Justin Perdue: Welcome to the members’ podcast. Before we go any further, as we always do, we want to thank you sincerely for your partnership with us. We say it every week and it is true that we could not do what we’re doing without you. You are an essential part of helping us spread this message of the sufficiency of Christ and the rest that we have in him to as many people as possible. Thank you again for your generous support and partnership with us.
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We’re going to continue our conversation now on judgment and reward and all of those things. We’re going to begin by looking at a couple of passages that are aimed particularly at leaders of the church and consider those briefly. Then we’ll see where the Lord takes us after that.
Let’s jump in with Hebrews 13 and James 3.
Jon Moffitt: Hebrews 13. He’s closing down the letter and it’s after he is done giving you every angle of Christ you could possibly imagine, just Christ from all corners of the earth, from all corners of history, and from all corners of the universe. Hebrews is such a great book and in 11 and 12, he just frontloads that thing. It’s this Gospel explosion. Now there are some things that you should probably pay attention to know that you are safe and secure Christ. We are saints and sinners, we are selfish, and let me give you some things that you need to consider.
He begins the letter, “Let brotherly love continue.” It’s like that theme of reminding us that we are so unloving. It’s like this constant reminder: here’s the Gospel, Christ is amazing, he loved you, he died for you, and he secured you. Now, will you please love each other? Do not neglect to show hospitality. So he’s going through just a lot of simple explanations.
He says in verse 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” In this context, sometimes this can be used as a fear for pastors or for leaders. But I think what it’s saying is that, “Listen, the responsibility that we have as shepherds and elders is that we hold the weight of making the word of God plain and true, and we protect the Gospel. We have to love and care for sheep as a sheep. We are also sinners ourselves, we already have a really hard job, so don’t make it harder for us. Be patient with us. Be kind.”
Justin Perdue: Throw James 3:1 in with this because they say very similar things. That verse reads, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” So in other words, teachers, pastors, and leaders, your job is serious, and you need to be thoughtful about how you wield your authority. You need to be thoughtful about the things that you say. As you stand in particular in preaching and teaching God’s word, you stand essentially in the place of God to give God’s word to His people. You are God’s instrument in this particular congregational setting to teach people the truth of God. That’s a big deal. In one sense, you stand yourself as a fallen sinner, speaking to other fallen sinners on the precipice of eternity, and you will be called to account for what you say there. That’s just a good exhortation to us as pastors, preachers, teachers, and leaders of God’s church. What we do matters. We need to give of ourselves in sincere ways to the task, trusting the Lord in it always.
What this means is that if you’re a member of a church somewhere, love and pray for your pastors. Be a joy to pastor rather than a burden because it doesn’t help your pastors and it doesn’t help you if you are a difficult person to deal with, or if you’re constantly causing strife and division. Don’t bite the shepherds that are aiming to care for you and love you. It’s good for everybody when we live together harmoniously.
Jon Moffitt: When he says obey and submit, to clarify, if they are administering God’s word faithfully then you obey their instructions. Because it’s not their instructions – it’s God’s instructions. But I can’t tell you where you should buy a house. I can’t tell you what kind of clothes you should buy. That has nothing to do with God’s word unless it’s an issue of envy or inappropriate use of funds or whatever.
This is a great example of personal Bible reading. They didn’t have personal Bibles; they had the teaching and the preaching of the apostles. They had the Old Testament. Typically, the leaders were the ones who had to go to the temple and spend time in the word so they could prepare and bring it to the congregation. It wasn’t as if the readers of the letter of Hebrews would say, “I’ll just go grab my New Testament.” They are receiving the New Testament at the moment.
To those who have been commissioned to give God’s word over them, he says, “Submit to them because they’re the ones who are keeping watch over your soul.” Not by their means, but by the means of God’s word. And they’re going to give an account not of their own morality, but of course of their own morality since they’re qualifications, but the point of it is as it relates to the word of God.
Justin Perdue: As it is, it relates to their stewardship of the word of God and what that means for the church. I completely agree with you.
Just a brief word. Whenever you’re faced with a wisdom call or a prudential kind of decision that you’re making, it’s good to seek a multitude of wise counselors. Your pastors may be some of that number. But in a lot of cases – and I say this to our people regularly – depending on what kind of decision you’re trying to make, I’m happy to give you my input in terms of some categories to think through but my thoughts on this are not inspired of the Lord. I’m just talking to you as your friend and your brother-in-Christ, giving you my take on what you ought to do about that real estate decision or whatever. Your point is well-made in that it’s a gross overreach of pastoral authority when we start telling people things like you should do this, or you shouldn’t do that when we’re in the areas of wisdom and prudence. That’s just not helpful.
Jon Moffitt: I’ve been in counseling sessions where I flat out tell him, “You have to obey what I’m telling you, because this is God’s word.” I was just with a married couple. “If the two of you separate and start having relationships with other people, you’re in violation of God’s word. You’re disobeying.” I’m going to flat out tell you that you’re not disobeying me, you’re disobeying God’s word that’s coming through me at the moment. This is pretty clear in Scripture.
Justin Perdue: There may be times where something that somebody is going to do is not obviously sin, but it’s pretty clearly foolish. We, as pastors and friends in the church, may look at somebody and say, “This doesn’t seem like a great idea.” But even then that doesn’t have a “Thus sayeth the Lord” kind of authority. Whereas when we say things that the Bible says, we are saying the Lord has said this and here we all are, myself included, submitting to this truth of God’s word.
I want to circle back, if we can, to the Romans 14 principle of how Paul uses the reality of the fact that we all stand condemned in the flesh in order to humble the Roman Christians and to encourage them toward love and patience and forbearance. I think it’s a common problem. You were just mentioning earlier how a constant refrain in the New Testament is, “Here is everything that Christ has done. Here’s your status and all those things. Here’s your identity. Now, would you please love each other?” That is a constant refrain.
Just as you know, we struggle to love each other. We all are prone to self-righteousness and haughtiness, even in the church. We tend to think that as we learned some stuff and as we figure some things out theologically, especially if we understand ourselves to be mature, when it comes to a particular perspective, we can be merciless toward our brothers and sisters in the church. We can be so condescending. We think we are the ones who have figured this out and if people would just be diligent enough like us, and if they could just be enlightened like us, then they would come over to our side and see it our way. And Paul is exhorting the Roman Christians, “You ought not treat one another that way because we are all debtors to grace. We are all dependent and completely on the mercy of God in Christ.” How in the world would we judge each other over something like what kind of food you’re eating? In our context today, why would we ever judge one another over whether or not we consume alcohol? Why would we ever judge one another over what kind of schooling decisions we make for our children? You fill in the blank. There are all kinds of things that we can talk about, but we ought not to cast shade on people for partaking or not partaking – and that has everything to do with our understanding of grace and the Gospel of God in Christ.
These passages that we’ve surveyed today are very helpful and really good for the church. They have almost nothing to do with the way that they’re typically interpreted, which is you need to be afraid and you need to try to store up as much stuff for yourself and the new heaven and the new earth as you can. I really don’t think that those applications are really to be found hardly at all. I think it’s about taking your calling seriously as what we do matters. We’ve been called to fruitfulness. Praise God we know where we’re headed and that we’re safe in Christ. Now let’s love our neighbor and let’s herald and extol the mercy of God in Christ. Let’s love each other.
Jon Moffitt: I would say the greatest motivation for doing Theocast for all three of us, and it’s been my motivation now going on in my fifth year, is I want to free people to the mission of Christ, and from pietism and fear. The moment that you see yourself safe and secure in Christ, that we walk by faith and not by sight, that we look to the Author of our faith and who will finish our faith, our salvation, sanctification, and glorification. When we find that all secure that there’s no work left to be done, then we can turn to the work that’s been given to us by the Father, not for salvation, but because we are saved, from our acceptance, we go do the work of finding the lost sheep. I will tell you, dear member, that once you see the glory of Christ and that you trust in him, there is much work to be done not for reward and not for fear, but out of joy.
I’ve been doing some research and watching some documentaries on World War II. Imagine that moment where you are relieving someone from a concentration camp. You’re relieving them from the fear and the dread of what they’re experiencing with the Gospel.
This is what we do: we walk around holding a metaphorical glass of water to those who are perishing and the moment that they consume it and they’re brought to it, it is joy unspeakable because you are doing something that cannot be done by any other measure than by preaching the Gospel. My encouragement to all of us in the midst of this chaos in the world is not to be distracted. The world is trying to create a utopia and God’s destroying the world. The world’s trying to fix itself and God’s saying the only hope is in Christ. There is no fixing this world.
Justin Perdue: God’s making it quite clear that he’s the only one who will bring utopia.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. It cannot be brought here.
So my encouragement to all of us is get ourselves focused in on the clear teaching of God’s word. Let’s focus our attention on the churches, let’s plant churches, let’s encourage churches, and let’s find the lost and the weary and those who are beat down. Let’s encourage them, put our energy there, and be effective not in pleasing God, because that is impossible to do with its own efforts and our own righteousness. If Paul says his righteousness is filthy rags, then there’s no way ours are clean rags. It’s not happening
Justin Perdue: Thinking about Theocast and in some of our goals in this, I think in even how we understand good works and striving after fruitfulness, now that you have been saved by Jesus – because Christ is adequate and completely sufficient for you, Jesus will never fail you and you’re safe, and because you don’t have to work to be saved – now you are set free to good works and love and righteousness. You are free to pursue those things. Now that you don’t have to work to be perfect, you’ve been counted as perfect in Jesus, you now are set free to imperfectly love people, serve others, extol the grace and mercy of Jesus, and point others to him. Go and do those good works for Christ’s sake and for the good of your neighbor. And you’re not doing it – it’s not a situation, it’s not merits, it’s not wages, but it is grace and it is a gift. So you’re free to go do these things.
You’re not free until licentiousness – that’s stupid. We were joking a little bit before we hit record today about how if you herald grace and you continue to extol the grace of God and Christ, some people misunderstand that. They’re thinking that we’re saying, “Grace, grace, grace, and party, party, party. Don’t worry about what you’re doing.” That’s not what we mean at all. It’s grace, grace, grace, and now you’re free to love and good works. It’s a wonderful perspective. It’s liberating and it’s restful, and it’s amazing how you can do work in the midst of resting and you don’t wig out the same way.
Jon Moffitt: You are free from being perfect. Now go live.
Justin Perdue: Now go and do good because you don’t have to be perfect. Go and do good.
Jon Moffitt: It’s just an unbelievable concept to think that what was required before is perfection and everyone failed. What’s required now is love – now go and freely be imperfect while you do good works.
If you think about it, we do this to each other. Justin, I don’t expect you to be a perfect friend or a perfect person towards me because I know I’m not perfect towards you. There is a level of grace between the two of us. But when it comes to a child of God, it’s like that grace is now removed and its only fear – no, you live in grace. You live in the constant reminder that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to you. Now go and perfectly serve your Father by faith alone.
Justin Perdue: That’s right. Because apart from faith, it’s impossible to please Him. That’s right. It always comes back around to faith somehow.
This has been a good conversation. I know even for my own heart, our time looking at the Scripture together before we recorded, and then this conversation is good just to remind me and I hope everybody listening of the fact that what we’re doing is worth it and that Christ has secured our eternity. Because of that, we can press on and keep pursuing these good and worthwhile things.
Thank you again, brothers and sisters, friends, for your generous support and partnership with us here at Theocast, we’re trying to spread this word to as many people as possible so keep telling others about the podcast, keep sharing the content with as many people as you can. We will trust the Lord to do what He sees fit with this ministry in the years, and we pray, decades to come should he tarry. We love you, we’re grateful, and we will talk with you again soon.