Monthly Archives: October 2015

Psalm 31 The believer’s security is in God in every trial, through life, and in death. May we be kept by His mighty power through faith unto eternal life!

holy-bible-background

Psalm 31

The believer’s security is in God in every trial, through life, and in death. May we be kept by His mighty power through faith unto eternal life!

1. “In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness.”

The voice from the cross decides that we have here the thoughts and feelings of our blessed Lord. In the exercise of faith He leads the way. In prayer for favors He is our example. It is good to tell our God how fully we rely on Him. We may be bold to ask deliverance on the plea of righteous covenant and holy promises.

2, 3. “Bow down Your ear to me; deliver me speedily; be my strong rock, for a house of defense to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me, and guide me.”

The grace to be importunate in prayer is very precious, and should be diligently cultivated. Faith deals familiarly, and supplicates that God would take the attitude of an earnest listener, and drink in every cry, and speedily arise to help. Faith rightfully expects that God would be true to the character which He has revealed. It argues, God’s glorious perfections will be tarnished if the believer strays unguided.

4. “Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me; for You are my strength.”

The blessed Jesus was exposed to many crafty wiles, but never were His feet entangled. Snares on all sides beset us. Conscious of inability to extricate ourselves, let us look to the strong to put forth a mighty hand, most mightily to extricate us.

5. “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”

Let us bless Jesus that His dying lips have given special sanctity to these words. How many since have thus breathed their last breath? May they be our constant utterance, for we know not what word may be our last. When we assuredly believe that God has redeemed us by His Son’s precious blood, and are persuaded that His holy Word is truth, we may, without one fear, commit our spirits to His care. The custody is safe. He must be greater than God, who plucks our souls from His protecting hands.

6, 7, 8. “I have hated those who regard lying vanities; but I trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy; for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities; and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large room.”

Many vain cheats are impudent to deceive us. Riches, honor, titles, reason, intellect, invite us to rely on their aid. But they are empty bubbles. Their promises are fraud. The believer flees with abhorrence from those who walk in these deceits. He has a large volume of experience. In trouble he has found that God’s thoughts were on him. All his adverse circumstances have been lovingly regarded. In all his ways of sorrow God has been by his side. Deliverance and enlargement have been near. Great mercy has been shown; great gladness will acknowledge it.

9, 10. “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with grief, yes, my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones are consumed.”

Our first thoughts here are thoughts of Jesus. He bore our sins; on Him our every iniquity was laid. He stood before God, laden with all our sins. By imputation, He was a mass of guilt. This would be acute anguish to His soul. Grief would be His constant comrade. Sorrow would plough furrows on His brow. Declining strength would show the increased woe. He would often sigh, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.”

Here, also, is the anguish of the conscience-stricken. When sin is once seen in all its hideous sinfulness, when guilt before God is once discovered, the misery would drive reason from its seat, unless the grief found vent in cries for mercy.

11, 12, 13. “I was a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and a fear to my acquaintance; those who saw me outside fled from me. I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I have heard the slander of many; fear was on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.”

The Spirit vividly foreshows the sufferings of Jesus when He was despised and rejected of men. His chosen followers forsook Him and fled. He was carried as a dead man to the tomb. He was regarded as a broken piece of pottery worthless for further use. The Jews conspired to destroy Him. Nothing could allay their malice. Their cry was urgent, ‘Let Him be crucified.’

Much of this cruel usage was experienced by the type. David fled as an outcast. Conspirators laid plots. Evil counselors took evil counsel. Similar enmity burns against every true disciple. Outward restraints may bind, but the inward hatred is the same.

14. “But I trusted in you, O Lord; I said, You are my God.”

God is the refuge of His people in all ages. To Him they fly. In Him they are secure.

15. “My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.”

There is a flood of comfort in the thought that God’s unfailing providence orders all our matters. Each event is surely ordered. If without Him no sparrow falls, surely without Him no evil prevails against us. His hand is over all. He can deliver from each foe’s malice, and each persecutor’s rage. Knowing this, let us direct our prayer to Him, the only source of help.

16, 17, 18. “Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me for Your mercies’ sake. Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon You; let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave. Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.”

The misery of the godly is the absence of the smile of heaven. The soul cannot be still while such darkness and such chill continues. It knows that the Lord can instantly cause brightness to return. Hence the strong petition, “Make Your face shine.” This light is full salvation. Therefore faith adds, “Save me for Your mercies’ sake.” God’s mercy is the only plea, but it is mighty and prevails. Mercy implored is mercy won. Grace ceases to be grace if it rejects the supplicant’s cry. Prayer will never hang down its head abashed.

But a day of confusion quickly comes. Wicked lips spoke with proud contempt against the blessed Jesus. Excuse will fail before the great white throne. Shame will then close their lips. When slander assails us, let us reflect, How short is this day of evil! We shall sing loudly, while the lips of lies are only opened to bewail.

19. “Oh how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who do not fear; which You have wrought for those who trust in You before the sons of men!”

Grateful experience cannot be silent. Exclamation will break forth. In the midst of trials, comforts more than abound. God’s treasure-house is full of joys. The believer finds that the store exceeds all thought, and baffles praise. He can only shout, ‘How great is Your goodness!’ Truly, it is great as God is great. To measure the infinitudes of grace is to measure God Himself. His precious dealings towards His favored children are often so conspicuously displayed, that enmity itself cannot deny that God is truly with them.

20. “You shall hide them in the secret of Your presence from the pride of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.”

When haughty man insults, and tongues send forth poison darts, the child of God has a sure hiding place. His God is present. He screens himself behind His sheltering wings. He enters the inmost curtains of a secreting tent. He is hidden in light. It is a great mystery. None can explain but those who feel it.

21. “Blessed be the Lord; for He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city.”

Such, doubtless, would be David’s feeling when he reigned in Zion; and, doubtless, such would be His praise. But this is especially the believer’s song. He has a strong city. God has appointed salvation for walls and bulwarks. He enters into Christ. He sits secure in an impregnable fort. No foe can pass the gates. No might can make impression on the walls. The foundations are exceedingly strong. The towers over-top the skies. Serene in His fortress he learns many lessons, and feasts on precious truths. They all speak of mercy, grace, love; and all these sweet displays are wonderful. Wondrous indeed the kindness which looked on miserable rebels, and sent Jesus to seek and save! Wondrous the scheme! Wondrous the effects! Wonder of wonders that we should have interest in it! We can only cry, “Blessed God.”

22. “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Your eyes; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You.”

The movements of the believer’s mind are quite a paradox. Gleams of sunshine follow the cloudy gloom. He fears amid all confidence; he trusts amid all misgivings. He speaks in haste; but still his soul is tranquil steadfastness. He thinks that he is utterly rejected; but still he prays. He believes that all hope is gone; but answers come to every cry.

23. “O love the Lord, all you His saints; for the Lord preserves the faithful, and plentifully rewards the proud doer.”

Abundant motives call to the love of God; not least His constant care of His true children, and His sure vengeance on proud foes. Let us trust, and we are safe. They who transgress shall surely be requited.

24. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Trust must rely only on our God. All other confidences are empty vanity. They who thus trust may cast away all fear. Let them meet every trial bold as the lion. Courage will become more courageous. Strength from above will make the heart more strong.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Psalm 30 Sorrows are transient. Joys are forever. May we so mourn, that we may be comforted!

holy-bible-background

Psalm 30

Sorrows are transient. Joys are forever. May we so mourn, that we may be comforted!

1. “I will extol You, O Lord; for You have lifted me up, and have not made my foes to rejoice over me.”

A train of mercies fills the Psalmist with thanksgivings. He had been brought low. His foes were ready to exult, but he was rescued. A saving arm had raised him. He who thus uplifts should be uplifted. Praise should magnify deliverance. In this praise there is the echo of the voice of Jesus. In His experience, also, His saints concur. They should sing as He sang.

2, 3. “O Lord my God, I cried to You, and You have healed me. O Lord, You have brought up my soul from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.”

These bodies are exposed to countless maladies. Our souls, also, suffer from disease and weakness. Prayer brings the Good Physician to our aid. He comes, and from His wings drop health and freshness. Sometimes the body totters over the grave. Sometimes spiritual life is almost extinct. But the Lord can grant revival. To all appearance the life of Jesus had expired. He was lain, as a dead man, in the grave; but He arose to live forevermore. In spirit we here see the glorious resurrection. Let all the members who revived in Him adopt these notes of praise.

4, 5. “Sing to the Lord, O you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. For His anger endures but a moment; in His favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The believer feels that a universal chorus should rise as incense to the skies. Every heart should swell the hymn. All share the mercies, all should return thanksgivings. Memory suggests abundant themes. In all His dealings God is a God of holiness and truth. May we delight to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” There are times when lovingkindness is obscured by signs of displeasure. His seeming anger is as the chill of death; but soon the cloud withdraws, and favor, which is life, returns. The darkness passes, fears vanish. The joyful morning dawns, and all is bright.

Here we see the resurrection-morn of Christ. There had been darkness, but it soon vanished. There is now the brightness of eternal day. We too have now a night of trouble, but the trouble is light; it lasts but for a moment. It works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we weep still let us sing, “Joy comes in the morning.”

6, 7. “And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong; You hid Your face, and I was troubled.”

David was raised from deep troubles to great prosperity. Zion’s stronghold seemed to be impregnable. Sleeping in the lap of ease, he forgot his true support. The Lord in mercy shook the pillow of carnal security, and trouble brought him to a right mind. Seasons of prosperity are full of peril. They induce forgetfulness of Him by whom alone we stand. But God remembers us when we turn from Him. He looks away. Troubles instantly rush in. The shining of His face is the true joy. His look averted makes the prospect dark.

8, 9, 10. “I cried to You, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise You? shall it declare Your truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; Lord, be my helper.”

Trouble is sent in mercy. It subserves a blessed end. It rouses the sleepy soul from dangerous lethargy. It is a scourge which drives the careless to the mercy-seat. Here, when God’s smile ceases, importunate petitions are in full activity. The gate of mercy opens to the returning knock. Faith is an inventive grace. From every trouble it can draw a plea. It here reasons, My destruction brings no glory to the courts of heaven; if my lips are silent in the grave, no longer can my praise be heard; my grateful tribute can no more set forth Your truth. Then the prayer renews its strength, and cries for audience, mercy, help. Therefore may our faith gather strong arguments to supplicate for joyful resurrection. Let our deep longings ever be to join the eternal hallelujahs, which are God’s glory in the highest.

11, 12. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

Images of exuberant joy conclude this ode. Mourning is gone. The sackcloth of woe is put aside. Every movement testifies exhilaration. The girdle of the loins is gladness. For what purpose is this glad exchange? The design is that God may be loudly praised by every utterance of the lips. This scene will soon be realized. The day of Christ draws near. Then will be fullness of joy. Then, O Lord our God, we will give thanks to You forever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jehovah’s voice is mighty. It sounds in the storms of nature, in the outgoings of grace, in the terrors of the dissolving world. May our listening ears be ever open!

holy-bible-background

Psalm 29

Jehovah’s voice is mighty. It sounds in the storms of nature, in the outgoings of grace, in the terrors of the dissolving world. May our listening ears be ever open!

1, 2. “Give unto the Lord, O you mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

The high ones of the earth are called to wisdom. They are counseled to estimate rightly their real state; to lie in lowliness before Jehovah’s majesty; to acknowledge His high supremacy; to see in Him the source of all their earthly greatness; to ascribe due glory to His all-glorious name. Especially they are called to Gospel-worship, adoring Christ in the sanctuary, where all is beauty, and all the beauty is pure holiness. Would that each crown were placed at Jesus’ feet!

3. “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is upon many waters.”

The rising of a storm is vividly portrayed. The eye of the spectator rests upon the sea. From its waters a distant rumbling is heard. The sound becomes exceeding loud. The thunder roars. The God of glory speaks in dreadful tone. The God of glory still speaks terribly when the roar of thunder proclaims the Gospel truth. The terrified conscience hears and quakes. It was so on the day of Pentecost. It is so still in the recesses of many hearts. The full consummation draws near. Then, in the Prophet’s words, “The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake.”

4. “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.”

As the storm thickens, the majestic power of the Lord is more appalling. When the Gospel-voice goes forth to subdue the heart, the might is irresistible. It rides forth terrible in majesty. They who now yield will calmly smile when this voice shakes terribly the earth.

5, 6. “The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars; the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf and Mount Hermon to leap like a young bull.”

The storm moves onward towards the north. It thickens over the vast forests of Lebanon. It shatters the strong cedars of those hills. The mountains seem to tremble in frightened agitation. The nimble boundings of the calf and bull are figures of their trembling motion. Thus the Gospel, working with power, lays low all lofty thoughts. Then the heart trembles, and the conscience quakes. These emblems are weak to show the terrors of the great day, when the earth shall reel to and fro, and its deep foundations tremble in affright.

7. “The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.”

The forked lightning now flares. Divided flashes dart fire on the earth. It is the voice of the Lord which sends them forth. Let Jehovah’s power be adored. Here the wonders of the day of Pentecost are clearly seen. The Spirit comes in tongues of fire, and rests on the Apostles’ heads. Thus His rays penetrate the heart, give light, and purify. May the Spirit enlighten all our darkness! May we be kept watching, for the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth, also, and the works in it shall be burned up.

8. “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.”

The storm envelops the whole heavens from north to south. It rages through the wilderness below Judea. There are no limits to its fury. The voice of the Gospel has no boundaries. It goes forth into all the earth. By the Spirit’s power it will gather in converts from all lands. Universal, also, will be the wonders of the great and terrible day of the Lord.

9. “The voice of the Lord makes the hinds to calve, and discovers the forests; and in His temple everyone speaks of His glory.”

The effects of the storm are mighty. The frightened hinds produce their young. The leaves fall thick, and show the stripped branches. These, indeed, are glorious works. The storm proclaims God’s glory. But the Church is God’s glory in the highest. All who are thus called, with one loud voice, speak of the glories of His grace, His love, His righteousness, His truth. Oh, may the Lord be ever glorified in us!

10. “The Lord sits upon the flood; yes, the Lord sits King forever.”

After the storm, torrents descend. The waters of Noah seem to drown the earth. As in the deluge, the Lord sat in calm majesty upon His throne in serenity surveying the scene; so now He reigns forever King of kings and Lord of lords.

11. “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.”

Amid all storms of nature now, and troubles within, and in the final crash of worlds, God’s people are undismayed. Strength for all trials is their portion. His blessing, which conveys all joy, is on them. Christ’s legacy is peace. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Earnest prayer is followed by exulting praise. May prayer lead us to glad thanksgivings!

Unknown

Psalm 28 

Earnest prayer is followed by exulting praise. May prayer lead us to glad thanksgivings!

1. “Unto You will I cry, O Lord my rock; Do not be silent to me; lest, if you are silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit.”

Strong resolves are the belt of the faithful man. Among these none is more prominent than fixed intention that prayer shall never cease. Prayer usually singles out some gracious revelation of our God, and earnestly pleads it. Here God is reminded that He is His people’s Rock. As such He is immovable, and they who rest on Him cannot be shaken. Billows of trouble may lash. Storms of persecution may arise. But they remain secure.

Sure replies flow as a gladdening stream. Sometimes they may seem to be delayed. These times are chilling. If they continue long, life would grow faint, and death would hasten to extend its hand.

2. “Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward your holy oracle.”

The mercy-seat was a sweet symbol of the blessed Jesus. To Him the eye should look, the voice be raised, the hands be uplifted in each exercise of prayer. His merits perfume each address; His worth gives value, and His intercession gains acceptance. Prayer without Christ is empty sound. It is vain sound. The lips may mutter, but no blessings are obtained.

3, 4. “Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert.”

The most exalted believer is still a miserable sinner. Sin is a malady under which he daily groans. It is a foe with which he daily struggles. He hates it in its every form. Especially he loathes deceit, and deviousness, and fraud. Therefore he earnestly cries that he may be severed from its contact now, and from its doom forever. He knows that justice will erect its throne; that rigid scrutiny will weigh each word and work; that final reckoning will assign true judgment. He looks onward to the great white throne and its award. He humbly acquiesces in the sentence which will there be given. Even so, Lord. The Judge of all the earth is righteousness and truth.

5. “Because they do not regard the works of the Lord, nor the operation of His hands, He shall destroy them, and not build them up.”

Our God does not hide Himself. Man’s ignorance of God is willful and self-chosen. His power and Godhead are written in letters of light throughout creation’s page. His constant interposition in the world’s course, in favor of His people and His truth, always speaks loudly. This witness disregarded seals the sad doom. If eyes and ears refuse to learn, sentence is most just.

6. “Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications.”

The answer comes. Promises to prayer are all fulfilled. Then what joy abounds! The voice is still upraised, but now the note is changed. Clouds of grateful incense rise to the courts above.

7. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise Him.”

A season of rapturous joy succeeds. God is gratefully acknowledged as supplying inward power to resist evil and to exhibit faith. How strong is he who has Jehovah for his strength! But the Lord is more. He wards off all foes, and presents Himself as His people’s shield. We see, also, the power of faith. It brings sure help. He who can say, I trust, will surely add, All support is supplied. Then joy overflows—joy of heart joy to unlimited extent. The lips sing sweetly, and God is the happy theme.

8. “The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving strength of His anointed.”

The believer is one of a large company. Each one is feeble without God; but each partakes of heavenly strength in Him. Each as one with Christ is anointed with unction from above; and each rejoices in that strength which brings salvation.

9. “Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; feed them also and lift them up forever.”

The gift of prayer is for the common prosperity of God’s chosen. They are dear to Him; and it is joy to Him to hear petitions in their behalf. They are dear as His people, heirs of His kingdom, sheep of His fold. Lord, hear our cry. Save them to the uttermost with Your salvation. Bless them with all Your blessings; feed them in Your wholesome pastures; lift them up above the reach of harm; and from the dust of death, to the highest glories of Your kingdom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE ASSURANCES OF THE SECRET PLACE

Unknown

PSALM 27:1-5

THE ASSURANCES OF THE SECRET PLACE

Sermon from Alan Carr

In this Psalm, David relates the fact that he knows that he possesses the Lord already by faith, v. 1. This knowledge gave David mush reassurance as he faced the various battles of life. He speaks of past victories the Lord had given in v. 2. He speaks of his faith of future victories in v. 3. David knew that, in his life, the only safe place in the world was to be in a place close to God, v. 4. He wanted to be in a place where he could see God, speak to God and to worship God. This was the all-consuming desire of his heart.

When a believer abides in that precious place close to the Lord, he/she abides possesses some blessed assurances that the rest of the world knows nothing about. In these days, that is the kind of assurance we need as we fight the battles of life with the world, the flesh and the devil. For, even when life is at it best and running smoothly, we are still in the midst of perilous times, 2 Tim. 3:1. If you will abide, and that is the key word here, for those who abide enjoy God’s best, are those who abide in the secret place with Him, John 15:5, there are certain assurances that you can enjoy. Allow me to share them with you this evening.

I. THERE IS THE ASSURANCE OF PERSONAL GUIDANCE

A. Please note the personal pronouns related to the activity of God in the believer’s life. “He will hide me in His pavilion”; “in the secret place of His tabernacle will He hide me”; “He shall set me upon a rock”. There are two things to notice about the activity going on in this verse:

1. It is a Personal Activity – This is something God does of His own will on behalf of the believer.

2. It is a Passive Activity – The believer is required to do nothing but be in a close relationship to the Lord. These things are done by the Lord for His child.

B. The message here is simply this: the Lord is intensely interested in what is happening in your life and mine! We are reminded that He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, Heb. 4:15. He know that His eye in on every detail of life, Heb. 4:13. He know that He is ever present, Heb. 13:5. May we also remember to look back over the landscape of our pasts and see where the Lord has moved mountains, filled in valleys, and made a straight path for our feet. Praise God for the fact that He is intimately involved in the details of every one of our lives!

C. You and I may not understand the leadership of the Lord in our lives, but I can assure you, that if you are His, then He is working in your life day by day. He is guiding your steps, Psa. 37:23; Pro. 16:9. It may seem like life is out of control, and it is out of your control, but it is never out of His! In the end, you will end up exactly where you are supposed to be! (Note: You are precious to Him!)

II. THERE IS THE ASSURANCE OF POWERFUL GUARDIANSHIP

A. David tells us that the Lord will hide him in His pavilion. A king’s pavilion was a tent that erected in the middle of the army’s encampment. The tent was thus surrounded by a army of brave soldiers. With all the host of the army camped about, this was the safest place on the battlefield. Those who were fortunate enough to be allowed to enter the king’s pavilion were protected by the soldiers and entertained by the king during the battle! (Note: The word “hide” means “to treasure away.”)

B. As the battles of life rage about us, we are safely tucked away in our King’s pavilion. The Bible tells us that “your life is hid with Christ in God”, Col. 3:3! Could there be a safer place in all the universe? Of course not! Those who have entered His pavilion are protected by Him and, even while the battles rage around them, they are entertained with the peace and joy of the King Himself. This is promise to those who will abide in that close place! No enemy could penetrate the defenses and enter this private place. It is protected from the enemy!

1. We have a place to exchange our trouble for His peace, 1 Pet. 5:7; Phil. 4:6-7.

2. We have a place to find joy, even during the most troublesome times, 1 Pet. 1:8.

3. Notice the great promise of John 15:11 for those who will abide close to Him!

C. The assurance of His powerful guardianship allows us to weather the storms of life with confidence and victory. This was what allowed David to face Goliath. This was the confidence that kept Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This was the assurance that gripped the heart of Daniel! This was the knowledge that allowed Paul to continue, even when he suffered greatly, 2 Cor. 12:7-11.

The same assurance these men had as they faced life is the same assurance we have as we face each day. The Lord still hides us away in His pavilion to provide safety and joy, even during the battles! He puts us in a place where the enemy cannot approach us. The enemies of life may snarl and threaten, but they are powerless to reach us when we are sheltered by the Lord!

III. THERE IS THE ASSURANCE OF PROFOUND GLORY

A. The word “tabernacle” brings to mind the place of worship. The “secret place” refers to the “holy of holies”. That place which was off limits to all but the High Priest, and he could only enter there one day per year, and the only with the blood of an innocent sacrifice. It was a place that other men entered under the penalty of death. Yet, it is that secret place, to which God takes His precious friends.

The Holy of Holies was a place where the very presence of God dwelt and the glory of God could be seen. It was there that God took David during the battles of his life. It was there David found himself shut up with God and shut off from the world around him. In a king’s home, this place referred to the private apartment of the king where no one could enter unless they did so at his bidding. (Note: The word “hide” means “to conceal”.)

B. It is amazing that there is a place of solitude in a world filled with people. There is a place that you and I can flee to during the crushing battles that rage about us. A place that affords us quiet, peace and the profound presence of God. Those who have learned to abide in Him have been to that place and know the glory of it. It is a place where the enemy dares not follow. It is a place reserved for those who love the Lord their God. Have you ever been to that place? That place where God meets with you and you alone. That place where all else falls away and you are left with Him and Him alone? That is the place He invites those who abide to enter!

C. Stephen was in that place at the moment of his death, Acts 7:55-56! Paul was in that place during his life, 2 Cor. 12:1-4; Acts 27:23. It is possible for us to enter that sacred, secret place where the world dims away and God becomes larger than everything else!

IV. THERE IS THE ASSURANCE OF PRECIOUS GRACE

A. David has the assurance that even when life threatens to overflow him, the Lord will set him on a rock, a place that is unchangeable, powerful and immovable. Of course, this Rock he refers to is none other than the Lord Himself, Psa. 40:1-2. The rock referred to in these verses is a “great craggy rock”. It is a rock that juts far above the battles going on at its feet. It allows those who ride its heights to rise far above the tumult beneath!

B. This is the portion of all those who know Him! We are promised that we have a place of refuge that will lift us far above the stormy seas that would threaten to drown us. Like the eagle, who takes refuge above the storm until it has passed. Those who abide in Him are given grace that bears them higher than the storms and keeps them safe until danger has passed, Isa. 40:31. Those who wish to rise above there circumstances are given wings to do so!

C. Thank God for His matchless, marvelous, wonderful grace that allows to weather the storms! His grace is sufficient to carry us far above the attacks of all the enemies we face in life and His grace allows some to soar while others are defeated by the same circumstances! What makes the difference? His grace! 2 Cor. 12:9 holds the answer to you overcoming what threatens to destroy you this evening! The answer is His grace!

Conc: I want to abide in that secret place this evening! Why? Because I need help this evening! I need a protector. I need a provider! I need someone to put me in a place of safety, where I can see Him and experience His grace and glory. I praise His name that I can have that kind of relationship with Him tonight! I don’t have to outbid anyone, I just have to rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and abide in Him!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Glory of Christ in Hebrews (Hebrews Review)

New-Bible-Hi-Res-JPG

The Glory of Christ in Hebrews (Hebrews Review)

I could have ended our series on Hebrews after the last message, but I sensed the need to do a wrap-up emphasizing the great theme of Hebrews, the glory of Jesus Christ. But as soon as I thought about doing that, I felt like a kindergarten artist trying to paint a replica of a Rembrandt masterpiece. How can I do justice to such a great theme as the glory of Jesus Christ? It is far beyond my ability!

If I had the eloquence of Spurgeon, maybe I could do a better job at this. I always feel in over my head when I preach, but today I feel ten times more inadequate than usual. So I can only cast myself on the Lord and ask Him to glorify His name. I want to do a review of the entire book, focusing on what it teaches about the person and work of our glorious Savior.

There is nothing more important in life than to gain a biblical, personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and of what He did for us on the cross. The apostle Paul put it this way (Phil. 3:8), “… I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Let go of status, reputation, worldly goods, earthly comforts, and everything else, but know Jesus Christ! He is everything! If you have Christ and lose everything else, you still have all that you need for time and eternity. If you gain the whole world without Christ, you have nothing!

The author of Hebrews was writing to a group of Jewish believers in Christ who were facing the impending threat of persecution. Some were turning away from Christ and going back to Judaism. The author knew that the only way his readers would stand firm even to the point of death was to have the proper view of Jesus Christ in all His glory, and to understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament pointed toward. Staying focused on the glory of Christ’s person and His priesthood would give them the strength to endure any persecution by faith. We may sum up the theme of the entire Book of Hebrews:

Seeing the glory of Christ in His person and priesthood will strengthen us to endure trials by faith.

The Puritan John Owen wrote, “The glory of God comprehends both the holy properties of His nature and the counsels of His will; and the light of the knowledge of these things we have only in the face or person of Jesus Christ” (The Glory of Christ, ed. by Wilbur Smith [Moody Press], p. 55). (Read that again so that you grasp what he’s saying.) Jesus Christ came to reveal to us God’s holy nature and the counsels of His will. In Hebrews 10:7, the author cites Psalm 40:7 with reference to Jesus, “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God.’”

To display God’s absolute holiness, His justice and wrath in punishing all sin, but also His infinite mercy and love in providing the sacrifice that His justice demands, Jesus came to offer Himself on the cross in our place. In order for His sacrifice to be of value beyond Himself, He had to be God. In order for it to apply to us, He had to be man. Thus the author of Hebrews begins by showing us the person of Jesus Christ as God and man.

1. We should continually ask God to reveal to us Christ in His glorious person (Hebrews 1-4).

The author doesn’t mess around. He gets right into his subject by showing us that…

A. JESUS CHRIST IS GOD’S FINAL REVELATION TO US (1:1-3).

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

I devoted two sermons to these wonderful verses, but we could probably wallow in them for seven sermons! I remind you of the quote from John Calvin that I gave when we considered these verses. He is emphasizing that the author’s point is not theological, but practical: “His purpose was really to build up our faith, so that we may learn that God is made known to us in no other way than in Christ: for as to the essence of God, so immense is the brightness that it dazzles our eyes, except it shines on us in Christ” (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker reprint], on Hebrews 1:3, pp. 35-36). There are seven statements about Jesus here:

Jesus Christ is the heir of all things.
Through Him God made the world [ages].
He is the radiance of God’s glory.
He is the exact representation of God’s nature.
He upholds all things by the word of His power.
He has made purification for our sins.
He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
I cannot go over these phrases in detail here (I refer you to my message, “The Supremacy of the Son,” 11/23/03). But I will say that I cannot understand how anyone can read those verses, not to mention the ones immediately following, without concluding that Jesus Christ is “very God of very God,” as the Nicene Creed puts it. The author goes on to show that…

B. JESUS EXCEEDS THE ANGELS IN GLORY (1:4-14).

The Bible reveals, contrary to modern TV shows about angels, that the angels are glorious creatures. Daniel (10:6) describes his vision of an angel, “His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.” Daniel’s response was (Dan. 10:8), “no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength.” It wiped him out so that he fell into a deep sleep. When the angel awakened him, Daniel trembled on his hands and knees (10:9-10).

That was just an angel, but the author here shows that the Son of God is so superior to the angels that (Heb. 1:6), “when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” In case we missed the point, the author contrasts the angels, who serve God as flames of fire (1:7) with the Son (1:8): “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His [many manuscripts read, Your] kingdom.’”

As if that were not enough, he goes on (1:10-12) to cite from Psalm 102:25-27, applying to Jesus what the Old Testament clearly ascribes to God: “And, ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle You will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.’” He cinches it up by asking (1:13), “But to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’?” To sit at God’s right hand is too great a privilege for any created being. That honor belongs to the eternal Son of God alone!

But it is important that we not only understand Jesus’ deity, but also His perfect humanity. Thus after a practical exhortation (2:1-4), the author continues,

C. JESUS IS NOT ONLY FULLY GOD, BUT ALSO FULLY HUMAN (2:5-18).

Here the author introduces the theme that is prominent later in the book, that Jesus came into this world to suffer and die for our sins. Jesus’ death was not an accident. It was not an unexpected twist of fate that thwarted God’s plan. Rather, the death of Jesus fulfilled God’s plan to rescue us from the ravages of sin. The author makes the shocking statement (2:10), “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

By the phrases, “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things,” the author is saying that God is the first and final cause of all that is, including the plan of salvation through the death of His Son. And, he is showing that God actively governs His creation, working “all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). So the death of Jesus on our behalf was fitting (what a word!) because it works for God’s glory in accord with His eternal purpose. It was fitting because it displayed God’s perfect attributes of righteousness, justice, power, wisdom, love, and grace. Jesus’ death was fitting because it displayed His perfect humanity and it confirmed Him as the Captain (NASB, “author”) of our salvation. Jesus’ death triumphed over Satan and the power of death (2:14). Jesus is now our “merciful and faithful high priest” (2:17), who “is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18).

You would think that to portray Jesus as fully God, superior to the angels, and fully human, who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, would be enough. But the author was writing to Jews who regarded Moses as the greatest man who had ever lived. So he proceeds to show that…

D. JESUS IS GREATER IN GLORY THAN MOSES (HEBREWS 3).

The theme of the entire book is summed up in two words (3:1), “consider Jesus….” “Consider” means “to think about something by taking the time to observe it carefully.” Often our problem is that we do not take the time to consider Jesus as He is revealed in God’s Word. Moses went up into the mountain and spent forty days alone with God. When he came down, his face shone with the glory of God that he had seen up there. But Jesus came from heaven itself, from the very presence of God, to reveal God to us.

Jesus made the astonishing claim (Luke 10:22), “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” What a statement! If you want to know the living God, you must ask the Son to reveal Him to you, because you cannot know either the Father or the Son apart from divine revelation. After Peter made his confession about Jesus’ identity, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:16-17).

No mere man could make such claims! After His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples (Luke 24:44), “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Those are the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible. Thus all Scripture points to Jesus, who was sent by God’s sovereign plan to reveal Him and accomplish His will. As such, Jesus is greater than Moses and all the prophets combined!

But what about the Old Testament promises about the Promised Land and the Sabbath? The author shows that…

E. JESUS PROVIDES THE ETERNAL REST THAT JOSHUA COULD NOT PROVIDE (HEBREWS 4).

As we saw, Hebrews 4 is not talking about experiencing inner peace or rest in the midst of trials. Rather, the author’s concern was that his readers, like many in Israel in the wilderness, will be associated with God’s people, but will miss God’s salvation because of their unbelief. He shows that salvation has always been offered to God’s people under the imagery of rest. Only Christ can provide true rest for our souls when we rest from our works and trust in His work completely. As Jesus promised (Matt. 11:28), “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

In a similar way, the author concludes Hebrews 4 by telling us that Jesus is our high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He invites us (4:16) to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

So in the first four chapters, the author extols the glorious person of Jesus Christ. As you read God’s Word, ask Him to reveal more and more of Christ to your soul.

2. We should ask God to reveal to us Christ in His glorious priesthood (Hebrews 5:1-10:18).

Hebrews is the only book that presents Jesus Christ as our high priest. Modern readers may tend to find this extended section of Hebrews rather boring and irrelevant. But if you want to know the significance of this central theme of Hebrews (the priesthood of Christ), you must ask God for a clearer understanding of His absolute holiness and majesty. No Hebrew would have dared to go into the Holy of Holies and approach the altar, where God’s glory was manifested. Also, ask Him for a deeper insight into your own sinfulness apart from Christ. This will lead you into a deeper appreciation of what Jesus did for you on the cross as the high priest who entered the holy place, not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His own blood (9:11-14).

A deeper appreciation of God’s holiness, your own sinfulness, and the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice is one of the most practical doctrines in the Bible, because it humbles your pride. Pride is at the root of every relational conflict and just about any sin that you can name. So ask God to reveal to your heart Jesus Christ in His glorious priesthood. We can only trace some of the broad themes of this section.

A. JESUS OUR HIGH PRIEST IS SUPERIOR TO AARON AND HIS PRIESTHOOD (HEBREWS 5-7).

In 5:1-10, he shows that Jesus is the kind of high priest that every sinner needs. From 5:11 through chapter 6, the author exhorts his readers to “press on to maturity” (6:1). After the severe warning of 6:4-8, he comforts them with the assurance that he is “convinced of better things” concerning them, namely, “things that accompany salvation” (6:9). He points to Jesus as the anchor for our souls, the forerunner who has entered beyond the veil as our high priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek (6:19-20). Chapter 7 is an explanation of why Jesus, as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, is superior to the Aaronic priests. Through Him, we can draw near to God and be assured of our salvation.

B. JESUS OUR HIGH PRIEST IS SUPERIOR TO THE OLD COVENANT (HEBREWS 8:1-10:18).

I can only give a bare summary of this important section:

Jesus offers better promises than the old covenant did (8:1-13).
Jesus offers a better tabernacle than the old covenant did (9:1-14).
Jesus offers a better sacrifice than the old covenant did (9:15-10:18).
The final section of the book shows how we should apply these great truths about Christ’s glorious person and priesthood:

3. Seeing the glory of Christ in His person and priesthood will strengthen us to endure trials by faith (10:19-13:25).

After the severe warning at the end of chapter 10, chapter 11 points us to those who endured by faith, looking ahead to God’s promises in Christ, which we have received. The author exhorts us to submit to God’s discipline, which He brings so that we will share His holiness (12:1-13). He concludes chapter 12 by contrasting God’s revelation at Mount Sinai with the glorious kingdom at Mount Zion, which we receive by coming to Jesus and the new covenant in His blood. Therefore, we must endure by faith, even if it means suffering and reproach, because we are seeking that heavenly city which is to come (13:14).

Conclusion

So the message of Hebrews is that the way to endure any kind of severe trial by faith is to see the glory of Christ in His matchless person and His glory as our high priest.

I want to conclude by playing a brief tape of an invocation given by a Pastor Lockwood. I don’t know the man, but as you will hear, he can certainly preach Christ! (I include the transcript here, but to do it justice, you need to hear it. In a couple of places I could not make out his exact wording. These are in brackets with a question mark.) Here is Pastor Lockwood:

“The Bible says my king is a seven way king. He’s the king of the Jews, that’s a racial king. He’s the king of Israel, that’s a national king. He’s the king of righteousness. He’s the king of the ages. He’s the king of heaven. He’s the king of glory. He’s the King of kings. And He is the Lord of lords. That’s my king. Well, I wonder do you know Him?

“David said the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. My king is a sovereign king. No means of measure can define His limitless love. No farseeing telescope can bring into visibility the [coastline of his surely supplies?]. No barrier can hinder him from pouring out his blessings. He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. Do you know Him?

“He’s the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s Savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands in the solitude of Himself. He’s august and he’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He is the loftiest idea in literature. He is the highest personality in philosophy. He is the supreme problem in higher criticism. He is the fundamental doctrine of true theology. He is the [kernel?], the necessity for spiritual religion. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s is the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He’s the only one who’s qualified to be an all-sufficient Savior. I wonder if you know Him today?

“He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and he saves. He strengthens and sustains. He guards and he guides. He heals the sick. He cleansed the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent. And He beautifies the meek. I wonder if you know Him?

“Well, my king, He is a key. He’s the key to knowledge. He’s a well-spring of wisdom. He’s a doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. Do you know Him?

“Well, his office is manifold. His promise is sure. His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous and His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you, yeah, but He is indescribable. Yes, He is, good God, He’s indescribable, yes He’s indescribable. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible.

“Well, you can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hand. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. Well, the Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him. And the grave couldn’t hold Him. Yeah! That’s my king! That’s my king! And Thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever, and ever and ever and ever—how long is that—and ever and ever and when you get through with all of the forevers, then Amen.”

Discussion Questions

Apart from prayer and the Word, how can we gain a clearer knowledge of the glory of Christ? See John 14:21.
Can a person deny either the deity of Jesus or His humanity and be saved? Consider 1 John 2:22-23; 4:15; 5:20; 2 John 7, 9.
How does the doctrine of Christ’s priesthood apply practically to every person?
Someone asks you, “How can I have stronger faith?” Based on the message of Hebrews, how would you answer?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2005, All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Responsibilities of Church Leaders (Hebrews 13:7, 17-19, 22-25)

holy-bible-background

The Responsibilities of Church Leaders (Hebrews 13:7, 17-19, 22-25)

Many writers agree that there is a leadership crisis in the churches of America, but they do not agree on the solution to the problem. Many import American business principles into the local church, without much regard for what the Bible says about the requirements and responsibilities of church leadership.

Thus many modern pastors minimize their responsibility of preaching God’s Word and focus rather on being the CEO of the church. As church entrepreneurs, they envision and implement growth plans. They view the church as a product to be marketed to the consumer. As in the retail business, you have to give the customers what they are looking for. Many of these pastor-CEO’s are very successful, building impressive church campuses that cater to thousands of weekly “customers.” They write “how-to” books that share their proven principles for building the church.

If Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-4), and it equips God’s people for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17), it should say something about the important matter of church leadership. Since Christ promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18), we should look to His inspired Word for direction on what church leaders should be and what they should do. Two weeks ago, we looked at our text from the standpoint of the duties of church members toward their leaders. Today we will reverse this. While our text is not comprehensive, it does give some vital principles about the responsibilities of church leaders. We learn…

Godly church leaders are responsible to lead God’s flock by walking personally with God and by working together to help church members do the same.

There are four main aspects of this statement:

1. Godly church leaders are responsible to lead.

That sounds like a tautology, but it needs to be said. The New Testament does not teach a distinction between “clergy” and “laity,” in that every believer is a priest with full access to God (1 Pet. 2:9). But it does teach a distinction between leaders and followers in the local church. The New Testament uses different names or titles to refer to church leaders. They are called elders (Acts 20:17), which refers to maturity in the faith. At other times, they are called overseers (1 Tim. 3:1, 2), which refers to their function of superintending the church. (In Titus 1:5, 7 and Acts 20:17, 28 the two terms are used of the same office.) They are called pastors (Eph. 4:11), which means shepherds. Peter uses all three of these terms (1 Pet. 5:1, 2) when he exhorts the elders to “shepherd [pastor] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight ….” He goes on (verse 4) to refer to Christ as “the Chief Shepherd” (or, Pastor).

Another word for church leaders is the Greek verb, prohistemi, (lit., “to stand before”) which is translated “have charge over” (1 Thess. 5:12). It refers to the function of elders “who rule well” (1 Tim. 5:17). It also refers to a man’s responsibility to “manage” his own household (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12). The word in our text (Heb. 13:7, 17, 24) is a different word (our English word, hegemony, comes from it) that simply means, leaders. It is used of Paul, to distinguish him from Barnabas (Acts 14:12) as “the chief speaker.” It is also used of Judas Barsabbas and Silas, who are called “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22).

But the point is, leaders should lead. Leadership is primarily influence, and the way that church leaders influence others is by their godly example and by their teaching of God’s word (Heb. 13:7). Because elders in the local church must lead by example, most of the qualifications for that office in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are godly character qualities. The one exception is that they should be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2), or to “exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Leadership requires having a clear biblical picture of what the local church ought to be and what it ought to be doing, and continually communicating that to the church. It also requires dealing with problems that arise in the church. President John F. Kennedy observed (source unknown), “No easy problem ever comes to the President of the United States. If they are easy to solve, somebody else has solved them.”

Often, out of an attempt to please everyone, church leaders dodge difficult problems. They don’t want to confront an influential church member who is in sin. They don’t want to teach on doctrines that are not popular, even if they are biblical. They don’t confront someone who is teaching error, for fear of stirring up conflict. They don’t want to get involved in resolving relational conflicts in the church or in church families. But to dodge such difficult matters is to fail to lead the church. Church leaders must actively pursue God and His truth, and help others to do the same.

2. Godly church leaders are responsible to walk personally with God.

In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul exhorts his younger co-worker, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching….” In Acts 20:28, he told the Ephesian elders, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock….” Our text brings out four aspects of the personal walk of church leaders:

A. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS MUST BE CAREFUL TO MAINTAIN A GOOD CONSCIENCE BEFORE GOD AND OTHERS (13:18).

Paul told Felix (Acts 24:16), “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” The conscience is that inner sense of right and wrong that God has put in every human heart (Rom. 2:15). It is not infallible, in that it must be informed by God’s Word of truth. It can become seared or hardened (1 Tim. 4:2; Eph. 4:18-19). Even if your conscience is misinformed, it is always a sin to violate it (Rom. 14:14, 23; James 4:17). Thus Paul told Timothy (1 Tim. 1:5), “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

The main way to keep a clear conscience is to walk in daily obedience to God’s Word. If you knowingly sin, confess it immediately to God and seek the forgiveness of the one you sinned against. Personal obedience to God is the prerequisite to leading others in obedience to God.

B. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS LIVE WITH A VIEW OF ANSWERING TO GOD SOMEDAY (13:17).

They are continually cognizant of the fact that they will “give an account” to God, both for their own lives and for the church over which God has placed them as overseers. No man or group of men has final authority over the church. We are merely under-shepherds, accountable to Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd. It is His church, not mine! Church leaders are stewards or managers of the church for Christ, who bought it with His blood. Keeping this fact constantly in mind prevents any abuse of authority or any taking advantage of people for personal gain. Every church leader should read often Ezekiel 34, where God confronts the shepherds who have not tended and cared for His flock, but have used it for their own selfish ends. He will call us to account!

C. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS ARE MEN OF FAITH AND PRAYER, WHO ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO PRAY (13:7, 18, 20-21).

In verse 7, the author tells the Hebrews to remember and imitate the faith of the leaders who have gone before them. In verse 18, he asks them to pray for him, and in verses 20-21, he models prayer by praying for them. (See also Hebrews 11 on faith.)

Here is precisely where American business principles do not apply to the local church. The church is not to be run as a business, where we make plans and implement those plans according to the best of human wisdom. The church is to move forward by faith in the living God and by dependence on Him through prayer. Our aim as church leaders is certainly not to lead by our collective wisdom, but rather to seek the mind of the Lord for His church as we wait upon Him by prayer and faith.

Speaking for myself (and, I’m sure, for all of the elders, too), I’m in way over my head! I don’t have all the answers that I need to lead this local church. I don’t know enough to guide people through complex personal problems. Because of this, prayer isn’t just a formality at the beginning of elder meetings or counseling sessions. It’s an essential lifeline to the living God! Everything that we do as a church should be done through prayer and faith!

D. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS ARE WILLING TO SUFFER FOR CHRIST IF NEED BE (13:23).

The author mentions Timothy, who has just been released from prison. Paul had exhorted Timothy (2 Tim. 2:8), “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” Apparently, Timothy had followed Paul’s admonition.

We easily could face persecution for our faith in the years ahead, and the leaders are always the main targets for the enemy. Even if we do not suffer persecution from without, leaders must be ready to suffer criticism and personal attacks, often from those in the church. Charles Spurgeon’s Autobiography ([Banner of Truth], 1:303-327) contains an entire chapter on the early criticisms and slanders that were leveled against him, often by other pastors. Late in his life, he went through many other unfair attacks because he stood against the growing liberalism in the Baptist Union.

Leaders who hold firmly to biblical truth will face such attacks, because no matter how kindly you say it, God’s truth always offends someone. They don’t dare attack God directly, so they attack the leader who delivered the message. It is never fun, but it goes with the job. Spurgeon’s wife helped him deal with the attacks by putting Matthew 5:11-12 on a plaque, which he read every morning, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Thus godly church leaders are responsible to lead, and a main way that they do so is by walking personally with God.

3. Godly church leaders are responsible to work together.

“Leaders” is plural. The New Testament clearly teaches that leadership in the local church is to be plural (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5). Plural leadership is a safeguard against the abuse of authority. Also, the task of shepherding a local church is far too great for one man, unless the church is very small. There are two implications of this truth:

A. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS ARE CALLED TO WORK TOGETHER.

In our text, the author works closely with Timothy (13:23) and with the leaders of the Hebrew church. He tells the church to greet their leaders (13:24). It is the leaders (plural) who keep watch over the souls of the flock (13:17). Obviously, they could only do this by working together as a team.

In the New Testament, the only example of one dominant leader is negative. The apostle John confronts Diotrephes, who loved to be first among them, and who took it upon himself to put people out of the church (3 John 9-10). By virtue of personality, spiritual gifts, and spiritual maturity, there are examples of spiritual leaders who were first among equals. Peter was the spokesman for the twelve. James was a dominant leader in the early Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13-21; 21:18-26; Gal. 2:6, 9). Paul became the leader of the first missionary team, even though Barnabas had been a believer longer than Paul had. But all of these men submitted to one another in the Lord and taught that as believers, we must do the same (Eph. 5:21).

B. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS PUT A PRIORITY ON GODLY RELATIONSHIPS.

The author is concerned that the Hebrews work harmoniously with their leaders, so that they may lead with joy, not with grief (13:17). He asks for prayer, stating his intention to conduct himself honorably in all things, and his desire to be restored to them soon (13:18-19). He mentions Timothy, and traveling with him to visit them. He asks them to greet both the leaders and all the saints on his behalf. Relationships ooze throughout these verses.

The whole Bible is summed up by the two great commandments, which are both relational: Love God and love others. This means that godly church leaders must work at relating to one another in love, and they must work at helping church members relate to one another in love. This was Paul’s concern when he wrote Philippians, that two women, Euodia and Syntyche would “live in harmony in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). (How would you feel if Paul named you like that in an open letter!) He was concerned for the Corinthian church because Chloe’s people had told him of the quarrels that were taking place there (1 Cor. 1:11-13).

Whenever you get several hundred people together, especially when the group consists of those from different backgrounds, ages, and even nationalities, you have a huge potential for conflict. When you throw in different personalities, differing preferences, and the need to confront sin and false teaching, it’s a miracle that the church has survived all of these centuries! One of the main responsibilities of church leaders is to be examples of godly relationships and to help others work through relational problems. Thus godly church leaders are responsible to lead the flock by walking personally with God and by working together in godly relationships. Finally,

4. Godly church leaders are responsible to help those in the church walk personally with God.

Again, our text is not comprehensive, but it reveals at least four aspects of this task.

A. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS HELP CHURCH MEMBERS BY KEEPING WATCH OVER THEIR SOULS (13:17).

The Greek word translated “keeping watch” means “to keep oneself awake,” and thus, “to keep watch, guard, or care for” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Walter Bauer, William Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich [University of Chicago Press], Second Edition, p. 14). The image was drawn from shepherds keeping watch over their flocks (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ([Harper & Brothers], 1887, p. 9). Shepherds had to stay alert in order to guard their flocks from predators. They had to know the sheep and observe them carefully enough to know when a sheep was sick or missing. They had to go after the strays and try to restore them to the flock. They had to lead them to pasture and clean water (see Ezek. 34:1-16).

These tasks require the discernment to know where people are at spiritually and when they are heading toward spiritual danger. Leaders must love God and people enough to have the courage to confront those who are drifting. While you can only lead those who are willing to be led, godly leaders must always make the effort. The task is more difficult in our day when there are many different churches in town. If people get upset at one church, or if the leaders there try to confront some sin in their lives, they just move down the road to another church that welcomes them. Sadly, they usually carry their problems with them.

“Keeping watch over souls” is an overwhelming task, and the responsibility for it does not fall only on church leaders. Every spiritually mature believer is responsible to help restore those who are caught in any trespass and to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1-2). If you know of someone in the church who is straying from the Lord, but you don’t know what to do, go to one of the elders for counsel. We do our best to keep watch over the flock, but often we are not even aware when someone is in need. We all need to work together to care for one another spiritually.

B. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS HELP CHURCH MEMBERS BY FAITHFULLY TEACHING GOD’S WORD (13:7, 22).

In verse 7, the author mentions the leaders who spoke the word of God to the flock. In verse 22, he mentions his own brief “word of exhortation” (the Epistle to the Hebrews). While all elders should be “able to teach,” some especially “work hard at teaching and preaching” and should be financially supported for that task (1 Tim. 5:17). I assure you that it is hard work, although spiritually rewarding! In one of the strongest admonitions in the Bible, Paul’s almost final words to Timothy were (2 Tim. 4:1-5),

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

C. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS HELP CHURCH MEMBERS BY AIMING AT THEIR JOY AND SPIRITUAL PROFIT (13:17).

“Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” This refers first to the leaders’ joy, but it obviously extends to the joy and spiritual profit of all of the members. Those who are walking in obedience to Christ will know His joy (John 15:10-11). Godly leaders rejoice to see those in the flock walking in the truth (3 John 4).

D. GODLY CHURCH LEADERS HELP CHURCH MEMBERS BY EMPHASIZING GOD’S GRACE (13:25).

“Grace be with you all” is a salutation, but it is far more than a mere formality. It is a spiritual desire and emphasis throughout the New Testament. In Hebrews, he mentioned that Jesus, “by the grace of God… might taste death for everyone” (2:9). He encouraged us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). He has warned against insulting the Spirit of grace (10:29) and falling short of God’s grace (12:15). In 13:9, he cautioned against legalism, adding, “for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace….”

Far too many Christian churches and homes are marked by legalism, but leaders are responsible to create an atmosphere of God’s grace. Grace is never a license to sin, but rather, it instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). When we sin (and we all do!), God’s grace forgives and restores. God’s grace is patient with the weak, encouraging them to grow in the Lord.

Conclusion

D. E. Hoste, who was a missionary leader with the China Inland Mission, wrote (cited in D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Iain Murray [Banner of Truth], 2:423),

What is the essential difference between spurious and true Christian leadership? When a man, in virtue of an official position in the church, demands obedience of another, irrespective of the latter’s reason and conscience, this is the spirit of tyranny.

When, on the other hand, by the exercise of tact and sympathy, by prayer, spiritual power and sound wisdom, one Christian worker is able to influence and enlighten another, so that the latter, through the medium of his own reason and conscience, is led to alter one course and adopt another, this is true spiritual leadership.

Before all of our elders (including me!) resign and run for their lives, and no others ever aspire to the office of elder, I conclude by reminding you of Paul’s words regarding the ministry. After asking, rhetorically, “Who is adequate for these things?” he stated, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5-6). The responsibility of church leadership is impossible, but with God’s strength, all things are possible! As leaders, we join the author of Hebrews in asking you, “Pray for us.”

Discussion Questions

Why is godly leadership more a matter of influence than of style or technique?
Since no leader perfectly fulfills the biblical requirements, how can we know when a man is qualified?
Since some problems correct themselves, how can leaders know which problems deserve their attention?
Would it be gossip for a church member to inform a leader about another member who is having problems? Why/why not? To what extent is the entire body responsible to keep watch over one another’s souls?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2005, All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized