Shepherds and Sheep • Hebrews 13:17-19
These three verses gives us instruction of course and throughout the New Testament to every relationship you could possibly have as a Christian. We know the Bible is gives us that and this particular text you kind of look at it coupled with 1 Thessalonians 5: 12 - 13 reveal to us that it is very important to God that we have a right kind of relationship. And I say that to you because we are professionals and I don't desire to be. I used to kid Pastor Kress when he brought me here a long time ago, 23 years in February. He used the term staff and I said, "Bro, please don't use that term." He said, "Why? You know we're part of the staff." I said, "Yeah man, but it feels like an infection." I hope they don't think of me as a staph infection. But there can be this sense where people just move around. I'm thankful for my parents that didn't raise me in that regard but held the local church in high regard and I know this man and his family heritage of how passionately they love the local church and we seriously are thankful for the church's love for our lives. I think you see this as very important in the scripture because in the text in 1 Thessalonians 5: 12 - 13. We won't flip over there. But Paul instructs the church because obviously it's gotten in a difficult spot that the sheep are to love their shepherds and to esteem them highly for the nature of their work which you know we're dealing with spiritual things. Not that in my past existence steel had to be moved from our company to an automobile company to make a car. And that has value because it's working. God blesses all work and is the design of all work but we're were trafficking in together as a family, eternal things. And so for that to flourish the way we want it to flourish we want to hold and cherish it in a right way as God does. And so I'm going to be honest with you to some degree even though there's only three verses here.
This conversation is going to feel a bit awkward for me because it a lot of the instructions geared to how the sheep are to respond to the shepherds. And so that's what we're going to kind of look at because this is God's design for the church. God would have it that we be a people of harmony of love and unity so that the Gospel could flourish and that people could be one to Christ and lives would be built on Jesus as their foundation because ultimately those eternal matters are those things that please God. And I guess as we move through this you're going to analyze your view towards shepherds and elders but you're also want to consider some things about what your life matters according to eternal things that are going to exist forever. And what are we giving our lives to. Many believe in this text that a strain had occurred and that's a part of this expositional sermon that Jesus is better and that this particular pastor writer was burdened because some had fallen away and perhaps some of that was he couldn't be there. And so an extra burden of stress was laid upon him.
Look at verse 19 he says I urge you more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Meaning that the pastor writer himself was one of the ones that we've identified in going through this, this book. He was one of the ones that was in jail. He was the one of the ones that was suffering and imprisonment for the cause of Christ and so because he couldn't be near them, right, because he couldn't have a type of connection. He writes this letter gives them an instruction and yet also I'm going to be honest with you there's a you know there can be a bit of a struggle. That's even a little bit different for us living in the culture that we live in. That's really different than this because churches were in one locale, from any town. The church at Thessalonica, the church at Philippi and so on and so forth. And there were a multiplicity of brands to Christianity. If you read Acts carefully you'll notice that the world first identified them not as Christians but as of people of the way. So there wasn't the dynamic that we deal with in our culture that's really different and yet we want to glean because this is eternal truth what does what does God have for this. Because oftentimes that particularly in the American church, I'm not saying this is true globally, but particularly in the American church. People fall away for different reasons. Obviously we would never want to see anybody apostatize from Jesus. But people hold the church, the local church, I would suggest this to you, not in the regard the way God sees it.
People get attached to Christian media and they hear TV or radio preachers. Doctor frankly terrific. He's awesome. And they love to hear him and they hear him. And you know it's package together with good music and it's edited properly and he's awesome. And that's how they see they get their feeding. Don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with that. But that should not be your primary source. No matter how frankly terrific is that good. That was never God's intention. Church in America we know this is too often met like big business I almost think we can't help it. Churches found in competition where large churches are seen as good and small churches are seen as bad when in fact neither of those are necessarily true. But people evaluate that, they want to see. They want to be in the big church or they want to be in a smaller church and they really don't assess these things the way God would it, intend them to assess them. I think we suffer to some degree which is not a completely bad thing when we think of our own country. But I think we suffer somewhat as a Christian in the church over American individualism where Christianity has always dealt with in the Bible in community in shoulder to shoulder relationships building in local assemblies the kingdom of God. Part of we know this effort will be local churches will be planted elsewhere and we are connected to them whereas too often times people go to church and they or they don't go to church thinking, "I don't need it. I can canna ride Lone Ranger and I can I can go it alone and I don't need any authority in my life." Because it really in some degree that we're talking about when he says obey your leaders. And primarily this is talking about pastors and submit to them. Man those are Christian cusswords. "Do what? Obey and submit?" And I think this stems from a type of again rugged American individualism where we don't want authority over anything and we revel in, let's be honest, rebels in our country. I'm talking about outside of the faith. And so sometimes that filters in where perhaps you might even know some people whose who profess Christ say me and I don't need the church. They're all just a bunch of hypocrites. To which we say yes and we were saved by God's grace.
And we're joined together that other people might know the gospel. That's why that's why we come together and so our lives would be built. I call this people who kind of move around in that regard. I think of it like Burger King. You remember the old commercials. Have it your way. It's have it your way or I'm going to leave. If you're not providing the certain angle of what I desire and so and all of these things this is really a lot different than what this text ever had to deal with, ever. Those were never some of the dynamics and yet they are all the dynamics that factor into a part of this instruction because anybody who is a part of a church should be a part of a church that holds faithfully to Jesus alone to save to the gospel message itself and to the truth of God, the Word of God, at large. Scripture alone and these things that we hold dear in the five Solas that pastor Alex did such a faithful job in presenting. Now for some of you that might begin to put you on ice. What do you want to obey me? You want me to obey you? Well let's look into this. Let's look into what God's thoughts are because ultimately whatever the instruction is if it's coming from his word we want to obey it, don't we? We faithfully want to obey this. The word obey there, I want you to know, is a general command all of us are as Christians are called to obey. Obedience marks a child of God. And it's obedience that begins in the heart. It begins in the heart with a love for God and a love for those who are in authority.
Christians are to submit to authority and I want you to think of it in this light. And stay with me on this because I'm going to give this a lot of explanation. Rebellion indicates unbelief and there are a lot of examples of that in the Bible. Before the creation of man. Lucifer was the highest angel created and he rebelled against God's authority. That's what he did. And so the essence of that is rebellion. So when people are rebelling against God ordained authority, man we have to be cautious. God set us these truths for our benefit as believers. Along with this. You think of when God created man that's what Adam ultimately did. Adam willfully rebelled against God. Hence the fall of man, where Adam failed to obey God's command. And we all were born as the sons of disobedience in his rebellion, as our rebellion was a willful one. We wanted to do life the way we wanted to do it prior to Christ and we still battle that. For those of us who are Christians and the church is against not giving ourselves to a false type of idol. Because obedience dear friends is commanded.
Now again don't stiffen your neck up. Don't tighten your heart up. Obviously this demands a careful definition because what this doesn't mean, on the flip side of that, is an unqualified blanket obedience. And I want to give you a few examples in my experience I'm just going to give you a few of them. That would kind of meet that definition. Some of you in here are too young but many of you might recall Jim Jones. What a horrible experience that was. He was given an unqualified authority to people to yield to he demanded a forced obedience. For those of you that don't know he was a perverted cult leader that forced 900 people to drink Kool-Aid. That was just laced with poison and they all died. Because he forced in an abusive way. What's crazy to me is I went the bible college with a friend whose dad pastored in Indianapolis and Jim Jones was Indianapolis and he tried to get his church to merge together with him.
At that time he was a pastor in Indianapolis and Ernie first told me that story man that just shocked the fire out of me. Jim Jones probably the most notorious cult leader and would be seen as an abusive way, abusing this text, because obviously he didn't know Jesus but he was parading himself as such. I remember years ago a couple came to me who were a part of our church, since had to move, and they got alone with me and they asked me if they could drink coffee. And at first I thought they were joking. And I said well sure as long as it's Starbucks, only to find out that they were being serious because they bumped into one church experience where it was demanded that they sign a commitment that they don't drink coffee or use caffeine. Abusive leaders. I guess Andrew Logan, you would never be a part of that church. I loved one of his comments one time. Someone asked Andrew, we were in a men's group, "Are you drinking water?" He goes, "I drink a lot of water as it's filtered through the coffee beans." That has stuck with me and I've used that joke way too much. Now I've just used that my last. I've known of a setting where a pastor began to abuse his authority. Flipped out based on 1 Corinthians 11 trying to force his women to wear forcefully a hat. We won't go into the definition of that text, but he demanded it.
Now here's what I want you to in understanding the text. The call to obey leadership never contradicts biblical matter or morality or your own individual conscience. So as long as we are following and having obedient hearts. No honest and true pastor believes he has authority over people rather he stands in a role of presenting the words of God. And so a pastor, I can't imagine anyone who wants authority in a person's life but those hold pastors hold in a position of having authority only as they present truth the Bible because ultimately, unlike Congress, pastors fall under the rules of Scripture along with the sheep.
But I want you to get this when this text is obeyed God uses it so that the people would flourish. So the church would flourish so that there would become a harmony and a unity so that the gospel would have strong evidence that was believed in. But again we want to look at this why an emphasis on obedience in verse 17. Notice this with me for they speaking of those who handle the Word of God and of course again here it use in a multiplicity because we as our church holds to be biblically true. We believe in Elder rule. For they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account. Wow. Sobering truth. Leaders those who give out the word of God are going to give an account to God. On the final judgment it's something no individual who handles the word of God should take lightly. Literally there it says to keep watch. It means to keep yourself awake and undoubtedly in the text. I think that Pastor probably stayed awake in jail because he was troubled over people he knew by name that were moving away from Christ. Pastor's loose sleep over certain people. I'll confess that's true. But the concept here is to submit to pastors who are good and energetic and conscientious and those who love the body, they actually love the people and they're caring in that regard. They function as good pastors because they care for the church.
And again you may be sitting there ask why do we submit to him? Because they have a greater responsibility. They're going to give an account to some degree in terms of how they not only, listen to me, not only how they preached and taught but what they invest. And would they shepherd and tend to the sheep in a faithful way. There's a greater responsibility that's given here there's a greater judgment that's placed upon the pastor. He has to inform people of God's Word to faithfully do that as best he can to God's people. And yet there's a huge responsibility in this turn to 1 Timothy 4. Paul instructs a young pastor Timothy here and 1 Timothy 4. Look at 16 tells them this, "Keep a close watch on yourself Timothy and on your teaching persist in this the teaching for by so doing you will save both yourselves and your hearers." He's saying keep attention to your truth, the things you teach and to your life. Obey it firstly and then as best you can clearly deliver it and then may God use his word of course through the power of the Holy Spirit on people's lives.
Now it's one thing if a church member falls into some form of egregious sin and falls into whatever that might be. I want you to understand this for those who hold the mantle. It's a different thing if we do. Don't think we don't take that lightly. It's fearful because if I fall into a type of egregious sin over against perhaps some of you it's going to have a worse effect on the name of Christ in the Gospel. It's sobering. It makes you think about this lightly because it's a very serious to God. And this is God's instruction. Now having said that here's what I want you to consider. Every one of us will stand at the judgment. Now let me tell you this believers will not be judged for their sin according to Romans 8:1. Oh glory because Jesus has suffered our condemnation and there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.
Now again that's not a trump card so we just move along lightly and do whatever we want to do because in fact we know salvation is a free gift from God. For by grace we are saved through faith that not ourselves it's a gift of God not of works lest any man should boast. And yet inside of that believers works will be judged. 1 Corinthians 5:10 and 1 Corinthians 3. There will be an account given for your life, for your sake, and for my life. And so it matters dear friends church it matters what you're giving your life to. Because in the end how you have lived your life for Christ is the only thing that's going to be left. It causes us to want to look at our life in a very serious way and not just say, "Yeah man. I went to church. I did that today and you know I might go back at the end of the month. I don't know I might go back in a couple of months." No. Because I want to share this with you. I don't have time to get into all of this but I believe that account is given directly for my life in the history of my life before God is going to be this. How did I interact with the local body. This is God's program. And Jesus is glorified according to a feast and chapter 2 and 3 read it. It'll give you a love for the church he gets he gets glory in the church. This is his design. And so we are to enjoy one another and our lives are to be built in the local church.
Your life's work is going to be considered on that day. 1 Corinthians 3: 12 - 15 and dear friends church you wonderful people you faithful wonderful people your life's work is going to be in consideration with how you dealt with and interacted in the course of a lifetime in a local assembly. And yet inside of this pastors will undergo a stricter judgment. Wow. Why obey? Verse 17 for their joy. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning for that would be of no advantage to you. Not with the groaning but do it for their joy. Leadership of any type can be a pain. And leadership can be one of great joy. As a pastor I have never experienced more lowers of lows and higher of highs than doing this as an occupation. And again it's because we're dealing with eternal things. When someone is in rejection of Christ or it seems like the heavens are opening. When someone tells you they are professing Christ and they want to get baptized. I about kissed Alex when they left my office last week. Man it just it thrills you and it thrills you, I will say this in a different way because it's eternal things. And we want to give our lives to eternal things because we want to see people come to Christ and inside of all of this 3 John verse 4 says this, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth."
So as we can seriously consider this in a faithful way, God himself takes no greater joy than when we live in harmony and in love and in unity. That's pleasing to Him friends. So real quickly before we look at verse 18, here's kind of a summation. Pastors are fulfilling their charge to care, pastors will give an account to God that's of a stricter judgment than those who are not in the ministry. And yet inside of that believers can bring joy instead of pain. Keeping you up late at night. And so part of obeying leadership and submitting to authority is going to bring your soul gain. God will reward it. Obedience here is not slavish. It's not slavish. It's never going to intrude on Biblical morality or individual conscience. Rather we collectively, all being created equal in God, are going to fall under the word of God together as we struggle along even in the clergy battling their own sin for the glory of God. Obedience then here, so we understand this, is a respectful submission of heart to not be characterized by resistance. Now here's the most important instruction to this that we often time miss. I know I do I, I don't evaluate this is highly as God always presents it.
Look at verse 18 pray for us. What's needed most pastor? Please pray for us for we are sure that we have a clear conscience desiring to act honorably in all things. Pray for our relationship he is saying and here's why saying this and I will confess this to you. And I could, not trying to put words in Alex's mouth but I think he would he would agree, no man is up to this task. No man. And if a guy thinks he is. Oh he needs prayer. For Ministry to be true. For real spiritual ministry to take place, it needs prayer so that that individual as a pastor can function with a clear conscience. Oh he knows he may be weak. He may not be you know this or that in the totality of pastoral ministry but he's faithfully living his life and this pastor writer lived in such a way. He had a clear conscience because his activity in this local body he acted honorably in all things Wow that's a beautiful, beautiful text and I would say is the goal of every pastor. We would want you to know this. That anything any change or anything we've ever done has never had some stylistic goal. If you've paid attention carefully you'll notice that the structure of our service has always been intended upon celebrating and glorying alone in the person of Jesus Christ and in all of the different things that we do are for the strengthening of the body. So they can faithfully be edified. So they can feel refreshed. So that when they leave this place they can engage the world that God has placed them in. Every faithful pastor believes that. He wants to function in a clear conscience. Man what a boon. A clear conscience is. I can't imagine trying to hold back some sort of dark life.
All men are frail, they're all sinners but oh to work with a clear conscience. And yet he says this in this clear conscience. You know what is saying? "Man I'm not worthy for this. I'm not even up to the task. Would you please call on Heaven. Would you bet God that the ministry be strengthened and let me, the pastors be upheld." One of the prayers of my life is that my faith not become shipwrecked. That God for whatever ministry he's given me throughout my life that I would be faithful to it. And yet friends inside of that we know if spiritual ministry is going to take place because the forces of evil are in effect in every local body I've ever been in. We must pray. We must pray. If power the power of God is going to be reflected in our lives personally and in our church as a whole, if God is going to allow the gospel to flourish we must pray and we must invest in the kingdom. We have to understand that all of us are going to give an account to God. Pastors all the greater a stricter judgment. And so as close as we go what we're going to have a great dinner together to some wonderful people who faithfully loved Jesus and love this church have prepared. Here's what I'm going to ask you to do. Pray for us. Pray for us. Pray for Alex and I and pray for the elders who are giving oversight. This is important. Please hear this pray for the deacons and the deaconesses that will be a church that functions in harmony and in unity and in love. Because John 13:34 that reflects being a disciple of Christ. Listen to me now, pray for all of our adult teachers who we have a rotational set of men who we are making investment in and giving them opportunity to teach. Man don't sit back and criticize them and say I'm not going to go to his class or that person's class. They can't learn how to plant corn unless they are planting it. So you know what we should do, pray for them. Everybody starts somewhere and I'm thankful for so many young men we have. And you know, I mean, my dear brother who minister within a day is about to get his Ph.D. but man he is still a kid to me. He could be my son. Pray for him. Pray for all these wonderful men who are willing who they have a God given compulsion to teach. Why? Because they are investing the words of God so that lives could be built. Pray for the sweet teachers who teach children, who care enough to invest. Man I'm thankful for him because many of those people in years gone by they invest in my kids as they are investing in yours and your grandchildren. Pray for the flock leaders. Pray for the pray for those who open up their homes. For one reason so that the people of God would be edified. And so perhaps through relationships, you know I'm talking with some people who are flock leaders where in some cases some lost people are coming. Is that okay? Are you kidding me? Yeah bring them.
Let them get to know us. Let's love on them faithfully so that they'll come to Jesus. So pray for the pastors and elders. Pray for the deacons in the deaconesses. Pray for the adult teachers. Pray for the children teachers. Pray for the flock leaders and those who open up their homes and anybody else who is in a form of leadership. Pray for them so that we will model a biblical church and will live in harmony and revealing love in unity with each other so that Jesus would be glorified and the Gospel would be magnified and that the truth would be believed and obeyed.