A Note from the Old Pastor Concerning the New Pastor

As you transition from one pastor to another, here are some things to consider…

(1) Recognize him as your pastor. You do me, nor him, nor yourself any favors by either trying to guess what I would have done in a situation (or what Pastor Simpson would have done) or by telling him that Jeremy would never have done whatever it is he has decided to do. Is Faith my church? “Is Christ divided? Was Paul”—or even Jeremy—“crucified for you?” (1 Cor 1:13) Is it not Christ’s church? May your only loyalty be to Jesus as you follow the pastor you have called, ever looking forward, not looking back.

(2) Understand his priorities. If he is to be an effective pastor, his priority must be to his personal relationship with Christ, then to his family, and then to you. This is the model we see in 1 Timothy 3:4-5. If he cannot manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? Understand that his first priority in terms of earthly relationships must be his family. They will validate or invalidate his ministry to you.

(3) Recognize his gifts. He will have greater and lesser gifts in particular areas than either of his predecessors had. Pastor Simpson was an evangelist. Pastor Jeremy was an expositor. Maybe Jonathan will be both, but in very different ways. Give him the latitude to use his gifts. Pretending to be something that he is not will never grow this church.

(4) Don’t let him do everything. He does not have every spiritual gift and neither does the Bible allow him to do everything for the church. Many of you understand this only too well and have done phenomenally. It may still do well to take this question to heart: Does our understanding of a pastor’s job more closely fit with the model of a mom-and-pop store where the proprietor (or pastor) provides a service that we come and consume, or does it fit a team approach with the pastor as captain or coach leading us into action. Come alongside of him and work next to him. The church was never meant to be a one-man show. That is why it is referred to as a body with many parts (1 Cor 12:20) and as a spiritual house, being built up together (1 Pet 2:5). Use your gifts: to reach out to those outside the church, to minister to those inside it, and to consider that we have not come to be served, but to serve (Mat 20:28).

(5) Love him and his family. Don’t wait to get to know him; don’t hesitate to love his family. Christian love involves loving the unloveable as Christ loved us. You have called a man and wife who are extremely loveable. They will be easy to love. Don’t use that as a temptation to love like the world. God calls us to love in this way: patiently, kindly, humbly, respectfully, non-irritably, and truthfully as you bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Cor 13). Do not believe an accusation of him unless it has been established by the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19). Keep in mind that unless he leaves town, you’re the only family he has. I praise God for your Christian love towards my family and I. Do so even more towards him and his.

3 Necessary Characteristics that Secure and Sustain Commitment

I want to draw from our text this morning—Ephesians 5:22-33—Three Necessary Characteristics that Secure and Sustain Commitment. If these Christ-like traits are lacking, we will find commitment lacking.

(1) Submission. This role is primarily assigned to the wife.  In our day and age, this statement does not perhaps sit well.  And given the abuse of centuries of men dominating and abusing women, it’s no wonder. Throughout the Bible submission is required: to governing authorities (Rom 13:1) and God (James 4:7).  Submission is for everyone.  God is the one who institutes authority; and so, if we have a problem with that, then we have a problem with God.  Wives, you’re not submitting solely for the sake of your husband—Christians you’re not submitting solely for the sake of yourself—you’re submitting for the sake of the Lord (Eph 5:22).

(2) Sacrifice.  This role is primarily assigned to the husband. And the implication for husbands is that you are to sacrificially love your wife in a way that does not expect her to always do right by you.  Even when we failed Christ, He remained true.  Even when your wife fails in her role, you willingly—out of reverence for Christ, v.21—give yourself up for her.  And that means that my agenda has to die if it is pulling us apart.

(3) Love. It is important for us to define love, otherwise we will have the culture’s understanding of what love is (that does not square with the biblical picture).  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us that “love is patient and kind; loves does not envy, boast, insist on its own way, or rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth; it is not arrogant, rude, irritable, or resentful.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  Notice what love is not: it is not sensual, it is not romantic, it is not sexual; it is not casual or convenient.  Yet, they may be part of our spousal relationship (see Song of Solomon).

In the end, we must see both our relationship with our spouse and with Christ in terms of submission, sacrifice, and love.  Without them, there will be no firm foundation to build our relationship with either, upon.

God-given Sexual Parameters Within the Marriage Relationship

In today’s text (Eph 5:1-7), we primarily look at sexual prohibitions.  God prohibits sexual immorality and impurity (that is: all sex outside of a marital relationship between one man and one woman).  Rather, than delve deeper into these prohibitions against sexual immorality, which have already been well covered in today’s sermon, let us consider our own potential sexual parameters (or limitations even) within the marital relationship.  Keep in mind that we have been called to glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor 10:31).  That applies in this arena too.  My Marriage Counseling professor at seminary, Stuart Scott, gathered the following principles of limitation for a married couple’s sexual activity from Scripture.  I have taken the liberty to expand upon them.

(1) Unselfish love must always be the motive (1 Cor 13:4-7).  Love does not insist on its own way.  Love is not about what you can get, but about what you can give. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(2) Your relationship in this matter must be based on mutual agreement, preferring the other (Phil 2:1-4). Do nothing out of selfishness, but regard the other as better than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his or her own interests, but also to the interests of others (in this case, your spouse).

(3) Apply the principle of mutual authority (1 Cor 7:2-5): your body does not belong to you; the Bible wants you to flee temptation by giving one another your conjugal rights.  Unless you have mutually agreed to refrain for a time (for the purpose of prayer), both should be willing based on the other’s perceived need.

(4) Do not cause your spouse to violate his/her conscience by asking them to do something sinful (Rom 14:23).

(5) Demonstrate self-control in between your time together.  In other words, there must be no self-fulfillment (Prov 5:19).  This robs you of intimacy and an ability to see your sexual relationship as self-giving, rather than self-taking.

How Those at Faith Have Walked Worthy

In today’s sermon text we’re told in Ephesians 4:1-2, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”  I would like to share with you how I have seen you walk worthy of your call.

1.     Humility:  You have humility in droves.  I have seen little to no struggle with pride in most of you.  You know what Christ saved you from; you know that it was all of grace; and you know the thankfulness for His work, rather than the pride that comes with self-effort.  Humility realizes that Christ is the only thing we can boast in (Gal 6:14).

2.     Gentleness: I have heard horror stories from fellow pastors as to how poorly they have been treated.  But whenever you have had a point of contention or disagreement you have shown me the kind of gentleness that Paul calls you to here.  It’s humbling and encouraging to me.  As I see your good example in this, I pray fervently that God would grant me the power to walk in that example.

3.     Patience: You have been so long-suffering with me as you have allowed me the time and chance to learn to be your pastor.  I have not always done right, or what you would like, but you have patiently endured.  We’re on this journey together: sometimes I lag behind; sometimes you do.  Thank you for waiting for me to catch up.

4.     Forbearing Love: I am not always the easiest to get along with: I’m particular; I’m at times immovable; I can be difficult.  Thank you for forbearing with me and with other members of this body, particularly when we act in selfish ways.  Thank you for your gentle and patient reproof as you forbear. 

I daily thank God that He would be so merciful as to me to give me a church family such as you.  Hallelujah and praise be to Him!

Losing Your First Love

In Revelation 2, Jesus addresses the church at Ephesus, some 30 years after Paul had written his letter here.  The church at Ephesus loved the truth; they shunned evil; but Revelation 2 tells us that Jesus had this against them: they had abandoned the love they had at first.  What had happened?  We saw at the beginning of Paul’s letter (in Eph 1:15), that he heard of their faith and their love toward all the saints.  He commended them for it.  Yet 30 years later, it seems they kept their faith, but lacked a certain love.  And John MacArthur is helpful here; he says, “The current generation was maintaining the church’s teachings, but it had left its first love.  They had sunk to the place where they were carrying out their Christian responsibilities with diminishing love for their Lord and others.”  They loved the truth; but perhaps they lost their love for proclaiming it.

My friends, I believe that we love the truth; but I wonder if we love to proclaim it.  I wonder if we’re more concerned what they’ll think of us, rather than what God thinks of us, when we let opportunities pass by.  And I’m not just talking about inviting them to church; that’s a given; that’s fairly easy.  Invite them into relationship with Christ Jesus.  Speak of the manifold wisdom of God and all that He has done for you and what He will do for them.  And suffer ridicule if need be.  Maybe we need some unpadded, contact sport suffering in our Christian life.  We certainly need to live out and share our faith boldly, making known the manifold wisdom of God.  Do you know what happens to churches when that’s not the case?  The Apostle John warns the Ephesian church what will happen if they stay on that path of abandoned love to God and others in Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  We’ll stop shining as a light in this community; we’ll be a social club. That would be more tragic than closing our doors: to have the appearance of godliness, all the while denying its power (2 Tim 3:5).