Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts on 2 Timothy 2:2 Part 2 - Training up leaders

2Ti 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. God is interested in the next generation and in the passing on of His gospel from one generation to another. One of the reasons why Abraham was a friend of God and God chose him to bear the promise He gave him is found in Genesis 18:17-19, “And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” It would not have served the eternal purpose of God to call Abraham, give him the promises so that he would be a blessing to all nations unless He knew Abraham would be faithful not only himself, but also that he would pass on the promises to the next generation so that the promise could continue. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God of the generations. Both Isaac and Jacob received the promise because of Abraham, yet it was also necessary that they enter into their own relationship with God to receive and pass on the promise. Actually the promise was not fulfilled in their lives, but only in the lives of their descendants since the only land they actually possessed in Canaan was what Abraham purchased as a burial place. This is what Hebrews 11:39-40 refers to, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” These are only completed or made perfect when they receive the promise they lived and died for through those who follow after and enter into that promise. Abraham only receives the fulfillment of the promise and inherits Canaan through his descendants. Many times we reap where another person has sown, perhaps even unknown to us (John 4:35-38). Multitudes were reaped later where William Carey sowed yet he had almost no fruit himself for most of his life, but it was his ground-laying work especially in Bible translation that enabled the fruit to follow. Both the sower and reaper rejoice together in that the reward is shared between them the completion of the work not being possible to either by themselves. This is why the cloud of witnesses surrounds and looks upon the church militant awaiting for it to complete the work that was begun by those already passed on to be perfected and completed. Not only was passing on the promises and faith important in the life of Abraham, but in the Life of Christ one His major works was to train the disciples to follow after Him. It is in this sense in John 17:1-4 that Christ could say, “I have finished the work” even though the work of the cross was still before Him. Indeed the training of the disciples was one of the main things which made His work on the cross effective. Had He come and died for the sins of the world, but left no one as a witness of it the sacrifice would have had no effect on those for whom it was made. The Apostles received His message, bore Him witness and passed on all they had learned as the Holy Spirit brought it back to the memory. This is why Paul could refer to himself as a co-worker of God (2 Cor.6:1), and refer to the Church as the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:23), since as we are joined to Christ out of Him flow His works through us completing His work in the world in the absence of His bodily presence. Much more could be written on this, but it would be a digression here. Moses on realizing that God would not allow him to personally complete his life’s work of leading Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan, carried a deep burden to God that He would not leave Israel shepherdless, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” God then supplied Joshua (Num. 27:16-20). King David having a deep desire to see a temple built for the Lord, but being forbidden to build it himself prepared the plan for it and laid up much of the provision for it and passed it on to Solomon (1 Chron. 28:9-21). This was a rich inheritance which David left for his son. Unfortunately not all men have the same attitude. Even righteous men such as Hezekiah sometimes take no thought for the following generations. Hezekiah on making a serious error, due to being lifted up in pride, was told by Isaiah that as a result his children would be carried to Babylon, but he was unmoved, as long as his own days were happy (2 Kings 20:16-19). This same attitude perhaps not as overtly can be seen in ministers who grow the church entirely around their own persona. One example of this is seen in ministries that have multiple congregations which have a service transmitted from the one auditorium into the other locations. The fact that one can do this shows that they are an effective speaker, but there is far more to ministry than effective speaking. If the leader passes on there will be almost no way anyone could take over such a work and it will disintegrate. A true leader’s fruit is not only seen in the response he gets in the pulpit, but more in who he trains to work with him. It would be far better to have congregations ministered to by other men under his periodic supervision than making himself an indispensible part of them. The irony is that it is possible to gain a huge following and have people view as a great success by being an actual failure in laying up nothing that will remain when you are gone. Some reasons why young leadership is not raised up 1. They cause problems Young up and coming ministers can cause more problems for a head pastor than anything else and the more potential the young minister has the greater the problems he might cause. In the gospels we see more of Peter than any other disciple. He always seems to open his mouth at the most inopportune times, tries to correct Jesus on one occasion, and when Christ’s intention is to surrender Himself he starts swinging his sword to defend Him, and then later denies Him. All of these actions created problems for Christ. They denied His message and ran counter to His purposes, yet He was still able to work with Peter. Had He not allowed Peter to develop He would have lost thousands of converts in the first years of the Church at the very least. Peter was a hard man to have as a disciple, but to not have him would have been far worse. Proverbs 14:4 tells us, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” A barn with immaculately clean stalls and no noise is perhaps more pleasant to enter than one filled with cattle, but the one is like a ghost town, whereas the other is healthy and normal even if sometimes unpleasant. Cleaning up after cattle is not a fun job, but having no cattle to clean up after is doom for a farm. In the same way though young ministry creates problems lack of it is a far greater problem. 2. Friction and contention A strong leader can be a very difficult person to work under, especially for an emerging strong leader. In the time of the reformation Luther and Zwingli influenced many young men toward reform, but for every one they were able to channel into their movements they drove away dozens. Most of the stronger men whom they impacted they became antagonistic towards, in Zwingli’s case murderously so. Men like Grebel, Carlstadt, Denck were thrust out, and energy that could have been better spent in other endeavors was wasted in strife among brethren. There are countless other instances in history of these things. The problem between these leaders was somewhat doctrinal, but it also had a lot to do with jealousy. Luther especially was sensitive to an disagreement with him on anything, because he felt that since he had gotten the ball rolling in the reformation everyone should pay deference to him. There was wrong on all sides. Every one of these leaders, as well as we today, could learn from Philippians 2:3-5, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” There is much that is done through strife and vainglory and it cripples the Church and produces needless contention. In many cases organizations become caricatures of their leaders having their faults and peculiarities in a greater measure. This is because it is far easier to copy these than to learn the internal and too often outward conformity is substituted for unity of spirit. It is hardly possible to have two people more dissimilar in outward form then John the Baptist and Jesus, yet the same Spirit motivated them. The locusts are listed as wise because they are able to follow each other, without having any leader or king, when one begins to move they all follow as one (Prov. 30:27). In the same way every believer should be willing to listen to any other believer and submit to them if what they say is right (Eph. 5:21). Jan Hus pointed this out to his accusers who were angered that he continued to preach after he was forbidden, and showed that he as a superior was willing to change his judgment when his students showed him that he had misjudged a situation. 3. Inability to release control One of the most wonderful things that God has created as an expression of Himself is the heart of a mother. A mother will give of herself to ensure the survival of her offspring. One Scripture where this is seen very clearly is in 1 Kings 3:16-27 where Solomon decides the case of the two women claiming the same child. The true mother was willing to see her child grow up never acknowledging her as its mother, and even to give the love which would be her due to another just so long as it lived! The life and growth of the child was all that really mattered, not who got the credit, nor who was in control. It was that attitude that won her back her child. A healthy living child can be a handful to keep in order, but the alternative is much worse. Juana la Loca is a tragic figure in history. A Spanish queen and mother of Charles V she had the misfortune to be married to a philandering husband. When he died she had the opportunity to have what she had always wanted - him by her side, and she had his coffin carried with her everywhere she travelled. However, there is a vast difference between winning your husband’s heart and carrying his coffin around. Something dead is easy to control, something living is impossible. God gives commands yet He also allows a large measure of personal freedom. He told Adam and Eve that they could eat of all the fruit but one, He did not micromanage which one they were eating of at which particular time. There are many things which God can command which no man can. When He imposes a burden He also gives grace to bear it, when man imposes a burden man must supply the strength. If God gave grace for every man-made burden imposed by a superior than the Catholic Church would not have the problem they have always had with clerical celibacy! The Apostle Paul, while enjoining obedience to those who were slaves, forbid Christians to become slaves of men (1 Cor. 7:21-23), so that instead we can be slaves of Christ. There are three basic facets of slavery, and if a leader crosses these he is overstepping God’s law. 1. Vows of perpetual obedience It is one thing to submit to leadership, God requires that, but if leadership requires a vow of absolute and perpetual obedience in all things, we have become a slave of man and are no longer free to be a slave of Christ. This is one of the greatest sins of the monastic system. Submission is not mindless obedience, and God will hold us accountable for what we do, we cannot do as the Jesuits and say, “as long as I obey I am fine and if I do evil because it is commanded than the guilt is on the superior.” 2. Renunciation of property Forbidding ownership of property is another attribute of slavery. This is also another evil of monasticism. When God made Adam and Eve He gave them dominion over the earth. Dominion implies right of ownership. It also bears responsibility. God desires man to own what He gives them, to use it as they choose, and He will hold them accountable in the end. Those who have more will be judged more severely. 3. Disposal in Marriage Slaves as the property of their masters were given in marriage as the master saw fit. It is wise for a Christian to seek godly counsel before entering into marriage. Counsel, however, is not command. It is giving what the person believes is the mind of the Lord. It is up to the one receiving counsel to judge for himself whether it is or is not the mind of the Lord, and to act accordingly. Some might think that this destroys counsel and that none will listen without some compulsion. The opposite is true. If a man will not listen to God speaking to his own conscience, why should he listen to a man saying he is giving the mind of the Lord. If he is willing to listen to the one he will listen to the other. Compulsion and manipulation will never hold anyone. Even if they put up with it, if they are not hearing God’s voice and obeying out of a forced compliance, are they really His sheep? His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). If you do not believe that a person can hear from God for guidance unless you tell him and perhaps compel him, do you really believe he is one of Christ’s sheep? If he is than he will hear the shepherds voice and obey it, if he is not nothing will keep him anyway. It should also be mentioned that counsel is not generally the origin of a course of action, but either a confirmation or check on it. There are certainly many other issues relating to training leaders but these are the ones that I personally see and am convinced of. May God grant that we all learn of Him, the Good Shepherd, how to lead!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts on 2 Timothy 2:2 - Part 1

2Ti 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. This verse is Paul’s charge to Timothy for the preservation of Christian doctrine and leadership in the Church for succeeding generations. He is to preserve it by passing on what he has learned from Paul onto others who will also pass on the truth that they have learned. This is the essence of discipleship, and is what Christ was commanding when He commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). With this in mind I would like to look at a few points on the doctrine to be taught and Paul’s ministry in teaching it, so that we can see how the early Church operated with so much success and learn from them. 1. Timothy was to teach what Paul had taught in the presence of many witnesses The doctrine which Timothy was to teach was that which Paul had taught openly with many witnesses. Christianity unlike pagan philosophy and cults has no esoteric and exoteric doctrine. It does not teach one thing to the masses and then another different thing to its inner circle. While Christ used parables to test the hearts of His hearers, these parables taught essentially the same things found in His open teaching and He could say to the high priest at His trial, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said” (John 18:19-21). Truth can go about openly and overcome, it is falsehood that has to enter stealthily in the side-door like a gossiped rumor – the ill-omened caterpillar requiring many a silk thread of deceit until it can morph into a moth. The truth is a hardier being – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). This verse also has reference to pretended apostolic traditions. What Paul passed on was publicly taught and given over and was in consonance with if not identical to what he wrote in his epistles. Thus anything at variance with his plain writings can have no authority as a tradition. What Timothy was to pass on (our word tradition means what is passed on or delivered – the thought of delivering over also gave us another word from the same root – traditor, or traitor) was what is found in the public writings and discourses of the apostles which we have in our Bible. 2. Paul’s pattern he gave to Timothy The pattern of life that Paul followed can be clearly seen in his address to the elders at Miletus. This was a crucial time in Paul’s life where he would soon be facing the possibility of death in Jerusalem and on the way there he shares his own burden for ministry with the elders of Ephesus, and reminds them of his own conduct. Act 20:17-36 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 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. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. In order to see how Timothy was to lead others and pass down what he had heard, we will look at a few points from this speech. Points of Paul’s conduct:  Humility in his conduct (v.19) The sine qua non of Christian leadership is humility. Christ, Himself, contrasted the worldly leadership with Christian leadership saying, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45). Peter having heard this repeats it in his charge to his own leaders using the same word Christ used - katakurieuĊ, to domineer or subdue, reminding them that that is not the way to lead the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). The virtue of humility is not a natural one for man and in the Gospels we see the apostles struggling with it, but as they saw the example of Christ something of His character began to transform them. Paul ministered in humility, perhaps not perfectly in that perhaps some blame would attach itself to him over his rupture with Barnabas (Acts 15:37-40), yet in another disagreement with his fellow-worker Apollos he showed that he had grown in humility by responding with grace (1 Cor. 16:12). He also showed great humility in his opening address to the Corinthians in calling them saints even though at the time of his writing they were not acknowledging his authority (1 Cor. 1:1-2). In 2 Corinthians he also contrasts his own humble behavior with the arrogant behavior of other so called ministers which was tolerated and even encouraged by the Corinthians, “For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” (2 Cor. 11:19-21). Not only did Paul not exalt himself in the ministry, but he apparently was surprised that any church would even allow it.  Constant teaching in Public meetings and house meetings (v.20) Paul took every opportunity he could make to teach from the Scriptures in public and private places. During the reformation, many of the reformers took similar steps by having public Scripture readings with an explanation of them not only on Sundays but every morning for all who wished to attend.  Willingness to lay down everything for the Gospel (v.24) Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem without regard to the danger. It was holding nothing back from Christ that was the source of his joy. One of the attributes of those who overcome the devil is that they do not love their lives even unto death (Rev. 12:11).  Sharing everything necessary (v.20, 26-27) Paul held nothing back that people needed to hear he was a faithful watchman and so could say he was innocent of the blood of his hearers (Ezek. 33:1-9)  Drawing disciples after Christ not himself (v. 30) One of Paul’s heartaches as he was saying goodbye to the elders at Miletus was knowing that even some them would eventually depart from the faith. Not only would wolves come from without, but former friends would bring in division. The reason was that they desired to draw disciples after themselves. John the Baptist showed the attitude of a true minister in John 3:28-30, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." The friend of the bridegroom was used as a go between among the couple to exchange messages and facilitate their relationship. This is precisely the purpose of Christian ministry to pass on Christ’s messages to His bride-to-be and do our utmost to see her fall in love with Him. If you can imagine how a man would feel if his friend betrayed his trust and used his position as a go between to win the bride’s affections for himself, then you will begin to see how Christ will view ministers who draw people after themselves instead of Him. One simple test of a ministry is in how its adherents operate. If all of them have an attitude that if you doubt their leader you are not of God, then something is wrong. Paul contended neither for himself, nor for Apollos, nor for Peter but for Christ (1 Cor. 3:4-7). Count Zinzindorf was a great man of God, and the revival at Herrnhut sparked the world missions movement, and had a hundred year unbroken 24 hour prayer chain. Yet both John Wesley and George Whitfield had a falling out with the Moravians and even wrote against them – partly because they believed some second hand information that was false. Wesley came to realize his mistake and in his later years became a friend of the Brethren again, Whitfield probably would have had he lived longer. All three of these men were mightily used by God and yet were at one time at outs with each other, today we see all three of them as part of a greater holiness movement, but at the time their differences seemed greater than their similarities. If a follower of one of these men had thought that since the other two were not with his leader they were not following Christ, he would have rejected 2 other great ministries which God mightily used. When this attitude of my leader is the only one is combined with miracles that serve no purpose but to exalt the minister performing them, and is further coupled with questionable doctrine, a Christian should seriously question the source of the ministry. One example of this sort of minister in church history is Martin of Tours. Thankfully God is the ultimate judge, but there are some people I have no desire to emulate.  Not preaching with a motive of financial gain (Ezek. 34; 1 Pet. 5:2; Titus 1:11; 1 Tim. 3:3,8; Titus 1:7) One of the qualifications that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus for both deacons and elders was that they be free from covetousness (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:3,8). Peter also exhorted his elders not to bear rule for the sake of money (1 Peter 5:2). This is one of the big pitfalls for ministry and was one of the things God reproved the shepherds of Israel for in Ezekiel 34. This sin leads to other sins and can lead to teaching false doctrine (Titus 1:11). This is especially seen in the life of the prophet Balaam. This is only a brief sketch of Paul’s leadership practices. May God grant that we learn these lessons from him even as he learned them from Christ! Amen.