Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: rebuke

Settling accounts (part 3)

As Jesus’ time on earth was coming to a conclusion, He took His disciples aside and strongly encouraged them to be prepared for His eventual return.  As He often did, Jesus stressed His point through a series of parables.  In this parable, two slaves did well as they prepared for their master’s return and one slave did not.  Last time, we looked at how the two were successful in the eyes of their master.  Now, let’s see what happened to the one who did not prepare:

Matthew 25:14-19
For it is just like a man going on a journey.  He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one – to each according to his own ability.  Then he went on a journey.  Immediately the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more.  In the same way the man with two earned two more.  But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.  After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

After heaping praise on the two servants who worked their talents to the fullest extent of their ability, the master turned his attention to the last slave.  When the time came to settle accounts, the last servant was not prepared…and there was no way to do a last-minute fix.  So this servant did what we often do – he tried to shift the blame for his lack of productivity.

Matthew 25:24-25
Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you.  You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, you have what is yours.’

As you can imagine, the master was not impressed with the servant’s actions or words.

Matthew 25:26-27
But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy slave!  If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers.  And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.

If that is what the he truly believed about his master (who had just entrusted him with the equivalent of $720k), the servant could have, at a minimum, put the money in the bank and let the interest compound over the long time the master was on his journey. 

The problem with putting it with the bankers is that there would be an official record that the servant had some of the master’s money.  It’s possible that the servant wanted the money for himself and his own desires.  Perhaps he was hoping the master wouldn’t return, or that one day in the future he could declare to the community that he had “found” this large sum of money buried in a field.  Whatever excuse or plan this servant convinced himself with, the master’s promised arrival undid them all.  Instead of the praise given to the other two servants, this evil, lazy servant received a harsh rebuke.

Matthew 25:28-30
So take the talent from him and five it to the one who has 10 talents.  For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough.  But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  And throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

When we look at someone who we think God gave more talents to, we tend to get jealous.  We often convince ourselves that we should just quit, saying things like: “I’m not the preacher.”, or “I can’t sing like that.”, or “God didn’t give me lots of finances.  If He had, I could sure help a lot of people.”  None of those self-defeating thoughts help us fulfill the opportunities and mission God gave us.  And these excuses for our lack of effort shift the blame back at God, just like the foolish servant did.

God wants us to fully utilize the gifts He gave us, not stew over how well we’d do with someone else’s.  Don’t convince yourself that your talents are not valuable enough to make an invested impact.  The finances, skills, and abilities you have are specific to you for a reason.  If the servant who received just one talent worked and invested like the other two; he certainly would have received the same praise and rewarding from the master.

Don’t hide your talents

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Stomaching the misconduct of leaders

I think Dr. Thomas Constable was right when he wrote in his notes on 1 Timothy, “Criticism of leaders is a favorite spectator sport.” 

Let’s face it – not everyone is going to agree with or “like” every pastor they come across.  But how should an accusation of misconduct be handled?

As Paul continued his instructions for Timothy regarding the appointment of church leadership, he takes a realistic, yet extremely serious, approach to dealing with leaders who may not be living up the standards their position would require.

1 Timothy 5:19-21
Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses.  Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will also be afraid.  I solemnly charge you, before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism.

Paul’s directions fit in perfectly with what Jesus taught his disciples about church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17).  Timothy must thoroughly evaluate an accusation against an elder.  One person’s word isn’t sufficient.  However, if the charge proves true – if the elder isn’t living up to the qualifications set forth a few verses back in 1 Timothy 3, then a public rebuke and/or removal from office may be in order.  These steps would correct the issue with the elder in question…but also keep the other elders from falling into the same trap. 

Paul could not have been more serious regarding the importance of going through this process without any prejudice or favoritism.  When Jesus referred to his return with the Father and the elect angels, it was in regard to judgment (Matt 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Rev 14:10).  While we might be tempted to think that a public rebuke is too harsh, it is better for an elder to be confronted now than for them to go on unchecked and then be confronted later by Jesus at the Bema judgement.

In order to avoid these kinds of situations, Paul gives Timothy some additional guidance:

1 Timothy 5:22-25
Don’t be too quick to lay hands on anyone, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

Some people’s sins are evident, going before them to judgement, but the sins of others follow them.

Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.

Paul’s water vs. wine comment might seem a little strange to us, but keep in mind that wine was used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world.  Purified water from a faucet wasn’t readily available like it is for us.  Even though their water may look fine, there was a decent chance that it was contaminated.  Using a small amount of alcoholic wine would have been beneficial in keeping his digestive tract in working order.

It seems to me that Paul is taking a practical step from Timothy’s life and using it as an example of how to manage the appointment of leaders.  Timothy needs be cautious about appointing someone to represent God and lead others in their relationship with Jesus.  Just because someone seems like a “nice Christian guy” and he can quote a few Scriptures doesn’t mean he should be leading the congregation.  The importance of Timothy taking preventative measures to keep pure would also ensure that the church family would also avoid having to stomach elder-judgement issues in the future.

Bottom line for us?  We need to recognize that our leader’s lives matter.  We can’t expect them to be perfect, but their position mandates a level of blamelessness in order for them to handle this kind of influence on God’s family.  Just like Timothy needed to take appropriate steps in evaluating a leader, we need to do the same when we are considering who we get our Bible teaching from.  Just because they’re on the radio doesn’t mean they are “good” and their teaching is accurate.  Just because they are “really nice” doesn’t mean that we should be submitting to their leadership.  We need to do some work on the front end to avoid being misled.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to give correction, lovingly

No one likes a phony, especially when we are on the receiving end of correction. 

When presented with correction, our human nature will begin to build a defense any way that it can.  We justify our understanding, we make excuses for any gaps, and – if possible – we challenge the credibility of the messenger.

Because – we rationalize – if the person correcting us can be shown to be deficient, then we feel justified in not heeding their correction.

So does this mean we must have our lives perfectly put together before we can rebuke anyone?  Of course not.  However, those of us who lead know how difficult it can be for correction to be received and implemented…and how even more difficult it is to prompt a change in behavior when our own actions need some work.

Throughout his letter, Paul is mentors and advises Timothy on how those in charge in the church are supposed to lead and live.  Paul knows that it is not enough for a leader to just “go through the motions”.  So in addition to discussing what a leader is supposed to do, Paul also points out how they are to do these things, as well as their motivation of character behind doing them.

So when it comes to correcting error, take a look at where Paul tells Timothy he should be coming from:

1 Timothy 1:3-5
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.

Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

This love is the agape love, which is a ‘give-all’ kind of love that one has for the benefit of others.  This is the kind of love that God shows us; and in the context of giving correction, it is the kind of love Timothy is to have for his fellow believers who are messing around with bad teachings.

The goal of Timothy’s instruction is to show love to those he is correcting and that they will accept the correction, change their focus back to God’s plan, and also participate in the same agape love.

But this is where character matters.

Timothy could say “I’m correcting you because I love you” and still be a total jerk about it.
Timothy could say “I’m telling you this because I love you” and be a hypocrite.
Timothy could say “I’m commanding you to stop because you’re wrong and I’m in charge”.

In each of these situations, Timothy would be right – they need to be corrected – but he would have a difficult time convincing his fellow believer that change is necessary.

When we own ‘our stuff’, it is much easier to lovingly comment on ‘other people’s stuff’.  This applies to everyone, but especially those of us in leadership positions – at church, at work, or in the home.  Let’s take steps to keep our hearts pure, our conscience clear, and our faith sincere…and then love others accordingly, especially when they need correction.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A leader's rebuke

When we study the Bible, one way that we know the importance of a subject is how many verses the author uses to talk about it.  If he talks about it more, then the subject matter is being emphasized in relation to the other topics within the book.

Paul’s letter to Titus is no different.  While spending the entire first chapter describing the expectations for those who lead in a church, Paul spends about 5 verses discussing how a leader should treat his family, conduct himself, and interact with others…and then spends the next eight verses discussing one topic: How a leader handles God’s message and the reasons why it is such an important topic.

We saw that Paul warned for Titus and the church leaders to be on the lookout for those who would come and distort the good news that Jesus came and paid the penalty for our sins, thus restoring our relationship with God.  However, Paul wasn’t only concerned with direct opposition to the leaders, he also showed concern for the Cretan believers. 

Titus 1:12-13 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”  This testimony is true. 

This quote is attributed to Epimenides, from about the 6th century BC.  And Paul agrees with the philosopher’s assessment!  In the ancient world, to “Cretonize” someone meant to both “double-deal” and “to lie”, all rolled into one.  Paul recognizes that the Cretan reputation had not improved for hundreds of years, and that Titus would have to watch out for this kind of behavior as he appointed leaders for the churches.  If Cretans acted like that on their own, imagine what would happen to the church if its leaders adopted the teachings of those who were

Titus 1:11 …ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

This kind of situation would damage both the local believers’ relationship with God, but also God’s reputation to those outside of the church.  Paul’s solution to the Cretans’ default behavior was clear and direct:

Titus 1:13 Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.

In this “sharp rebuke”, Paul was not giving Titus the license to simply blast another believer and then walk away.  The word used for rebuke also carries the idea of exposing, showing fault, and convincing.  Paul is directing Titus to deal with false teaching directly and swiftly, however, he is not giving permission to “hit-and-run” someone who is incorrectly presenting the gospel.  Exposing, showing fault, rebuking, and convincing someone will likely take some time and patience.  It will be hard, but the health of the church depends on it.

The Cretan church leaders must be rooted in their relationship with God through the Scriptures.  Only then would they be able to handle these upcoming situations with those who reject the truth or with those who were more interested in Jewish myths than teaching the gospel.  Clearly this is why Paul spends so much time on this subject; the emphasis he gives it is absolutely necessary.

Are our leaders rooted in Scripture?  How do they handle false teachings and cultural pressures?  These are important topics to consider, as they affect both our individual relationships with God, but also God’s reputation to those outside of the church.

Keep Pressing,
Ken