Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Godliness vs the appearance of godliness

Good morning friends. Yesterday we considered the importance of godly leadership and how Paul instructed Timothy to choose the leadership well. There is a reason why good and godly leadership is important. The Church is not some sort of club or community group where the group can choose the most likely candidate as the leader of that group. Often times such things turn into a popularity contest and the last thing we want is "popular" or "capable" people as leaders in the Church. What we should be desiring is godly leadership. The Church must be led by the Holy Spirit not some smooth talking guy who knows how to entertain the people. Some times entertainment is not what we think it is. Sometimes it is a lot of shouting, hollering , foot stomping and fist pounding. It can also be a series of jokes for 20 or 30 minutes. That isn't going to help us grow.

The reason Paul gave a list of requirements to Timothy is because it is hard for us to judge a man's heart. He gave him a list as a telltale sign of a man filled by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes a person can fake manifestations of the Spirit but it is hard to fake good character over a period of time. When you are in a position of needing to choose leaders it is sometimes a process of elimination; it may be hard to see what we want but not hard to see what we don't want. It is important to struggle over this because we need a people who are Holy Spirit filled and called to be in leadership positions. This is even more important as we are nearing the end. Paul prophesied to Timothy:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)

The enemy's message being taught in the Church by leaders who have the appearance of godliness but not the power. Following Paul's criteria is good but we must also ensure that this is not the mere appearance of godliness. This is the reason why sometimes people must be given some time to prove themselves because character is hard to maintain over time if it does not belong to you. This is so important because I believe the wrong leadership in the Church is what will lead to what Paul was given to see about the last days:

 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
(2 Timothy 3:1-5)

It is true that we will take on the character of the person leading us if we are not strong in the Lord ourselves. If we are truly filled by the Spirit and desiring Jesus more and more then we will take on his character, which is a character of godliness. If we are weak then we will take on the character of our spiritual leader and if he is not a godly man then we are in trouble. A Christ-centered leader will also point us to Jesus, giving Jesus the glory. A self-centered leader will always draw attention to himself and make himself the center of attention.

It is important that we are careful with whom we place ourselves under spiritually. Some would say that we should put ourselves under no man yet the Scriptures refer to those whom God has place in authority over us:

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

If we are to obey then it is important that those who are responsible for acknowledging the leaders raised up by the Spirit test that they are authentic in their calling. Pastors who need to select elders and the Body who selects deacons must do so in a prayerful manner, considering character as well as the Spirit in these important matters. Remember that God does not judge a man according to our criteria so it is important that we listen to his voice in these matters. And let us support and pray for our godly leaders, that they would remain strong in the Lord and in his mighty power and that they would always seek his council.

Just a footnote: I do not believe in our current leadership set up. I believe we are a bunch of cowards wanting to put strong people in place to do all the work for us. We need shepherds who help guide and protect the flock, not ones who will let us grow fat and lazy while they do all the work. We need to realize the responsibilities of the elders and stop expecting our pastors to be a "jack of all trades". We have set up the clergy again, the elite priesthood whereas the Church is designed with the common priesthood of which we are all members. Something to reflect on over these next few days.


Sinead Roy said...

Like so many of the fables surrounding the Christmas story, the religous culture we call Christianity has so many features that are unbiblical, that it takes a genuine, sincere and serious effort to discover what it is we are supposed to be, and to be becoming. In the end, we can only change ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thank you. But I absolutely agree with Sinead's comment - "The world can only change from within."

- Eckhart Tolle