Monday, September 26, 2011

One Plants, Another Waters, But God Makes It Grow

If you want maturity as a Christian there are some old ways of thinking that you are going to have to let go. When you accepted Jesus Christ everything changed, everything became new but we did not necessarily let go of the old. There are some old ways of seeing things that have become stumbling blocks in our growing up process and one of those has to do with our vision of leaders and the impact it has on unity in the Body.

If unity is a sign of spiritual maturity the Corinthians must have had "fail" stamped on their foreheads. Sounds harsh but they had fallen into the trap that many Christians fall into today - leadership worship. You can't say that it doesn't exist because you can read it all over the internet. I often hear certain teachers and leaders being lifted up more often than Jesus. The problem becomes even more complicated when people start comparing and pitting one leader against the other. That is exactly what the Corinthians were doing:

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[a]”; still another, “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:11-12)

You probably have certain teachers you enjoy learning from but I would hope you have a good grasp of the way the Body of Christ works. Each member of the Body has a different function, a different purpose in order that you can be built up and increased in maturity. The differences between leaders and their gifting are for your benefit. In order to move along in our journey to maturity we need to gain a good understanding of the Body of Christ. Do you know what you have become part of, what you belong to and how it functions? The best place to ponder this is in 1 Corinthians 12:

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

Division can never take root as long as the various parts of the Body have this understanding along with the knowledge that there is only one head, and that is Jesus. Part of our maturing process is learning how God's love and grace allow us all to work together for the same purpose. The friction happens when we start seeing the leadership through the eyes of the world instead of in the context of the Body. Leaders are servants and leaders are gifted differently in order to meet the various needs in the Body:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:27-30)

It is important to note that a leader never chose to be a leader, he was appointed by God. I think many churches have by-passed God and appoint their own leaders but that is an entirely different topic. It is enough for us to trust God in the selection and gifting of the various leaders. In doing this we will begin to realize how foolish we are to try to compare them and to lift up one as greater than another. Again, one of the clearest statements on the purpose of leadership in the Body is found in Ephesians 4:

It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Note again that leaders do not choose their own calling but are appointed by Jesus. Their purpose is clear, "to prepare God's people for works of service". They are the trainers. They come along and teach us, help us, prepare us, train us. We do not get our strength from them, they do not choose our calling, we do not find our purpose in them and they cannot save us. They are not Jesus, only his servants and the servants to the Body.

Returning to the problem of the Corinthians, Paul gives us a great visual picture of leadership in the Body of Christ:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

Not only does our foolish attitude toward leadership reveal our immaturity it also becomes a stumbling block to our growing up process. We need the Apollos', Paul's and Cephas' of this current age. We need our pastors but we also need our prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. We have to stop being the disciples of men and become the disciples of Jesus. Some plant, others water but only God makes it grow. When we let go of our foolish thinking and grasp this Kingdom-fact we will begin moving forward in our growing up process. We allow leaders to serve us but we lift up and worship only Jesus.


The Manic Chef said...

This is a very good entry and I agree there are many so-called Pastors who are 'idolized' many of them are truly False teachers, and I'm a bit concerned that you are not addressing this issue. We need not leaders, this term is not presented in the Gospels whatsoever. We need as you have stated, those that are called by God and taught by the Lord in His Ways. Many so-called Pastors, leaders, or even the present so-called Apostles have been produced by the Bible School machine. Present day Bible schools,and colleges, were never to be established, it's an unbiblical principal, it's a Roman Catholic tradition which has never been eradicated from the "born again" evangelical circles. I must state that there are no longer any Apostles chosen by the Lord in our present time. Anyone who thinks Apostles are still chosen in our age are erring greatly from what the Bible states. The time for Apostles is over, they already were given, the ones who helped pen the new testament are the ones that were called and who continually bless us to this day with their God given wisdom and experiences. I agree with you we need less man worship, and more of leaning on Christ, and learning from Christ through His Holy Spirit and God's Word. This scripture really fits our times, the days of 'denominations' are over, as we mature in Christ we learn the truth, for He teaches us: 1Jn 2:26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
1Jn 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
1Jn 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
May Jesus be our only true HERO, and pray that He make us what He desires us to be. AMEN!

Pastor Paul said...

I agree with you that several of the things you mention are not biblical, such as denominations. However, I would like to know what scripture indicates that apostles are no longer part of God's training team, as we find in Ephesians 4. I have heard this often but I have yet to find any biblical support for the end of the apostle.

I think you are missing the purpose of my posts recently. I am doing a series on maturity by going through the first letter to the Corinthians. I deal with issues as they present themselves. We are some beginning steps, not yet address the "wolves in sheep" clothing. Perhaps that will put your mind at ease concerning this issue.

The Manic Chef said...

Concerning the Apostles, I too was at the place where you are. I was involved with the Pentecostal denomination and it's influences for about two decades, (shortly after the Lord revealed himself to me, I ended up at this denomination). After being seduced into a 'cult like' group lead by a woman, (who have no authority to lead the church or to teach or rule over men) I have since been re-taught by the Lord using other men of God, to give me His understanding of His word, and how to read His Word in Context with His understanding not man's. I am no longer influenced by the false teachings of the "Spirit filled" groups. I am born-again of God's spirit, and the Lord dwells within my heart, that is the indwelling of God's Spirit in me. Once realized that I had, due to being a babe in Christ, allowed misinterpretation of God's word to effect my 'faith', I cried out to the Lord to help remove everything that is not of His revealed truth. And in the last decade he has been faithful in doing such, and that has caused me to separate myself from all influences that lead to a false faith. Many believers in the past few years have experienced this same coming to terms with false teachings, and have come out from the Pentecostal influences and teachings. I pray the Lord will get you there also. In His Eternal Love....

The Manic Chef said...

This growing into the Lord's Word is true maturing in Christ, so that we are no longer tossed back and forth with false doctrine and beliefs. This maturity is also extremely important to walk the walk, to walk in the light as He, Jesus is in the light. He loves His sheep, and His sheep hear His voice. He promised that He would guide us into ALL truth, His revealed truth, in His Word established by Him, and His Chosen Apostles, whom through revealed revelation were the only ones that have established the true foundations upon which our Faith must be built upon. Anything that is not built upon Him shall come to destruction, and lead many into a false Gospel, and bring terrible consequences in their spiritual growth. In His Eternal Love, the Lord bless you with His understanding concerning these issues.

Pastor Paul said...

My friend you assume that I am part of Pentecostalism, which I am not. I was saved by direct intervention from the Lord, with no man's guidance. I was overwhelmed by the Spirit without any understanding of the experience. What I teach has not been influenced by any as I receive revelation every time I open the Word. I have never studied with commentaries, although I have looked on occasion to see what another opinion was on a passage, but never changed my understanding of what the Spirit gives to me. I do not adhere to teaching by popular opinion but instead by direct revelation. However, I have never been led to remove myself from the Body of Christ or to tear down another servant. I do not find just cause according to the Word. Unless a man preaches against Christ crucified I must assume they are at a different point in their walk than I am. Paul told us not to discourage or kill those who are less mature in their freedom of relationship but instead to conform our behaviour as not to bring them harm. Perhaps you and I are in this place of different positions in our walk.

Personally I find myself to be a powerful man of God not because of my work but instead because of the work of Christ in me. I trust the Lord's guidance and I try very hard to remain sensitive and in tune to him and the one thing I know I have learned from him is that after everything else is stripped away all that matters is faith demonstrating itself through love. Love must always be the foundation to all we say and all we do, and if it isn't then I want no part with it. I really believe that Scripture that tells me not to criticize another man's servant because at the end of the day Jesus is going to make sure that they are successful. I don't think that my Jesus is so weak that he needs me correcting other leaders over matters other than Christ crucified. I trust the Lord to correct any errors of teaching as he has with me on several occasions. It's his Body, I trust him, and refuse to allow myself to be separated from that to which I was called to serve.

The Manic Chef said...

I thank you for sharing a bit of your testimony, I also was saved in my room with no Bible, no man, just a tract that I found on the subway in Toronto. The Lord clearly allowed me to know that the life I lived was a lie, and that I was not a true Christian. When I saw the truth, I understood what the Lord was doing, and He set me free from the lie. I wept and asked for His forgiveness, and then realized He really did exist, and that my Baptist background did not bring me to salvation, (a mental ascension to the need to be saved). I then understood in part what being Born-Again truly meant. Born of Him, by Him, and through Him. I know I do seem to be very forward, but I have been through much in my walk, and I'm seeking out brethren, who is of like mindedness as the Bible clearly instructs us to do. Many preach Christ's crucifixion, ie; Roman Catholic church, the Jehovah Witness, Anglican, Baptists, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc,, you can preach Christ crucified with the lips, yet know nothing of Christ. I do hope you know many are of the Anti-Christ spirit, they preach a different Christ, such as the RC, Jehovah witnesses, Anglican's etc. Do you consider those brethren or false? I believe in Love, but God's word does informs us to stay away from false teachers who teach a different Christ and to rebuke them openly, and to warn others of them. Are you against the ecumenical movement, which represents a 'one world church'? I'm not trying to be difficult, the Lord expects me to find these things out before committing myself to any group without knowing what they believe, who and what they support, and to be a Berean, not giving myself over to anyone unless ALL things are according to God's Word. Do you consider Benny Hinn a follower of Christ? Are you familiar with the Latter Rain movement? Do you believe in the rapture?
I'm just a bit confused why you don't mention, why you consider, Mr. Billy Graham a servant of the Lord. With what Biblical evidence do you back this up? I do believe the Lord mentions that if we are asked a question by someone, we should have an answer. Look to you it would probably seem that I'm being very, no extremely careful, very 'walled up', and yes I am. I know what it has cost me. I do think you understand. I'm not nit picking to find some little flaw, the Lord knows there is no perfect group of Christians, but I just want those who do adhere to the Word on the major issues. I live in Montreal and I'm looking for fellowship. Can we talk more? Thank you for your patience, in His Eternal Love.

Pastor Paul said...

I hear a lot of pain in what you write but I am not here to lift myself or anyone else up. I understand you have been hurt but I don't have time to preach against anyone. All my time is taken up with lifting up Jesus Christ, of caring for those he has placed in my care and to always understand that no one and nothing belongs to be. I point everyone to Jesus.

I have no personal doctrine other than the Word of God. I try my best not to act or preach outside of that context. If it's in the Bible then I believe it 100%. I believe in the five-fold ministry of Ephesians because there is nothing saying that it has not continued to this day. I have heard man's opinion but that counts for nothing outside of the Word.

I do not believe in any man's ministry but I hold to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I respect my fellow servant's unless they are preaching against the Word.

I am sorry that you find yourself being so cautious about the Body of Christ. Personally I find her to be a radiant Bride and I know the Groom will keep her sanctified; she belongs to him, not me. I am simply a servant wanting to obey my Master's voice. If he tells me to correct then I will correct. If he tells me to teach then I will teach. I have come to understand these words:

"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)

And that is what I aim to do until I hear his voice calling me to his side.