Recently, a few shepherds within this region have stirred up issues in the public eye being unprofessional and borderline non-Christian. While it is good for pastors to stand against unbiblical issues and address such activities taking place within the community from in and out of their pulpit, these issues should be handled as biblically as possible. When there are problems Jesus said to go to that person and address the issue (Matthew 18:15-18). Issues that are handled with a desire for public recognition, stirring up strife, or helping the community with hidden motives do not benefit the people. Shepherds, also known as local pastors, are called by God to feed and lead God’s sheep (Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 23:4; 1 Peter 5:2). Pastors who have been established by God have the authority of the Spirit of God to address issues within the region while false shepherds do not have the authority or the anointing creating a stirring of issues rather than a solution. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep while a hireling only comes to have the look but runs when danger arises or when the attention leaves (John 10:11-13). A true shepherd leads sheep beside still waters, helps them find rest in green pastures, restores their soul by leading them in paths of righteousness, protects them from evil, and brings comfort (Psalm 23:1-4). This passage reflects the Lord Jesus Christ as the Shepherd but sets the precedent for His under-shepherds, the local pastors (Ephesians 4:11). Those who attempt to be shepherds who do not feed and lead or obtain their role of a pastor unbiblically enter into this position not by the door God has established and are thieves and robbers (John 10:1). Those who have been sent out from another pastor or biblically as the book of Acts enters into this role as a true shepherd of the sheep (John 10:2). Not everyone that is called a shepherd has been established by God and have His heart (Jeremiah 3:15). Pastors have been anointed to address issues and make sure wolves do not come in to attack the sheep of God (2 Timothy 4:1-4; Acts 20:28-31). Another aspect of the local pastor is to make his ministry free from the appearance of evil or misconduct (2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:22). When a Christian, especially a pastor, displays a lack of self-control and other means of aggression toward members of the community this does not paint an accurate picture of a biblical pastor who is called to love, feed, and lead God’s sheep. Do pastors have emotions and things they deal with? Yes, because they are still human but lacking the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in the majority of situations addressing a community is not the proper use of a pastoral title. May the pastors of this region begin to join together to address the issues that need to be handled but conducted with a biblical resolution and behavior. I can only speak for myself as a pastor, but one person waving a religious title within the community does not represent every pastor who is doing their job of feeding and leading God’s people biblically. May conviction and repentance come for those who hold this title but are out of line biblically or who have made a public spectacle of the office of pastor. May God lead each person to the biblical pastor they are called to be under as their shepherd to be fed and led in the things of God. For more information about Abundant Grace Church visit agcsparta.org.
In America, there are roughly 300,000 churches. That should be a great thing for any Christian to hear. If there are so many churches within our nation why is America in such turmoil and having such moral issues? The answer is not all churches are biblical churches. With so many people gathering in buildings or streaming online to places that have the name of a church, as well as some that do not apply the name church, the biblical definition of what a church really is has not been discussed in a long time throughout America. Some people may say, “If it has a lot of people there it must be God”. Adolf Hitler had a massive gathering under him, was he led by God? No! He was actually led by an anti-Christ spirit (1 John 4:3; 1 John 2:18). Knowing a place has a title or name does not indicate that is what the place really is. More than a person’s opinion, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about church descriptions. The first description of a church is more than a building. The church is the consecrated, holy people who assemble together to worship God but do so in a holy place to honor God in His house (Hebrews 10:25; John 17:14-16). The second description of a biblical church is found within the missions of the church. The missions for every church should be preaching and teaching, discipleship, fellowship, worship, maturing the believer, and missions and evangelism. A biblical pastor is ordained to lead God’s people in the missions God establishes for the church (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-12). Part of the pastor’s job is to feed, encourage, and rebuke the people with the Word of God through preaching and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Another part of the pastor’s job in a biblical church is discipleship (Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 2:2). Part of discipleship is the hands-on application of what is learned personally from the pastor. Not having access to the pastor is the opposite of discipleship. Listening to sermons from the pulpit is not discipleship. Jesus spoke to the multitude but only had a few true disciples (Matthew 13:10, Matthew 24:3, Mark 4:34, Mark 7:17, Mark 10:10). Fellowship as a mission of the church is not eating on multiple occasions, but creating and reconfirming relationships as a church family by sharing testimonies (Acts 4:33; Acts 14:27-28), having meals together (Acts 2:42,46), and by spending time with one another (Acts 2:47; Hebrews 10:24-25). The worship mission of a biblical church is not having a good band that plays music but worship abounds in everything that is conducted within the church. If God is not worshipped in His own house what is the point of the church? God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth with a heart close to God (John 4:23-24; Matthew 15:7-9; Psalm 138:1-2; Psalm 95:6-7; Psalm 89:7). The next mission of the church is maturing the believer. This may be one area that is creating such a divide among the churches other than preaching and discipleship. Pastors are called to mature the believers (Ephesians 4:11-12) but some do not attempt this for fear of people leaving and taking their money with them. Even when a person gets born again (John 3:3) they still need maturing to leave the sinful nature behind them (Galatians 3:1-3; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Revelation 3:2-3). May there be an increase in biblical churches within our nation and fewer churches compromising to carnality or fleshly desires. For more information about Abundant Grace Church visit agcsparta.org.
In modern times there is a focus on self. From how fast and easy things can be to make one’s life better to taking a pill to hide sexually transmitted diseases keeping the pleasure in one’s life while ruining someone else’s life. This same mindset has bled into how the modern church operates. Churches accommodate to make things easier for the attendee, receiving gifts for coming to church, and making things focused on each parishioner. With this standard of church operations does it line up with the biblical precedent of what Jesus says makes His disciples? The answer is no. Sure, it may get people in the door to give them a sermon, but by using these methods people are not coming to hear the truth of being a disciple of Jesus they are coming for the social factor or the opportunity to be served while feeling religious. Let’s look at what Jesus says makes His disciples. In the Gospels, Jesus says that His disciples must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). The word deny in each of these verses means to abstain or disown. Being a true disciple of Jesus means getting rid of the selfish motives and desires to take up the cross or the plan God has for each person’s life and following Jesus. The cross was God’s plan for Jesus (Psalm 22:16-18; Isaiah 53:3-7) to redeem anyone who would choose to accept this free gift (Romans 6:23). Each believer has a plan and purpose that God designed for them (Jeremiah 1:5; Jeremiah 29:11; Proverbs 3:5-6). These plans may at times seem like a hard load to carry especially when one’s flesh desires easier or to be selfish. Jesus did make note of His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Both of these aspects reflect being associated with Jesus and working with Him to accomplish what God wants completed, not leading one’s own life and fulfilling aspirations. When one’s heart is aligned with God and the Word of God their desires are more focused on pleasing God rather than selfish ambitions. A true disciple also keeps the commandments of God because of their love for Jesus (John 14:15; John 15:10). To practice sinning is lawlessness which is the opposite of being submitted to Jesus Christ’s commandments or the Word of God (1 John 3:4). The sinful nature within each person desires to be selfish. Christians are to be selfless (1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:4), obedient (1 Peter 1:14; 1 John 5:3; Luke 11:28), and faithful (Luke 16:10; Proverbs 28:20; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Jesus led by example of His selfless lifestyle by putting God’s will above His own desires (Luke 22:42; John 5:30). The definition of being a Christian is not only one who professes Jesus with their mouth but bases their life on His teachings by conforming to the Word of God. The word conform is powerful meaning to have the shape of or to bring into harmony with through obedience. A person must allow God to have power in their life not just a form of a Christian (2 Timothy 3:5). May Christians everywhere not be selfish people who have a religious air to them but be true disciples of Jesus. Christians who truly deny their sinful desires daily, who live out God’s plans and purposes for their lives, and who follow Jesus by working with Him to give glory and honor to God by obeying the Word of God. For more information about discipleship and Abundant Grace Church visit agcsparta.org.
The Bible refers to many types of hearts but there are three that really stand out, goats, wolves, and sheep. Out of these types of hearts, the goat can be one of the more interesting when studied from the Bible. The sheep type of heart is the one that follows God, is submitted, and remains in the flock under the shepherd. Naaman was a captain of the army of Syria (2 Kings 5) who became a leper. Leprosy is an infectious disease that affects the skin and nerves creating paralysis and deformities. This disease creates a segregation between the leper and the healthy public. Naaman takes a large amount of treasures with him for the man of God. When he goes to the prophet Elisha the prophet sends out his servant to give Naaman instructions to wash in the Jordan River 7 times to be clean. After some frustration and a change of heart Naaman obeys and becomes clean from his leprosy (2 Kings 5:8-14). Naaman attempts to give Elisha some of the treasures, but the prophet chooses to not receive them. After Naaman leaves, Gehazi sees the opportunity to obtain some of the riches Naaman offered Elisha (2 Kings 5:15-24). The importance of this passage is Naaman receives the message of the man of God and is made free from the object plaguing his life while Gehazi allows his mind to change his heart to fall into rebellion and lawlessness separating him from the man of God had called Gehazi to. In Gehazi chasing Naaman’s treasures, he receives the curse that Naaman was made free from (2 Kings 5:27). Rebels are like goats who believe in God to some extent, but are not satisfied with the things of God or the Word of God. Natural goats like to have free range and not be limited to what they cannot do. They like to feed on everything around them due to curiosity even if it is dangerous to their health. Goats are vocal from loud calls to screams. Goats display playful behavior in leaping, head-butting, and chasing games. So one may ask, “What is the big deal about this?” According to the Bible, goats are not a good allegory, especially when discussed by Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He would separate like a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33). The sheep on the right hand of God will enter into Heaven (Matthew 25:33-34) while the goats on the left hand of God will enter into Hell (Matthew 25:33,41). Until this separation takes place the sheep and goats are together but there is a stark difference in their behavior due to obedience to the Word of God. Spiritual goats like to have free range because they do not want to be told what to do or how to live even how to live for God. These goats like to feed on everything in the world and not the things of God even though what they feed on from the world can bring their own destruction. They are vocal about their rebellion and voice their disagreements with church leaders and the Word of God as opposed to seeking the truth in Jesus Christ. The playful behavior of spiritual goats reflects leaping from one sin to another, butting heads with Christians, and chasing sin. Jesus Christ is not satisfied with goats due to their lack of obedience to Him and their unwillingness to live for God (John 14:15). Everyone should strive to be a sheep to be in the right standing with God.