How should we view church authority? Should we submit to our church leaders? What is our responsibility? How does God use this “to watch out for our souls”?
We’ll also look at the danger of pride in our own achievements and how we should view helping the poor, including when we should not help.
Ezekiel 29 & 30
Should We Submit to Church Authority?
Verse 7 says, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.”
And verse 17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
In a day and age when we value our independence and “rights” so much, this can be hard for us to accept. But God is a God of order and He puts a great emphasis on authority. This passage says, “Obey those who rule over you”—our pastors and elders—“… for they watch out for your souls …” Just as He does in marriage and the family, God works through imperfect people to lead and guide His children for their good and protection.
Our responsibility is to become part of a biblical New Testament church, one that is teaching the Word of God and encouraging the growth of its members. We should become active members by making ourselves accountable to others within the church community, using our gifts to serve one another, praying for each other and our leaders, and submitting to the authority of the church leadership (unless we are asked to violate a clear command of Scripture).
Instead, too many of us, change churches every time someone says something we don’t like or makes a decision with which we disagree. Unless God makes it clear that our church is not a biblical church (notice I didn’t say a perfect church) or He is leading us to another church for a biblical reason, we should submit to the authority God has placed us under. When we do leave a church, we should go to our leaders and explain our reasons clearly and lovingly.
Today’s Other Readings:
Ezekiel 29 & 30:
The Pride of Self-Achievement
3 Speak, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.
“ Behold, I am against you,
O Pharaoh king of Egypt,
O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers,
Who has said, ‘My River is my own;
I have made it for myself.’
4 But I will put hooks in your jaws,
And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales;
I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers,
And all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales.
5 I will leave you in the wilderness,
You and all the fish of your rivers;
You shall fall on the open field;
You shall not be picked up or gathered.
I have given you as food
To the beasts of the field
And to the birds of the heavens.
Pharaoh Hophrah is called “O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers”—probably meaning a crocodile. Pharaoh saw himself as some great monster crocodile who owned and ruled the Nile. Military and political success and power can lead one to believe he has achieved it all by his own cunning and strength.
Success in some area of life can do the same to us. But when we fail to acknowledge the sovereignty of God we may find that God allows us to lose the thing for which we are so proud. Psalm 75.7 says, “But God is the Judge. He puts down one, and exalts another,” lest we think anything we have or accomplish is because of ourselves apart from Him.
The End of the Wicked
The first two verses of this passage say:
5 Let all those who hate Zion
Be put to shame and turned back.
6 Let them be as the grass on the housetops,
Which withers before it grows up,
The psalmist was declaring what God had already declared. Though God may allow wicked nations or individuals to prosper for a season unless they turn to God in humility and repentance, it will eventually all come to an end—either in this life or the next.
Responding to Those in Need
“He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses.”
God is a God of mercy and compassion and He has called His people to show His love to the world around them. Galatians 6 reminds us that we will reap what we sow. When we sow generosity, we will reap the same in our time of need.
Proverbs 19.17 says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.”
Those Who Won’t Work
The same Bible that says we’re to have pity on the poor also says:
10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread (2 Thess. 3.10-12).
One of the saddest things about the way our government administers “help” is its inability and/or unwillingness to differentiate between those who cannot work and those who don’t want to work. This not only hurts us all as taxpayers but does even more harm to those who abuse the system.
Remember all of God’s commands including the passage above from Thessalonians are for our good (including the ones abusing the system) and His glory. And while we can’t single-handedly change the system, we can vote wisely and better understand and obey the commands ourselves. This is true not only with strangers but with those closest to us like our own adult children.
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll discuss the questions, “Is believing ‘in’ God enough?” and “Are your words blessing or cursing?” We’ll also talk about how Satan is a fisherman who studies us to know the right bait to reel us in and how the Bible’s admonition about bad company applies to politics.
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Getting ready for 2018
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.