Crosswalk Church of Daytona Beach

2020-10-05 South East Regional FIRE Conference Session 1

October 05, 2020 Mitch Pridgen
Crosswalk Church of Daytona Beach
2020-10-05 South East Regional FIRE Conference Session 1
Chapters
Crosswalk Church of Daytona Beach
2020-10-05 South East Regional FIRE Conference Session 1
Oct 05, 2020
Mitch Pridgen
Transcript

Well, good evening, everyone. It is. Isn't it great to be together again? Have these not been crazy times? I, I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up and it's a dream. Yeah, it's a nightmare. I'm going to tell Michelle, you wouldn't believe the crazy dream I've had. The world went into lockdown. There was a pandemic, right? It's a dream how it feels. So Mitch, thank you. We have needed this. And uh, and we, we are very grateful to you for bringing us all together and for the church and the staff and all your people. So thank you. I think we, we all. We all have needed this well, many years ago before becoming the pastor of Lakeside community chapel, I served the church in a number of different States, half positions initially. Yeah. Yeah. I was the minister of evangelism. Then I became the associate pastor. And then for about nine months, when our senior pastor left, I became the interim. Pastor now this nine month period of time, it was a very, very difficult time in my life because while I was a candidate for the position, There were many who felt I was far too young to pastor and established church. I was 28 years old at the time. Others were critical of my expository preaching style and how long I preached. And so others objected to some of the things that I believe then taught like a plurality of elders, as opposed to an authoritative senior pastor had the final say. On everything. And it was during this challenging time that one night during a very, very hard elder's meeting in which a physical fight almost broke out. And I decided that night, I said, that's it. I resigned. I resigned. My position. I just decided that I didn't want to be part of such contention and such strife. It was just horrible. And I can still recall driving home that night after giving my resignation thinking what a foolish thing you just did. Why were you going to explain this to Michelle? They, you just quit because I really, I didn't have another job lined up. I just decided on the spur of the moment to quit out of frustration. Soon after that, excuse me. Soon after that, in fact, it was the very next day, the Lord ministered to me in a very, very special way. I found myself reading the 10th chapter of the gospel. Of John. I came across these words by our Lord. Jesus said, I'm the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He was a hired hand than not a shepherd who was not the owner of the sheep. He sees the Wolf coming and he leaves the sheep and he flees and the Wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he's a hired hand and he's not concerned about the sheep. Now what struck me about these words? Is the contrast that Jesus made between a hireling or a hired hand and a shepherd. He said that someone who's a hired hand just doesn't care. About the sheep. He just cares about getting paid for his work. That's all. And because he doesn't care about the, when danger arises that threatens the shape he's, he's gone. When he sees the Wolf approaching, he leaves the sheep. He flees simply because it just doesn't matter to him. What happens to the sheep? All he cares about are his own interests. And I tell you, as I read those words, bye Jesus interest rate termed in my heart that I was not. A hired hand. I was a shepherd and I cared deeply for the sheep of our church. So when in the midst of difficulties in the midst of dangerous, I was not about to abandon them because I was frustrated. And so as a result of this very meaningful time in scripture, I took back my resignation. Some were not very. Please with that. I might say I continued being the interim pastor. And then a few months later I was voted in as the pastor teacher. And as Mitch said, this may will be 40 years that I've been doing this. Now this experience, it really took place many, many years ago, but. Brethren the lesson that I learned during that difficult time, it struck it has stuck with me all of these four decades. And that lesson being that those who leave the church are called to be caring and loving shepherds. People whose job is to protect the flock from predators who are out to harm them. That lesson is to stay with me. And that brings us tonight to our study, which is from acts chapter 20 it's Paul's farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, as he tells them that they're going to see his face. And that had nothing to do with wearing a mask. I want you to know them. They'll see his face no more meaning that this is the last time he's going to be. With this group of elders and therefore he's passing onto them, the Baton of leadership for the church, so they can properly care for. The flock. And the reason that I've chosen this particular passage for us to study is because in my judgment, there is no place in scripture where we get it comprehensive and insightful. Look into how the apostle Paul viewed ministry, not only his ministry. And he how he carried on his ministry, but how he wants others, other elders. And I'm using elders synonymously with pastors, how we are to carry on our ministry. And though Paul certainly didn't give this address during a pandemic. Nevertheless, it is, it is during, it was a time in the early church when it was a very troubling, very difficult as you'll see, when we get into our passage now. The apostle Paul structured his address into two parts. First, he reminds them about how he served the Lord when he was with the Ephesians for three years. And then secondly, he exhorts these elders on how they are to serve the Lord, knowing that he will no longer be around to help them for our purposes. I want us to focus on what Paul has to tell these men concerning how they are to serve the Lord, because this is exactly the way that we as pastors. Are to serve the Lord today. So the way Paul does this is he tells these men that they have been given five responsibilities by God in pastoring, the church, the first one being as we get into our texts, the first responsibility is number one, pay attention. To your own life. He tells them to pay attention to their own lives. We break in, in verse 28 of chapter 20, Paul writes be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased. With his own blood now. So you can see this statement by the apostle it's filled with a number of critical truths that are related to pastoral ministry. For example, it's here that we learned that each member of the Trinity is involved in the work of the local church. Paul reveals that it is God, the Holy spirit who sovereignly selects men to be overseers. Of the church. Secondly, Paul also says that it is God, the father to whom the church belongs since elders are called to shepherd, the church of God. He also says that it is God, the son, the Lord Jesus, who is the one who purchased the church with his blood, meaning obviously his atoning death at Calvary. It's also in this verse that we learn something of the role of elders and that involves being overseers as well as shepherds of the church. Meaning. And I'm sure you know this, but I will say it anyway, that these three titles there's overseers and pastors are shepherd, same word they're used to the same men in order to communicate the various functions when's that leaders in the church have. However, and it's a big, however, as important as these truths are, interestingly, the very first thing that Paul says to these men before anything else concerning. Their responsibility as pastors and the number one priority for every pastor is that we are to pay attention to our own spiritual lives. Notice how Paul begins is addressed to these pastors. He charges them by saying this beyond guard for yourselves. Now the thought behind these words beyond guard is to keep watch or to pay strict. Attention. And so what the apostle is telling these men to do before anything else is to pay close attention to their own life. In other words, he wants them to keep a constant watch over the way they live. He wants them to make sure that their very first priority of their lives certainly is to have a healthy relationship with the Lord. And for this to be a reality, they must guard hard, their own souls. And what Paul is saying to the Ephesians. I want you to know it's not limited to them. It applies to all church leaders in every age. In fact, this is what the apostle had told Timothy in his first letter to Timothy in chapter four, after devoting most of the chapter to telling young Timothy how to conduct himself and how to carry out his teaching ministry. Paul closes notice in verse 16, Paul closes the chapter by saying pretty much the same thing. He told the Ephesians elders to pay attention to his own lives. Specifically, it says, pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching command to Timothy, to make sure that he constantly evaluated his own life, as well as the doctrines that he taught. Is he living up to what he was teaching others? Now, listen, gentlemen, no man cares for the souls of others. If he cannot take care of his own soul, if he doesn't first take care of his own. So you can't take care. Of anybody else. That's why this is the priority. There is nothing more important than personal holiness and godly character in the life of a pastor. As a young man who goes to our church, he's part of our school. We have a school called Lakeside Christian school. And he has expressed to our elders. He's expressed to me that he wants to be a pastor and he's actually come to our elders meeting and he's asked questions and everybody's free to give him a ride. A lot of opinions. I met with him, I think it was last week. And I said, you're going to hear a lot of things about techniques and strategies and this and that I said, but I want you to understand that the most important thing in ministry is character. And specifically humility, but character. Remember that you're going to hear all kinds of things about how to do things, but character comes first. That's what Paul is saying here. Godly character and listen without godly character. We're not even qualified to be pastors. And even with godly character, we are under constant assault by Satan. Aren't we, I don't have to convince you of that. I know that. We're under constant assault by the devil to compromise in our daily obedience to Christ. And so it is imperative imperative that those call to care for others in the church first have to take care of their own walk with the Lord. Many years ago in his classic book on pastoring entitled the reformed pastor Richard Baxter explained why it's so important for pastors to guard their own lives. Baxter said this, he wrote take heed to yourselves because the tempter will make his first and sharpest attack on you. He knows what devastation he's likely to make among the rest of he can make the leaders fall before their eyes long practice fighting neither against great, nor small comparatively, but against the ship birds that he might scatter the flock. Take key then for the enemy has a special eye on you. You're sure to have his most subtle insinuations incessant, solicitations and violence assaults. Take key to yourselves, less T outwit you, the devil is a greater scholar than you are in a more nimble dispute in 10. Whenever he prevails against you, he will make you the instruments of your own ruin. So in light of Paul's command to be on guard for ourselves, we need to ask ourselves this basic question. What does this actually entail? What do we do with this? How has a pastor or for that matter, any Christian supposed to guard their own lives in order to protect himself from Satan's assaults? Well, it all begins with spending time in the word of God. There is no substitute for spending time in God's word and in prayer. And not because you have to have a sermon. You know how that is. I know how that is. We, we can fall into being professional sermon makers where we're thinking about others. And yet our very first priority is to be spending time with the Lord in his word, because our souls need this. We need that fellowship. We need to have our own souls fed and you need to have personal time. And communion with the Lord need to have a daily quiet time. And I know that sounds so basic, but I think there are some pastors who think that their sermon preparation is that time. I would encourage you to make sure you have daily devotions that have nothing to do with sermon preparation. You're just feeding your soul. You're reading the word, you're applying it to your, your life. You're pouring out your heart, the Lord, so basic and yet so critical. So I exhort you to do that. Remember, after a very full day of ministry and Mark chapter one, you follow Mark chapter one, starting earlier in the chapter and how Jesus spent a very full day in Capernaum starts early in the morning on a Sabbath where he goes into the synagogue. You're a member of this. He goes into the synagogue. There's a demon possessed man. After Jesus is teaching, this man is screaming. He cast the demon out. Then he goes into Peter. He goes to Peter's home in Capernaum. How many have ever been to Israel? You can, you can visualize Capernaum and walking from the synagogue to Peter's home. And he goes there and Peter's mother-in-law is ill. What does he do? He heals her then after that, After that people from all around that area start bringing demonically possessed people, ill people. And so four hours. Now he is healing people from the very start of the day, till evening time, he's busy with ministry. What does it say in Mark chapter one, verse 35. It tells us that very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went to a solitary place and there he prayed. Listen, if our Lord made sure that his priority in life was fellowship with the father, then that must be our priority in life. No matter how busy he was, no matter how tired he was, he made sure that he spend time. With the father, see pastors need to make sure that they're not too busy serving others. We just don't have to time to spend nurturing our own souls. And you know how easy that is. That's why I want to speak about this. I know how easy it is to be so busy in ministry that you're too busy to look after your own heart. And so what we end up doing we're we're preaching. We're active, but. We can be hypocrites and that we're preaching to others, but not preaching to ourselves. And we especially need to guard our hearts to get such things. And you're going to relate to this. As I say, it becoming bitter towards those in the church who criticize us becoming discouraged when people leave the church. And I don't know if you have this, but I do. When people leave the church, they always say, it's not personal. It's not you, but it is. It is, it is personal. It is me. If you like my preaching, that much you'd stay here, but we have to guard our hearts. I don't tell them that, but I think that we have to guard our hearts from becoming discouraged. We have to guard our hearts from being jealous of other pastors whose churches are larger than ours. We have to guard our hearts against laziness. We have to guard our hearts against doubting God's power and ability to be faithful to his word. Just, these are the kinds of struggles that we as pastors have and many more, and therefore we need to guard our hearts from letting these things negatively affect us. I think the key issue for pastors is to make sure that we don't let sinful attitudes corrupt us. It's relatively easy for us as pastors to look like we have it all together on the outside when we may not have it together on the inside. And that just reminds me of the Pharisees were like that the Pharisees were all about outward appearance and impressing people, but Jesus called them whitewashed tombs because they, they look good on the outside. They look clean, but on the inside he said they were full of rotting to Kay. We don't want to be like that. We don't want to be like that at all. The Pharisees were never concerned about true inner holiness. It was all about acting out in front of others. That's why they're hypocrites. They had a mask. They, they not care about inner godly character qualities, such as, as sinful attitudes of the heart. That, that we're so prone to have like pride. And lust and jealousy and covetousness and anger. All they wanted to do was appear to be pious. We don't want to be like that. We want the Lord to deal with our hearts holiness, but as pastors, we, we aren't to be like that at all. We have to work at being Holy. We have to, we have to strive in the power of the spirit of God to do that. We have to dress sinful attitudes in our own hearts and be, and be honest about it. I, so I say to you what Paul said to these elders beyond God, hard for yourselves, watch out time to be Holy. Make sure you're spending time in prayer. Make sure you're spending time in the word, nurturing your own soul. That's the first responsibility. That Paul said, and he started with this because there's nothing more important than this, but he goes on to tell them, after saying, pay attention to your own lives, he gives him the second responsibility, pastoral responsibility, and that is to shepherd all the flock. Look again at verse 28, he said, be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock. Among which the Holy spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God. Not only are elders responsible to look after their own spiritual eyes, but Paul charges us to look also after the spiritual lives of the members of the congregation that we serve. And he does this by using the imagery of the church as a flock. As a flock. Why? Because he wants elders to understand that God has placed them in as shepherds caring for this cheap. And that's why Paul tells them that the Holy spirit has made them not only overseers, but he's made them also shepherds pastors church. It's critically important. That everyone in the church needs to understand that Paul States it is the Holy spirit, the third person of the Trinity who makes men overseers of the church. I think that's a critically important truth. In other words, it is the spirit of God who has sovereignly appointed. You. To the church that you pastor and while he certainly uses people in the process of this whole thing of installing pastors, yet it is the spirit of God who ultimately is the one who chooses. Which men will fit with which church I find this very comforting to know that times of trial in times of difficulty, that I'm not at the church that I'm serving by accident. We, we, as those who believe in the sovereignty of God, we know that there are no accidents, but it's a comfort to know that we can rest in the fact that it is God, the Holy spirit who has placed us there. And it is God, the Holy spirit is placed. Our elders with us to serve you're in the very place where the spirit of God, in his wisdom teams that you need to be. Paul explains how we are to serve by using several different words, to explain our work as leaders in the church, the first word being overseer by which Paul means that elders are responsible for the overall care of the church. However, the purpose for which the spirit assigns men to be overseers, Paul says. And here's the second word that he uses to explain what we do as elders is to shepherd the church of God, be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy spirit has made you overseers to. Here's the purpose to shepherd the church of God. Paul says that elders are shepherds who are to lead their sheep. Shepherding involves what guiding, protecting the sheep from all sorts of dangers that threaten their spiritual lives. But I believe that the priority of a shepherd is to feed the flock. That's the primary work of shepherding. And we see this indicated by the fact that in John chapter 21, remember when Jesus reinstated Peter as an apostle, after Peter had denied him. Remember three times, Jesus said, Feed or shepherd my sheep. And two times he used the word feed only one time. Did he use the general word for shepherd? It seems to indicate that what Jesus was emphasizing with Peter is that of a feeding teaching. Ministry for the sheep. We are to provide food and nourishment for the people that we lead. And that's exactly what elders are supposed to do. We are responsible for feeding the flock of God, sadly, though. And you know, this, there are little, lots of pastors who don't make it a priority to feed their sheep. It is it's tragic and consequently, their people are spiritually weak. And very susceptible to rather bizarre views and false teaching. Over the years, I have observed that there is a difference between Christians who attend churches, that where the pastor really teaches them and Christians who attend churches, where the teaching is very, very, very weak Christians who are under weak teaching are usually unclear as to what they believe. Or they have some really bizarre views that are not biblical. That's not the case with those who are well taught. They know what they believe they can articulate what they believe they are committed to living by scripture. And they are very discerning when it comes to distinguishing truth from error. I have seen this over and over and over again. So I exhort you make sure that you teach your people. There's nothing more important. In terms of ministry. Now, I want you to look again at verse 21, 28, rather, and I want you to notice that in telling these elders from Ephesus, who they're responsible to oversee and shepherd notice that Paul distinctly says, Oh, the flock be on guard for yourselves and for all the flood. Now this is very significant because it means that elders are to shepherd, not simply one segment of the church. But Paul said all of the church, in other words, the entire flock, they already care for all the members of the church, not just a select and limited few. So shepherding all the flock involves spending time ministering to some people, some sheep who can be very challenging campaign. I'm trying to get the right word, very challenging. Some are high maintenance. They're very high maintenance. They seem to make it a habit of straying from the truth, and they need lots of counseling. They need lots of personal attention. There are sheep who are weak sheep who are fearful, especially with COVID. We know some people haven't. Gone out of the house since March and sheep are weak, fearful, they require a great deal of encouragement. And I know you have people like this in your church. They can't all be at the church. I pastor there they're challenging people. In first Thessalonians chapter five, verse 14, Paul speaks of different kinds of Christians in a church who need different kinds of shepherding based on their particular problems. He writes, we urge you brethren. It Mohnish the unruly encourage. The faint-hearted help the weak be patient with everyone. Listen, we who are called to be elders are called to shepherd all the flock and not simply those sheep who are easy to care for. We are to shepherd every member of our church, writing about how challenging it can be to shepherd some sheep Bible teacher, pastor John stop said this, you said cheaper, not at all the clean and cuddly creatures. They may appear to be. In fact, they're dirty subject to unpleasant pests, and regularly need to be dipped in strong chemicals to rid them of lice, ticks and worms. They are unintelligent, wayward and obstinate. I hesitate. He writes to apply the metaphor too closely and characterize the people of God is dirty, lousy or stupid, but some people are a great trial to their pastors. You know, he had to write that with a smile on his face. Yes. And he's right. He's right. But regardless of how difficult some sheep are to us as pastors, Paul said, we are to minister to all of them. And we are to protect them. We are to admonish them. We are to encourage them. We are to be patient in teaching them. That's our role. And frankly, it can be challenging at times, Canton. It really can be because some sheep are just so difficult to care for and as John stopped, but they're a great trial to their past, you know that I know that. So. What are we to do when faced with caring for sheep, who we're trying to minister to, but they just require so much attention. Listen closely. We are to think about the true value and worth of God's people. Which Paul reveals in the last few words of verse 28 beyond guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy spirit has made you overseers. Now watch this to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. Notice how Paul describes the church. First. He refers to it as the church of God, which means that the church belongs to God. It does not belong to men. Certainly doesn't belong to us. This is a remarkably significant and it's a comforting, because as I said, the people might say, Oh, this is Mitchell's church. This is Steve's church, but we know it's not, it's not at all. It does not belong to us. Therefore it isn't our responsibility to sustain it. Your church belongs to God. The father, he is the one who brought it into existence. He's the one who's responsible to sustain and maintain it. And that's why every member of the church, all the flock, even the difficult ones, that's why they are important. To God. And that's why they are to be cared for and shepherded by us simply because they belong to God. There, there are no unimportant members of the church. Each member is precious to God and therefore they are to be precious to those whom God has assigned to care for them, namely us. And how did the church come to belong to God? Well, notice the last words of verse 28, which he purchased. With his blood with his own blood. Paul says that the church belongs to God because he purchased it and he purchased it with his blood, meaning the blood of Christ, which he shed at the cross. Now, not only does this statement, affirm Paul's belief in the deity of Christ because he declares the essential unity of the father and Jesus, so that as one theologian put it and I quote, he hesitated not to speak of his sacrifice on Calvary as a shedding of the blood of God. But beyond the declaration of Christ's deity, what Paul is telling us is how precious and how valuable the churches, the sheep are. See the church isn't merely another human institution. It's not something created by man's ingenuity, but it's God's church created by him and paid for, by him with the inestimable price of his son's life. Listen, the world doesn't have a clue as to how important the churches. That's why in their eyes. We're not, we're not essential. Liquor stores are essential, but we're non essential. And that's evident in all this crisis. Churches have not been considered that important, but in God's eyes, there is nothing more essential than the church and nothing more valuable, nothing more precious to him than the church for which Christ. Died. And that's why he's placed his sovereignly chosen elders. That's why he's placed you in your churches because he loves the church and it is through you that he shepherds his church. That's how he demonstrates his love has concerned. He's placed you as overseers to shepherd your precious flock concerning the importance. Of the church to Jesus. Once again, Richard Baxter said these great words. I said, can you not hear Christ saying, did I die for these people? Will you then refuse to look after them? Where are they worth my blood? And are they not worth your labor? Did I come down from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost. And will you refuse to go next door or to the next street or village to seek them? How small is your labor or condescension compared to mine? I had to base myself to do this, but it is your honor to be so employed. Have I done in suffered so much for their salvation? Will you refuse that little, that lies upon your hands? Convicting words? This is why elders must hold in high regard each and every member of the church, even those difficult ones, even those challenging ones, even those high maintenance ones, because they have been purchased by Christ blood, and therefore they belong to him. He cares about their purity. He cares about their holiness. And therefore, as his appointed overseers, we are to care for them. We are to care for their purity. We are to care for their holiness. And so we shepherd them. I remind you in Matthew 25 Jesus in speaking about how we treat his people, said this to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them. You did it to me now. I don't know who the least of his brethren are. My friend, Phil Johnson claims to know who the least of his brethren are. He said, it's me. That's where he told me years ago. He said, I think you're the least of his brethren. He had you in mind. Well, maybe the point is usually that gets a bigger laugh. It must be. It must be really late here. The point is that we are to treat all the flock. Well, because in doing so, we are treating. Christ. Well, so we don't neglect. We don't overlook anyone in the church, even the least. And now having said this, Paul proceeds to explain why it is so important for these Ephesians elders to make sure that they shepherd all the flock. That's been entrusted to them verses 29 and 30. He said, I know that after my departure Savage wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves, men will arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Now in these verses, Paul explained to these men why they need to be so vigilant, why they need to be Julian shepherding their churches in this case, their church it's because he knows that at some point. After his departure, meaning his departure from emphasis. And he was on his way out false teachers, who he calls here, Savage wolves, because they attack sheep. They're going to infiltrate the church and they're going to harm the flock. Now some of these false teachers, he says will come in from outside the church. They're going to slip into the church. You're going to do great damage to the church, but even more concerning notices that Paul says that there will be men from amongst the elders. Of this church who will abandon the truth and they're going to turn into false teachers and these men already in positions of leadership in the church, they're going to start speaking perverse things. These are unregenerate men who in time proved to be. False teachers. And they're going to start twisting and perverting scripture with the goal of drawing away people from following Christ and sound doctrine. In other words, like Savage wolves there, these men are going to drag away individuals in the church in order to devour them spiritually. Now, during the three years, Paul was with the Ephesians. He protected the church from false teachers, but with his departure, he understands what's going to happen. That Satan will send predators. In the form of false teachers who will pray upon the sheep with the intent of drawing them away from Christ and to follow them in their heresies. And that's why Paul is now charging these elders, make sure that you guard the sheep because with Meagan, you are God's means of protecting them and how. Are they to do this? Well, that's what Paul proceeds to tell them as he gives them a third pastoral responsibility. Number one, pay attention to your own life. Number two, shepherd, all the flop. Paul tells them a third responsibility beyond the alert for false teachers beyond the alert verse 31. Therefore he says, therefore in light of all of this in light of what's coming, therefore. Beyond the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years, I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. Now, Paul addresses the problem of false teachers impacting the church by telling these elders that they are to be on the alert. That's the command. So what does that actually mean? Well, the word that's translated alerted simply means to stay awake. To not go to sleep. Obviously Paul is not talking in physical terms, but rather he speaking figuratively, he wants these elders to understand they have to be mentally and spiritually alert to the dangers of false teachers, harming the sheep that have been entrusted to them to protect. In other words, they have to be vigilant, have to be on their toes. They'll just always have to be watchful. Always have to be alert. Guarding the sheep from spiritual predators, namely false teachers. Now it's a very serious issue. It's critically important. It's a part of being a pastor because false teachers pose such a danger to Christians. And I believe it's worse today than it was in Paul's day. Why? Because modern technology makes false teachers and their Harris's easily, easily accessible through television books. The internet believers in Christ are exposed to so many false teachers who just weren't stuff like this wasn't available in the first century wasn't even available until recently, sadly many Christians do find false teachers very appealing, and there's a reason for this. There's a reason it's because false teachers tend to appeal to fleshly. Desires false teachers tend to offer people a religion in which they can do whatever they want to do. And there's no judging, do whatever you want. Peter says this in second, Peter two verse two about false teachers. He says many will follow their sensuality. And because of them, the way of truth will be maligned. Now notice Peter describes these false teachers as being popular. It doesn't use the word popular, but he, he does say many will follow, which means they're popular. And why are these men so popular? What is it about their teaching tracks? So many says many will follow their central reality, meaning that false teachers tend to practice sexual immorality and they teach sexual immorality as an acceptable lifestyle to their devote ease. That is to say they put no moral restraints. On anybody do whatever you want. And you know, what many find that very agreeable, they like that this is the religion they've been looking for. Nobody judges me. Nobody's going to punish you. Certainly no church discipline, do whatever you want. So they're drawn. They're attracted to that. Notice what else Peter says about false teachers. Second Peter chapter two, 18 and 19. He says for speaking out arrogant words of vanity. They enticed by fleshly desires by sensuality. Those who barely escape, the ones who live in error promising them freedom while they have them selves are slaves of corruption or by what a man is overcome by the season slave. Now, Peter says that false teachers attract unsuspecting individuals by enticing them with arrogant words. These are words signed to impress them, designed to, to lure them into in their religion. As I said, that puts no restraints on. On conduct at all. He says that, although they promise their followers freedom, they can't deliver on this promise because they themselves are slaves to their corrupt natures. And those who follow them are slaves as well. Concerning just how dangerous these false teachers are with their impressive sounding words. John MacArthur, in his, in his notes from his study Bible, he writes this about Peter's description of these evil men. John writes the false, the false teachers deceive the weak with high sounding words that masquerade as scholarship or profound spiritual insight. And even as direct revelation from God in reality. They say nothing genuinely scholarly or spiritual or divine. Nevertheless, in spite of all the empty talk, false teachers entice others to their philosophies by appealing to people on the baser level seduction, rather than the winsomeness truth is their ploy. They offer people religion that they can embrace and still hold onto their fleshly desires and sensuality. And who are those who are the most vulnerable in our churches, vulnerable to the wolves in sheep's clothing? Well, again, MacArthur says this people who are vulnerable because they have high levels of guilt and anxieties, people with broken marriages, people who are lonely and tired of the consequences of sin and are looking for a new start, even for religion or help from God false teachers exploit these kinds. Of people now, brothers listen, men, like these are popular and they're coming after our people. They're coming after your people. They're dangerous. And this is why Paul is so adamant about commanding the Ephesians elders. And certainly by way of application us to be on the alert in order to protect God's people from these, these false teachers who would lure them into their heretical circles. So how are we to protect. Our sheep from Wolf light to Seavers. We'll look again at verse 31. Notice what else Paul says, therefore, beyond the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years, I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. Paul reminds these men that during the three years he was with them in emphasis. He continuously mourned the members of the church about false teachers. He says night and day, we would say now 24 seven. And he did it. He says with tears of concern, because he knew how dangerous these false teachers were, these wolves and how capable they were of harming these precious sheep. And that's exactly what elders, pastors, us, what we need to do today. We have to continuously be on the lookout for false teachers who are people might be listening to or watching or reading. And we need to be continually warning them against the errors of these heretics. We need to be aware of what our, what our people are reading and who they're learning from and the specific errors that they're picking up. I mean, that's the danger you face that I face that we preach to our people on Sundays, but who are they listening to the rest of the week? This is the danger we need to be aware. Of the errors that are being taught and how scripture refutes those errors. This is why one of the qualifications for being an elder is to be proficient in understanding scripture so that when we are faced with a Wolf threatening, one of our sheep, we're able to faithfully teach the truth as well as refute error. Here's what Paul. Wrote Titus about the qualification for an elder. He said he has to hold fast, the faithful word, which is in accordance with the teaching. So that he'll be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. So we have to explain, we have to come along to our precious believers and explain to them, this is what the Bible actually teaches. And then we need to refute errors so they know why this is wrong. Now by necessity, this involves having to publicly name and identify false teachers. And I say that because if you don't name false teachers, you're not helping your people. You have to name it. Otherwise it's meaningless to them. You can't protect anyone. They're fair game. If it's, if it's public and false teachers need to be classified as false teachers, that may be unpopular. For us to do that, but we need to do it. And Paul did that first Timothy chapter one, 18 and 20 listen. He says the command. I entrust you, Timothy. My son in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you that by them, you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. And then he named some men. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that there'll be taught not to blast him. Hymenaeus and Alexander May very well have been some of the elders who are at the church at Ephesus who left the faith. They didn't leave the church, they left the faith, but they're teaching people, the church Paul named him. So I say to you, my fellow pastors, for the sake of the sheep, don't hesitate to warn your people. About false teachers, identify them, name, them, name, their heresies. And of course by false teacher, I mean, those who deny the gospel, I'm not talking about minor differences in motive, baptism or eschatology. But false teachers are those who deny the gospel message and the, and the elements of the gospel. And this warning has to be more than an academic exercise. And I'll tell you why, because notice how Paul tells us his heart was engaged in this. This is not just academic to him. He says he wept tears of concern. Because he knew how dangerous, how damaging these heresies really were. And notice that Paul said that he admonished each one with tears, which means that he cared once again about the spiritual welfare of every single member of the church. And therefore he made sure that they all knew the truth about false teachers and their teaching. So I urge all who are pastors, be vigilant. In this task of protecting the sheep from false teachers, God has called you to be a Watchman to warn the sheep about those who would pray upon them and harm them. And this is the reason why God has given elders the responsibility of being on the alert for false teachers. But now having told these medals about three responsibilities that they have as elders, Paul moves on to give a fourth responsibility, which is that they are to depend on God and his word. And this is very refreshing. Verse 32, he says, and now. I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Now, this is an interesting statement by Paul and it's interesting because at first glance, it's, it's not easy to see any God given responsibility for elders in this verse. In fact, There isn't even a command here by Paul to these elders, just a statement effect. And his statement of fact is that he has entrusted them, the elders to God and to his word, specifically the message of the gospel, which he refers to as the word of his grace. So what is the point of this first listen closely? What Paul is telling these men is that he understands that their work of shepherding God's flock is so challenging. And it's so difficult and he knows that they can't do this on their own strength because humanly speaking, they have been given an impossible task of keeping all the sheep safe from false teachers. I'm sure you feel this way. I've been in the ministry, as Mitch said. And I said almost 40 years, I feel very insufficient, very inadequate people think that we know what we're doing. But that's not always the case. Sometimes we can be a bit overwhelmed, therefore in light of such a formidable responsibility, Paul wants these elders to know that he's praying for them. And in his prayers, he has entrusted them to God and to the word of his grace. In other words, you telling them that in that, in and of themselves, they are insufficient for carrying out. Their responsibilities of shepherding. And that's why he's praying for them to lean on the Lord, to lean on his word, to depend on God, to be faithful in giving them his grace to accomplish the task of shepherding through a poem, wants them to know is that the only way that they can conduct their ministry in a Christ honoring way is to rely on the Lord by focusing on the word of his grace, meaning the message of salvation in Christ. That is to say it is the gospel that they need to remember when times are difficult. It is the gospel that, that we need to focus on when we encounter trials and difficult sheep, challenging sheep, it is the gospel that we need to turn to in order to be encouraged in the work of caring for God's flock. I want you to notice that in this verse, Paul mentions three things. That the message of salvation in Christ accomplishes and all of these are to serve as encouragements for us. First of all, the apostle says that the word of his grace, in other words, the message of salvation is able to build you up. Now, what Paul means by this is that it is the gospel. It is the story of Christ of God's love in Christ and his forgiveness through the death of Christ. That's how God builds up and strengthens elders. You see, in light of all the challenges that we face of ministering to God's sheep, God wants us to focus, not on those problems, not on ourselves, but rather on the glorious message of salvation in Christ and all the riches of God's grace to us in Christ, forgiveness of our sins. The promise of the indwelling spirit to overcome, send the power of God to save rebellious centers like us, the intimate knowledge of Christ, God's love and holiness and justice and everything else that goes into the gospel message. All of these truths brothers need ancestors need to be what we dwell on because these, these are the truths that will sustain you. And will strengthen you as you pastor in troubling times. Secondly, it is the gospel message. Paul says that gives you the herons and my inheritance. The apostle is talking about our future glory with him in heaven, in his life to the Ephesians, which he would write a few years later, Paul told them. That because of Christ and because of salvation in Christ that they had a glorious future awaiting for them, which he called their inheritance. I'm referring to Ephesians one, 13 and 14 in him. You also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed you sealed in him with the Holy, the spirit of promise. Who's given us a pledge of our inheritance. With a view to the redemption of God's own possessions of the praise of his glory, the indwelling spirit, Paul says, that's the pledge that's God's plan. That's his down payment. That there's more to come concerning our salvation. And what's more to come as this inheritance. That's awaiting us in heaven and we will experience the fullness of that inheritance when the Lord redeems our bodies and takes us. To glory. So question is what does our inheritance have to do with elders and their worker protecting the sheep? Well, it's simply, Paul's way of saying no matter how difficult it is for you in shepherding the sheep, you have to remember that you have a great future awaiting you all the stuff down here. It's going to pass someday. Keep your eyes. Above think on the things that are above, don't be discouraged. Don't be disheartened. This isn't all there is you have a future inheritance, a waiting. You so dwell on those things. No matter how tough things get down here, you have a home awaiting you in heaven, where everything is perfect. What an encouragement third truth from the gospel messages. The Paul wants these elders to be encouraged by is that it's the gospel. He says that sanctifies all believers in Christ. Notice how the apostle ends verse 32. And now I commend you to God. So the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, give you an inheritance notice. He says among all those who are sanctified, it is the word of God. And particularly the message of the gospel that ultimately sanctifies all believers. It means that God uses his word to grow us and mature us. You, you, you know, this sanctify them in truth. Your word is truth as newborn babies long for them, your milk of the word that you may grow, thereby. Listen, what Paul wants these elders to understand is that in spite of the challenges of shepherding and protecting the sheep from false teachers, believers in Christ, in spite of all this, they're going to grow spiritually. They are going to grow. They will make progress. They will mature. They will develop. And the reason that this is going to happen is because God is the one who sanctifies them. Now he uses us as we teach the word, but God is the one who's doing this. Therefore, my beloved fellow pastors be encouraged because sanctification doesn't depend on us. God is the one who works through his word and he will build up. His people now, Paul has one final pastoral responsibility to give these men, and that is, they are to be characterized by giving to others rather than taking from others. This is so important. Verse 33. He says I've coveted no one silver or gold or clothes. Now these words, Paul he's actually returned to speaking about his own example in ministry, which he had done prior to this. And he does this because he wants these men to follow his lead, his example. And the example that he set for them is that in his dealings with his church, with this church, the Ephesians church, he coveted no one's money. He coveted no one's clothing. In other words, Paul wants them to understand that when he was with them, He wasn't greedy. He didn't use his position as an apostle and church leader to try to get anyone's money or their material goods. He wasn't in ministry for personal gain. Now, why would Paul insert this here? Why did he feel compelled to bring up the issue of covetousness? Well, keep in mind the context, what does he have been telling these men about? He has been telling these men about false teachers and false teachers. Are notorious, one of the they're notorious for being greedy and exploiting others. One of the, the distinguishing marks of a false teacher is that they exploit people by taking advantage of them. Financially, listen, carefully false teachers are known to be very materialistic and. Exploiting people financially, and I'm not going to take the time to go into it here. But when I taught this a few weeks ago to our church, I mentioned men who are incredibly wealthy, like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland. And you can read on the internet, some of their they're worth it. It's it's astounding. They make themselves false teachers make themselves wealthy off of other people's. Money. And although the word of God speaks in really in many places about false teachers being characterized by being greedy. I think it's sufficient to look at, at one reference to the second Peter chapter two, verse 14, the second part of the verse where Paul says having a heart trained in greed, and then he adds a cursive children. Peter States, that false teachers are more than simply greedy notice. He says they have hearts that are trained. In greediness and what he means by this, it's clear from the Greek word that he uses for trained. We derive our English word gymnasium from this particular Greek word. So what Paul or Peter is doing is using the word to give us a very graphic picture, visual picture, the false teachers, training their hearts to be greedy, just like an athlete would train their muscles, perform well. Translation known as the Phillips translation. I think captures the thought here, the point that Peter's making, here's how Phillip's translated this. He said, speaking of false teachers, their technique of getting what they want is through long practice, highly developed. In other words, they exercise their minds. They think this through long and hard as to how to make money they're experts at milking people. For money. And that's why it's important for all of us to understand that false teachers being motivated by their lust for money. They've been, they have developed some incredible skills at getting people to give them their, their money. They will, they will exploit. People with false words, they're specialists at doing this, this whole issue of greediness and exploitation of false teachers and brought home to Michelle. And I many years ago, we, um, we lived, was it a triplex or a duplex or something like that? Uh, right next to a very old lady who was a one day was very frantic. Frantic because she could not find her degree from courses that she had taken from Scientology. You know, Clearwater is one of the headquarters of Scientologists. She was frantic. And when I asked her why her degree was so important, she said, because I have spent, and this was a very poor, poor lady. She said, I've spent $60,000 to get this degree folks. That's just cultic exploitation, that's criminal. They robbed this poor woman, and now she, she basically had nothing. She was living next to us. She hadn't, I think, believe me in those days. So the scripture teaches that the underlying motivation of false teachers is covetousness. They peddle their lies, and this is how they stay in business. They offer something like physical healing or deliverance from demons or something to bring you a so-called blessing all for your generous donation to them. And the reason that Paul is telling these elders. That he didn't covet anyone's money or their possessions to make the point that he wasn't like the greedy false teachers. That's the point. In other words, knowing that the false teachers of his day, and this is not new, they were like this back then were covetous men. Paul is simply contrasting his attitude with theirs. That's the point he's making? He says during his entire three years in emphasis, he coveted no one's money. Or their clothing. And that's exactly the attitude that Paul wants all elders, including us to have. He wants us to follow his example by making sure that we don't use our positions of leadership in the church for personal gain, Melissa. That's not all Paul, once these men to understand notice he also wants them to follow his example of working hard. Don't just, don't just be in a non coveting. Way, but he wants them to be, to work hard for them. They can watch this, they can be generous to others, just the opposite of covetousness and coveting. I take from others in generosity. I give to others, notice what he says next in verse 34. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men. Who were with me now, Paul reminds these elders of something that they, that they observed. They knew about him when he was with them, which is that instead of looking for the church to financially support him, he used his skill as a tentmaker in order to care for his own needs, as well as the needs of his missionary colleagues. What a man. There were times when Paul did receive financial support from churches, he, he writes the, in Philippians four of the Philippians sending a gift to him one. So yes, there were times where he received their gifts. He was grateful for their kindness, their thoughtfulness. However, it's important to make note that Paul never solicited funds for many church. He didn't expect it. He never asked anyone in the church for their money, never told them that they had to support him. And yet in his teaching, Paul made it clear that those who are called to full time ministry, the ministry of preaching should receive an income from those who've benefited from their ministry. Listen to what he said in first Corinthians nine, 13, and 14. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple and those who attend regularly at the, to the altar, they have their share from the altar. So also. The Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. And although Paul taught that it was right for those who preach the gospel in a full time capacity to be financially supported by the church yet in his own life, he refused to avail himself of that. Right. And the reason, the reason for that is that he didn't want anyone lumping him together in the category. Of a false teacher, because that's what all false teachers were like in the ancient world. Notice again, what he told the Corinthians first Corinthians nine, seven through 12. It's a little lengthy, but I think it's important who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it, or who tends to flock and does not use the milk of the flood. I'm not speaking these things according to human judgment. Am I. Or does not the law also say these things for it's written in the law of Moses, you shall not muzzle the ox while he's threshing. He continues. God is not concerned about oxen. Is he. Where is he speaking altogether for our sake yet, for our sake, it was written because of the Plowman, because the Plowman ought to plow in hope and the thresher to thresh and hope of sharing the crops. If we sewed spiritual things in you is a too much. If we read material things from you, if others share the right over you too, we not more, nevertheless, we did not. And this is the key we did not use this right. But we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel. That's the key while it was only natural. And it was in the rights of the apostle Paul to receive wages for the work that he did, just like others. Did he chose to not use this? Right? Because he didn't want anyone misunderstanding his motives. Thinking that he was just like every religious con artist and huckster. And as a result, he said, I don't want to hinder the gospel according to a number of references in his letters. Paul often worked as a tent maker to earn a living so that others would know he was not like the greedy, false teachers who were so prevalent in the ancient world. And so here. He reminds the Ephesians elders that while in their city, he worked with his own hands to support, not only himself, but also the members of his missionary team and this giving generous spirit notice. If it wasn't limited to his colleagues, this was a way of life with Paul. What an example he is to us. And he did this in order to help others in need. Notice what he says in the next verse, verse 35 in everything I showed you. And here's his modeling, this is what he showed us. That by working hard in this manner, you must help the weak. And remember the words of the Lord, the Lord, Jesus, that himself said, it's more blessed to give than to receive here, here, folks. This is the heart of what Paul wants these elders to know concerning their pastoral responsibility. In relation to finances in the church. He says that by working hard, he illustrated a great truth that he wants them all to learn. And that was the truth that they are responsible to financially help others to help the weak meaning those who are economically weak in the church. In other words, Paul labor, not only to meet his own needs, not only to meet the needs of his. Colleagues, but he labored and made enough money to give to those who were poor and needed. What a thoughtful, incredible thing and truth assists and in doing so, he tells us he obeyed the words of the Lord who said, it's more blessed to give than to receive. And you know, this is the only quotation outside of the gospels that we have that Jesus made during his earthly ministry. But it's an accurate one. It comes down. From the accurate oral tradition that was passed on to others and Paul quotes in here to make a point that point, being that while those who receive monetary gifts from others, they're blessed. Why, why are they blessed? Well, because God has used these gifts to supply their needs. That's the blessing. Nevertheless, Paul said those who give these gifts, they're even more blessed. More blessed. Why? Because listen closely in their giving there reflect God's character of being generous and merciful and loving. That is to say the great blessing in giving is demonstrating Christ love for others. See the lesson that Paul wants his elders to understand and something that all of us as church elders today need to understand is that those who minister. In the name of Jesus Christ need to be like Jesus in being generous. We don't often think of how generous the Lord is, but he's the epitome of generosity. He set the standard for generosity. Jesus said in Mark 10 45 for even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom. For many, it didn't come that people would take care of him. He came to take care of them. Our Lord's ministry was all about giving. All about serving others, giving of his time, his energy, his money himself for the good of others, rather than expecting others to serve him. We read also about the Lord's generosity in second Corinthians eight, nine. This is a virtue that we often don't think about concerning Christ, but listen to everything we have is because of God's generosity. So Paul wrote in second Corinthians eight nine for, you know, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That though he was rich. Yet for your sake, he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich. This is a statement about Jesus giving up the independent use of his divine rights when he became a man. And he did this so that we who believe on him would become spiritually rich by experiencing all the riches of salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, peace, joy, a new nature, spiritual intimacy with the father glory in heaven. So our Lord was, and is. Very generous. And therefore those who represent him, you may, we need to be characterized by being givers, not takers. Let me tell you one of the things that really bothers me about some pastors. In fact, I have few pet peeves life, but this is one of them is that there are some pastors who seem to feel like some in the people in the business world should give them discounts. For services rendered. Why? Well, because they're a pastor. I think that's horrible. I think it's horrible. They believe that they are entitled to such discounts because well, they're in the ministry now. Listen, if somebody wants to give you a discount, I don't know. I have a problem with that. But asking for that as if you're entitled, that's a horrible testimony, a horrible testimony, because it conveys the thought that pastors are greeting. And mercenary and covetous and that they're takers rather than givers and are no different than religious charlatans, who take advantage of people for sorted gain. We're not to be like that. Listen, the whole point that Paul is making to these elders is that like him, they should be sure, make sure that they are characterized by giving to people not taking from the, we should be men who are known for our generosity. Across the board with waiters and waitresses with other people, you know, you can't tip beyond 20%. It's allowed. You can do that, especially for breakfast because the breakfast is so I'm just telling you, that's a practical thing, waiters and waitresses. See us bow our heads and pray, and then we might leave them a track. That's disgusting. That's appalling. No tip. Here's the track. Listen, this truth about being generous. It isn't limited to elders. It's a truth taught in the new Testament for all of us singer in the Inns, nine, six through eight. Now this I say he who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly. He says bounds of will also rebounds lovely. Each one must do just to see his purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver, and God is able to make all grace of bouncy you that always having all sufficiency in everything. You may have an abundance for every good deed. Basic thought of these verses is this. We as God's people we're called to be generous, we're called to be liberal in our giving to others. And if we do that, God will be generous and liberal and meeting our needs. This is not the health and wealth stuff give, so you can get, this is give so you can get, so you can give more. That's what this is about. Again, we read Ephesians four 28. He who steals? Musteal no longer rather he must labor performing with his own hands. What is good? So that he will have something to share with one who has need, excuse me, where to it isn't enough to take care of ourselves. And our families all is saying that we are to labor so that we can have some extra money. Extra earnings to help those who are needy that's the teaching of scripture. So the question is, do you do that? Do you do that? You should, because this is the clear teaching of the word of God, has God's people were called to reflect the generous giving character of our God. Pastors are to lead the way because we are to be examples to the flock. And so with these words about elders being givers, Not takers. Paul has completed his farewell address to these men and he's charged them with five responsibilities. We are to pay attention to our own lives. We are to shepherd all the flock, even the tough ones. We are to be on the alert for false teachers. We are dependent upon God and his word, and we are to be characterized by giving rather than taking may the Lord help us all to apply. These responsibilities, I'm going to have a quick prayer and then Dean is going to come and close us father. We thank you for your word. We thank you for what we've learned tonight. And may we be those who are doers and not hearers? Only of the word we pray in Jesus name. Amen. Tonight. Let's just look to the Lord again in prayer, almighty God, our hearts ought to be convicted in your presence who among us can fulfill these responsibilities. Has we all thought, and yet our hearts desire to, we want to be. Man who examine ourselves. We want to shepherd the flock that you have given to us. We want to protect them from those who would seek to come in and destroy and lead them astray. Oh, we want to depend upon your word is as well as be proclaimers of it. And Lord, we want to be good examples in giving. Oh, we don't want to be takers, but givers may our lives be filled with these marvelous things. Thank you. That we've sat, Hondo, the faithful preaching of the word and our hearts are warmed because of it. Thank you for calling, calling us and allowing us to be shepherds of the flock that you so dearly, loved and loved so much. You purchase the flop, the church. With your own blood. And we are thank you for every person here tonight, not just the pastors, but those who are part of the flock, the sheep, your people called out, given eternal life. We thank you so much for this church and a pastor Mitch, and we pray that, uh, you might give us all good rest of night. And we look forward to and anticipate with a joy and excitement to fellowship again tomorrow, hear the word of God. Learn about. Uh, things that have been taking place in our personal lives to pray with one another. And so we commend our ways to you Lord, and to that word of grace, which we've heard about again tonight, which is able to build us up and sanctify us. It is through Jesus Christ, our blessing, Lord and Redeemer that we pray. Amen.