Forward in Faith #38
Hebrews 13:7-9; 17-24
Community of Faith #2
Following Faithful Leaders
- An Old custodian at the church once said “I have been with this church through 12 Pastors, and I still believe in God.”
- in a circle around a dog in the center … He asked “what are you boys doing to that dog?” “We ain’t doing nothin’ to this dog Pastor. We found him and we are just telling lies. Whoever tells the biggest lie gets to keep the dog.” The Pastor was shocked and said “Boys, I can’t believe you would be telling lies. When I was your age, I never even DREAMED about telling a lie.” The little boy looked at his friends and said “Alright guys, give him the dog.”
- Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of the Plymouth Church entered the pulpit one Sunday to find an envelope. Inside was a letter with just one word “FOOL”. He showed it to the congregation and said “I’ve many times gotten letters where people told me what they thought but failed to sign their name. But this is the first time I’ve gotten a letter where someone signed their name and forgot to write a letter.”
Well, we can see the end of our journey through this letter to the Hebrews. This week and next we will wrap up the end of chapter 13. We are still in the mode of seeing what it is to be in a community of faith. Pastors get a hard time sometimes. People say we only work one and a half days a week. People sometimes ask “what do you do for a living” .. “I’m a pastor”… “is that your job?”
Well our text today talks about Pastors. This passage is often difficult for a pastor to preach because it talks about how you as church members should relate to me as your pastor and others who relate to you in this body as leaders.
Now, I could go to someone else’s church and preach this message much easier. But for me it is hard to suggest to you how to relate to me. But I recognize as a pastor that if I am teaching you from this book, I have to teach all of it. The Lord has been leading us through this book, so we should walk all the way.
Do you remember Ephesians 4:10-13?
“He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
So, recognizing that God gave me to you, oh and there is no return counter, as long as the Lord has you here and me here, I am a gift from God FOR YOU. And I am a purposeful gift. What did it say? “to prepare … for works of service” so that the “body of Christ may be built up” … and there is a time frame, “… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son … and become mature … fullness of Christ”
So, if I am a gift to you, then if we are together moving toward maturity and Christ-likeness, then how do we do that?
Read with me Hebrews 13:7-9; 17-24
Four things that you need from me and I need from you. This is a symbiotic relationship
1. Follow Faithful Examples vv7-9
Notice there is a verse that is true in any context but still needs to be viewed IN the context written.
V8 says “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever”
Now that is a bedrock truth about the immutability of Christ, but what does it mean in context?
From the 1st Century to the 21st Century, there are different times, different circumstances, and different technologies, but Jesus Christ never changes. So when Ignatius was a pastor to his church in Antioch at the end of the 1st century or Luther at his church in the 16th Century, Spurgeon in the 19th Century, my father in the 20th Century, or me as your pastor in the 21st century, we all follow the SAME JESUS!
In that context we are told to
Mnemoneuo = mnay-mon-yoo-o = call to mind, to think of, hold in mind
Now I am the FIRST to admit that I am not perfect, nor any other pastor. I am not the BEST example. But if in any circumstance, I have acted in a way that is like Christ, this passage says “keep that example in mind”
If I have a good marriage … if I have been a good father … if I have a peace in my heart … if I respond to adversity in an admirable way … keep it in mind and
B. Consider the Outcome
“consider the outcome of their way of life”
“Consider” – anatheoreo = an-ath-eh-o-reh-o = observe and reflect upon
“The Outcome” – ekbasis = end, result, way of escape
If we have escaped the way of the world or the normal outcome of worldly actions by our
“Way of Life” – anastrophe = conduct or behavior
So you are admonished to take notice of where we have followed Christ and
C. Imitate Their Faith
Folks this is hard for me because it means I have a responsibility to do my best to leave a faithful example. I don’t always get it right but we are trying. But if we, by God’s grace and our exercised faith get it right, especially in an area where you struggle, don’t just say “oh that’s nice” … imitate it
“Imitate” – mimeomai = imitate, follow –
if I may be so bold, ladies if you are struggling in relating to your husband and your marriage is under stress, imitate your First Lady. Your personality may be different but you can be encouraged and strengthened by imitating her biblical attitude.
Men, I am not perfect, but where I get it right, if you are trying to adjust things in your marriage follow a faithful example from this husband doing my best to love my wife and lead her like Christ did the church.
It is part of the reason that God put us in your lives. If you see something you long for, to God’s glory, do not be afraid to ask, “how did you get there?”
Some of you DO ask, but do you apply what you see or learn?
One other thing,
D. Your Leader
notice he writes, “remember your leader follow their example”
It doesn’t mean that they couldn’t learn from the example of other leaders but pay the MOST attention to the one God gave you. Some of you like to watch preachers on T.V., or listen to them on radio or read their books. As long as they teach good doctrine there is nothing wrong with that … BUT … Before you get wrapped up in some media preacher from someone else’s church … REMEMBER, CONSIDER, PAY ATTENTION, FOLLOW, the one who knows your name, the one who lays down his life for you, the one who prays for you personally, He is God’s gift to you.
Piper, MacArthur, Jeremiah, Stanley, Swindoll, even those gone, Criswell, Spurgeon, Calvin, Wesley, Luther, Augustine … They can certainly teach you things … but they were Not given to you for THIS time as YOUR Pastor.
A community of faith will follow faithful examples and thus move in concert with one another
And with that example, then we can be
E. Grounded in Truth
It is the teaching of your God-given Pastor that keeps you from being “carried away”
“carried away” – paraphero = drive along, mislead
Your pastor’s teaching keeps us moving in the right direction and together in the same direction.
Every Body - Church is unique and has a purpose or mission. If you don’t follow your pastor you might not be moving in the unique way designed for YOUR Church - Body.
Michael Phelps body needs a different leader-coach than Michael Jordan because one is a swimmer and one is a basketball player, though both are athletes.
Both coaches are good but one is designed for one body and another for a different body.
To be grounded in truth we have to submit to teaching. So being HERE and taught is important. Taking advantage of the teaching opportunities we have is important.
Be faithful, be eager. If you miss, you should want to get the tape or manuscript and study and adjust to it, because what God gave me to preach - teach to you is his GIFT to you.
You should want to study through the week and apply that truth to your life. If you don’t use a gift, what is the point?
Life change happens when you take this gift and let it take root in your life. And then we grow and move together.
Follow faithful examples … Now, I will say, if THAT point is hard for me to teach, and it is, this one is harder but just as true
2. Submit to Faithful Authority v17
Wow that’s a strong admonition. And there have definitely been power hungry, self-serving leaders throughout church history. But, someone else’s failure doesn’t make the instruction false.
Two key words here, Obey and Submit
now before we see what this is, let me say what it is NOT. I am not, as your pastor, given absolute or ultimate authority over my own house, let alone over this church body. So, you are not told to blindly follow me like people have done with wicked church leaders and ungodly cult leaders. But as I submit and am line with the will of God, the instruction is “obey and submit”. It is not about me but the office. God has called me to this office as your Pastor. I am still a relatively young. Many of you are further down the road but it is about the office, the role, the gift of God to you. As a pastor follows God, the body member is to obey and submit.
“Obey” – peitho = persuade, convince, trust – it is being convinced that God is being followed and honored so you can trust and come along … and
“Submit” – hypeiko = hoop-ay-ko = yield, give way, resist no longer, submit
More churches have wallowed in ineffective ministry, have treaded water instead of advancing because wasn’t anything wrong with the way the pastor was leading, it wasn’t incorrect, but they just wanted to do it their own way, or they didn’t want to follow, they wouldn’t yield or they resisted his leadership openly.
So, The Spirit teaches those in a Community of Faith to trust the Pastor and yield, stop resisting, and submit to his leadership
1. “they keep watch over you”. The phrase literally means they “go without sleep watching over you” – The idea was of a “wakeful shepherd” while the sheep sleep, the shepherd is watching. He places himself between the sheep and potential harm. So we can trust and yield because he sees and knows what the sheep do not see and know.
2. Also obey and submit because the Pastor is “accountable to God”. He is under God’s orders, so to resist him is to resist God. I have to answer to God. it literally says that I will have to “give a word” to God on my leadership to you. It also implies that if my leadership is faithful and not contrary to scripture and you do not follow, then I will answer to God NOT to you, if we miss the mark.
3. But on a personal level, when you obey and submit you make my job better … You increase Joy, and Decrease my Burden, more joyful and less burdensome. I talk to pastors often who are burdened down because they know what God is saying but their people won’t follow and they are weary and absent of joy. And you know that resistance negatively affects the church as well. When you come with me where God is leading us, I am joyful, the burden of leadership is lighter, and you reap the benefits.
Follow and Submit and then moving down to verse 24 our instruction about Pastors continues being told to “Greet them” … or
3. Bless Them v24
V24 says “greet all your leaders”
Wiersbe says of this verse “stay on speaking terms with your pastor”
Paul was fond of the greeting, “Grace and Peace to you”
As the church moved out of Jerusalem to include the world it became a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural body.
The formal and information Jewish and Jewish Christian greeting was “Shalom” which means “peace”.
The Greeting of the Greek Christians was “charis” which means “grace”.
So when Paul said “Grace and peace to you” in every one of his letters, it was a prayer asking God’s grace which brings God’s peace to rest on them until they were together again.
In this passage you are encouraged to “Greet” me. The definition of the word tells you HOW to greet me …
The word is aspazomai = embrace, greet, salute, wish well, welcome, receive joyfully
Can I tell you that when you greet me, hug my neck, wish me well, pray grace and peach to me, say ‘amen’, affirm, send a letter, smile, give me a handshake, high five, a fist bump, or whatever, you encourage me, you bless me, from whatever cultural perspective you come from.
And I NEED IT. I just will let you know that while I try to appear strong and self-confident, I need your encouragement and affirmation, and always will.
Thank you for blessing me, my wife, and family. Keep on greeting us. I know sometimes you are busy or in a hurry but we are encouraged when you bless us.
Finally there is one last instruction regarding how you should respond toward your pastor …
4. Pray For Me v18
I mean PRAY for me … diligently, daily, and distinctively.
Pray that my conscience will be clear and I will “live honorably in every way”
There are a lot of reasons to pray for me, but let me give you some pastor specific reasons to pray for me
Remember that I am sent by God and answer to God, so if things are not right or you are concerned with where we are going or what we are doing, you should go before the Father and pray because that’s what I am doing.
Three reasons to pray for me
A. I am Hardheaded
I hoped when I made these notes that the “amens” wouldn’t be too loud when I said that I was hardheaded. J
But I AM hardheaded and you wouldn’t want a pastor who isn’t hardheaded. The character that makes us useful as a Pastor / Leader makes us hardheaded. We believe what we believe because we are convinced that it is from God. We lead where we lead because we believe that God has directed and called and we must then do what He has said.
You definitely can talk to me or to any Pastor if you think we are wrong or moving in the wrong direction, or simply misguided. But the most effective thing to do it to talk to the Lord because we are seeking him, talking to him, and doing our best to follow him. God can get our attention and direct us. Pray for me that my hardheadedness will always be from God and for his purposes and yet still be sensitive to those I lead as they try and adjust to the will of God with me.
Pray for me because also
B. I am Hot-Hearted
Again these are generalizations and are subject to different personalities but Pastors by nature and by gift are hot-hearted. We are passionate for the things of God, then church of Jesus Christ and the people we are called to.
Those passions are hard to handle. They make a pastor subject to great highs as well as lows. They can also lead pastors to struggle with depression and elation. Many pastors are subject to bouts with depression because we are so passionate. We also carry your burdens as well as our own and it is a heavy burden. If you are struggling we are aware and battling for you.
It can be like a great horse that is eager for battle or for the race and will often not back down or slow down. A race horse has been known to push on to the point of their heart literally bursting under the stress. Pray for God to guard my heart, mind, emotions, and passions, as well as protection and peace.
And finally pray for me because finally
C. I am Harassed by Evil
As the leader of the people of God, on the mission of God, you can be sure that the Pastor is under a greater Spiritual attack and willingly enters the struggle FOR you. The forces, principalities, rulers, and powers of evil come against us every day in a myriad of ways to try and destroy us, destroy, you and destroy the body as a whole.
Pray for protection from the attack of the evil one. Pray for strength as I fight to protect you as a faithful shepherd. Pray that I will move forward in rescuing the perishing with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some of what you have heard today is easier than others
Some of it is more desirable than others
Some of it may require change
All of it requires action
And this word should not be judged worthy of reception and action by its difficulty but by its truth
Doctors’ biggest frustration they say is people not paying their bill. But next is the patient who will not follow the doctor’s orders. For various instructions it is estimated between 16-90% of patients fail by leaving ½ finished pill bottles, cheating on dietary instructions, continuing habits that cause the illness, and failing to return for follow-ups and checkups, despite prescriptions and careful advise.
In WW II the Allies wallowed in defeat and ineffectiveness in North Africa. That is until General Bernard Montgomery was appointed commander over the tank combat troops. He came to discover that the cause for so many lost battles was that orders from above had been generally questioned and queried by subordinates right on down the line. He said he was “determined to stop this state of affairs at once”
Montgomery was a Christian and believed that the basic principles of obedience should govern us as people under the Captain of our Salvation. When he got command in Africa he set his expectations. “Orders no longer form the basis for discussion but for action” He expected his commands to be acted upon.
It is said that when appointed to this command that knew nothing but defeat to Rommel’s forces. He said “after having an easy war, things have now gotten more difficult.” Someone told him to “cheer up”. He said “I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about Rommel.” All contingencies for retreat were removed and they advanced in obedience and they began to win in North Africa and drove Rommel and his forces back.
On May 4, 1945, Montgomery accepted the surrender of German forces in northern Germany, Denmark, and Netherlands.
Jesus promised us the gates of hell cannot prevail against our advance but to experience we must advance, we must follow faithful lead and then we can know the victory that is already secured.