Why should we contend for the faith? – Part 2

Why do I need to contend for the faith? Before I answer that question, let me encourage you by saying,

You don’t have to, nor should you, contend for the faith on your own.

In the middle of verse 3, when Jude says,

“I found it necessary to write to appeal to you to contend for the faith” (Jud 3b)

When Jude wrote that, he didn’t have one person in mind. The “you” in this verse is plural. So instead of reading it as saying, “you, by yourself, alone, contend for the faith”, you should read it as, “you guys together contend for the faith” or as we might say down in Georgia “ya’ll contend for the faith”.

Contending for the faith, then, is not something you do by yourself, just like Jessica didn’t finish that race by herself (see last post). She needed help. She needed Laura to finish that race because she wouldn’t have struggled on by herself. In the same way, we need others besides us so that we might continue to contend for the faith.

Yes, contending for the faith is going to take a lot of work, but you should be encouraged to expend the energy knowing you don’t have to do it on your own. We should be running beside one another, encouraging one another to contend for the faith. A single soldier doesn’t fight a war, and single Christian doesn’t contend for the faith. We do it together.

But again, why contend in the first place? It seems like something that is difficult, it seems like something that I am going to have to work at, even if I have others working with me. So why do I need to contend for the faith? Baked into that question is the beginning of the answer. It has to do with the two word phrase “the faith”.

 What does “the faith” represent?

Everything found in Scripture falls under the heading of “the faith”. It’s the whole body of theology and doctrine found in Scripture. It is the teaching that God has given in His Word. It is the truths about man, the gospel, God, Jesus, the church, the Christian life. Everything found in Scripture falls under the heading of “the faith”. That’s what we are to contend for.

We must contend for the faith because of false teachers.

Look at verse 4,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jud 4)

Jude tells us that false teachers have staged a covert operation to infiltrate the church and deceive church members, leading them astray and away from Christ. Notice the “certain people” — false teachers — “have crept in unnoticed”. That’s the idea of the covert operation.

This is not a hypothetical instance

Jude is bringing up but something that is occurring right then in that church. There are people who have crept in unnoticed with the intention of deceiving Christians.

But here’s the thing,

This is not an isolated event.

  • In Galatians 2, Paul highlights the idea that false teachers secretly slipped into the church to to try to lead them astray.
  • In 2 Peter 2:1, Peter warns that false teachers have and will seek to “secretly bring in destructive heresies”.
  • In 1 John 2:18-27, John tells us that false teachers rose up in the church, have left, and are seeking to take others with them. He is warning the church not to follow them.

The idea that false teachers are covertly infiltrating and trying to influence church members is not an isolated event. The churches to whom Jude, Paul, Peter, and John wrote all had to deal with some form of false teaching and teachers, who were secretly trying to destroy the health of the church and lead people astray.
Just as it happened in those churches it can happen in ours.

The apostles predicted it would happen.

Look at verse 4,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jud 4)

Look at verses 17-19

“”But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jud 17–19)

False teachers sneaking into the church in an effort to mislead is nothing new. It is nothing out of the ordinary. It is not an isolated event. It happened in the first century and all throughout the ages since then. It can happen in our church as well. In fact, it is predicted that it will.

Knowing that false teachers can and are trying to infiltrate the church, we must contend for the faith.

That is why we put forth the effort, that is why we expend the energy, that is why we are constantly on guard. Because false teachers are actively seeking to infiltrate the church, and there may be some here already.

I know what you’re probably thinking,

“I know my church, I’ve been there for a while, there are no false teachers. We have structures and systems in place to keep them out, to guard against it.”

You know, that might be true. You might know your people well. You might have systems in place to help keep false teachers out. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try. That doesn’t mean they won’t get in. That they won’t infiltrate your church.

Even if false teachers haven’t physically infiltrated the church, that doesn’t mean that their false teaching can’t or hasn’t infiltrated your church

We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with messages from all over. Some of the messages we hear and our people hear very well could be a false message. Facebook is full of them! You or your people may unintentionally bring that message into the church as you discuss things one on one with someone, dialogue in Sunday school, or discuss in Bible study. Just because a false teacher hasn’t physically infiltrated the church, doesn’t mean that their false teaching can’t. So we have to be vigilant

We have to run everything through the grid of Scripture

Everything we hear in conversation, we read, we are taught in Sunday school class, and even from the pulpit, we must run it all through the grid of Scripture. We can’t assume anything.

But in order to run the messaging, we hear through the grid of Scripture,

We have to know scripture.

We can’t even begin to guard or contend for the faith if we don’t know the faith — if we don’t know our Bible’s. This is why we have to constantly read Scripture. Not just alone, but we need to read scripture in community with other people. Whether that be Bible study or one-on-one discipleship, we need to read scripture, and we need to read it in community.

But in order for us to do that:

We have to prioritize times of Bible study.

I believe this is where many of us fall short. We are willing to prioritize all kinds of other things in our life, but we aren’t willing to prioritize the Scriptures. Instead, we let other things consume us, things that have no lasting impact. Things that pull us away from the Bible and community with others. So we must prioritize the text in our own lives and we must study scripture in community with one.

We must prioritize times of Bible study and we must lead our people to do the same because:

Our life and their life literally depends on it.

False teachers don’t want you to know and believe the true gospel. They don’t want that for your people either. They want nothing more than to lead us away from the life-giving message found in God’s Word. So we must prioritize the text in our life and we must study Scripture in community with one another and we must lead our people to do the same, so that know their Bible.

I know this isn’t always easy. So how?

How do we motivate ourself and our people to prioritize the text in their life and study with one another in community?

We must be motivated by the gospel and we must motivate our people with the gospel. We have a God who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us, in order to draw us back into relationship with Him. He’s given us His Word in order to tell us about that so that we might be able to experience salvation and know how to live in this world. We must see the value of Christ. We must help our people see the value of Christ. We must present the Word in such a way that they are captivated by Jesus, that they are drawn in by Him so that nothing else matters except Jesus.

We must be motivated by the gospel and we must motivate our people with the gospel.

Resources

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/fast-food-consumption-cdc-study/index.html

Post developed from my sermon: Why do I need to contend for the faith?

Why should we contend for the faith? – Part 1

There are things in life that are not all that important, and then there are those things that are worth fighting for. Our health is one of those things, it is worth the fight. But many Americans are losing the battle. Not only do we overeat, but we eat a lot of bad food. A recent article I read reported that 1 out of every 3 Americans eat fast food on any given day. To put that into perspective, close to 85 million people eat fast food every single day. What makes that so bad for our health is that:

“Fast foods tend to be high in calories, fat, salt and sugar, which — when consumed in excess — can be associated with obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other health risks.” [1]

But if we are going to fight for our health, and I think most of us would agree that our health is worth fighting for, we have to cut back on how much we eat and what we eat. For some of you, that might be a new revelation. But most of you that we shouldn’t eat as much as we do and we shouldn’t be eating the food we eat, at least not on a regular basis.

It is easy for us to grow apathetic and allow foods to creep into our diet that isn’t healthy for us. That is especially true when we get busy with the daily grind of life. The last thing we are thinking about when we are trying to get to a meeting, accomplish a deadline, or get our kids to their third practice that week is how healthy the food is we are eating. But we can’t let our guard down if we are going to contend for our health.

That is not only true of our physical health but of our own spiritual health as well. If we are going to keep ourselves spiritually healthy, then we have to constantly be on guard, we have to constantly fight for our spiritual health just like we have to constantly fight for our physical health. One way we keep ourselves spiritually healthy is by contending for the faith. This is what Jude tells the church in verse 3,

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jud 3)

Jude is concerned for this church. He wants them to contend for the faith. His letter is not accidental. It’s not like Jude picked up his iPhone to respond to an email, and the next thing he knew he was carefully crafting his next Facebook story or Instagram message that he was going to tag this church in. We often get distracted by our phone. But that is not the case for Jude. He didn’t get distracted. He had a real concern that drove him to write an urgent letter to the church telling them to contend for the faith.

Why is that? Why the urgency? Why the change of plans? Why are they to contend for the faith? Why should we contend for the faith?

In order to answer that question, we first need to know what it means to contend.

What does it mean to contend?

A couple of months ago Laura Mazur and Jessica Robertson — two women who had never met before — reached the 14-mile marker of the Dick’s Sporting Good’s marathon in Pittsburg at the same time. While there were plenty of people who reached that mark in tandem with others, this pair was unique because they were in dead last. Laura was a seasoned marathoner, but Jessica wasn’t. This was actually her first marathon. She was in last place and exhausted. Knowing that she still had 12 miles to go, she felt completely defeated.

The two began chatting. Once Laura found out how Jessica felt, she told her, “If you stay with me, I’ll stay with you and we will finish this race together.” That is exactly what they did. A while later they crossed the finish line together, holding hands. As they struggled to the end, hands clutched, a spectator took a picture of them, posted it on social media, and it has since gone viral.

The struggle they felt and the energy they expended to finish that marathon is the idea that Jude is communicating through this word “contend”. Contending for the faith, then, is not an easy thing. It is not something you do casually or occasionally. It is not a sprint. Or a jog we take a few times a week. It is a marathon. It’s a daily fight. A daily struggle. It involves us daily putting forth effort and energy as we engage in a conflict for the faith.

Hearing that, you might be thinking, “All this contending is going to require a lot of effort on my part. So why do it? Why put forth the effort?” Why do I need to contend for the faith?

Next Time

I’ll continue to answer the question: why do I need to contend for the faith? next time.

Resources

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/fast-food-consumption-cdc-study/index.html

Post developed from my sermon: Why do I need to contend for the faith?

What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 3

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must Meet the God-Given Qualifications of an Overseer

The qualifications I specifically have in mind are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. There are other lists, but we will limit it to this list today.

I say that these are God-given because Paul wrote this list under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The fact that they were given by God to the church through Paul is significant. It tells us that they aren’t negotiable.

While every church is going to have different needs, these should be the primary qualifications a church looks for in their overseers. Good business skills, a charismatic personality may be desirable, but those skills don’t show up on this list. So we need to be careful not to hold things outside of the list God gives us as primary importance. If a person meets the qualities on this list, they will be a good overseer, who serves the church well. He may not have the exact personality you want or do everything like you think he should, but he’s going to be a good overseer.

What are the qualifications of an overseer?

I think the easiest way to look at this list is to break it down into three categories which I’m labeling as  — Inner Life, Outer Life, and Family Life. This breakdown isn’t original to me, I got it from another pastor, so I want to give credit where credit is due. With that being said, let’s start with:

Inner Life

(1) Sober-minded — That simple means that this person is able to think clearly. Their decisions aren’t influenced by passion, lust, emotion, or personal gain. They are thinking about and allowing God’s Word to guide them.

(2) Self-Controlled — He is to be in control of himself, not given to anger, personal ambition, or his passions.

(3) Respectable — A person who is respectable is someone whose behavior matches their profession. Their not a hypocrite. They do what they say. Their outer life matches their inner life.

(4) Not to be a recent convert

Paul says,

“He must not be a recent convert, [and then he gives us his reason why when he says] or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Ti 3:6)

This is not to suggest that time necessarily guarantees maturity. Many people who claim the name of Christ remain spiritually immature for a lifetime. Now, of course, that’s not something we should aspire to. The writer to the Hebrews reprimanded his readers for their continual immaturity (Heb. 5:11–14). Nevertheless, the point is time doesn’t necessarily guarantee maturity, but those new to the faith will not have had the necessary time to come to possess the spiritual maturity that is required of an overseer.

Outer Life

(5) Above reproach — This doesn’t mean an overseer is perfect, instead, it means that no one can bring a legitimate charge of wrongdoing against them. While they still sin, they deal with it quickly and in a healthy way — repenting and seeking reconciliation.

(6) Hospitable — This doesn’t mean that they have to have someone over to their house every Sunday after church. It’s certainly good to have people over, but that’s not a necessary thing. Instead, it means that they are open to strangers. They are a friend to sinners. They desire to care for those in need.

(7) Able to teach — This doesn’t mean that everyone who is an overseer is going to be an amazing preacher. What it means is that they know the Bible well enough to be able to tell and teach others about Jesus and the gospel. They understand the basic doctrines and flow of Scripture, and they are able to teach others those things.

(8) Not a drunkard — This doesn’t mean that a pastor can’t drink. Instead, it means that he is not given to much wine. He is not dependent on it. It is not something he needs.

In some sense, this can apply to things other than drink. It can apply to drugs, possessions, and sex. All of these things are things we can become dependent on. Things that we run to when there are problems in our life, rather than running to Christ.

You see, an overseer, a pastor, should be one who runs to Christ instead of these things. Christ should be the One who gets him through and the One who provides him with rest, joy, and peace. And, in reality, that shouldn’t just be so for a pastor, it should be so for all of us. You see, the reason a pastor should have these qualifications is so he can lead, guide, encourage, and motivate others to have them as well. Which means that this list shouldn’t just be something we file away for our next pastoral search. Instead, it should be a list that is front and center in all our lives because we all should aspire to possess these qualities.

(9) Not be violent but gentle — A pastor should lead with the same gentleness that Christ does. He shouldn’t lash out at others because of their sin. Instead, he should gently guide and lead them in the truth.

(10) Not be quarrelsome — He shouldn’t be someone who is always picking a fight.

(11) Not be a lover of money — Instead he should be someone who is content with the possessions he has. Being content should allow him to lead out in generosity and faithful dependence on God.

(12) Well thought of by outsiders — This doesn’t mean that those outside the church will always agree with what he believes or says, but that they respect him.

Family Life

(13) Husband of one wife — Literally this means he is to be a one-woman man. While this verse has certainly sparked controversy over the years, I don’t believe this mean that an elder has to be someone who is married. Nor does it mean that he can’t have been divorced.

Instead what I believe Paul is getting at is the heart of the matter.

  • Is he faithful to his wife? Or are his eyes and affections always wondering?
  • Is he going to stick by her through the thick and thin? Or does he bolt out of there the moment things get tough?
  • Is his focus on his wife and her needs? Or is it somewhere else?

This is what I believe Paul is getting at with this qualification. He is getting to the heart of the matter. He is drilling down to expose this man’s character. If that is what Paul is doing, then, that is what we should do as well.

(14) Lead his household well — Since the pastor deals with people, the test of his leadership and management capabilities is noted by observing his home. His home is his first church. If leadership and spiritual oversight isn’t exercised well at home, it’s not going to be exercised well in the church.

So that is quick run through of the qualifications a leader in the church must possess if they are going to be an overseer.

Sum Up the Series

So again, what does it take to be a leader in the church?

In order to be a leader in the church a man must:

  • See himself as an overseer
  • View the office of overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task
  • He must meet the God-given qualifications of an overseer.

That’s what it takes to be a leader in the church. And that’s the type of man for which a church should be looking. Once they have those men in place, they should pray that they would continue to grow in those areas, as well as they should seek to grow in them themselves.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you as a church seeking men who meet the God-given qualifications of overseer?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 2

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must View the Office of Overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task

It’s a High Calling

While being a pastor does come with some form of compensation, the pastorate shouldn’t just be viewed as another way to pay the bills or earn some extra cash. It’s a ministry. It’s an opportunity to provide soul care, to Shepherd God’s people. It’s a high calling.

It Involves Sacrifice

If you are someone who is going to take on the task of pastoring, you have to view it as a high calling and have a passion for the task because serving the church requires sacrifice. Whether that be sacrificing time for your hobbies, the money you could make elsewhere, or emotional energy, the office of overseer requires sacrifice. If you don’t view the office as a high calling, and if you don’t have a passion for the task, then you aren’t going to provide the sacrifice necessary to care for God’s people in a way that glorifies Him.

Do Anything Else

When I was in seminary and praying about the ministry, I spoke to several people who told me, “If you can do anything else, do it.” Their reason was simple; being a pastor requires a lot of sacrifices, effort, and emotional energy. If you are pursuing the office for the novelty of it, you aren’t going to be in it for long. Being a pastor must be a calling. A position you are drawn to by the Lord. As well as it must be something He has gifted you to do.

Don’t Make it a Practice to Sacrifice Family Time

Now, if you notice, I didn’t say a pastor has to be willing to sacrifice time with his family. I want to specifically point that out because many ministers fail in this area. Family time is important and it must be guarded. Managing your household well is one of the qualifications that must be met in order to become a pastor. You can’t manage a household if you’re never there. So a pastor shouldn’t be about the business of always sacrificing time with his family. Certainly, there will be times when that is needed, but that has to be the exception and not the rule.

Don’t Require Your Pastor to Sacrifice Family Time

On the flip side of that, churches shouldn’t require their pastors to sacrifice family time, instead they should encourage it. Just like the pastor must view his family has his first church, the church has to view the pastor’s family as his first church too, and allow him to minister to them first.

Sum It Up

So if a man wants to be a leader in the church, he must not only see himself as an overseer, but he must also view the office of overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task.

Question for Reflection

  1. If you are an overseer, do you have a passion for the task?
  2. If you are an overseer, do you have time built in for your family?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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