Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Elder Qualifications – Part 2 – 1 Tim 3:4-7

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (ESV)

Manage My Household
In the U.S., we usually think of household as a husband, wife, and children. However, that is not the biblical view of a household. Gen 15:3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." (NIV) Matt 24:45 Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? (NASB) In both the Old and New Testaments, the concept of a household included the servants, slaves and their families. In the case of Abram, this included a private army. Gen 14:14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (NIV) There are many more references to the household of Pharaoh and the households of the kings of Judah and Israel. The book of Philemon was written to a Christian who had slaves (bondservants) who were also considered part of his household.

When I expanded my concept of a household, this command to be able to manage my own household took on new meaning. Consider if I owned my own business and had several employees. How I manage this business would fall under the same concept of managing my household. I should even apply the same concept to how I do my work whether I have a business or people reporting to me or not. Dealing with people, finances, planning, and setting godly goals are all concepts that should be included in managing a household.

One very important mark of managing a household is how a person is able to raise his own children. The verse is quite clear that the man must have a good relationship with the children. Eph 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (NKJV) I think this is one of the best verses to describe raising children. Too many fathers are too controlling, distant, or stern. They don’t have a relationship with their children because they don’t take the time. They exasperate their children by laying down rules based on the Bible, but without loving and nurturing them. On the other side of the coin are the fathers who provide no godly instruction for their children. They may have a lot of worldly instruction but nothing that is consistent with Scripture.
Deut 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (NKJV)

An elder, or any Christian for that matter, should live these verses. As I love the lord and commit myself completely to Him, He will be integrated completely into my life so that there won’t be any discrepancy between the way I live and what I say regarding my faith. When I talk about the commands, I can explain how they are beneficial to our life here and crucial to our eternal life. Whatever I’m doing, as we talk about them I will be aware of them and live according to them. My children will see this as the normal way of life and will want to emulate it. They will know about the Lord at an early age and will want to know Him as well.
Managing the Church

When selecting an elder, I would hope that a church would investigate a person’s personal finances as well as how he conducts himself at work or runs his business. A person who has filed for bankruptcy, is deeply in debt, or is living beyond his means probably isn’t managing his household well. If a person can’t handle his own finances, I would not want him to be making financial decisions for my church. If he is a poor manager or employee, why would I expect him to excel when managing a church? If he is legalistic, domineering, and controlling with his children so that they don’t respect him and rebel, what makes me think that he will not also be this way when dealing with the people of the church? If he provides no discipline for his children so that they run wild, I doubt he would be able to disciple a church member who has strayed.

I think this same principle applies to anyone who is seeking to serve in any public position. If people can’t be honest in their private lives, then there is a high probability that they will also succumb to the temptations of power and position making bad decisions that will impact our country and the world. It makes sense that a person who would conduct an adulterous or otherwise illegitimate relationship has a moral flaw that would eventually show up in the way they govern.
Not a Recent Convert

It is amazing how often new believers are thrust into leadership positions because they have experience in the world. The assumption is that they will now be able to use all those gifts for the glory of God without clinging to any of the world’s corrupt ways of doing things. In many cases, God has worked miracles, but Paul has given us a very important warning. Don’t do it. Conceit and condemnation of the devil is the result.
The devil was once a majestic angel but his conceit was his downfall. Isaiah described this in poetic terms. Isa 14:12-14 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.'” (RSV) This is something I need to hear all the time and certainly anyone in any position of authority needs to take this warning to heart. It is easy to think of myself more highly than I should. I can imagine being a great Bible scholar and teacher and that can lead to being puffed up. I wouldn’t go as far as thinking I’m like God much less thinking I can be above Him, however any time I try to be something more than what He wants me to be or go in a different direction than He wants, I’m setting my own will against His. This is essentially the same sin that overtook Satan. When I do this, I’m in danger of God’s loving correction. Rev 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. (NASB) Thanks to Jesus Christ and the forgiveness I have in Him, I will never face the same fate as Satan. Isa 14:15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. (RSV)

Good Reputation
It is interesting that Paul would be concerned with what outsiders think of an elder. 1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (ESV) There is always the possibility that I may be slandered in spite of how well I conduct myself. Even when slandered, keeping my conduct honorable will provide me with a good reputation. If I’m honest in my business dealings, help my neighbors, drive legally, and in every way attempt to do right, I won’t have to worry about my reputation. Interviewing a potential elder’s neighbors would not be a bad idea. Unless what they have to say is obvious slander, then what they say should be taken into consideration when selecting an elder. I hope that my neighbors have good things to say about me.

The Devils Snare
If my reputation or that of an elder is not good, it brings disgrace on the name of Christ. Ultimately, it isn’t about me, but about Jesus. If I bring shame on His name then I’m so far from where I want to be and should be in my Christian life that I can’t imagine how I would ever be able to face my Savior. This is one of the devil’s traps. If I shame the name of Jesus, the devil tries to convince me that I’ve blown it. He says, “Hey, you call yourself a Christian and yet look at this big terrible sin. Because it has gone public, you have a bad reputation. Look at all the people who are avoiding Christ because of your behavior. They don’t want to be a hypocrite like you. Why don’t you just go crawl in a hole and never speak the name of Jesus to anyone again. You are no good and rotten. You might as well get it over with and kill yourself. Jesus would be better off without you.” I’ve met people who feel this way. Some believe they have committed the unpardonable sin. Others fall into depression and do actually consider suicide.

When this happens, I have to remember some truths about God. The first is that that repentance and confession will restore me to fellowship with Him. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB)
The second thing to remember is that Jesus’ sacrifice has completely cleansed me from all sins, past, present, and future. (Heb 10:11-14, 1 Peter 3:18) Because of this, I know that even my sins that have brought shame to the name of Jesus are forgiven. This doesn’t give me a license to sin, but when I do turn from my sin, I can have a clear conscience because my guilt has been removed. Heb 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter  the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by  the new and living way that he opened for us through  the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have  a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts  sprinkled clean  from an evil conscience and our bodies  washed with pure water. (ESV) Satan is the one that wants to keep me feeling guilty because I won’t be useful to Jesus. Instead of focusing on His forgiveness, I will focus on myself and my pity party. I need to remember who the enemy is and who it is that wants me to feel guilty. Jesus doesn’t want me to feel guilty, He wants me to serve and love Him. (Rom 8:38-39)

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