 that He will be with Joshua just as He was with Moses and that He will never fail nor forsake Joshua. He then reiterates this promise in verse 9. Thus, God promises Joshua that He will be with him but that truth alone—as powerful and as foundational as it is—will not give Joshua the necessary credibility he needs in the eyes of the people. You see, the people needed to see that God was with Joshua in order to know and believe that He was with Joshua.

Look at Joshua 3:7 and Joshua 4:14 again. Notice that God said in 3:7 that He would exalt Joshua that day “in the sight of all Israel” and according to 4:14 that is exactly what God did—He revealed to the people that He was with Joshua so that they would follow him. Now, while God's promise was enough for Joshua to move forward and lead—it had to be demonstrated to the people for them to move forward and follow. So, how did God reveal that He was with Joshua?

Well, essentially, He made Joshua look good by fulfilling what He said He would do if Joshua obeyed Him and did exactly what God told him to do. Look at Joshua 3:7-17.
You see, Joshua took God at His Word and then expected God's people to do the same.
And because he took God seriously and expected God's people to take God seriously—God exalted Joshua in the eyes of the people so that they were not only willing to follow his leadership—they wanted too! And this is exactly what God told Joshua in Joshua 1:5-9. After giving him the promise to be with him—God then tells Joshua in verses 7 to “be careful to do according to all the Law and not turn from it . . . . so that he would have success wherever he went.” Then in verse 8, God tells Joshua to “meditate upon the law day and night so as to be careful to obey all of it. . . . for then he would make his way prosperous and have success." And success at what—we might ask? Well in Joshua's case it was success as a leader—and in particular the leader of God's people. You see even though Joshua had God's word that he would be with him just as He was with Moses—the people needed to see that Joshua was with God and that he was being blessed by God because he was following God.

In essence, that which gives the spiritual leader the credibility he needs to lead God's people is that he has a heart that takes God's Word seriously and then expects God's people to take it seriously and then is careful to do exactly what God has said to do irregardless of the obstacles or dangers involved.

Now, does this mean that Joshua was a perfect leader who made no mistakes and never failed? No, not at all. In fact, he failed many times as a leader. Ai and Gilgal were two prime examples of his not being a “perfect leader”, but even in his failures—he, once he was convicted of his sin—did exactly what God had told him to do—he repented and confessed and took responsibility and never lost the spiritual credibility necessary to lead God's people.

The point is, when we give careful attention to the Word of God to obey it and to treat it as serious—we will have spiritual credibility in our station in life whatever that may be. And likewise, if we don't treat God's Word as Holy and we disobey it—we lose spiritual credibility.

CONCLUSION

When all is said and done—it is not a man's resume or educational degrees or ability to hold a congregation spellbound by his preaching that authenticates his spiritual leadership—rather it is whether or not he treats the Word of God with the seriousness and care it deserves and believes it and obeys it.

Indeed, “obedience is better than sacrifice” as Samuel the prophet stated to Saul, a man who because he did not obey God lacked spiritual credibility before God to lead His people inspite of the fact that he had great leadership potential.

You see, in the end—what makes a leader a spiritual leader and an effective leader and a leader in whom God is pleased to use is whether he has credibility with God first.

And if you find a man who has credibility with God because he spends time with God, takes God seriously, obeys God, loves God, and is willing to put it all on the line for God—you have found a man who is prepared to see what God wants him to see, who has the ability to communicate what he sees to you, and the spiritual credibility to lead you in accomplishing it.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wanted: Spiritual Leaders Prepared By God Himself Numbers 27:18

Message #4 Leadership Transition Series January 31, 2010

Well finally, after Moses has given God his list of what kind of man he would like to see replace him—God in Numbers 27:18 names the man and believe me—he was no surprise to Moses.

In fact, it would have surprised Moses had God not selected Joshua because not only was Joshua qualified—he was already doing the job of helping Moses lead God's people.

In other words, Joshua, who is probably best known for his declaration which many of you have hanging up on a wall somewhere in your house--”But as for me and my house we will serve the LORD!”--had not only distinguished himself as a leader at home--he was also distinguishing himself on the job as Moses' assistant –as an able and capable leader of God's people.

Now again, Joshua was not a stranger to Moses, the people, or leadership.

You see, Moses had been grooming Joshua for this position for years with some apparent insight that if he was to be replaced—Joshua would be the man to replace him and would therefore need to be prepared for this task.

Now turn with me to Numbers 11:28.

Joshua had served with Moses as his assistant from his youth. This means that even as a young person—there was something that stood out about Joshua to Moses that caused him to choose Joshua as his assistant and the Hebrew word really has the idea of “chief assistant”.

As Moses' assistant, Joshua would be counted upon to keep confidences, protect Moses' time, deal with people and problems that could quickly consume Moses' time and energy.

He would have to be a young man Moses trusted and was able to count on thus Joshua must have been a reliable and trustworthy young man.

But not only this, Joshua had proven himself as a reliable, trustworthy, and loyal assistant to Moses for somewhere in the vicinity of 70 years.

Most Old Testament scholars believe the Conquest of Canaan took between 20 and 25 years. Since Joshua died at the end of the conquest of Canaan at the age of 110 according to Joshua 24:29—he was between 85 and 90 years old when he assumed leadership over the Nation of Israel.
So, since Joshua started serving Moses as a youth—it is very likely that Joshua had served as Moses' assistant for well over 70 years before he ever became the leader.

In other words, Moses had plenty of time to get to know this man and build into his life.

And given the fact that Joshua is still serving as Moses' assistant at least 70 years after he started—there must have been something about him that kept him on Moses' payroll.

Obviously, he was a man of character who had no trouble playing “second fiddle” most of his life.

He was obviously a man who did not need to be in the lime light.

Nor was he a man who was driven by personal ambition. Interestingly enough, there is not recorded anywhere in Scripture that Joshua in all of his years of working under Moses—desired or attempted to undercut, usurp, draw attention away from, or otherwise manipulate Moses' leadership in any way, shape, or form.

Scripture indicates that Joshua was a loyal assistant who, had Moses lived to lead the conquest himself, would have been just as content to play second-fiddle for another 20 to 25 years.

In fact, in Numbers 11:28-29, we see some of Joshua's loyalty to Moses.

Earlier, Moses had complained to God that the work load of leading God's people was too much for him (Numbers 11:14).

So, God told him to pick 70 men to help him in leading the people. God also promised to grant them His Spirit so that they too would be equipped to help in this leadership role (Numbers 11:16-17).

Then once Moses had picked his 70 and stationed them around the Tent of Meeting, the Lord filled these men with His Spirit and this was authenticated by the fact that they prophesied one time right there. (Numbers 11:24-25)

Now apparently, two of the seventy failed to show up at the Tent of Meeting or at least were late and when the other 68 were prophesying at the Tent of Meeting—these two began prophesying in the camp (Numbers 11:26-27).

And this greatly upset Joshua and caused him to become jealous for Moses' sake according to Numbers 11:28-29.

You see, this act of other men besides Moses prophesying meant that Moses was not really the “kingpin” that everyone thought he was.

Yes, he was the only man to whom God spoke face-to-face, but he was no longer the only man to whom and through whom God spoke and this in Joshua's mind—threatened Moses' leadership and position before the people.

And he was right—it did threaten his position as is seen in the next chapter—Numbers 12:1-2—when Aaron and Miriam use the fact that God had spoken through them as a means of undercutting Moses' leadership.

But even though he was right in knowing that this would potentially threaten Moses' leadership—he was wrong because his concern was motivated more by loyalty to Moses than loyalty to the Lord or the people.

So, in a sense Joshua had a commendable loyalty yet in another way—he had a blind loyalty that needed to be and was corrected by Moses himself.

This also helps us to see that Joshua was a man who could take correction and not have it so upset him that he quit or put Moses in the position of having to replace him.

And in my mind, it is huge that Moses was able to speak so frankly and really almost sarcastically to Joshua and not be afraid that Joshua would “pick up his ball and go home”.

We see here that Moses did not sense a need to handle Joshua with kid gloves.

He was able to “tell him—like it is” and was not concerned that Joshua would get mad, run away, or now try to undercut his leadership himself.

But not only was Joshua a man of character who demonstrated great humility, loyalty, and selfless service to Moses for around 70 years—he was a man whom God selected for leadership because God had prepared him for leadership and had done so in four major ways—example, experience, enlightenment, and empowerment.

God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him an example to follow.
God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him life experience.
God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine enlightenment.
God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine empowerment.

And I will contend that this is exactly how God prepares his leaders today as well.


The man God chooses to lead His people will have had a good example to follow, life-experience to learn from, scriptural enlightenment to guide him, and divine-empowerment to use him.

1.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him an example to follow.

Obviously, Joshua could not have had a better human example than Moses to follow and learn from.

He had every opportunity to observe Moses—in private and in public.

He was able to see how this great man of God handled adversity, tribulation, fear, frustration, anger, and victory.

He heard Moses pray, cry, and plead for these people. He also heard Moses beg God not to destroy them from the face of the earth.

And as he watched and learned he began to understand the real enemy of God's people was themselves and their own sin and complacency in dealing with their sin.

He was there when they made the golden calf and saw Moses' broken heart at his people's idolatry. And then he saw that broken heart turn into fierce righteous indignation as Moses saw the people worshiping that golden calf.

He was there when Moses and the people disagreed over which was the best way—God's or their's—and he saw Moses standing alone many times because he would not budge from God's way.

And he was there when his hero failed and disobeyed God by striking the rock rather than speaking to it.

And he learned that day—that God has no favorites and that disobedience comes with a cost.

Yes, Joshua saw both the good and the bad in Moses as well as the great and knew exactly what leading God's people would entail and would cost him.

2.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him life experience.

Next, God prepared Joshua for leadership by granting him life experience
that developed him as a leader.

As the saying goes: Experience is a good teacher but needs a willing pupil.
Joshua was indeed a willing pupil.

Joshua was Moses' choice to lead Israel in battle in their very first military engagement after leaving Egypt. The account is found in Exodus 17:8-14.

Now, the Scriptures do not indicate what training and experience Joshua had for leading a military campaign—but--there's always a first-time for everything.

Joshua does not appear to flinch, complain, make excuses, or even try and pawn the job off on Caleb—he simply does what he is told and gains some great experience that he doesn't even know he is going to need for another 50 or so years.

Joshua was the man Moses chose to go up Mt. Sinai with him when he first received the Law of God in Exodus 24:12-18.

So, he had experience in seeing how a man is to relate to a holy God and that would prove invaluable to him later on down the road.

3.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine enlightenment.

It goes without saying that the leadership of God's people is dependent upon God providing divine leadership through His Word.

The man who would lead God's people must be in touch with God to know what God wants him to do as well as what God wants him to lead His people to do.

And to be in touch with God—he must be in God's Word.

And according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, one of the really big reasons why God has given us His inspired Word is so that “the man of God” might be adequate and thoroughly equipped to lead God's people.

And God did not leave Joshua out of the loop on this. Look at Joshua 1:5- 8. God gave Joshua His Word through Moses and expected him to know it,
meditate upon it, and obey it.

This was God granting him His divine enlightenment so as to succeed in leading God's people.

Now, of course a man must receive God's Word if he is to be a good leader of God's people.

He must have a huge respect for God's Word. He must hunger for it himself or he will not be of much good to those he is leading.

Now this does not mean that he will not have those dry desert experiences in which, even he comes to the Word more out of duty than delight.

And there will be times in his life when the Bible does not seem to speak to him—like it used to.

And there will be times when the distractions of life win so that instead of keeping his appointed times to enjoy God's Word—even he wastes his time on frivolous and insignificant activities.

But in spite of these times and in spite of his frail weaknesses the overall tenor of the spiritual leader of God's people is that he is a man who has an extraordinary desire for the Word of God and who sees being in it and being engaged by it not as an option but as a necessity of life.

In Exodus 33:11 which, is the chapter in which Moses asks to see God's glory—there is an interesting detail included that has to do with Joshua when he was just a young man.

Before Moses asks to see God's glory—the Bible tells us here in verse 11 that God used to speak to Moses face-to-face, just as a friend speaks to his friend.

Now this communication between God and Moses took place in a tent on the outskirts of the Camp—which Moses simply called “The Tent of Meeting”.

Now, when it says that God spoke to Moses face-to-face—it does not mean that God appeared to Moses. It simply means that God spoke plainly and forthrightly with Moses—just as “a friend would speak to a friend”.

And when Moses went to the Tent of Meeting to speak with God—he took with him Joshua who stood outside the Tent.

But note that when Moses left after talking with God that Joshua of his own accord “would not leave the Tent”.

There must be a special reason why God's Holy Spirit wanted us to know this.

And I think the reason why God wanted us to know this about Joshua is because it reveals that Moses was not the only one who had a desire to hear and perhaps even see God's glory.

You see, I think that the reason why Joshua chose to stay at the Tent after Moses left is because he didn't want to miss any opportunity to be at the Tent of Meeting when God came down to speak.

You see, even though outside the Tent—it is quite possible that Joshua heard what was being said inside the Tent and this captivated him so much that he was not going to take the chance of missing out on hearing God speak—so he remained at the place where God came down to speak—and he would not leave.

Now, this is the mark of one who has the potential of being a great spiritual leader.

He is hungry and thirsty to hear God speak—he is hungry and thirsty for the Word of God.

You know, I really don't have any hobbies. Other than my wife and kids, I have very few interests in this world.

Oh, I enjoy life immensely and I enjoy the things of life but I have really only one passion and interest that consumes me and it is studying, knowing, and teaching the Word of God.

And I think that the man who is to lead God's people as their primary spiritual leader in the church must be a man of whom it can be said—his passion and what consumes him is the Word of God.

And he should be a man like Joshua who wouldn't leave the Tent of Meeting because he didn't want to miss an opportunity to hear God speak.

The man who leads God's people must be a “man of the Book”.

Now, there is one other piece of information the Holy Spirit wanted us to have about Joshua here in this verse—and it was that simply that Joshua did this as a “young man”.

And that is significant because you often don't see young men so passionate and consumed with wanting to hear from God.

Most young men would be waiting outside their girlfriend's tent or the TV tent or the Video Game Tent or the Computer Tent or their friend's tent or the used chariot tent but not Joshua—he was outside the Tent where God spoke.

And when you see a young man like that—you may want to keep an eye on him because God is going to do great things in him.


4.God prepared Joshua for leadership by giving him divine empowerment.

If you'll go back to Numbers 27:18 you will see how God described Joshua.

He described him as “a man in whom is the Spirit”. And by this, God meant, of course, “The Holy Spirit”.

God could have described Joshua in many ways but didn't.

That which seemed to be most important to God was not that Joshua was a multi-talented, naturally-gifted, skilled, and experienced leader.

Rather, what mattered to God was that Joshua was a man in whom His own divine Spirit indwelled so as to empower Joshua to do a spiritual task that demanded more than he could ever muster on his own.

Oh, as we have already seen—Joshua had leadership ability, experience, enlightenment, and the invaluable opportunity of having Moses as his mentor yet all of this was not enough.

He still needed one more thing to be a leader of God's people and what he needed—only God Himself could provide—His own Spirit.

He needed, in the vernacular of years long past--”the anointing power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God to fill him with divine enablement and spiritual power from on high.”

And let me say—that this is still what God insists upon in those men who would lead His people.

They must be men who having been saved are not only indwelt by the Spirit of God but are continually being filled with the Spirit of God so as to fulfill in ways that can only be attributed to the power and work of God the impossible demands that the task of spiritual leadership requires.

I think one of the greatest biblical examples of this occurring in the life of a Christian was when Peter got up to preach on the Day of Pentecost.

Peter was a natural born leader. He was an experienced leader. He was also an enlightened leader having spent three glorious years with Jesus learning from His example but until Peter was “filled” by the Holy Spirit of God on the Day of Pentecost he was a spiritually anemic and powerless man who would rather run and hide than go “toe-to-toe” in a spiritual free- for-all with the host of hell.

But once he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God—there was no stopping him.

And this is the kind of men the church needs in leadership today—men who are so filled with the Spirit of God that they are willing to go “toe-to-toe” against the spiritual forces of darkness who would dare to threaten and if they could harm Christ's church.

CONCLUSION

Well, as we have seen when God prepares a man for the spiritual leadership of His people, He gives him an example to follow, life-experience to draw upon, His own divine Word to guide him, and His Spirit to empower him.
In other words, God fully equips the man He calls to lead His people.

Now one last thing I want to leave you with—Moses had to be told that Joshua was a man in whom the Spirit of God dwelled.

In other words, whereas God knew this to be true—Moses did not.

And it was not because Joshua was not a spirit-filled man—rather it was because up until now—Joshua had not faced a task big enough to demonstrate the Spirit's unique power in his life and on his behalf.

Oh, he had been involved in some pretty big scrapes and had stood up against the ten spies who didn't want to go into Canaan but nothing that he had ever done or been involved with came close to this task that God was calling him to.

And so, again whereas he was a godly man who had demonstrated godly character and leadership in the past—nothing he had done up to this point had required God's divine power to be manifested and displayed in an extraordinary way in His life through the indwelling Person of the Spirit of God.

And thus, Moses needed to be told that Joshua was a man in whom the Spirit of God lived.

In other words, greater spiritual challenges require greater demonstrations and manifestations of divine power and God will never leave the person He has called to accomplish a great task for Him without the power to accomplish the task.

And if God has called you to spiritual leadership He will grant you, through His Spirit, the spiritual power to accomplish the task He has called you to.

Of course, this kind of talk may cause some of you to become a little uncomfortable because other than your salvation you really haven't experienced much of the Holy Spirit's power in your lives.

And it could be that for some of you who wonder why it seems as though you haven't experienced the power of the Holy Spirit of God at work in your life in big or small ways is that perhaps you aren't pursuing the kinds of challenges that require that kind of power.

It is spiritually invigorating and very much worthwhile to go out out on a limb for the Lord from time-to-time. And we'll see how Joshua did that next week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BOOK REVIEW - Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions by Alan R. Johnson (William Carey Publishers)

This a book review by Trevor Johnson, a friend of mine who is leaving this week with his pregnant wife (Teresa) and two toddlers for their second term in the jungle of Papua. I agree wholeheartedly with him that this is a great read--but since I can't improve on his review--I have printed his for your reading pleasure.

Not that I want to review his review but I do want to make a point of emphasizing his point that whereas, a church's involvement in local food pantries, pregnancy centers, and even relief for the suffering in Haiti is biblically warranted, necessary, and deserving of our involvement and support--it does not replace the missionary mandate to that church to go to all the people groups and make know the Gospel of Christ. These ministries as wonderful as they are do not replace the Great Commission, which requires the church "to find the darkest holes of the world and stick ourselves in them. All barriers to the Gospel must be crossed and every dark region lit with a Gospel witness".

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Church historian Stephen Neill once remarked, “When everything is mission, nothing is mission.” Alan R. Johnson heartily agrees. Johnson, a missionary in Thailand, advocates a renewed focus on the “where” question of missions, and a renewed prioritization of frontier missions among the least-reached.

Don’t let the term “apostolic” fool you. Johnson is not advocating the return to the office of Apostle, using the term, instead, in a functional sense. Being “apostolic” means to “function in the manner of the Apostles” in our ever-outward, pioneering compulsion. As God’s “sent out ones,” we drive forward, intent on crossing every ethno-linguistic boundary with the Gospel. While pastoring existing churches might be needed until indigenous leadership can be raised up, the great need in missions consists of going to where the church has not yet been established and planting – for the first time – local manifestations of Christ’s universal Church within unreached “nations” -ethne - mentioned in our Lord’s Commission.

The apostolic role of the missionary is reflected in the very term itself, the Latin missio being derived from the Greek apostello, denoting a “sent-out one.” Missionaries, thus, are not merely those who go. They are those who are sent, emissaries of the Gospel, sent out for a special cause, the outward and propulsive impulse towards the uttermost parts of the earth.

While canned food drives and local crisis pregnancy centers deserve our help, too, these serve as poor replacements for our primary drive towards the ends of the earth and to all the nations. Our task is to find the darkest holes and to stick ourselves in them. All barriers to the Gospel must be crossed and every dark region lit with a Gospel witness.

While many US churches are advocating becoming more “missional” those churches most closely aligning themselves with this newly coined adjective are often the last to send workers overseas to the least-reached, instead, preferring local missions and – in consequence – failing to have anything but a local mindset, enslaved to the winds of culture.

While many opportunities exist for Western pastors to play roles in established Third World Churches, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of viewing missions through the lens of the pastoral ministry, white Anglo pastors pastoring brown Third World Churches. We must strive always to be passing the baton, in the manner of II Timothy 2:2, to faithful local men in a replicational, multiplicational way – making disciples that can make disciples, reaching the lost to reach the lost..


For this reason, We must prioritize frontier missions and we must also value the principle of indigeneity, attempting, in all that we do, to equip local believers, pass the baton, and see the Gospel blossom on native soil.. What we need in missions is not exported pastorates among already “churched” areas, but apostolic pioneers to the very edges of Gospel accessibility.

I love this book, The Apostolic Function, and I give it away to many pastor friends. If you don’t read this book, but merely study the articles mentioned in Johnson’s footnotes, this by itself would be a mini-course in missiology.

From a Papuan tribal ministry context, I highly suggest studying Johnson’s interaction with the people-group concept and the phrase panta ta ethne (all the nations) contained in the Great Commission (pages 121-126). Are we to prioritize reaching merely the maximum number of individuals with the Gospel, or is there also a warrant for reaching the maximum number of peoples (note the plural) with the Gospel, such that we desire to plant a beachhead of Truth across every geographical and ethno-linguistic boundary where Christ is not known? Read the book and decide for yourself.


This is a book well worth its price ($ 14.39 at the William Carey Library, www.missionbooks.org), and well worth the cost of gifting this volume to your key supporting pastors.

Trevor Johnson, World Team Papua

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Message #3 Transitioning Leadership Series "Spiritual Leaders Must Have The Right Stuff--At Home!"

Message #3 Transitioning Leadership Series Numbers 27:18-23

The movie, “The Right Stuff”, which came out in 1983 was based on Tom Wolfe's book on the history of the U.S. Space Program. In the book he covered the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager to the Mercury 7 astronauts who all knew the risks they were taking as they rode their primitive capsules into space. They knew they were sitting on rockets that could explode them into the tiniest of atoms. They also realized that the fierce heat of re-entry could reduce them to cinders, as well as the possibility that there would be no re-entry, leaving them to perish miserably in Space. Yet these men eagerly took those risks and succeeded because as Wolfe writes, “they were made of the right stuff.”

Well, whereas, the men whom God has called and anointed to lead His people may not ever have to ride a rocket into Space and face the prospect of never coming home—they do have to have “the right stuff” if they are to be successful in providing godly and spiritual leadership to God's people. And this was Moses' concern—he wanted God to provide a new leader that had “the right stuff” so as to lead God's people to their next challenge. And whereas, Moses is not setting forth in a detailed format all of the qualifications for spiritual leadership in Numbers 27:17-18 he is laying out the basic criteria for what is needed in a man who is going to provide for the spiritual leadership of God's people.

In the first category, he makes the point that this man must be a man who leads himself spiritually. He is a “self-feeder” if you will. He knows how to feed and spiritually care for himself. He is not going to be the guy who is constantly in need of a “group hug” or the affirmation of others. He has learned how to walk with God as an individual. And that requires some desert time with the Lord alone where a man is placed in hard and difficult situations in which he must rely entirely upon the Lord for spiritual sustenance and encouragement.

Second, this man needs to be a proven leader when it comes to leading others spiritually. In other words, he has a proven track record of spiritual leadership in which he has demonstrated an ability to successfully provide spiritual leadership in those realms of authority God has placed him in—such as—in his marriage and family, which interestingly enough is where God states the church should look first when checking out a potential leader.

According to 1 Timothy 3:4, the overseer or the pastor, if you will, must be one who manages his own household well. The word “well” comes from a Greek word which means, that which is good, excellent, and commendable. In other words, the man who should be considered for the position of an overseer over the church of God must be a man whose leadership at home is far more than just “making it” or just “keeping his head above water”. His leadership at home is commendable and serves as an example for other men in their leadership at home.

Note where Paul says the church needs to look to see if the candidate's leadership at home is up to par—at his ability to lead and keep his kids under control with all dignity. The word “dignity” comes from the Greek word, semnotes and means respect and reverence—the idea being that the man who is qualified to lead God's people is a man who is able to lead his children—not because they are deathly afraid of him—but because they respect and reverence him. In other words, his leadership at home is a respected leadership. His leadership is not questioned, mocked, made fun of, and ignored by his kids—rather they respectfully and reverentially obey and submit to their dad's authority in the home.

Paul's point is clear—yes you need to look and see if a man's family and in particular his kids are following his leadership but then you need to look and see why they are following it. If it is simply because they are scared spitless of him rather than because they truly respect and revere him as a godly leader then you would want to think twice about handing the reigns of spiritual leadership in the church over to that man.

Now, there is another thing this passage brings out very subtly and that is that his children are old enough that their obedience is motivated by respect and reverence for their dad rather than the fear of getting a good licking. If you take a look over at the Titus 1:5-6 passage, you'll notice that the pastoral candidate is to have children who believe and who are not accused of dissipation or rebellion. Now the Greek word that is translated “believe” is pistis and literally means “faithful”. It does have built into its meaning the fact that this child is a believer and a believer whose faith in Christ is being authenticated by his faithfulness. Now, this is not saying that if an elder has a little baby in the family he is not qualified to serve as an elder because the little baby is not yet saved. Rather, what Paul is saying is that the church needs to be looking for men as its pastors who have proven their leadership at home by having led and lived and managed their homes in such a way that God has used this spiritual leadership as the means of saving his children and of seeing their salvation authenticated by faithfulness to Christ.

Secondly, Paul makes the point that these children should not be able to be “accused of dissipation or rebellion”. Now what is dissipation? The basic idea behind the word is that of “wasting and squandering one's life by wasting one's resources, talents, abilities, and future on wild and indulgent living that has no regard for authority. It was commonly used to describe a state of drunken revelry. And the word “rebellion” here is not talking about a child who struggles from time-to-time with talking back or disobeying his parents—it is talking about the child who cannot be brought under the control of his parents and specifically his father. In other words, what is assumed here is that the pastoral candidate has children who are old enough to believe and demonstrate an authentic and genuine profession of faith in Christ in that they cannot be accused of pursuing or desiring to pursue a wild, indulgent, and wasteful life as well as are no longer able to be brought under the control and authority of his parents.

Note as well, that the bar Paul sets is not that the potential elder's kids cannot be guilty of such behavior—the bar is that they cannot even be accused of such behavior. I think one of the things that church's miss when looking for qualified elders and pastors is whether the man they are checking out has proven his spiritual leadership at home and this requires that his children be at least old enough to be led and to follow their dad's leadership. Also, if you go back to 1 Timothy 3:4-5 you will see Paul making the point in verse 5 that “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God.” In other words, the place where a man learns how to manage and spiritually lead the church is in his home.

In my mind and I believe in the Apostle Paul's mind—this requires that a man have children old enough to lead to saving faith in Christ and to a basic maturity in Christ in which their faith is authenticated by godly attitudes and living. They may not be perfect but their lives demonstrate that their profession of faith in Christ was real. I think the presupposition in these verses is also that his children are old enough to challenge his leadership and even rebel against it but don't. In regard to the Titus passage, John MacArthur makes point that:

“To find out if a man is qualified for leadership in the church, look first at his influence on his own children. If you want to know if he is able to lead the unsaved to faith in Christ and to help them grow in obedience and holiness, simply examine the effectiveness of his own efforts with his own children.
[Paul's] reference to dissipation strongly suggests that he has in mind primarily grown or nearly grown children. Even very young children can believe in Christ, and they certainly can be rebellious. But they cannot be guilty of dissipation in any normal sense of the word.

Many Christian men who work hard to support and manage their households utterly fail in leading their children to salvation, to godliness, and to Christian service. It is not that a faithful and conscientious father is responsible for his children's rejection of the gospel. He may have made every effort to teach them their need of salvation through trust in Jesus Christ and have set a godly example for them to follow. Nevertheless, such men are not qualified to be elders if they do not have children not only who believe but who also are not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

Successful spiritual leadership of their own families is their proving ground, as it were, for spiritual leadership in the church, because they are to be models of Christian living." (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Titus, 30-31)

Are there exceptions to this rule that a man have children of an age that would also necessitate the pastoral candidate be an older man? Sure—Spurgeon was the exception to the rule. However, the exceptions to the rule don't undo what the Bible states are the general qualifications for a church to look for in a man they are considering to be their pastor. Again, the man the church is to look for is the man who has proven he can lead himself and his family as a shepherd would lead his sheep.

Now, let me also say that unless a man has the full support of his wife in how he is leading his children—there will be a disconnect here—which will result in a failed leadership. In other words, the man who has proven himself in the spiritual leadership of his children has first been able to lead his wife. Keep in mind, that the authority in the home is given by God to the husband and father in the home. It is not that God gives daddy some authority and mommy some authority and tells them to use their individual authority to raise their children. There is only one authority and it is the authority that God provides to the man for the leadership of his family—beginning with his wife.

When a wife—in front of the kids--chooses to mock, belittle, question, doubt, make light of, violate or just not support her husband's clear wishes and authority—she is not only undercutting his leadership—she is destroying his ability to lead their kids because she is undermining their respect and reverence for their father. Proverbs 14:1 speaks profoundly to this issue when it says: “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” Look at 1 Corinthians 11:3. There is only one authority and it is God's authority, which He has given to Christ in His function as the Head of the Church and then which is given through Christ to the man in his role as the head of his home. Thus, when a wife undercuts the authority of her husband—especially in front of their children—she has really undercut God's authority in the home and taught her children, in essence that there is no authority--in this home or anywhere else.

Now, I understand that many a Christian woman is frustrated by the weak and sometimes even non-existent spiritual leadership of her husband but—you don't help the situation or yourself or your husband or your children by whining and complaining about it or by picking up the reigns for yourself. It would be far better to teach your children and especially your daughters how a godly woman lives and even thrives under weak and/or non-existent spiritual leadership than to teach them to usurp it. And this is another reason why the man who is qualified to lead God's church will be so obvious—not only are his children and specifically his older children under his authority as those who respect and revere him—so is his wife and that is one of the big reasons his kids are.

Strong and godly spiritual leadership cannot be effectively implemented or modeled in a home where the husband and wife is divided. Little eyes are watching and learning. Likewise, strong, godly, and effective spiritual leadership cannot be effectively implemented or modeled in a church where the pastor and his wife are divided. Little eyes and big eyes are watching and learning there too!

And wives—let me say that how you treat and respond to your husbands and their leadership in public—in the church—is noticed and it matters. When it is apparent that you have little respect for him as a leader and as a man—why would we?! To a large degree—you wives have the ability to make or break your husbands as they are seen by others—which is why the Excellent Wife of Proverbs 31 is a woman whose husband trusts in her because she does him good and not evil so that he is known as a good man and an influential man in the gates.

There are many places and positions within the church in which a man who is growing and developing in his spiritual leadership may serve. But the eldership and especially the senior pastor position is not one of them. These positions are only for men whose spiritual leadership at home with their wives and kids has been and is being proven.

Now, whereas the scriptural criteria for spiritual leadership is really high—it is not isolated to just those men who desire to be pastors—these qualifications are to be the goal of every Christian man. But because we all learn best when we have an example to follow—God's Word tells us that those who desire to be pastors must meet this criteria so as to provide the best example possible to the Church of Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION

We, in this church, would be shocked to hear of a father who does not desire the absolute very best for his children—yet we are not shocked by our own failure to work at measuring up to the qualifications God has set for spiritual leadership of His children. The very best any of us as men—as husbands—and as fathers can give our kids is a man whose spiritual leadership they not only can respect and revere but follow and then pass on to their own families one day.

Likewise, we, in this church, would be shocked to hear that one of our moms does not want the very best for her children—yet we are not shocked when we hear a mom belittle, make light of, ignore, contradict, question, and ultimately destroy the only and thus the very best spiritual leader God has appointed in her home—her very own husband.

What goes on at home really does matter—so much so that God says—when it comes time to finding a man to lead His church—you need to find one who has the right stuff at home. The vast majority of men who fail as pastors in the church—fail because of character issues, leadership style, ineffectiveness to lead, and failure to make tough decisions—all stuff that is best learned and demonstrated at home. Very rarely, does a man lose his ministry because he is not a Chuck Swindoll or a John MacArthur or a John Piper in the pulpit. But he will lose it and a whole lot more if he is not working on developing and demonstrating “The Right Stuff” at home.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13