Is your counsel to others informed by the Word of God? Todd teaches on the importance of counseling Biblically, and how we can live this out within our community groups.
Engaging Missionally in Frisco
Community Part 5: Engaging Missionally
Community Part 4: A Call to Shepherd One Another
Counsel Biblically | How are you feeding others?
Authentic Confession and Encouragement | How are you feeding your flesh?
Bible Intake and Relationships | How are you feeding your soul?
Every time your community group gathers together, start your time by reading a passage of Scripture, discussing it, and then come up with one way you can apply what you read before the next time you gather together.
When you need guidance, counsel, and direction in life, where do you turn? The world is always trying to come up with a new narrative to make us feel better about the choices we make. As we continue our series, Better Together, Todd Wagner teaches us the narrative and importance of using God’s Word to live our lives and counsel others.
Suggested Scripture study: 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1-16; John 12:44-50; John 7:16-18; Proverbs 24:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:11-17; 2 Peter 3:10-18; Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 10:16-20; Jeremiah 1:17-19; Job 6:1-26; Romans 12:15; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 20:25-28; Matthew 5:17-20; Ezra 7:10; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:5-6; Proverbs 31:26; Psalm 19:14
Real Truth Real Quick: Is It Wrong for Christians to Drink Alcohol?
Real Truth Real Quick: Can The Bible Be Trusted?
Sermon Series: Should I? Making Wise Choices
Sermon: Don’t Let Your Mouth Be a Minaret. Counsel Biblically
What a privilege to be together and open God's Word. Let's pray that he'll fill the eyes of our hearts, as the Scripture says, with understanding and enlighten them that we might know him. We know there are some guests here who don't have a relationship with the Lord. You need to know the reason we're gathered is so we can be more useful to our Master, which means more of a blessing to you, so you can have a clear picture of our Father who loves you and gave himself for you.
Father, would you just teach us now? Would you grow your church? Would you pull us away from any misunderstanding and deceitful spirit that has attached itself in any way to our understanding? Fill our hearts with truth. Counsel us from your Word. Conform us into the image of your Son. Make us bolder and kinder, more true, more useful and fruitful for our King. Teach us now, amen.
This series Better Together has been a blast. We've been talking about the things believers do when they commune together, when they do business together, when they fellowship with one another. That's what the word fellowship means: koinonia, to do business together. We can't do business well together if we're not properly trained individually, because any relationship is only as healthy as the least healthy person in it. Iron sharpens iron. Noodles don't sharpen iron.
So we devote ourselves daily. We dive in. We're faithful to conform ourselves into the image of our King, and we pursue each other relationally and sharpen each other in our own devotion. We confess sin to one another and live authentically, and we admonish each other faithfully and encourage each other and help each other. When we get together, we ask two questions that cover those four things. That's what we spent our last couple of weeks on.
First, we say, "How have you been feeding your soul? How have you been strengthening your heart? Garbage in, garbage out. Good in will bring forth good, so what good have you packed into your heart by your time with God's Word and God's people? How have you been feeding your soul?" Then we also ask the question, "How have you been feeding your flesh? What are the things that have poisoned the well, so to speak, that have started to cause you to be conformed to the world? Where do you need prayer? How can we help you?"
Then we always ask the third question, because the reason we do things together that will spur us on is to be useful. Let me give you a little point that will capture a lot of what I want to talk about today. The reason we care for ourselves is so we can care for other people. The reason we move into the gym of spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation is not so we can look good, like church people. I mean, who wants to look like a church person anyway?
Well, if that means looking like Jesus created us to look, all right, but we don't do it so we look churchy and look good. We do it not for the sake of looking good to the world but for making Christ known to the world. So we feed our souls and do everything we can to not feed our flesh so we can feed others. That's the third question you always want to ask. "Hey, how have you fed others this week?"
There are two ways to do that. One we'll cover next week. We're going to give a whole week to it, engaging missionally. We're going to remind you that engaging missionally means living faithfully right where you are…not going somewhere else to be faithful but being faithful right where you are. Why would we send you someplace to be faithful if you're not already faithful here?
The first one is the one we're going to focus on all day today, and that's counsel biblically. I'm going to give you six words that start with C that tell you how to counsel biblically, what that means, so that you are like that godly woman in Proverbs 31, that you open your mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on your tongue. That's what God wants for you.
He wants you to be that individual that when you open your mouth, it's biblical counsel, not the opinions of men or your best effort. Not tips and techniques for tin Christians but substantive truth. That's the way you feed others. To do that, you have to feed yourself. That's why we've done this in the order that it's in. Order matters. We don't do things to look good to the world; we do things so the world might see a better picture of our King.
Turn with me to 1 Timothy 4. We're going to look at that. As you guys turn there, let me remind you of other Scripture besides the Proverbs 31:26 one I've mentioned. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification…" The word edifice is a word for building, so it means only words that will build others up according to the need of the moment. Wouldn't that be amazing?
Proverbs says, "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is an apt word spoken in right circumstance." Wouldn't that be amazing to bring forth apples of gold and settings of silver? It says, "A right answer is like a kiss on the lips." I don't even need to describe how wonderful that is to you. It's good. So you want to be that person who does well, who doesn't speak rashly like the thrust of a sword, but the tongue of the wise that brings healing. That's Proverbs 12.
So, counseling biblically. I'm going to start with 1 Timothy 4. You're going to see a great setup to even what I talked about last week. Watch what it says. "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith…" Let's just be honest. All of us are battling to stay faithful. All of us have to be diligent to show ourselves approved, and all of us have to maintain a steadfastness and an immovability, because this world is at war against the soul that desires to have intimacy with God.
Just know this: all of us need the encouragement that's here. Watch what's going to happen, though. "…some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…" You're like, "Ooh. What are deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons? How do we deal with those?" Well, here's what every deceitful spirit does, and here's what every doctrine of demon is.
A deceitful spirit says, "God is not good." Anytime you hear a whisper, anytime you hear somebody declare, "Oh, God is a killjoy. God doesn't have your best interests in mind," that's a deceitful spirit. That God is not good and his Word is not true. "Oh, the Bible is irrelevant." That's a deceitful spirit. It's a doctrine of a demon. Anytime somebody says, "Disobeying God is not that big of a deal. Live and let live. Where is God in his coming?" that's a doctrine of a demon.
By the way, how do you deal with deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons? It's not with the craziness that is often represented in the world out there today where you cast it out. We don't cast out demons; we bring in truth. When there's darkness in your room, you don't get in there and go, "Darkness, get out of here!" You bring in light and darkness is gone. That's what happens. That's how you deal with it.
We don't cast it out. It's not a power encounter; it's a truth encounter. You bring truth to error. But in the end, in latter times (meaning, today), there are going to be a lot of folks who are going to be more prone to believe that God isn't good, his Word is not true, disobeying him is not that big of a deal, that following the lusts of your flesh, the lusts of your eyes, and the boastful pride of life…
That's what deceitful spirits always do. They go, "Hey, doesn't that look good? Don't you want it? If God was good, wouldn't he let you have it? If it feels good to you, why would God make you that way if he didn't want you to go that route?" Those are deceitful spirits. The doctrines of demons are, "You're not going to die. You're going to live like you've never lived before." You need truth to wage war against that.
"…by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…" They not only will do these things, but they'll give hearty approval to others who do them and say, "This is normal. This is good. This is what enlightened people understand." "…men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods…" This idea within certain circles of Christendom that if you really love God you won't ever marry is crazy.
In fact, when Paul was writing, "I wish that you all would remain as I am so you can be fully devoted to the service of the Lord," the Spirit of God made him say, "But if you marry, you haven't sinned." Then he goes on from there and says, "But if you are married, you should live as if you don't have a wife," which is very confusing to a lot of people and why you need to do one of the things I'm going to talk to you about today when you counsel biblically.
I did a whole Real Truth. Real Quick. on that that answers the question, "What should I do with Paul's statement that even those who are married should live as if they don't have a wife?" I'll give you a hint. It doesn't mean you should be on Tinder and dating around.
It has everything to do with sometimes when you have a family, you start to be focused on your family in an unhealthy way or you start to go, "If I faithfully live for Jesus, they're going to kill me, so I don't want to faithfully live for Jesus, because I have to stay here with my family." Basically, what Paul is saying is, "No. God will take care of your family. You faithfully live for Jesus." Listen to that Real Truth. Real Quick. I think it'll encourage you and remind you what all of us want to be about as we seek to serve him.
Watch this. We don't need to forbid marriage. We don't need to advocate abstaining from foods which God created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude…" Everything God created is good, even the poppy seed and the opiates that are out there. They're good.
Our problem is we don't do what it says in verse 5. We don't sanctify it by means of the Word of God and prayer. You do know this. Right? When I did the Real Truth. Real Quick. on "Is it okay for a Christian to drink alcohol?" I talked about how alcohol is not the problem; it's what we do with alcohol that's the problem. The poppy plant isn't the problem; the problem is what we do with it and how we create different uses for it to not deal with certain forms of pain.
If you've ever had major surgery, you have been thankful for the poppy plant God gave us. You've taken codeine. You've taken morphine or a derivative of it, which is all what heroin and cocaine break off of. The problem is we don't sanctify these things by the Word of God and prayer, and we begin to use things that God gave us in a way that leads to our destruction…not to minimize pain but to mask emotional pain and to not deal with the reality of our world.
Everything God created is good. Everything! It's using it wisely. Sex is great. I hate the fact that for so long the church has been like, "Sex is a bad thing." It has never been a bad thing. Ever! Sex misused, not sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, is the trouble. Verse 6: "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus…" This is the key. God has not left us here as orphans to try to figure it out.
This isn't Lord of the Flies where we have to go, "What are the biggest, the strongest, the oldest, and the most persuasive among us going to say to us about how we operate?" No. We don't have to hear from the most learned among us. God has spoken and has given us counsel so we don't have to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways we can acknowledge him, and he'll make our paths straight. What a gift.
So, Christian who knows God and loves God, speak boldly. Conduct yourself, certainly, in the way you live with wisdom toward outsiders. That's Colossians 4:5. Make the most of every opportunity, but then Colossians 4:6 says, "Let your speech always be with grace…" Every time we speak, we want to do it like our speech is seasoned with salt. "…so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
And you'll know if you don't give yourself to worldly fables but give yourself to the Word. That's exactly what he says next. "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women."
The world doesn't know why things are the way they are. That's why the Greeks made up myths. They made up stories. "We don't know why our sailors go to sea and don't come back. We don't know why ships keep wrecking on those islands. Oh! It's because of the sirens, the seductive half-bird/half-women gals who sing and seduce people, and they keep wrecking. That's why." No. It's because we lean on our own understanding and do what seems right to us, but in the end it's the way of death.
God loves us and doesn't want us to be people who are victims of that, so he says, "Christian, you don't have to be like a ship in a storm at night, trusting only in the best opinions of men. You have something eternally fixed in the heavens. You can see the goodness of God. Ships in storms can't see the stars, so there's no way to direct and guide themselves, and they have to trust the most experienced sailor. God says, "You have an affixed heavenly truth, so don't pay attention to worldly myths."
"…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things [both in this life and the life to come] ." When you discipline yourself, you become more useful to the world you're in. My buddy JD, who has been with me these last months just studying and pouring himself into more and more of God's Word and becoming equipped…
This last week, he was on vacation, and when he's on vacation, he continues to feed others. He's counseling biblically. He's engaging with a guy. He ate the same place a number of times. There was some waiter from Macedonia who was in there, and as he talked to him more and more, he wisely and winsomely directed the conversation toward spiritual things. He shared his faith, and the guy goes, "Oh, I don't know. I don't know if I can really trust a book that's 2,000 years old."
JD said, "Listen. I can. I can tell you why I trust in it," and he walked him through some stuff he has learned about the Bible's proclamation, the Bible's production, the Bible's prophetic claims, the Bible's product, his personal testimony," all things you can learn. If you watch Real Truth. Real Quick., everything he shared was right there in that Real Truth. Real Quick., Can the Bible Be Trusted?
He goes, "I can't believe, Todd, how many times I've had conversations recently with people who wanted to know these questions. All of a sudden, they're all around me." I said, "Bro, they've always been there. You just haven't been ready, so you didn't hear the questions. You kind of said things like, 'Well, I just have faith.'" And while we should have faith, you need to know the substance of your faith.
We have a faith that doesn't go against reason. It goes beyond reason, but there are a ton of reasons to believe in our God. As JD has disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness, he has found himself more able to counsel biblically. That waiter prayed to receive Christ this week because there was a faithful Christian who was there who had disciplined himself to be useful to the Master and counsel biblically about truth. God wants that for you.
It says in 1 Timothy 4:9, "It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive [to be useful] , because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." He's going to show these believers how to be, like I said, sanctified and to live lives in the midst of a dark and perverse generation, like shining stars.
How are you doing, church? Are you an individual who, as it says right here, is laboring and striving to be able to counsel biblically? There are all kinds of opportunities. Equipped Disciple is about to start up. Check it out. There are all kinds of Training Day classes, Core classes that are online for you even now. Are you disciplining yourself? Watch this. "Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness…"
Paul was writing to Timothy, his buddy. Timothy was a young man about to pastor in a metropolitan area. It was Ephesus, one of the most strategic cities in the world, filled with paganism. He's saying, "Timothy, don't let them look down on your youthfulness, but in your speech, in your conduct, in your love, in your faith, in your purity, show yourself an example among those who believe. Until I come, Timothy, if you don't know what else to do, give attention to the public reading of Scripture."
One of the reasons you want to give attention to the public reading of Scripture is it will keep you from giving private attention to personal opinions. You cannot continually in your Community Group, when you're talking about issues and challenges, in that little private setting, share your personal opinions and call yourself a faithful follower of Christ.
We don't give private attention to personal opinions. We always want to give public attention to the reading of Scriptures. I can't tell you how many times I'm in a conversation in a restaurant, out and about with friends, at my kids' sporting events, where somebody starts to talk to me, and I pull out my phone because somebody is asking me a question, and I just open my Bible and go, "Just read this to me."
I don't carry my Bible around everywhere; I carry my phone. So I go to my phone, and I just go, "Read this." My whole Bible is right there. I just turn to a verse and go, "Why don't you read that right there and listen to what it has to say. What do you think it means? And how can I help you with that?" Because I'm a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. That's all I am. That's all you are if you're a faithful Christian.
How do you feed others? You open your mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on your tongue. After one of the previous services this weekend, a guy walks up and starts talking to me, and I just said, "Hey, stop. Do you want to know my opinion?" I go, "You don't want my opinion. Let me just share with you." I said, "Turn here." I opened the Bible. I went, "Read that. Do you think that has application for what you're asking about?"
So, give attention to the public reading of Scripture. I don't read it to them; I let them read it, and I just go, "Your problem is not going to be with me; it's going to be with God. I'm just going to tell you this: if you don't want to fellowship with the Word of God, you're not going to want to fellowship with me. What the word fellowship means is do business.
I'm going to be your friend whether you want to do business with the Word of God or not, but we're not going to do business together, because that's my business. It's no idle word; it is my life. I don't just have it sit there and be ineffective. No, I employ it in how I think and how I act, and I have friends who help me remember to employ it."
"Timothy, don't neglect the spiritual gift within you," it says in verse 14. All of us have a spiritual gift. Here's the primary spiritual gift: we're no longer informed by darkness and our own understanding; we have the gift of the Spirit of truth in us, and that Spirit has given each one of you a gift, 1 Peter 4:10 says. "As each of you has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
There are so many different ways God has gifted the body, but for all of us, he has given every single one of us a chance to have inside of us the Spirit of truth, so we go to war with it. Now watch verse 15. "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress [of being a person who has the teaching of kindness on your tongue and opens your mouth in wisdom] will be evident to all."
People who know JD have gone, "Bro, I can tell now… When you speak, I can see you speak more consistently in words that build others up and allow them to interact with who God is." That should be true of all of us, more true every passing day as we do business to help each other grow to the full measure of man and woman that God wants us to be.
I have so many of these verses written right underneath me. The night before we tacked this covering over the stage, I stood up here and wrote underneath this little section that I wander around on many of these verses. "Lord, I want to stand on the Word of God alone." It's written right here. Verse 16: "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."
Guys, that's all I want to do. I, and you, are a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. Your life is a pulpit, and you are a preacher. We love him in word and in deed, our walk and our words, our way and our sharing. We counsel biblically. So here we go. Are you ready? Here are six things that if you do them will allow you to effectively be somebody who counsels biblically. How do you counsel biblically?
1 . Constantly. A mark of you being a Christian is that you speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; that no unwholesome word proceeds from your mouth; that you're somebody who builds up. You give grace in every moment. That doesn't mean you need to exclusively quote Bible; it means your life lesson and teaching ought to be consistent with the kindness of God and the way of wisdom.
Building relationships is part of the way of kindness and wisdom. When you're building relationships, you're not always quoting Scripture; you're just loving and listening actively, not out of selfishness or empty conceit so that people affectionately give themselves to you but so you can present to them the love of God. But we do it constantly. Watch this. This is John, chapter 12. Jesus, unsurprisingly, is our model.
"And Jesus cried out and said, 'He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. [Because that's what I'm bringing you. I'm bringing you the one who sent me.] He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.'" We should be able to say the same thing. Jesus said, "Even as the Father sent me, now I'm sending you." Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, and we, the body of Christ, are the visible image of the invisible Christ.
Now, Jesus did it perfectly; we don't, so we clothe ourselves in humility, and we acknowledge when we do it wrong, and we confess and forsake and make amends. Jesus says, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. [I'm here to bring light to darkness. That's what you're here for.] If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world."
So many times, people say stuff to me like, "Hey, Todd, that's real judgmental." I'm like, "Well, what it is is an accurate sharing of the Word of God." "Well, I don't like that!" I go, "Okay. Well, the fact that you don't like that is a judgment, and I don't begrudge your judgment. You make judgments. I make judgments. We don't have to be judgmental about whether or not God could ever love you. That's God's job."
Jesus has told me, "Todd, don't try to separate the wheat from the tares, because sometimes you'll be pulling up what you think is tares, which is a form of weed, and you'll be pulling up some wheat. Just be faithful. You do everything you can to cultivate fruitfulness in people, and at the end of time I'll send my angels forth, and I will separate light from dark and wheat from tares." Jesus even says, "I didn't come to bring judgment," but watch what he did say would happen.
"He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day." So, when you and I are having conversations and we're counseling biblically, when we're speaking to our world and telling them, "This is what God says," they're going to go, "That's judgmental!" I go, "No, it's a judgment." "Right, and I disagree with it, and people who believe that are judgmental."
I go, "Okay. Well, that's a judgment that you're making, so the truth is we're both making a judgment. I happen to go and side with a guy who walked on water and raised the dead. What's the source of your conviction? I'm going to go with that guy. You have to decide who you're going to side with. We're both making judgements. I'll still be your friend, but I'm not going to say that there's no consequence to making choices."
That's basically what Jesus said. "You have to figure out what you're going to do with what I'm saying." Jesus said in verse 49 (and we should say the same thing), "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak." He has given you a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. The question is…Are you doing it?
Look at John 7. Jesus is in another little interaction with folks, and in verse 16 he says, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me." I'm not up here giving you Todd's tips and techniques. I am a servant of Christ, and if I am God's man, I am a steward of the mysteries of God. The problem in the church today…
There are over 300,000 churches in America, 70 million professing Christians, but I'm going to tell you, the problem is that so many pastors are not servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. They're just giving you their opinions, and they're giving you tips and techniques and not the Word of God.
The reason our country is in the state that it's in is the Christians who are being shepherded by them are learning to do the same thing, and they don't form opinions. Sometimes people say to me, "Todd, that's kind of a divisive topic if you teach on it." That's why I need to teach on it! The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. It's to divide light from darkness, truth from error.
The body of Christ, if it's anything, should be unified. That's why I have to teach on these controversial topics: so we can have the mind of Christ and be together. So don't tell me it's a divisive topic. The fact that it's a divisive topic within the church is why we have to teach on it, because we should agree if we have the mind of God. God is not divided. He's not confused.
Verse 18: "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory…" I'm not up here to have you guys go, "Wow, man! Wagner…that guy has some insights." No, that guy faithfully brings forth the Word. That's my job. I'm just the mailman. I'm just bringing you the mail, and I want to do it in a way, hopefully, that's seasoned with salt and winsome. "The words of the wise make knowledge acceptable."
I know that sometimes people say, "Todd, it's the way you say it, man. I can't hear it because of the way you say it." When people tell me that, I just go, "Thank you for telling me that. Will you forgive me? How could I have said that differently so you could have received that truth? I want to get out of the way." Or they'll say, "You don't have enough relationship with me to say that."
I go, "Well, gosh, I don't know how much relationship I need to have with you just to love you and to remind you of things that are ultimate in importance." Here's what I want to tell you. I sometimes look at the way Jesus said some things… He goes, "You brood of vipers! You sons of hell who make your converts twice the sons of hell that you are! You whitewashed tombs!" and I'm kind of like, "I don't know if that's the way I would have said that." I personally have never done that with somebody.
Here's the thing, though: I'm not Jesus. There's a good chance when I say something I said it wrong, so I want to stay humble, but I want to remind myself of this: Jesus always said it exactly right according to the need of the moment, and it wasn't well received always from him. Others didn't always like the way Jesus said it, so I stay bold. I'm going to keep being faithful and trust that he'll sort it out. It's just going to be a fact that I'm going to do it constantly, and if you don't want fellowship with the Word of God, you're not going to want fellowship with me.
Can I just throw this in there? If you are in a Community Group at Watermark and they don't want to fellowship with the Word of God, if you're around people who don't want to talk about the Word of God related to their difficult marriage, who don't want the Word of God related to their abundance of provision, who don't want the Word of God related to their personal habits and practices and discretionary deployment of life and time, and they're like, "Hey, we don't want to take that that seriously," you need to let us know. We want to help you.
We want to love those folks. We want to admonish them and remind them what they said when they became a member of this body that they wanted to do, and if they're not doing it, the sooner we can have that conversation, the better. Here's why: we're not going to try to build a house together and do business together if we have different blueprints. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
In your Community Group, if there are people who go, "I don't want that to be my blueprint. I don't want the wisdom and the right application of wisdom, which is understanding and the knowledge of what to do in any… Quit giving me so much Bible." You need to tell us if that's happening in your Community Group so we can come in there. There are people who profess Christ…
There are people who go through our membership process, who make a declaration of faith, and then who get to the ongoing Christian life and go, "Ah!" We don't think you should continue to labor and build with them if they reject the blueprint they initially said they wanted. We're going to love them, but we're not going to do business with people who do not want to make this their authority, conscience, and guide.
People go, "Well, you guys are legalism." I agree with Tozer that when you begin to call obedience legalism you will be at the height of heresy. Obedience isn't legalism; obedience is obedience. Jesus said, "He who loves me obeys me." Now listen. We live authentically. We go, "I had a hard time being obedient this week." "All right, bro. How can I pray for you? How can I encourage you?" But we do it constantly.
If you don't know, Community Group, who your shepherd is, if you don't know who your staff contact is and liaison to the elders, then you need to know so you can raise your hand and go, "I don't think… I need help getting us to believe and execute on what we said we wanted to be as a church." So don't get stuck with a toxic, rebellious people who say they want to build God's house and reject his blueprint. Don't get stuck. Let us help you.
2 . Carefully. This is what the Scripture says in 2 Timothy 2:13: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful…" Praise God. Anybody here have a moment this week where you go, "I was a little bit faithless"? Praise God, Christians, that when we don't counsel biblically, when our words don't edify people but are self-seeking that God is still there for us and won't leave us or forsake us, but let's not deny him by when it's pointed out to us saying, "Ah! I'm not going to do what he wants."
His faithfulness means he's going to put us in a community that will spur us on and encourage us and help us. At times, all of us have a tendency to drift a little bit, but God in his kindness seeks us through community, through other believers, through the Spirit, through the Word, and we respond, and we repent, and we don't deny him, but if we do deny him continually, the Scripture says he'll deny us that we're deluded in our profession.
Second Timothy 2:14: "Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words… Be diligent…" In other words, pay consistent, hard, enduring, unwavering effort to do these things. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." Why? Because there are all kinds of ways to distort the Bible.
The Bible says all kinds of stuff. The Bible says, "All things are lawful." It also says, "But not all things edify." The Bible says, "There is no God." Do you know that? It's in your Bible. Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 say, "There is no God." It also says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Those are crazy, silly examples, but there are all kinds of ways that people twist and distort the Scriptures.
Let me just show you that in 2 Peter 3:13. This is why you read the Bible carefully. "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth…" In other words, we're not focused on this world. This world is not our home. We're setting our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. "…in which righteousness dwells." He says then in verse 15, "…and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…"
All that means is this. The reason God didn't come back last week is there's somebody here today who needs to know about God's love for you, his cross, his resurrection, his power, and his love. The reason God has not wrapped up this whole thing and destroyed the world with fire, which is what it just said in the verses before this, you should count that as his patience toward you and salvation.
By the way, Christian, if you've not been devoting yourself to him and if you've not been like that virgin at the door to the house, waiting for your master to return with the oil lamps trimmed, faithfully doing what you're supposed to do, you should imagine the patience of God as your salvation. If you haven't been counseling biblically, then that's a gift to you that now you can get about it. Now you can go, "I'm going to be faithful this week."
Today is another day, and the Lord's lovingkindness is here. His mercies are new. So you're going to say, "I am going to live for my King today. I'm going to do the things Christians do." You have to be careful. Why? Because Paul wrote to us, and he gave us wisdom. It says in verse 16, "…speaking in them of these things [and not just these things but other things like them] , in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction."
There it is for you. What you need to realize is you have to read the Word of God carefully, and when you give counsel from the Word of God, you don't rip verses out of context. You have to learn to interpret the Bible accurately. There are entire denominations today that are splitting over how to explain the Word of God. This is a book you ought continually to have on your lips and you are to use carefully, as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed.
That's why your shepherds matter, people. There are all kinds of Methodists today in this country who are underneath shepherds who are saying, "This is how we should interpret it," and their god is their shame, and they're giving hearty approval to people who are living in it. It will not go well with those shepherds, and it will not go well with those people. So choose for yourself who you counsel biblically with communally.
3 . Communally. In other words, you're not isolated. You want to look at the historic understanding of the Christian faith? What's so amazing is that after 2,000 years of the church being 100 percent unified on certain topics, all of a sudden people are saying, "Well, I don't think that means what it has always meant." That's trouble.
Here's a truth. Matthew 18:20. This is going to be helpful for you. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Most of you guys have only heard this verse quoted at corporate prayer meetings, and that's a huge mistake. That's not where this verse should ever be quoted. In fact, you hear it misquoted there. They always say, "Where two or more are gathered, God is here in our midst. There are a bunch of us. Let's pray together."
This verse has nothing to do with corporate prayer. It has everything to do with reading the Bible communally. I'm going to show it to you in just a second. It doesn't say "two or more"; it says "two or three," which means if you have four or five people there, you can't pray, because God is not there in your midst, if you're going to read it literally.
Jesus says, "When you pray, don't be like the Pharisees in their tassels and with their bells and get in the public and pray out loud so everybody can see that." He goes, "No. When you pray, go into your closet (and hope there are one or two other people there, because that'll make two or three, and then you can pray and I'll hear from you.)" No. He just says, "Go into your closet, and your Father who hears you in secret…" God is always in our midst when we're his people.
What this is talking about here is authority and right understanding of the Scripture. Proof. Context. Let's read it carefully. Verse 15, where this comes from: "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you [if he says, 'That's a wrong way to counsel me'] , take one or two more with you, so that **** by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed ****.""Hey, that is what the Word of God says. That's a right understanding of the Scripture."
"If he [rejects the two or three and] refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…" Get the elders together. You should all know your Community Group shepherd. You should all know your staff contact. You should all know that you're just two or three clicks away from having the elders of the church sitting with you if there's confusion about the right way to apply the Word of God to your life. It's imperative that you don't, in isolation, come up with some new insight that has never been here before.
By the way, this shatters what's called apostolic succession. Jesus is talking to his disciples, and he didn't say, "Hey, what Peter says goes." He said, "Look, guys. When I leave, the Holy Spirit is going to bring to mind all that I taught you, and when you guys get together and study, what you agree together is what the Spirit of God wanted you to do and wants you to do, the community of you, as believers, rightly employing the Word of God…that will help you be workmen who don't need to be ashamed." It isn't just Peter.
Leadership in the church isn't ever just Todd. It's a team of elders. It's shepherds who are underneath or stand on Christ and the apostles. What this verse is saying is, basically, "Make sure that when you're saying, 'This is what the Word of God says,' you're not doing it in isolation." The Bible never says it should be just you and Jesus. You should seek solitude with Jesus, but you shouldn't isolate yourself in your understanding. So, you read it communally. There are so many examples of this I could show you all throughout Scripture, but for the sake of time, we'll go to the next one.
4 . Courageously. Like I told you, Jesus did it perfectly. He counseled from the Word of God, and he wasn't always well received, and you're not going to always be well received. In fact, when he was looking at his disciples and was choosing a mascot for "team Christ," he goes, "I'm going to call you guys the Lambs." You're like, "Really? Can't we be the Badgers or the Wolverines?" "Nope. You're going to be the Lambs. You're going to be the Sheep. Here's the bad news: everybody else in the league is going to be called Lions and Wolves." You're like, "Crud!"
There are not a lot of high school mascots with a sheep. That's just not out there. You just don't find it. "The Richardson Lambs." It's just not happening. What does happen is that if you are a sheep (and we are), where do sheep take their strength? Where do they have confidence no matter who they go up against, what lion or what wolf is out there? The sheep's confidence is in their shepherd.
Jesus says, "Let me tell you who your shepherd is. You don't worry about the wolf and the lion that can destroy the body. Let me tell you who to worry about: the one who can destroy the body and cast the soul into hell forever. They may saw you in two, they might feed you to the lions, but I am the King. You go and do what I'm asking you to do. Do it shrewdly, do it wisely, but don't be surprised, because this world is going to chew you up and hate you the way it hates me. It's worth it." That takes some courage. That's Matthew 10:16-20. Go read it.
One of the very first passages I ever memorized in my ministry when I knew God was going to call me to be faithful was Jeremiah 1:17-19: "Now, gird up your loins…" Men back then would wear robes or little one pieces that would come down around their knees, and when it was time to get somewhere quickly, they would gather up their cloak and stuff it in their belt so they could run. That's what God is saying.
"You run, boy. Let's get busy. You rise up and speak to them all that I have commanded you. Do not be dismayed because they don't like what you're doing or I will dismay you, because you're a Christian and I'm your Master and you will give an account to me. You know this: I have made you as a fortified city, like walls of bronze, like pillars of iron against the whole land, against the kings, against the princes, against the priests, against all of the people of the land. You are my man. Now you go. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you, says the Lord."
So be bold, Christian. Be humble, because we're not Jesus and we don't always do it right, but be bold, Christian. Don't ever go, "I don't know if this'll float." It's the Word of God. It won't only float; it'll pierce, and it'll be the source of future judgment, and you're under it if you go, "I don't want them to not like me." God is saying, "You'd better worry about me not liking you, because I am King and you are mine." I love what Spurgeon said a long time ago. "Defend the Scripture? I'd just as soon defend a lion." Just turn it loose; it'll defend itself. This is the Word of God. It's from the Lion of Judah.
5 . Compassionately. You want to be careful when you come into certain situations with the Word of God. I told you guys this year I'm reading through the Bible again in a year. I'm doing a chronological plan, so when I got to about Genesis 12, I jumped over to the book of Job, because almost all scholars agree that Job happened about the time of Abraham, which is Genesis 12-17. So I read through the whole book of Job this week. I was reminded again of how amazing this book is.
Job, if you don't know, was righteous and blameless and feared God and shunned evil. What an amazing résumé. God said, "I'm going to let myself be glorified by Job experiencing horrors at the hand of the Prince of this world who hates him and thinks Job only loves me because his life is blessed. I'm going to let you smite Job. He's going to lose his family, he's going to lose his wealth, and eventually he's going to lose his health, and you watch the way he still prospers and loves me. He won't curse me, because he's faithful."
Job never did curse God, but what he did do was start to demand that God explain himself to him. Later, he got appropriately rebuked for it, because God basically says to Job, "Hey, listen, buddy. I love you, but I can't put my infinite, eternal mind into your little finite, temporal brain." God just takes him through a game of Jeopardy! That's what he does. He goes, "Let's play Jeopardy! You get one question right before me, and I'll tell you anything you want." Job is overwhelmed in chapters 38-41. Go read it.
There's a section in Job, though, where Job is hurting because he doesn't understand what is happening. This book of the law didn't depart from his mouth. He was careful to do according to all that was written in it, and he knew the Bible said, "Then you will have prosperity, and then you will have success," and he was like, "This is not prosperity. My sons are gone. My daughters are gone. My cattle are gone. My house is gone. My health is gone. God, where are you?"
He had some friends who showed up, and they started to say, "Well, we don't know where you are, but we know where you must have been. You must have been up to no good, because there's no way a glorious God would ever let this craziness happen to a guy who was perfect and who was good and who was righteous. So, Job, you're messed up. We don't know why you're messed up, but you're messed up, and we know you're messed up or God wouldn't let this happen."
Job basically started to say, "No, I'm not messed up; it's messed up what God is doing to me." His wife said, "Just curse God." He said, "I'm not going to curse God. I just don't know why this so messed-up thing is happening." Watch what happens. By the way, his friends who came to him and counseled unbiblically… God later says, "Job, you'd better offer a sacrifice for them because they misrepresented me."
False counsel is a sin. Job had to offer a sacrifice for his false friends who said, "Job, we know you're screwed up. We know you're a sinner." Job knew he wasn't perfect, but he also knew that there was no correlation between his choice to do good and a kind God who let what happened to him happen to him. I can't read the whole thing because of time, but watch this. This is what Job says in Job 6:24 to his friends. He says, "Teach me…"
"You guys teach me. I don't know if I've done anything wrong. I'm not perfect, but you tell me. What widow did I oppress? What orphan did I not feed? What sacrifice to God did I not offer? You teach me, and I'll be silent. Show me where I've screwed up. I don't know. All you guys do is say I must have screwed up, but I don't know where I screwed up."
He goes, "Your honest words would hurt me. They'd be painful to me, but you haven't really given me any honest words, and you haven't argued and proved anything in my life that's crazy." So what he says is this. There's application for us. This is what he says: "Do you intend to reprove my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind?" That's kind of a riddle of a statement. What does that mean?
Here's what Job means. What Job means is, "Guys, in my grief, where I'm saying, 'I don't know how this could happen…'" His friends had one wrong idea. "I'll tell you how it happened. You're a sinner." Job is saying, "God, get down here and tell me how this happened. I'm not calling God bad; I'm just saying I don't understand." His friends said, "Well, we'll give you understanding. You're a sinner, and we know it."
Job says this to them, and there's a teaching for us here. Let me just step outside of Job for a second. I've had friends who have backed over children in their driveway, and I don't show up with the Word of God when they're crying and are in grief and go, "Hey, hey! All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Get your chin up!" That is not the right way to handle the Word of God.
By the way, what did Jesus do when he showed up at a funeral of a friend, four days late intentionally? Martha and Mary ran out to him and said, "Where have you been? This didn't have to happen if you were here." Jesus first said, "Don't you know who I am? I'm the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Then he went to crying, and he just cried. Jesus wept.
The Bible says in Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, but mourn with those who mourn." Do you know what I'm going to do if something tragic happens? I'm going to get there and I'm going to cry with you. I'm going to mourn with you. I'm going to remind you at the appropriate times that we grieve not as those who have no hope, so it's appropriate to grieve, but it's also appropriate to worship God and not demand that God explain himself to us.
We can't understand all things, but we do know who he is. I'll gently remind you of that in the right time, but I'm just going to grieve with you. I'm going to remind you that he's the resurrection and the life, but I'm going to grieve with you. That's what the Bible tells us to do. What Job is saying is this. My friend John Piper, doggone him, said it better than I could, so I'll just borrow his words.
On this little section right here, when Job says, "Do you intend to reprove my words in grief when the words of one in despair belong to the wind?" Job goes, "I don't think God really needs to explain himself to me. I'm just venting. I'm hurting." Piper said, "Not all gray words get their color from a black heart." Have you ever said something in your pain?
When I hear somebody just mourning and saying, "God, doggone it! I gave my life to you, and I trusted you! I thought you were good!" I don't go, "Hey, hey, hey! Don't you dare even imply that God is not good." I just go, "Come here. Let's pray together. Let me pray for you. Let me comfort you." Because sometimes in your pain they're just words for the wind. It's not your theological statement of faith.
C.S. Lewis wrote about this in a book called A Grief Observed when he lost his wife. He said, "I'm going to vent for 90 pages, but at the end I'm going to come back." I love the idea… Words spoken as wind we should let pass in silence. We don't rebuke the sore; we restore the soul. Are you with me on that?
When someone is grieving because of pain, I don't rebuke their pain; I restore their soul. So you take the Word of God compassionately. We grieve not as those without hope, but we don't just use this Bible to bang people over the head and go, "Hey, come on! Get your chin up! This is easy if you have faith." That's crazy. Be compassionate, Christian.
6 . Comprehensively. You don't pick and choose. I don't come here and pick pet sins that most of us don't struggle with and say, "Let's talk about how bad these people are" and leave you alone in your lust, in your pride, in your materialism, in your gossip, in your sluggardness, and in your affection for this world. No. We teach the full counsel of God. You teach God's Word. In Matthew 28:19-20 he says, "Go make disciples, and then teach them to observe all that I have commanded you," not just the parts that are comfortable for North Dallas.
Paul, in Acts 20:27, with the Ephesian elders, said, "I'm clean before you because I've taught you the whole counsel of God." We don't just pick and choose which parts of the Bible are comfortable for us. No, Christian. We're going to teach the whole Bible, and we're going to teach everything God wants us to teach, because it's how God will bless us in every area of our lives. So, you teach the Word of God comprehensively. There's not a single jot or tittle of this that's not applicable to our lives.
Gang, the reason we care for ourselves is so we can care for others. We feed our souls and forsake feeding our flesh so we can feed others. We need to be Ezras. Ezra 7:10. Ezra set his heart. He made a decision. "I'm going to follow you." So I set my heart as a commitment to follow Jesus, to study, to apply, and then teach. We are here, church, to feed others the Word of God. May you open your mouth in wisdom, and may the teaching of kindness be on your tongue.
Father, help us to in every way faithfully serve you and be little Christs, Christians, who this book of the law should not depart from our mouths, who day and night bring forth truth and bring grace to other people. We thank you for a chance to be reminded today about why we counsel biblically, how we counsel biblically, and whose we are. We love you and we thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.