The Heart of Grumbling

The New Covenant ministry is full of joy. The joy of seeing the image of Christ formed in God’s people; the joy of learning God’s truth; the joy of your own heart and mind being renewed. However, the New Covenant ministry is also full of deep sadness as well. It was said of the Messiah that He would be “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Yet, it was for joy that He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). His grief mingled with joy in the Father is THE pattern for His people in a peculiar way (Hebrews 12:3). It is not God’s plan that His servants lose heart or grow weary in their work (Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3). And yet, that is so often the knee-jerk reaction while in the throws of ministry. The heartache of seeing the ravages of sin in the lives of an unbelieving world. The grief over professing believers who refuse the Lord’s instructions. The depth of frustration over personal sin. The zeal aroused at the dishonor of God’s holy name. All of these things fill the heart and mind of God’s men as they seek to simply be faithful the Word of God.

However, there is a particular sin that often generates grief in ministry and it is as common as the sunlight. It is the sin of complaining. Complaining is that behavior that characterizes a man or woman who 1) loves himself/herself more than others, 2) thinks very little of the Word from God, the Bible, 3) simply wants to complain for the shear thrill of complaining. The fruit of complaining is division, broken hearts, fleshly strife, and devastated relationships. It was complaining that:

  • Caused God to judge Israel numerous times after the Exodus, including being confined in the desert instead of entering the land promised to Abraham:

    Numbers 14:26–29

    26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

    27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.

    28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;

    29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me

Led others into the same sin:

Numbers 11:1–3

1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

 

Complainers are those who despise the Lord’s purposes for themselves. For Israel, they rejected YHWH’s commands, and since they could not approach God, they grumbled against Him by grumbling against His servant, Moses. These people were not only limited to Israel, however. People are people. Sinners are sinners. Grumblers are grumblers.  The tendency to grumble is the same for all-self-righteousness.

In John 6, Jesus is speaking to the multitudes, but especially the leaders of the multitudes, the Pharisees. These men were the target of the Lord’s ministry in a peculiar way. Because of their leadership, and since leaders will be in greater accountability by the Lord, Jesus initiated that judgment often with them (see Matthew 23, for example. That chapter reads like a judicial sentence). Jesus has been healing, feeding, and teaching the multitudes. The power of Christ and the grace of God was upon all of them. However, what was the response by those who should have rejoiced at the goodness of God? Grumbling. Their grumbling was not directed at the teaching. Their grumbling was directed at the Person of Jesus Christ because of His teaching (John 6:41). It would be one thing to complain about a teaching. However, that simply is never the case. When a person complains, the doctrine is simply the ruse. A complainer is actually assaulting the person doing the teaching, not the instruction itself.

However, it is greater than this, and more serious. Moses said it well:

Exodus 16:8

8 Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”

Any complaining, any, is not simply directed at the leader, it is always directed at the Lord behind the leader. This is why complaining is so very serious. It is an assault upon God. And, for that reason, when a complainer is spotted in the church of Jesus Christ, stay away from them. Confront them with the understanding that they are doing the very thing that brings the wrath of God down upon them. These people infect like a disease. They are exploitative, mean, and hypocritical. They are not interested in joy, righteousness, nor the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is too high for them, they cannot attain to it, so they replace it with their own. And, unfortunately, since this behavior is so common, they often gather followers and influence them to do the same.

The complaints of Israel were fueled by the “rabble” who attached themselves to Israel as they left Egypt. They infected the people by bringing out of their hearts what was already there, but they gave it boldness.

Numbers 11:4–6

4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?

5 “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

The church of Jesus Christ must refuse grumbling, and grumblers.

 

1 Corinthians 10:9–12

9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

Philippians 2:14–16

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

1 Peter 4:9

9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

 

And, saints, remember, your grumbling and complaining is a weight that bears upon the hearts of pastors so very heavily that they are prone to growing weary and losing heart. This would be unprofitable for you (Hebrew 13:17). Therefore, obey the Lord’s instructions and stop complaining and start rejoicing!

How To Identify False Leaders, and What To Do About It.

The leadership in the church is to be selfless (Titus 1:7b), men under authority. They are not men who establish their own authority, will, in God’s church. How audacious it is to think that the flock of God could become the flock of elders. Men who lead by a heavy hand, self-promotion, and sinful selfish ambition do not belong in the leadership but in the world. These men must be reproved by the church or other elders who hear of these antics.

What do you look for in men who are selfish and in leadership? What are the signs that may point to ulterior motives? How will you know? As the Lord said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). Then, once identified, what should a child of God do about it? Consider:

 

1) THEY CHANGE THE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE IN ORDER TO SELL (PEDDLE) IT:

2 Corinthians 2:17

17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

2) THEY PROMOTE SINFUL LIVING BY PRECEPT AND LIFESTYLE:

2 Corinthians 4:2

2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

3) THEY DEMAND ALLEGIANCE TO THEIR WAYS, OFTEN MASKING THAT DEMAND WITH FLATTERY:

Luke 6:26

26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

1 Thessalonians 2:5

5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—

4) THEY DO WHAT THEY DO OFTEN TO PLEASE OTHERS WHO ARE JUST LIKE THEM:

1 Thessalonians 2:6a

6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others

5) THEY BOAST IN THEIR SUPERIOR WISDOM WHILE PARADING A SELF-ABASED LIFESTYLE THAT APPEARS TO EXUDE WISDOM TO THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE UNSUSPECTING. THEY EXALT THEIR FALSE HUMILITY AS RIGHTEOUSNESS:

Colossians 2:18

18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Colossians 2:23

23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

6) THEY DO NOT LOVE:

John 5:41–42

41 “I do not receive glory from men;

42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.

7) THEY REJECT THE SHAME OF THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST. THAT IS TO SAY, THEY REFUSE TO BELIEVE, OR TEACH, THAT THIS LIFE, THIS WORLD, HAS NOTHING TO OFFER YOU AND THAT YOU MUST BE CRUCIFIED TO IT. THEY WOULD RATHER TELL YOU HOW TO ASCEND THE LADDERS OF THIS WORLD IN ORDER TO GET MORE OUT OF IT:

Galatians 6:12–13

12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.

8) THEY ARE SNEAKY:

Jude 4

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…

Galatians 2:4

4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

9) THEY PREY UPON WEAK WOMEN (AND WEAK MEN). THEY ATTEMPT TO CONVINCE THEM THAT THEY, THE TEACHERS, ARE ACTUALLY THE RIGHT ONES AND THE APPROVED LEADERS ARE THE WRONG ONES:

2 Timothy 3:6–7

6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,

7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

10) THEY OFTEN ARE THE MOST VOCAL, BOASTING OF THEIR SIN, UNWORTHINESS, AND, CONSEQUENTLY, THEIR GREAT LOVE FOR GOD AND HIS LAW:

Romans 2:23

23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?

 

In this day, especially with the advent of social media, it seems that these kind of men, and women, are coming out of the woodwork. The beloved ones of God often are not vigilant enough to identify these kinds of people and need to be told what to look for. So, the hope is that this list will at least generate some level of discernment among God’s people so that they are strengthened and maturing into those strong in the "once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints-faith" (Jude 3).

If you identify a leader who has these characteristics, here is what you should do:

 

1) IF YOU ARE UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP, BE SUBMISSIVE. THAT IS, BE SUBMISSIVE TO GOD, RECOGNIZE THE "CHAIR" OF AUTHORITY GIVEN TO THAT MAN BY GOD AND STICK CLOSE TO THE WORD OF GOD:

Matthew 23:1–3

1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,

2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;

3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

2) PRAYERFULLY, AFTER SINCERE SELF-EXAMINATION, SEEK OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF HUMBLY GOING TO HIM WITH YOUR VERIFIABLE CONCERNS:

Luke 17:3

3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

Galatians 6:1

1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

3) IF THERE IS NO REPENTANCE, PRIVATELY, FIND OTHER WITNESSES OF THIS MAN’S SINS, AND BRING THEM TO THE MAN, OR, IF NECESSARY, OTHERS IN LEADERSHIP:

1 Timothy 5:19

19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

4) PROMOTE PEACE IN THE CHURCH:

Matthew 5:9

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Romans 12:18

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

5) WAIT FOR GOD’S WORKING IN THE CHURCH TO EITHER REMOVE THAT LEADER, OR GRANT REPENTANCE:

Revelation 2:20–21

20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

21 ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.

Revelation 2:24–27

24 ‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you.

25 ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

26 ‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;

27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;

6) AT THE LAST, VERY LAST STRAW, LEAVE THAT CHURCH, AFTER TIME HAS VERIFIED A REFUSAL TO REPENT, REFUSAL TO LOVE, A REFUSAL TO LISTEN. IDENTIFY ANOTHER CHURCH IN THE AREA THAT HAS GODLY MEN IN LEADERSHIP AND GO THERE AND STAY THERE. COMMIT YOURSELF TO GOD IN THAT BODY AND SERVE THERE. MOVE IF NECESSARY. DO NOT CONSIDER NOT ATTENDING A CHURCH AN OPTION:

Acts 19:8–10

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.

10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

 

1 Timothy 5:24–25

24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.

25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

What Does a Pastor Do?

Among the many different considerations that occupy the current needs of the church, this one topic must head the list. The simple question, “What does a pastor do?”, is a monumental question to ask. It is crucial for the needs of the church in so many ways. It is also a need for the pastor to “check in” once in a while to make sure he is being faithful to his calling.

Let’s start by stating what a pastor is NOT to do. This little series will predominantly be taken from a perusal through the Pastoral Epistles of the New Testament (1, 2 Timothy, and Titus). All three letters were written by Paul, the old apostle at the time of writing. He bore the task of carrying the gospel of the kingdom of God to the greater areas of the known world of that time. He was the man who, although not single-handedly as he had many co-laborers, took the gospel to the “uttermost parts of the world” (Acts 1: 8). He suffered much and had tremendous disappointment and hardship during his years as an apostle. He writes of himself, reluctantly,

2 Corinthians 11:23–29

23  Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.

24  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.

25  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.

26  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;

27  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

28  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

29  Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?

How many pastors can say this? Not me. However, his task is my task. His responsibility is my responsibility. Therefore, if our work is the same, the proclamation of the gospel, the results will likely be the same as well.

Let’s consider what a pastor is not to do from the Pastoral Epistles, taken predominantly from the portions that begin with “Do not…” (NASB):

1) Do not give your time to learning false doctrines:

1 Timothy 1:3–4

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

4  nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

As an elder, Timothy must resist doing what Paul here is telling Timothy to rebuke in the other erring elders. Timothy must not teach heterodoxy. He must not teach “other doctrines” (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω, same word as in 1 Timothy 6:3). A “strange doctrine” is one not taught by Jesus Christ. The church seems pummeled by “strange doctrines.” May none of the them come from pastors!

2) Do not neglect your giftedness and calling:

1 Timothy 4:14

14  Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

It is assumed that a pastor has some kind of internal and external validation of his ministry. A pastor cannot appoint himself (cf. Matthew 23:1). He must be recognized and drawn into the work by his own righteous desires and the approval of other godly men/elders (1 Timothy 3:1). Once verified, he cannot look back. To neglect, here, means to “be unconcerned for; care nothing about.” It is basically apathy towards the reality of the work and need. There is nothing more important than the task of oversight of God’s people. There is no work that matches the work of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-4). What can possibly do what the Word can do? What lasts into eternity like this work? To neglect this calling is to be apathetic towards God Himself as He is not apathetic toward this work. Jesus Christ spent His ministry simply preaching and teaching, of course accompanied by proofs of His ministry. Our only proof is the written Word. When we are in accord with that, our ministry is validated. Our ministries can be neglected in a number of ways:

  • treating it like a job, and not a life-work.
  • pursuing hobbies with greater interest.
  • failing to receive appropriate education/equipping in order to dispense your task with precision.
  • the love of sleep.
  • the love of luxury.
  • the disdain of hardship.

3) Do not wrongfully address others in the church:

1 Timothy 5:1–2

Honor Widows

1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,

2  the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

A pastor has to rebuke at times, well…often. However, to “sharply” rebuke someone else who demands honor is wrong. That is not to say that they should not be rebuked. It is to say that in doing so, a pastor, especially a younger one, must remember to whom he is speaking. An older man demands, by mere age, respect. He is to be honored. He is to be listened to. He is to be given place as one made in God’s image. However, when he is wrong, or headed the wrong direction, he must be rebuked by one with spiritual authority via the Word of God, the pastor. But, to speak to an older man like he might a younger, inexperienced, foolish, man, is deplorable.

4) Do not listen to hearsay:

1 Timothy 5:19

19  Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

A pastor must protect and guard his fellow pastors. He must not listen to the complaint of others in the church toward another pastor without examination. That is not to say that they cannot be listened to. It is to say that to formally charge a pastor for wrong-doing on the basis of one complaint is wrong. Look for others who might agree with the complaint by means of factual data. If none exists, do not receive that complaint. It is simply an accusation.

5) Do not place men into leadership too quickly:

1 Timothy 5:22

22  Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

Over the years, I have heard from other men this recurring comment: “I put a man into leadership way too soon, and it has devastated this ministry. Removing him from ministry has split the church, or is about to.” I never want to be in that position. Take the time to examine a man first (see 1 Timothy 3:10). What kind of man are you looking for to assist in leadership? Here is a short list:

  • Regenerate – he must demonstrate evidence of regeneration.
  • Faithful – the one characteristic that evidences eldership raw material. He is faithful in his home, his work, and with doctrine.
  • Godly – don’t use the leadership position to make a man godly. He must have a level of godliness before entering. Of course, being in leadership sanctifies you, but not from ungodly to godly. Rather, from godly to more godly.
  • Submissive – he is willing to himself submit to other leadership and especially the Word of God.
  • Supportive – he willingly, wholeheartedly, supports the teaching pastor’s doctrine and preaching. To chafe against the public teaching of the Word of God is to evidence disunity and possible hostility/jealousy toward the teaching pastor.

If Timothy were to place a man into that position who was not ready, then Timothy himself would be guilty of the sins that that man may commit while in leadership; sins of pride, laziness, false teaching, or abuse of authority.

If a man simply builds his ministry starting with these preventative admonitions, he will be on his way toward faithfulness to the One who called him into that ministry. I am convinced that Paul knew exactly what he was saying in these letters. And, when followed, these instructions will direct, guide, and commend a pastor in his service to Jesus Christ no matter his location.

Does God Love the World?

Does God love the world? What does the Bible say? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does not? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does? Does it matter? It is important that we are willing to hear and understand what God says about this, not what supports or offends a popular notion about the love of God because every doctrine of Scripture, in one way or another, intersects with the love of God. Here goes:

1) GOD’S LOVE IS described as relationship to Himself. Intimacy and relationship to the Father is the gauge of love. Jesus said,

 
John 14:21–23
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Notice the disciples’ response: "You are going to disclose yourself to us and not the world…why?" What is the answer? "Because I love you and the Father loves you. The world does not share in that love."

2) GOD’S LOVE IS conditional. Intimacy and unhindered relationship is only for those who keep His commandments. And, that is not the result of man, but of God’s own will:

John 15:10, 14
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
(see also Deuteronomy 7:11-23; Daniel 9:4)

3) GOD’S LOVE IS lesser, much less, in degree for the world than for His own due to the fact that the world does not know God. This kind of love expressed toward the world is not the result of knowing the Father. It is the nature of God expressed to enemies in spite of their rebellion (1John 4:8, 16). This is love, but it is not given back to the Father, sadly. They are still enemies of God (James 4:4)

Matthew 5:44–45
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In fact, the love of the world is not the kind of love that comes from the Father. God does not love the world in the sense that His affections are for the world or His pleasure is felt toward the world. It is not. John wrote that the kind of love that the Father has is not resultant in the love of the world:

1 John 2:15–16
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

4) GOD’S LOVE IS expressed purely and absolutely by the expression of His own will, and not the worth of man.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

1 John 4:10, 19
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
19 We love, because He first loved us.

5) GOD’S SOUL HATES the sinner who does violence. And, by the way, every sinner does violence (Romans 3:10-18):

Psalm 11:5–7
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

Proverbs 8:13
13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Luke 14:26–27
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For many, the issue is not "Does God love the world?" For many the issue is, "How, now, do we relate to the world if indeed God hates those who commit sin? Should we now hate them too? (and since we simply cannot relate to this level of perfection expressed in hate and love in God, we usually have a fleshly definition of ‘hate’)" Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–48,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must express mature, perfect, discerning love (Philippians 1:9–11
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God) to the world. To not do that is to be of no use to God, whether in the church or out of it (Galatians 6:10
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 13). However, to set affection upon the world is not wise either and is not God’s kind of love (1 John 2:15-16).

God’s people, who have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts (Romans 5:5) and who have been reconciled to God into a level of intimacy with the Father equal to that of the Son (John 14:23; 16:26-27!), can rejoice and praise God for His mercy in loving them first so that we might receive this love AND be able to return it back to Him in fulfillment of His commandment, "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart…" To Him belongs all praise, dominion, and affection!

Romans 11:33–36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Rules For Trusting Your Pastor’s Teaching

Acts 17:11–12

11  Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

12  Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

As a pastor, it would be nice if everyone who ever hears a sermon, reads a blog post, says, “Wow! Thank you so very much for causing understanding of this topic.” Even though there will always be those who do say that, and those people are a refreshment, there are also those who simply doubt the conclusions that have been reached. That is not to say that I wish no one would question my conclusions. It is simply a statement of praying and wishing for everyone who hears the Word of God, once having been given the evidence of the Word of God on any one subject, to completely believe it themselves, no matter what needs to be changed in their lives. It is not the desire of the true pastor/elder to have a cult following. Although it is popular today to follow a pastor simply because of his persona or style of dress (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4), that is a very embarrassing activity to say the least. But, it certainly would be commendable to follow a pastor after having verified his accuracy in doctrine and righteousness of life.

It is very important to speak to this here. One of the most important realities that a pastor faces is this: he never knows if anyone will be convinced of his teaching. You teach after having studied. You know the text and thus God’s mind on any given subject. You examine your own thinking and conform it to the Word. You read other men of God, and listen to their teaching so as to further examine your own. But to do all of that in the minds and hearts of God’s people is, in a word, impossible. No pastor is the Holy Spirit, Who alone teaches and enlightens (1 John 2:27). However, that does not preclude that we should not examine, scrutinize, study, and expound the written Scriptures. They are inspired, objectively fixed for our examination. Thus, we know that when we come to the meaning of the text, that is the heart and mind of God Himself. 

But. how do the people KNOW that a pastor’s teaching is accurate? How can they know that he has done the work to arrive at that level of accuracy for himself and is not simply parroting some other teacher he is fond of? Let me give 5 guidelines to examining a pastor’s teaching in order to verify if he is teaching the truth or not.

First, listen to him.

Second, take extensive notes.

Third, go to the passages of Scripture to which he refers.

Fourth, repeat.

Fifth, once verified that his teaching is exactly what is presented in Scripture, submit to that teaching without fear..

  • Listen to him.

What I mean by that is to listen with a mind to understand exactly what he actually is saying and not what you are afraid he might be saying, or what you want him to say. I will periodically hear of some who listen to me and misunderstand what I mean. Either there is a slant taken that I was not intending, or the entire sense was missed for whatever reason. That’s okay. Once they come to me and ask for clarification, I can then do so and that is wonderful. However, much of that can be alleviated by careful listening. In our day, listening, as well as thinking in general, has become so superficial and shallow. It would seem the church needs to be taught how to listen carefully with a biblically literate frame of reference. So, listen to what he is saying. If possible, find the main point of his teaching and make note of it.

  • Take extensive notes:

Once you have the main point, develop his supporting points as he develops them. Hopefully, that pastor does this. If he does not, it will be hard to be sure of what he means. Some pastors like to be vague so as to avoid accountability. However, a skillful preacher will make his point from the text, substantiate it from the text and other texts, and then repeat it again in sum. It should be fairly easy to track with a preacher. Write down his main passages to which he refers. Highlight them in your notes. Write extensive questions. Star the ones that you really need clarification on. Then go on to the next step.

  • Go to the passages:

Once you have your notes, read and study the passages, at least the main ones, to which he referred. Examine them. Read the passages, and compare them with others by means of cross-referencing. Use a study Bible or books such as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (R.A. Torrey; Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1983). Examine the passages in their proper contexts and come to a conclusion about the meaning of those passages apart from trying to see if it means what the pastor says. That will be obvious.

  • Repeat:

Take these steps and repeat them where necessary in order to learn good habits of discipline and learning. This is the normal Christian behavior in the life of the church. The only other option is the idea that the saints gather and watch the pastor perform.

  • Submit:

Once you have verified that the pastor is speaking accurately and comprehensively, take what he says as the Word of God. Paul commended the Thessalonian saints this way:

1 Thessalonians 2:13

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

When a man is proven credible by means of his accuracy and his own obedience (Hebrews 13:7), then it must be concluded by God’s people that he is speaking with the authority of Jesus Christ on that passage and the only option is…submission. Submission to him as God’s man:

Hebrews 13:17

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Submission to God’s Word as it speaks with divine authority:

2 Peter 1:19–21

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

20  But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

21  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Humble submission to the authority of Jesus Christ is THE demonstration of a regenerate heart. A willingness to strive toward a maturity that displays submission to God is the desire of every true believer. If that is your desire, the path toward it is given here. It begins with the Word of God. The very Word that is preached by fallible men.

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