Are You a Pastor with Bloody Hands?

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:26–30, ESV)

Why would the Apostle Paul consider himself “innocent of the blood of all?” Was it because he faithfully taught the whole counsel of God to the church in Ephesus? That is a worthy question to be answered. To Paul, spiritual oversight and teaching is a grave responsibility and if those responsibilities are not faithfully discharged, there is a very real danger.

Why would Paul use this kind of language? I think that it goes beyond just the serious nature of preaching and teaching. Paul connects the faithful teaching of the whole counsel of God (the fullness of Bible and doctrine) with the coming of fierce wolves. The wolves will come no matter what, Paul writes, but as their pastor, he has armed them with the Sword of the Spirit. His equipping would help them ward off the evil and blood-thirsty teachers that would try to invite the flock and drag away the naive and immature sheep among them. Was Paul being dramatic? I don’t think so. Which is worse, a murderer who kills our temporary body, or a false teacher that damns the eternal soul?

Paul knows that beyond the truth of Scripture taught, comprehended, and live out that the church is powerless in the face of the enemy. And he also knew that without the weapon of the Word, these wolves would “draw away the disciples after them.” To the elders who were now to be the primary protectors and overseers of the flock Paul is essentially saying, “My job is done. I equipped you with everything you need to ward off the enemy’s attacks and live a life pleasing to the Father. My hands are innocent if you fail to do your job. Stay vigilant!”

As we look at the big picture within our church’s programs and future plans, we cannot fail to see the equipping of the Saints with the whole counsel of God as a major and necessary component. Are we seeking to train up and equip the church with the necessary weapons to stand firm in the day of attack? Hobby horse doctrines, a regular diet of topical sermons, and picking and choosing to teach on the popular texts while avoiding controversial ones–all of these will produce an anemic church, and it will leave the pastor of that church with blood on his hands.

May every man who has been called by God to lead God’s people take this task seriously.

7 Reasons Why You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology

Various views of end times events have caused division, confusion, and frustration for many Christians. It isn’t hard for a person that wants to downplay the importance of eschatology to point out extreme examples of each view in order to demonstrate that the effort is fruitless. Some have jokingly called themselves “pan-millennialists” saying that it will all pan-out in the end.

However, complexity, alternate views, and even wacky ideas among some teachers should not be enough for us to put off the study of end times. We wouldn’t follow that reasoning regarding difficulties in our understanding of the Trinity, or the doctrine of hell, or any other biblical doctrine, would we? Any pan-Trinitarians out there?

In my opening message at the IFCA Annual Convention a few weeks ago, I set out seven reason for why we need to study and teach biblical eschatology. My message will be posted soon, but until then, I thought it might be helpful to enumerate those reasons:

1. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because It Puts God’s Glory on Display (Rev. 1:1-2)

2. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because It Shows Us God’s Future Plans (Rev. 1:1-2)

3. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because It Comes With Blessings (Rev 1:3)

4. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because the Time Is Near (Rev 1:3)

5. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because It Encourages the Saints (1Th 4:18; 5:11)

6. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because the Judgment of God is Coming (2Pt 3:1-10)

7. You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology Because It Promotes Holiness and Godliness in the Church (2Pt 3:11-12)

These aren’t the only reasons why we need to study and teach biblical eschatology, but these among others are rooted in the authority of Scripture itself. I pray these reasons will motivate, enourage, and inspire you to go to the Scripture and study and teach the hope of Jesus coming again.

Holy Stubbornness

“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.” (Acts 14:1-4)

The preaching of the gospel will always accomplish its intended purpose. Soemtimes the fields are slow to yield anything. We need to keep at it and trust the Lord for the growth. But sometimes the results are seen immediately, as in Acts 14 where a great number of Jews and Gentiles came to faith in Christ after the apostles proclaimed the gospel to them in Iconium. How exciting when this happens!

But along with this immediate burst of growth came an immediate response from the enemy. Spiritual warfare in the shape of stirring up strife and the poisoning of minds is said to have been the tactic used here. This probably means that lies and jealous striving were used to incite the Gentiles against the new Christians. It’s interesting that the non-believing Jews who would normally have nothing to do with Gentiles were now willing to feign concern for the Gentiles so long as they could accomplish their desire of persecution.

What I want to point out is what verse 3 says, “so they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord.” The “they” of verse three refers to the apostles Paul and Barnabas (13:50). In response to the attack against the new church in Iconium, the apostles did what any mother would do when her baby is attacked—they stayed longer to defend and care for her.

This “holy stubbornness” is a response of love and courage. Paul and Barnabas weren’t willing to proclaim the gospel, see people receive Christ, and then move on. The goal wasn’t to impress their buddies with evangelistic growth statistics. Their goal was to make disciples of Christ, and that meant that they needed to stay as long as necessary in order to ensure that their brothers and sisters in Iconium were protected from the wolves there.

Accompanying the apostles’ stay was the presence of God who gave to them bold speech that was empowered by Christ. It was Christ working through the apostles who bore witness to the word of His grace. This along with signs and wonders that accompanied the powerful Word confirmed the gospel and these messengers as being from God. This would go a long way to both strengthen the Church and warn the enemy.

Sometimes we think of evangelism in rosy, romantic terms that ignores what it really is—an incursion behind enemy lines to snatch away from the devil those who once were his, but now belong to Christ. And the enemy will not stand by idly and allow this to happen. We can expect him to fight back.

And this is where holy stubbornness is needed. Since we belong to Christ, we do not need to fear the enemy. Christ is for us, so who can be against us? But that truth does not remove the reality of spiritual attack, hardship, and persecution. We might feel the heat of warfare increase as the battle rages in our community and all around us.

Be encouraged. The devil doesn’t mess with the sleepers. He doesn’t want to rouse a church that is deep in apathy. But once you begin raiding the smoldering sticks from his fires, he will rage and seek to stop you. This might come as discouragement, personal attacks, division, distraction, or many other of his numerous schemes. Don’t give up! Don’t stop making disciples. Don’t become distracted. Don’t move on.

Dig in. Be stubborn. Refuse to relent. God is with us. We have the victory!

Taking a Break for Convention Time

I need to take a break from writing here to focus on our IFCA Annual Convention and Board meetings for the next couple of weeks and to take some time off with my family. I will return to writing on July 12, Lord willing.

If you’d be interested in viewing the Convention General Session speakers via Livestream, you can find out more information and register for the convention at the link below. Your prayers are appreciated!

Virtual Convention Registration: https://www.ifca.org/page/2021-annual-convention-virtual-version

Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 2)

On Friday I pointed to Paul’s admonishment to the churches in Galatia regarding the way the deeds of the flesh are manifest like the fruit that is borne of wicked seeds. You can read part one here: Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 1). Our actions and attitudes are like seeds that we are constantly planting. It may take some time, but they will eventually bear fruit.

Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7–8, ESV)

What does Paul mean when he says, ““Do not be deceived…” (v. 7a)?

The word “deceived” means to wander, or to go astray. It can also used of those who are led astray or lead others astray. Paul has already spoken of the fact that the Galatians were straying. In Gal 1:6, he spoke of his astonishment that they were so “quickly deserting” the Lord who had called them in salvation. And in Gal 3:1, Paul used even stronger language. He asked who it was that “bewitched” the Galatians into following this false gospel that was consuming the heart of the Church there. It was as if they had been put under a spell.

But Galatians isn’t the only place where Paul speaks of being deceived. In 1Cor 6:9 he warned the Corinthian church of the false teaching that says that somehow sin and the Kingdom of God are compatible. In other words, don’t worry about some fundamentalist understanding of the Law of God. Don’t worry about how you live. There is grace abounding to sinners, so live how you want, because God is love and he would never condemn anyone to hell. 

Paul says, don’t let this kind of lie deceive you into being eternally damned to hell. God does care about our souls. That is why he calls us to the gospel of Jesus Christ and then calls us to live a life of holiness that reflects that inner change. This is a lie similar to what the Galatian libertines were saying.

In 1Cor 15:33 Paul once again sounded a warning about deception. In this passage he warned the church of the false idea that a Christian can stay unstained by the world of sin that we live in while he “wallow[s] in dens of iniquity.” (Timothy George, NACNT). There are some even today who want you to think that as a blood-bought Christian you are free to do anything that an unbeliever does and that by virtue of your redemption you are like Teflon–nothing sticks to you!

Don’t be deceived! Second Corinthians 6:14-18 is clear! You may remember well the sinful world that you came out of and you have enough God-given sense to stay away from that filth because of the carnage and destruction it brought to your life before Christ.

And then someone comes along, and we are afraid of the labels “legalist” and “Pharisee,” so we allow them to pigeon-hole us into thinking not only that they are not sinning by indulging the flesh, but we are tempted to follow suit in our own lives. Don’t be deceived!

A legalist and Pharisee seek to be redeemed by their own righteous keeping of the Law. And if you are doing that, you are a Legalist. You need Jesus because all your righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God.

But if you trust in the blood of the Lamb to set you free from your sins, and you want to obey God in the big as well as little things because you have been redeemed and you want to walk in the Light as He is in the Light (1Jn 1:7), YOU ARE NOT A LEGALIST. YOU ARE NOT A PHARISEE! You, my friend, are a faithful servant of God. You are HOLY! You are GODLY. For sure, God is working “in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” (Phil 2:13) so he deserves all the glory–but You ARE working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), testing yourself to see whether you are actually in the faith (2Cor 13:5)! Do not be deceived!

When we think that what we believe or how we live has no real importance in our lives, we are either being deceived or are self-deceived. And we are more than likely deceiving others in trying to justify our own sin. Paul tells us, “Do not be deceived!”

But Paul says more. He goes on to say, “God is not Mocked.”(v. 7b).

God does not command or admonish so that we can choose to obey or ignore him. God is not some weak old man who is powerless to do anything but watch us helplessly as we sin. God is not joking. He is not suggesting when he commands. He is not hoping we will obey. He is not playing when he speaks. The fool who thumbs his /her nose at God will find that, in the end, the tables have turned. THERE IS A PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

What do I mean by “Payday?” Verse 7 paints us a picture from agriculture–from the farming community that Paul lived in. He says, “What you plant, is what you will sow!” You can’t get watermelons from tomato seeds. You can’t get peaches from corn kernels. You can’t plant green beans and hope to get grapes. And Paul is telling the Galatians and by the Spirit he tells us, You can’t live a wicked life of sin and hope that you will bear the fruit of the Spirit! Our actions produce consequences! Your words produce consequences. Your thoughts produce consequences. Your activities produce consequences.

It used to be that if you were a young boy playing baseball in the street, that if you broke a neighbor’s window, your dad would take you over to the neighbor to apologize and make arrangements for you to replace that window. Today we live in a different culture. Today people want to live without consequences.

Today people sue McDonalds for getting fat. They sue the company that made the navigation system in their car after they drove off the road and into a lake because the GPS told them to do it. They complain to the principle of their school because the teacher didn’t make their kid smart.

And that mentality is not new. In Galatia, the false teachers had taught that they didn’t need to worry about the consequences of their actions. They could live how they wanted–Grace! Grace! Let us sin that grace may abound! MAY IT NEVER BE, was Paul’s answer! And it ought to be our answer. We must see that we will reap what we have sown!

Tomorrow we will look at verse 8 and the negative consequences of being deceived by this lie.