Growing In Godliness Blog
Forever Is Composed of Now*
By Tom Rose
Forever is an easy way to think of eternity. It never stops; it just keeps going on. It’s timeless. After this life is over and judgment occurs, each of us will continue in an endless existence in either heaven or hell. As shocking as this statement may seem to some, Christ Himself said as much in Mt. 25:31-33, 46.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. And these (goats) will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous (sheep) into eternal life.”
So what determines whether one is a “sheep” or a “goat?” Again, Christ answers that question in Mt. 7:21-23.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
In essence, whether we choose to obey God and His laws in this life will determine our place in the next.
Returning to the title, you are probably wondering how Now is composed of Forever. When I reflect back on the moment when I decided to be baptized, I recall an unmistakable urgency. It was not a casual action, and it was not something to be put off for a later time. Although I was raised in a 5 generation Methodist family, at barely 18 years of age I obeyed the Gospel and was baptized during the first semester of my freshman year in college. I had learned God’s plan through dating my future wife while attending Sunday evening church services and needed to act upon my understanding.
Although that was almost 60 years ago, it modeled exactly what had happened in first century Christianity. In Acts 2:38, a crowd of three thousand were baptized on Pentecost. In Acts 8:26-39, an influential Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Philip in a desert. And in Acts 16:25-34, Paul baptized a Philippian jailor and his family at midnight. In each case, and every other recorded baptism in the Bible, the believer was immersed in water as soon as possible after the individual recognized the need for it. Thus, the operative word was Now.
In modern society, to leave a “legacy” ordinarily means to specify the distribution of property – money, in most cases – to heirs according to the terms described in a will. However, it is a relatively rare event for most people to be mentioned in a will. And yet, people talk all the time about the life of a person, now deceased, how it enriched them. Aside from the obvious things, each of us will leave behind for all the world to see the value system that marks everything we did. Somehow, people who never asked us directly what we valued in life never doubt for a moment what it was. They know what we thought of people of other colors and creeds by the language we used and the lives we connected with. They know how we treated strangers, how we loved the individuals closest to us, and how we cared for those who loved us - even how we spoke to them in hard times or gave ourselves away to satisfy their needs. They know the depth of our spiritual life by the way we treated those around us, and what we thought of life, and what we gave our lives to doing. Therefore, our legacy is far more than just our fiscal worth. And though we add to it every moment of our lives, during our lifetime, we are given both the vision and the wisdom to understand that our legacy is what we choose it to be.
In closing, it is the power of the present that makes us aware of our future and how much of it may be left. Although it is truly a gamble, you reason if you are young and healthy, sixty years, probably. However, for most older adults, ten years, hopefully. Five, surely. But the truth for all of us is, tomorrow, God willing. Thus, the question comes, “What could you do today that would influence your life for all eternity?” The simple answer is: put on Christ in baptism (Gal 3:27), and if you’ve not yet done so, earnestly consider doing it because “Forever Is Composed of Now.” Your life, your legacy, and your relationship with God will be immeasurably better – both in this life and the next - for having done so. Indeed, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
*This title came from a line in a self-published book by Kristen L. Crawford entitled, Within the Shadow of Myself: A Poetic Memoir, p. 28. ISBN 9798644302284
Leadership from Preachers
by Mark McCrary
I wasn’t a good leader when I first started preaching. In fact, it is generous to even say I wasn’t good at leading. I didn’t lead. At all.
You see, I grew up hearing, “The preacher isn’t a pastor!” So naturally, when I started preaching the last thing I wanted to be seen as was a pastor. After all, that was one of the big problems in denominationalism, right? Biblically, formal church leadership is found in the form of elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). They shepherd and protect the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4), while the preacher’s primary task is preaching the word (1 Tim. 4:2).
Looking back, there were numerous times when I wish I had asserted more needed leadership in the first two churches for which I preached. But, because I didn’t want to be viewed as a pastor, I wasn’t even a leader. To be honest, I probably was rarely even a suggester.
Then, something remarkable happened. I actually read the Bible. Specifically, Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. These books, written to preachers, are about leadership. A preacher’s leadership. I learned that while a preacher still isn’t a formal leader like a pastor (elder, shepherd, overseer), he is still an informal leader and should embrace that leadership role.
Take for instance Timothy. He was young and unsure of himself (2 Tim. 1:3-7). Yet, despite this, he was called to be brave (1 Tim. 1:18), see to the appointment of shepherds (1 Tim. 3:1-7), teach and command the things Christians need to hear (1 Tim. 4:6-8; 11), set a good example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:11-16; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 2:22-25), use his “gift” (1 Tim. 4:14), manage people (1 Tim. 5:1-16) and church disputes (1 Tim. 5:17-6:2; 2 Tim. 2:14-19), and watch out for false teachers (1 Tim. 6:2-5).
Titus, too, was to lead by appointing shepherds (Tit. 1:5-8), silence false teachers and trouble-makers (1:10-14; 3:9-11), teach “sound doctrine” (2:1), set a good example (2:7-8), and remind people to be obedient to civil rulers (3:1-2). Paul summed up Titus’ work—the preacher’s work—with these words, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (2:15).
Living right. Standing for truth. Confronting people dangerous to the flock. Teach. Set the right example. Deal with problems. These are all things leaders do. These are things preachers do.
Now, to be clear, when elders are present, preachers are to follow as well. But, they still are to show godly influence in the church through informal, yet necessary acts of leadership.
Leaders and Followers
By Matt Hennecke
Many of you are aware I spent most of my secular career engaged in leadership development efforts in a number of organizations. In my experience organizations are preoccupied with leadership. Countless classes and courses and degrees are offered to develop better leaders, but often little is said about what makes good followers. Here’s the thing: all of us play the role of follower more than we play the role of leader. True believers are first and foremost followers of Christ. Jesus said, in John 10:24, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Secondly, many of us follow shepherds in our congregation. We follow mayors, governors, and other office holders. Wives follow husbands. Children follow parents. So, while following dominates our lives it doesn’t dominate our thinking.
What Makes a Good Follower?
One cannot define a good follower without considering how they are led. Leadership is crucial to good followership. In a congregation under the oversight of elders (or even in a family household) different followers need to be led differently. Think for a moment of Christians in a local congregation: Some are new, perhaps recent converts to Christ. Others are seasoned Christians who know their Bibles well. Some are “on fire” – enthusiastic and motivated. Others are demotivated and unenthusiastic. Given these variables we can create the following Follower Grid with a follower’s knowledge on the vertical axis, and his zeal on the horizontal axis.
With the Grid before us we can begin to identify five different types of followers and how they need to be led.
1. THE NEW FOLLOWER (Needs an Instructing Style of Leadership)
Consider for a moment a new Christian. He is likely someone who hardly knows his Bible but has learned enough to realize his only hope is in Christ. In your experience, how would you assess the zeal of a new Christian? High, right? But how would you assess his knowledge of the Word? Very likely it is low. In such a case, the appropriate leadership style is one of “Instructing.” A new Christian needs someone – be it an elder, evangelist, or a more seasoned Christian – to mentor and coach him. He needs instruction to grow in the faith. Note the zeal of those baptized on the day of Pentecost but also the instruction they needed from the Apostles (Acts 2:42). Or consider what Paul said of the Jews who had a “zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom. 10:2).
2. THE GROWING FOLLOWER: (Needs an Involving Style of Leadership)
As the new Christian begins to grow and his knowledge increases, it’s important to begin involving him more in kingdom work. It might be premature to “turn him loose” to teach a class, but he might be ready to co-teach a class with a more seasoned brother. It is during this time when the follower with the help of a leader can discover his “gifts” for kingdom service. If we push him too fast or hold him back too long, we may demotivate him. Sometimes growing Christians are asked to carry too big a load resulting in failure, or sometimes they stagnate because they’re not given the opportunity to grow in the faith and assume greater responsibilities. The Hebrew writer warned of this when he wrote, “let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity….” (Heb. 6:1).
3. THE MATURE FOLLOWER: (Needs a Sharing Style of Leadership)
Leaders who have knowledgeable and zealous followers can have confidence in giving them more responsibilities. Such Christians volunteer to teach classes, evangelize effectively in the community, and become mentors to less mature Christians. Such Christians are typically self-starters who take on tasks without them being assigned. They look for and initiate opportunities to serve and do so with great enthusiasm. In many ways, these Christians share in the leadership of a congregation – albeit informally. The worst thing a leader can do is “over control” these people lest they demotivate them. Leaders who lead by edict and don’t involve these followers in decision making are likely to alienate and demotivate them. These are the best kinds of followers, though they may sometimes question and challenge the thinking of their leaders. They do so, not because they are trying to undermine them, but because they are enthusiastic, Bible students who are serious about serving the Lord as He has directed through the Word. By way of example, consider the apostles, already zealous for the Lord and His commission, awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and once filled with all knowledge became ambassadors of the Word – sharers in His work and glory (Acts 2; Rom.8:17).
4. THE DEMOTIVATED FOLLOWER: (Needs an Encouraging Style of Leadership)
Sadly, there are some followers who despite their deep Bible knowledge and understanding have lost their zeal. The leader’s role in such situations is to encourage and motivate the follower – to try to re-instill the zeal that has been lost. This can be accomplished positively by reminding them of their calling in Christ and all He has done for them. Or, it can be done negatively by warning them of the consequences of heartless service. God’s people in the Old Testament frequently fell into such heart-dead worship. Consider their attitude and the sacrifices they brought to God described in Malachi 1:13: “…my how tiresome it is….and you bring what was taken by robbery, and what is lame or sick….” They knew God demanded sacrifice, but their hearts weren’t in it. The same was the problem with Laodiceans who had grown lukewarm in their service (Rev. 3:14-22). Without attention, these followers will likely slip into the next category of follower.
5. THE LIFELESS FOLLOWER: (Needs a Telling Style of Leadership)
Worst of all are followers who have lost their zeal and are happy to remain ignorant of the Word of God – the very Message that has the power to motivate. Such followers’ hearts are hard, and they feel no need to study and learn from God’s Word. They may slip in and slip out of worship assemblies and are content to do no kingdom work. Such followers create a challenge for churches because their apathy can infect the rest of the flock. They need to be confronted with love and firmness. They need to be told repeatedly what Christ has done and the importance of growing in Christ. They need to be warned about the coming judgment. Their souls are in jeopardy and require special, persistent attention lest they be lost. Consider the warning given to the church in Sardis, “…you are dead. Wake up and strengthen the things that remain which are about to die….” (Rev. 3:1-2).
So, follower, how would you assess your zeal for God and your knowledge of His Word? Are your growing or stagnating? And leaders, what “style” do you use to lead? Do you find yourself telling more than involving or sharing leadership? For both followers and leaders, the perfect role model is Christ Jesus who was both follower (John 12:49-50) and leader (Colossians 1:18).
Divisiveness & Social Media
By Brent Lykins
We live in an era where social media plays a large role in our communication with each other. It’s very easy for us to type away, letting our fingers put our thoughts out in the open for the whole world to see.
Unfortunately, when we are behind keyboards and not face to face with someone, it becomes slightly easier to let opinions and dialogue flow that may not have flowed otherwise. We all have opinions, right? We have opinions about current news headlines, politics, the status of the country, and we even have opinions about how others should think, act, or speak.
Satan loves this.
Satan loves this because it’s just one more way that he can slide a toe in between the door and the doorpost. Once a toe is in, it becomes easier to get a foot in…then a leg…and then eventually Satan is standing in the middle of us, making himself a full divider between brethren because of a social media post.
In an election year, there are literally thousands of posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whichever news outlet that you may frequent online. Everyone is eager to get their point across. Everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone.” It’s so easy for us, brothers and sisters, to be tempted to “one-up” someone else or feel the satisfaction of dropping the mic in front of everyone who may be reading at the time.
Satan loves that.
In a year full of racial disturbances, protests, riots, shunning the police, and wearing masks, everyone is eager to speak their opinions and viewpoints. And once again, everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone”. Once again brothers and sisters, it’s easy for us to be tempted to partake in those actions.
Satan loves that.
Let me remind everyone reading that even though we are the body of Christ, each of us have our own will and each of us have our own thoughts. Your thoughts may not represent the majority. Your opinion may not represent the majority. We may not all agree. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but let me also remind everyone that sometimes we get caught up in some very sensitive subjects that may also tie into our pride, our upbringing, or even our underlying beliefs. It should be understood that once you publicly make a hit on someone else’s pride or underlying belief that it probably will not be accepted with open arms. In fact, you may hurt someone’s feelings or possibly provoke someone to lose their temper. Just as we all don’t share the same opinions, we also don’t share the same personalities. One may let a criticism roll right on by. Another may hold that criticism deep in their heart and it may cloud their future view of the one who wrote it.
May I be rogue and suggest that it may be better for Christians to keep their personal opinions about the hot topics of the times to themselves?
I have already seen brothers and sisters “defriend” and “unfollow” each other over differences of opinion. I have seen public arguments between brethren that will be saved forever and are able to be viewed by people who look to us to be examples.
A few on-topic passages to leave you with:
Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Galatians 5:14-15 – “ For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
Proverbs 17:14 – “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
Reflections On Rearing Godly Children
By David Norfleet
This weekend my family gathered to celebrate the 16th birthday of our 2nd daughter, and while doing so I reflected on how fast time has passed. It seemed just like yesterday that our kids were crawling and needing naps, and we had all the time in the world ahead of us. But, now, in almost a blink of an eye, they are grown and no longer need mom and dad.
I think one of the most terrifying and yet rewarding experiences that we face is attempting to rear godly, spiritually minded children. It is terrifying because all of us at one point are amateurs, and armed with God’s word we attempt to navigate life and the thousands of decisions it throws at us. But, it is also satisfying and rewarding to see their faith grow as they mature and appreciate the Lord’s hand in it all along.
There is no magic formula which will guarantee spiritually minded children, and ultimately the decision to “walk in the Spirit” is one each individual must make for themselves – parents cannot make it for their children. That is not to say, however, we are without influence. So, with that I mind I would like to offer a few suggestions (I offer these not as an expert or one who is a perfect parent, but one who is still very much in the trenches and wants his children to grow into godly individuals.).
- If we want our children to be spiritually minded, we must be spiritually minded. Children are much more likely to become what their parents are than what they claim to be. Children, maybe even more so than any other people, see our real motivations, affections, attitudes, and goals. We will not model for them spiritual perfection, but they need to see sincerity in our pursuit of it.
- We must understand our true and greatest purpose as parents, and that is rearing spiritually-minded children. That is the only truly essential goal to be achieved in this life (It is not whether they gross over $100,000 per annum, have an advanced degree, or are the most accomplished socially.). That must be foremost in our parenting as God’s purpose in creating them was that they might “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That alone will determine their success or failure in this life, and in the life hereafter. This must be our goal! It has to be more than a plaque on the wall, but rather the shaping-force of our decisions in how to raise our children.
- After the goal is set, we must train our children toward that goal. It is important from a very young age that the goals parents have for their children are communicated. They must know that they are to be consecrated – set apart for service to God. They learn this, not simply by being told, but by seeing this purpose in their parent’s decisions and seeing how parents react to their conduct.
- As part of this training we must control the influences we allow to shape their minds. The Proverb writer stated, “as he thinks within himself, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). So as parents we must exercise great care in what we allow to shape their minds. This will both involve influences we must protect them from, but just as importantly things that are good, wholesome, and spiritual that we expose them to regularly.
- Finally, if our children are to be spiritual, prayer must be offered for the help which God alone can give. Prayer is the means by which you can obtain the help God has promised. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). It is amazing what God can accomplish in our children!
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but simply offered in reflection of the awesome privilege it is to shape these young souls in the image of God. But, also to remind all of you parents to have fun along the way, enjoying the time you have with them!