POWER FROM JESUS
- Pastor arark Driscoll
- 1 Corinthians 4:14-21
- March 12, 2006
As always, God, we thank you for being our Father; for being a good Father who gives birth spiritually to us and enables us to know you, to love you, to belong to you, and to be part of your family that is the church. God, we thank you for your heart; that you love us individually as Christians; that you love us corporately as the church. And we thank you for sending Jesus to take away our sins so that we might be reconciled to each other and also be reconciled to you. As we study today, we ask the Holy Spirit to come. We ask that he would lead us and guide us, convict us and instruct us, and give us the heart of God our Father for his people, the church. We ask this in Jesus’ good name. Amen.
Well, as we get into it, today we’ll be talking about some parallels between fatherhood and pastoring. And I love my kids, and I enjoy my kids, and I get to – I have a lot of funny memories with my kids. They crack me up, and sometimes it’s real hard because they’re not obedient. And sometimes they’re sick. And sometimes they’re defiant. And sometimes they’re foolish. And it’s just I love them, but it’s a lot of work. It’s a full-time constant job. And I accept the fact that being their dad is gonna be a life-long job. I mean I’m gonna be in their life, helping and serving and loving, for as long as I’m breathing. But, and I see their imperfections. I see their sins. I see their flaws.
But as their dad, I want to help them mature. I want to help them grow. And I want to benefit them, because I love them. These are my kids. And what I love about Paul today is he makes a series of analogies between being a dad and being a pastor. And he says that being a dad is a lot like being a pastor. This probably explains why in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, when the Bible speaks of a good pastor, a good elder, it uses a lot of qualifications and criteria about is he a good dad? You know, does he discipline his kids, love his kids, teach his kids? Does he manage his home, does he manage his money?
If he can take care of his family, then he’s ready to take care of God’s family in the church. And if he can’t take care of a few kids, he can’t take care of a bunch of people in the church. So there’s an analogy that goes back and forth. We don’t know if Paul was ever married. We don’t know if he had kids. We just don’t know. Either through experience or through vicarious learning, he did, however, come to some great insights about the heart of a father, and he’s already told us in chapter 1:3 that God is our father. He’s told us in chapter 3 that the church is God’s family or household. And he’s told us in chapter 4:13 that we are brothers and sisters in Christ; that we are the children of God.
So the Bible uses all this familial language and metaphor to move from the family unit to the church family. That Christians really have two families, and that a pastor should have – if he does his job well – should have the heart of a father, okay? And so Paul is talking to his people about what it’s like to be their spiritual father. And so I’m gonna speak to you frankly from my heart today, and today is gonna be a little bit of a dad lecture, okay?
Paul starts off in chapter 4:14, and the first thing he says is that to be a pastor, if you’re a good pastor, means that you have a heart that feels about the church the same way that a dad feels about his family and his kids. He says, “I’m not writing this to shame you” – verse 14, chapter 4 – “but to warn you, as my dear children.” He uses that familial language. I’m like your dad. I’m a spiritual father. And I started the church when I was in my mid-20s. I’m in my mid-30s now, and I’m getting older, but I’m still not old enough to be most people’s father.I do look forward to the day when I’m older, and I not only have kind of the responsibility of a father, but I have the age to go behind it. But Paul is saying that when you lead spiritually, part of it is you feel like a father, and you feel about other people like they are the family that God has given you to take care of. And what he’s just told them is, “I’m not trying to shame you.” And what he had done previously is he talked about sometimes what a pain in the neck they were, and how difficult it was to be their pastor, and how sometimes they just wore him out.
And parents feel this way with their kids, too. There are days as a parent you look at your kids, you just say, “I love you. I care about you. But man, you’re just wearing me out. You’re disobeying. You’re rebelling. Man, you’re just exhausting me.” And he says, “I’m not telling you that as a church to shame you. I just am warning you that sometimes Christians, like children, can become very selfish and not see that they are taxing church leaders. They are taxing people in the church. They are making incessant demands that are unreasonable. And like kids, they just don’t see anything beyond their own immediate sense of crisis, urgency, need and demands.” That’s what he’s telling them.
Sometimes a kid will not see that there are other people in the family, that there are more important things to be done, and the kid will demand immediate attention that is, perhaps, unwarranted. Paul says, “I don’t tell you that to shame you, but to warn you that you can’t be children like little kids any more. You gotta mature spiritually and start acting like big brothers and sisters, and not just babies.” “Even though,” he says – verse 15 – “you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” First thing he says that to be a pastor feels in a lot of ways like being a father.
And in Matthew 23:9 Jesus said don’t call anybody “father” but God the Father, because ultimately he is the head. He is your Pop. He is your highest authority. Your ultimate allegiance should be to him. So Paul is here not contradicting the teachings of Jesus that he’s already told us in chapter 1:3 that God is our Father. But what he is saying is that as a pastor, as a Christian leader – for those of you who have led in ministry, who do lead ministries in this church, you know that you end up doing a lot of fathering. It doesn’t mean that ultimately you’re the father, but you do a lot of fathering – a lot of things that a dad is supposed to do.
And especially with a church like this, where a lot of people didn’t have a dad, or dad didn’t do his job, a lot of what we do is actually parenting-type work; fathering-type work. And that includes instruction, and discipline, and all of these sorts of things.
You never get to really stop being a father, and if you’re a pastor, you never really stop caring about your people. Thinking about them, praying for them – what’s supposed to be days off, nights off, those really aren’t times off. You’re still thinking and praying for people. And you’re concerned about them, and you’re trying to figure out how to best mature them and raise them spiritually. And in addition there is a burden that comes on a father that no one else feels. Other people feel varying levels of burden for the family, but Dad sort of shoulders the load. And in the church, the lead pastor, the founding pastor, shoulders the load.
And the analogies are similar, because a dad doesn’t birth a child. He’s there for the birth. I was there for the birth of each of my five kids. And then the dad, you know, loves the child, feeds the child, cares for the child, protects the child.
The father instructs the child – if he’s doing his job – disciplines the child when the child is wayward – not to punish the child, but to correct them so that they’ll mature. And the father’s hope and goal is that the child will grow up, love God, be mature, be responsible for themselves. Likewise, spiritually, Paul said, “God birthed you, but he birthed you through the preaching of the Gospel that I brought.” So Paul says, “I didn’t make anybody a Christian, but through my preaching people became Christians. And so I was there to witness their spiritual birth – being born again – just like a father witnesses a physical birth – or being born.
And through preaching and teaching about Jesus, who is God become a man to live without sin, to die on the cross for our sins as our substitute, and to rise from death three days later, to conquer sin and death. Through the teaching of Jesus I get the privilege of seeing people born again – spiritually made alive.
And then there is the issue of raising people – making them members of the church, getting them in Bible studies. If they’ve been addicted, getting them in a recovery group. If they are not good with their money, helping them figure out how to budget their finances; if they don’t know Scripture, teaching them how to study; if their marriage is a wreck, helping them to grow in holiness together; if their kids are out of control, teaching them how to raise those kids. This is all the work of the church family.
To get people who don’t know God, to see them be born again, and then to raise them to maturity, just like a father, in hopes that they become responsible, holy, love God, and then are able to help and to serve others in meaningful ways. Paul says that that is exactly what a church is like. It’s like a family. It’s like a really big family. And so he says that in addition to himself – who feels the weight as a father – there are also guardians. Just like with my kids. They have coaches for sports teams, and teachers at school, and Sunday school teachers here at church, and Jericho Junction leaders on Wednesday night.
And their aunts and uncles are involved in their life, and the grandparents are involved in their life. And we’ve got a lot of good friends that are, family – church family to us that are like aunts and uncles to our kids, and people that help raise them and shape them and contribute. And Paul says, “You have a lot of guardians,” but you only have one spiritual father who really feels the weight of responsibility. And his job is to administrate the family in such a way that everybody is well cared for. And in the church, the guardians would be such people as elders, other pastors, deacons, people who lead community groups and grace recovery-type groups.
People who lead worship teams, people who lead service teams – there is just a large number of guardians. Just lots of people who take care of, look after, manage, love, lead, you as a church, and we as a people. And so Paul is saying just like every father needs a lot of help to really raise a kid, so every pastor in a church needs a lot of help to mature people in holiness toward Jesus. And that’s what a father thinks about all the time: how are my kids? That’s what a pastor thinks about all the time: how are the people? How are they doing? How are they growing? And this- this is a heart issue. This is an issue of love.
I do this all the time with my kids. My son sometimes he’ll get a little stubborn. He’s usually a really good kid, but occasionally he gets stubborn and disobedient. And I’ll just say, “Look at me, dude.” He’ll look at me. I’ll say, “Who am I?” “You’re my dad.” “How do I feel about you?” “You love me.” “What are you supposed to do now?” “Okay, I’ll obey.” You know, it’s just sort of that. It doesn’t need to be real intense. He knows that I love him, and that I am concerned about him. And so when I speak to him, he needs to listen to me and take my counsel.
Paul wants that same thing from his church. He’s looking at his church just like I’m looking at you, and saying, “Do you trust me? Well, then, listen to me, and if we tell you to do something, then you need to go ahead and do that. Because we love you, and we’re like fathers in that we’re counseling and teaching and instructing and admonishing, and we need you to respect that.” His second point is, then, that a good pastor, like a good dad, is worth imitating. And here’s what Paul says in verse 16: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”
Now, I don’t know about you – that’s a very convicting statement. How many of you right now would say this, right? Like you just look at somebody, and they say, “I don’t know what to do.” Just say, “Do what I do, because I have it all together,” I was thinking about it as man, that’s a very convicting statement. “Just imitate me. Just do what I do.” But practically, that is what happens, especially with the lead pastor, a guy in my job. People imitate that guy, for better or for worse.
And here’s what I think: I don’t think that Paul is being arrogant here and saying that he’s sinless and he’s perfect and he’s better than everyone else, because he says elsewhere in the New Testament that “I’m a hypocrite; I’m the chief of sinners; I’m the least of the apostles.” He is fully conscious of all of his sin and shortcoming. But if you followed Paul around, here’s what you would see: a guy who read his Bible, prayed, loved God, served people, had his sex life in order, had his financial life in order, had his spiritual life in order. He told the truth. He cared for people. That’s what you would see.
And you would see that when he did sin – and he did sin. He’s not Jesus. When he did sin, he would be quick to repent. He would go to someone and say, “I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have done that.” He would cry out to God – say, “God, I have sinned. Please forgive me. Please fix me. Please save me from the mess that I’m causing to come upon myself.” And in that, I think the key to being a leader is being someone who is repentant, who is humble, who is constantly growing, who is aware of their own sin, and is willing to admit such wrong.
So when Paul says, “Imitate me,” I don’t think he’s saying, “I’m perfect.” I think what he’s saying is, “I do walk with God, and when I fail to, I’m repentant.” And that’s the example – that’s the example. And this is important, because some people say, “Well, just be like Jesus.” Well, I do believe that in one sense, but Jesus never sinned and never repented of his sin. So we should be like Jesus, but what happens when we’re not like Jesus? Well, then we have to repent of our sin. Paul does that for us throughout the New Testament, and so he says, “Imitate me, Follow Jesus, but imitate me. Follow Jesus and don’t sin, but when you do, repent like I do, so that he will forgive us.”
A good leader needs to be able to say that. You know, I would tell you that there are parts of my life that I’m deeply convicted by. There are times that I speak things I shouldn’t speak, and sometimes I get angry and I do not put a lid on my frustration. Those are things that I have to continually repent of and sit on. Those are my besetting, habitual, most common sins. When Paul is saying, “Imitate me,” I don’t think he’s saying that “I’m sinless.” I don’t think he’s arrogant. I think he’s being repentant of his sin, and we should follow leaders who are repentant.
He says, “For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love” – I really appreciate this metaphor. Timothy was a guy we know about his mom and his grandma. We don’t really know anything about his dad. It seems like he was raised by a single mom. He was a younger guy, probably in his 30s, maybe around my age at this point. Paul’s an older man, kind of a father figure in his life. And so Paul picks up Timothy and says, “You love God. Let me invest in you. Let me be like a father in your life. Let me teach you and encourage you.”
And then Timothy loves him, and they’re like a father-son loving relationship. I think it is so important that people have relationships with those who are both older and younger than they, right? I don’t mind if college students have a lot of college friends, and high school students have a lot of high school friends – that’s okay. But you also need friends that are out of your life stage and older. You need friends that are younger as well. And those are the benefits of the cross-generational relationship.
When I was in college I became a Christian. I had a great bunch of Christian buddies, and I also made friendships with some older men. Was of those men was old enough to be my father. Had many children, was a good dad, and that friendship with him, for me it was transformative. It was life-changing, because he was a good husband and a good dad. I mean today I think literally they’ve got 13 kids. He has a big family. And I was a single guy thinking, “I need to be around a husband and a father, and I need to get inside their house. And I need to see what a Christian dad does with his kids, because someday I want to be a Christian dad.”
And so Paul and Timothy have this kind of relationship. That’s why I would encourage you to join community groups, to seek out friendships, to pursue relationships with people that are older and younger than you. If they’re younger, you can encourage; if they’re older, you can learn. And everyone learns from everyone else. And Paul uses this language. “He’s like a son to me. I love him. I’ve kind of adopted him as a member of my family.” And this is the benefit of being in the church – that you really have two families.
You have your biological family by birth, and then you have your supernatural family by new birth. So there will be people that you’ll be close to, and they feel like brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins. And those kind of lifelong important relationships are supposed to be cultivated intentionally by people in the church together. That’s the community life together. He goes on to say, “He” – speaking of Timothy – “will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”
And so Paul is saying, “Imitate me. Timothy does, and so Timothy is coming to tell you about how to live the Christian life, and you should listen to him as well.” The reason this is important is that we live in a stupid culture – a stupid culture where dads are told do whatever you want. Don’t make sacrifices to be an exemplary human being for your kids. So 40 percent of kids grow up without a dad, and the 60 percent who do have a dad, many of them wish they didn’t have a dad, because he was a jerk, or he was abusive, or he molested them, or he just walked out on them – invariably destroyed their life.
So there is an assumption that kids will grow up, and they will hate their father, and they will rebel against him. There is an assumption that once you hit the teen years the whole point of the teen years is rebellion against authority, particularly parental authority. It’s something that we just sort of accept as a rite of passage. We call it adolescence. The Bible knows nothing of it. See, in Paul’s day, a father was supposed to be an exemplary guy, who did love God, did love his kids, did raise his kids, did serve his kids – and that the children’s heart would be to love their father, to honor their father, to obey their father, and ultimately to imitate their father.
This is particularly true when we’re talking about the relationship between fathers and sons. So if your dad is a farmer, you’re gonna be a farmer. Your dad is a banker, you’re gonna be a banker. That’s how it worked. And you wanted to be like your dad. And Paul says it should be that same way in the church; that the finest men are chosen for leadership; that they are worthy of imitation. That’s what it says in Hebrews 13, to imitate leaders. That’s the essence of leadership; being a person who is worthy of imitation. Not that you’re perfect and sinless, but that you love God, and your life is together, and your family and your life is in order in such a way that other people can imitate that – including your repentance when you sin and fall short.
So Paul is telling his church, “Don’t be filled with the folly of a stupid culture thinking that rebellion against authority is the mark of true maturity.” We live in a stupid culture where people just rebel against authority. Seattle is notorious for rebellion against authority. People hate authority. But if it’s loving, good, gracious authority, that is exemplary and mature, then to rebel against that is to rebel against the opportunity for yourself to mature; and so it’s foolish, because it is nothing but self-destructive.
In this church, it is my duty and privilege to be exemplary. It is the duty and privilege of the other leaders – pastors, deacons, and such – men and women – to live exemplary. It doesn’t mean that we’re sinless, and if you want to see faults and flaws, you will see them. But it does mean that there is a love for God, and there is a repentance of sin that is ongoing and habitual. And so I would just simply ask you, are you a person who respects spiritual authority that is respectable? And I understand that.
Let’s just make it real practical. It’s just heartbreaking for me that week after week, and month after month, and year after year, that I can give instructions and that there are certain people who absolutely rebel against spiritual authority.
Sexually out of control. Financially out of control. Drugs, alcohol, out of control. Pride, out of control. Self-righteousness, out of control. Teaching that absolutely addresses that, and the result is people say, “No, I disagree. I don’t respect anyone. I do whatever I want to do. That makes me mature.” No, that makes you immature. That makes you immature. Do you listen even to Scripture? Do you listen even to God? Or do you just do whatever you want? Do you believe whatever you want? That is the essence of the problem in Corinth.
Not that they lack a respectable spiritual leader – they have Paul. Not that he has assigned to them other leaders that are not worthy of respect – they have Timothy, a Godly man. It is that they themselves are hard-hearted, and immature, and following the thinking of a stupid culture which says authority is to be rebelled against, not to be followed and heeded. The result is a very broken, immature, childish church. First thing – a pastor needs to have the heart of a father. I can assure you with all my heart: I do. I feel about you people like I feel about my kids, and that is a lifelong commitment to see holiness maturity.
And the second thing is, though, that the leadership needs to be respected if it’s respectable. Not just me, but the other leaders in the church as well. Third thing, he says, is that a good pastor has game. And this is one of my favorite points, right? How many of you guys tried out for sports when you were younger, and slimmer, and had hair, and were healthy, and all that stuff? In the olden days, right – the Antediluvian period – you would go out for sports.
And there was always one guy who would show up and just trash-talked, How many of you had this guy in your PE class – just talk, talk, talk. The kind of guy – what is it J.Z. says – “loud as a motorbike, couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight” – that guy, right? That’s what the prophet J.Z. says – that guy, right? Just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, but no, no, game. No game at all. Here’s what he says: “Some of you have become arrogant,” right? They’re all puffed up, proud. “We know what to do. We know how church should be. We know how it should go.” “As if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing” – keeps Jesus in the mix – “and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.”
Don’t you love that? “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk” – chit-chat – “it’s about power.” Here’s what he says: as a ministry grows and expands, okay – he had a church of about 50 or 60 in Corinth, and then he left town to go help start another church. And as his ministry expanded, what happens is people get displaced. You don’t know the pastor. You’re not close to the pastor because he’s busy doing a whole lot of junk. I dealt with a guy recently, and he has an addiction. He said, “Can you help me?” I said, “I’m no good. I’ve never done what you’re doing. I don’t even understand how you could get there. I need to get you with someone who’s a specialist that understands that to get you the best care.” And that’s the benefits of a large church. In a small church, everybody says, “Well, we all know the pastor.” Well, he may not be the best guy to deal with some things.
It’s better to have a team that has various skills, talents and abilities, and you can go to the specialist to get help with certain things, than it is to go to one generalist who is kinda good at a few things, but there’s a lot of things he’s not good at.
And Paul has done the same thing. He’s distributed and dispensed his ministry so that lots of people like Timothy are using their gifts, and lots of people are getting help in the best way. Well, what happens is, as soon as there’s displacement and the pastor’s busy doing a lot of things, as Paul was, people start talking trash, and they get all puffed up. Usually 20-year-old white guys who have internet sites, in my experience; and they’re still living with their mom, you know, and talking about how the world should be in their, Fruit of the Loom Underoos.
And they’re just sitting there in their ‘jammies. You know, this is what happens – people talk trash. How many of you guys go to a sporting event, and there’s always the one loud, obnoxious, fat fan, right? The guy who sits there, he’s got like four beers and a chili dog and a plate of nachos sitting on his gut like a tray. And he’s yelling, you know. “You’re lazy! You can’t run!” You’re looking at that guy going, “You can’t stand! You are not an athlete. You can’t get things out of your pocket. You should not yell at people who run for a living,” right?
And what I would love to see – these arrogant sort of trash-talkers, they talk but they got no game – I would just love it if in the middle of like a football game, you know, like the running back just took the ball, came up into the stands, looked at the guy, said, “Cool. Give it a shot.” You know? And I’d love to see that guy wet himself, and spill his chili all over himself, you know? Because it’s so much easier to criticize than it is to play, right? It’s easier to be a critic than a musician. It’s easier to be a referee than an athlete. And it’s easier to be a negative, critical Christian than it is to be a servant of Jesus Christ who gets something done. All talk, no game.
To me, it reminds me of sports radio. How many of you dudes listen to sports radio? I love sports radio because it is the worst physically conditioned men in the world criticizing the best physically conditioned men in the world. I love that, because only in America could this happen. When you listen to sports radio, you will find that there are always two guys on at the same time in case one has a heart attack, right? And when you listen to sports radio, they’re breathing very heavy. And you think about it, they sit down for a living and talk, that’s what they do.
But you listen to their (heavy breathing). You tune in and it’s like Darth Vader got a talk show. You’re like, “What is going on?” Breathing is all they can handle physically, and it’s got them right on the edge of blowing out an aorta. Now, you may say, “Well, the church is full of problems.” Oh, yes – welcome! You’re our latest. We understand. But here’s what I find shocking: to me, I have to ask, do you have the heart of a parent? Do you look at the church and say, “These are brothers and sisters in Christ. This is my family.” And like every family, right – you have family, and you know their problems, shortcomings, and you have two options when it’s dealing with your family and / or your own children. That is to just stand back and criticize, or to love, serve, and improve the quality of their maturity.
And it’s so much easier to be a critic than it is to be a musician. It’s so much easier to be a referee than it is to be an athlete. It is so much easier to be the armchair quarterback with the beer and the chili dog than it is to suit up and get in the game.
And the thing that Paul is dealing with is a bunch of arrogant people who feel like they just get the right to tell everybody else what to do. But the truth is, if you share a parental heart for the church, you will be well aware of all the flaws and shortcomings of the church. And you will respond not just as a critic, but as a servant. Don’t just criticize the work of others. You yourself need to suit up.
You yourself need to say, “I am not a consumer at the church. This family is my church, and like the heart of a mother or father, a parent, rather than just yelling at the kids, I need to get involved and serve and be part of the family.” At the end of the day, the thing is how is the game? People getting saved, meeting Jesus, growing in their faith, reading their Bible? If they’re married, are they staying married? If they’re parents, are they parenting their kids? If they’re addicted, are they overcoming their addictions? If they’ve been abused or molested, are they overcoming their pain and their hurt and their frustration of what has been done to them? Is there any game? Is there any game? If God would show you a problem in the church, you then have two opportunities to respond – one as a critic, the other as a parent.
I see it all the time in my kids, and it is amazing to me that Christians would treat the church like an abusive parent would treat a child; just yell at them and walk away rather than extend a hand, and educate, and discipline, and help to mature. That’s exactly what Paul’s modeling with a parental heart. That’s my fourth point, and I think it’s a great point. And he has a verse for it, so send your e-mail and talk about how you didn’t like that. Verse 21: “What do you prefer?”
It’s like looking at your kids, right? Sometimes as a parent you look at your kids, say, “Hey, stop swimming in the toilet!” Okay, this is what I say. “Stop swimming in the toilet. Now, if you don’t stop swimming in the toilet, you’re gonna get disciplined. If you do stop swimming in the toilet, you’re not gonna get disciplined. What do you want? Do you want to get disciplined, or not disciplined?” You leave them a choice. That’s what a good parent does. Paul does this with his church. Looks at his church, says, “You got two options. Shall I come with a whip?” Right?
It’s like your dad. Your dad, was he the spoon guy, was he the belt guy, you know? “You knock that off!” You know? He’s like, “I’m gonna take my belt off,” and you’re like (gasps). And see, we don’t talk about it. “Oh, you’re gonna hurt their feelings!” And their uh-uh, I know. “Shall I come to you with a whip,” right – he’s talking to his church – “or in love and with a gentle spirit?” See, a good Christian leader, like a good pastor, like a good dad, has two hands, right? The tender hand of loving kindness for those who are repentant and humble and wanting to get their life together – he’s long-suffering, patient.
And a long, stern, heavy hand. And he looks at his church, and he says, “Pick your hand.” Boy, this is a stern dad talk, isn’t it? “Pick your hand. Pick your hand.” And I love that about Paul. He’s not afraid of conflict – some pastors are. He’s not afraid of being disliked – some pastors are. He’s not afraid of a good fight – some pastors are. And those pastors usually aren’t very good. What he says is, “Just like my kids, I love you, but I can’t let you keep doing this. You’re gonna get disciplined – last warning. Make your call. Make your call.”
Now, the problem is many churches confuse the hands. What we tend to do is get really heavy-handed with non-Christians, and we tend to be very heavy-handed, or very tender-handed rather when it comes to Christians. Now, the gal who walks in and was sexually abused and is sleeping with her boyfriend and doesn’t know the Lord – please don’t smack her around. Love her. The guy who walks in and was a drug addict and just met Jesus and is still smoking crack and knows it and is repentant and broken and wants to change – don’t smack him around. Put an arm around him and love him, walk with him, be encouraging of that guy. What tends to happen is that for those who are arrogant and self-righteous and proud and spiritual and critical and negative and pushy, the church tends to extend the accommodating hand of tenderness.
For those who are broken and humble and messed up and newly converted and working their stuff out and totally confused but willing to listen, they oftentimes get the heavy hand. Paul says, “I’ve got two hands, and I know who deserves which hands.” And it really comes down to two things: are you a Christian or a non-Christian? And secondarily, are you humble or proud? The humble person says, “I got sin in my life. I need help.” And they’re willing to take counsel. And then you’ve gotta be patient and tender. It may be a long time for them to work out all their stuff.
Last thing I would ever do is discipline one of my kids who came to me with tears in their eyes, said, “Dad, I did something bad. Could you pray for me? I need to not do this anymore.” Last thing I would ever do is give them the heavy hand. So oftentimes, that is what happens in the church. People come in, “I’ve done a terrible thing. I need help.” Heavy hand – what? People come in, “I know how everything should be. You need to listen to me. I’m very arrogant. I’m proud. I know exactly what to do. Listen to me.” You say, “Oh, tender hand. They’re in process.”
Jesus was loved by the humble, and he was hated by the proud – the spiritually, religiously proud. Paul says, “I want to be that kind of pastor.” I want to be that kind of pastor. I want you to be that kind of people. So what I need you to do today, I need you to examine your own heart and say, “Am I humble or proud? Do I receive correction, or like the stupid culture I live in, do I despise it? Do I come to hear a word from God, or I come to just give my opinion, be a critic, and look for the bullet for my gun so I have one thing to say that’s negative, because that’s what I’m here for?”
Are you a person that does want to change, does want to grow, does see your sin, is wanting to be like Jesus? Or are you a person who just loves to criticize and nit-pick and point out the failures of others and completely overlook your own hypocrisy? It’s between you and God. We love you. We welcome you into this church. But we need you all to have the heart of a parent, not just the heart of a critic. So I’ll let you deal with God. You can pray to him, and deal with him. When you’re ready, if you’re a Christian who’s repented of sin, you can take communion, remembering Jesus’ body and blood, shed for your sin. It’s about Jesus.
Or give of our tithes and offerings – if you’re a visitor or a non-Christian, don’t give. We don’t want your money. You’re our guest; we’re glad to have you. If you’re humble and broken, you need friendships, we’ll get you in a community group. If you’re addicted we’ll get you in a recovery group. We’ll do what we can to help – we want to, if you’re humble and teachable. If your marriage is on the rocks, we want to meet with you and help. If your kids are out of control, we want to meet with you and help. We want to open the Bible, pray – we want to help. We want to be a good family.
So Father, we thank you for being such a good God. You’re a great God. You’re the only God. We thank you that you’re our God. We thank you that your heart is a heart of fatherhood. Not an abusive father, not a mean-spirited father, not a self-righteous, judgmental, detached father, not a critical father – a loving father; a father who has adopted us into your family as your kids; a father who has put us together as a church family, with the Lord Jesus as our Savior. And Father, I pray for us as a church, that we would not have this arrogant Corinthian judgmental attitude.
We thank you for Paul’s words. It’s not about the talk. There’s enough books. There’s enough talk radio. There’s enough blogs. There’s enough chat rooms. There’s enough complaints. There’s not enough power. People meeting Jesus, their lives getting changed; broken marriages being mended; broken people being mended; generations of sin being stopped. God, that’s what we want to see. We want to see the power – the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t want to just hear the words of the critics of the servants of Jesus Christ.
Please keep us from being a divided church, an arrogant church, a self-righteous church, a judgmental people who see problems, but then don’t have a parental affection to do something more than just complain. We ask for that, we ask for the Holy Spirit, and we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.