By Kevin Shrum
Pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville
One of the main criticisms of Christianity is that of hypocrisy — too many Christians don’t live out what they say they believe. In essence, Christians don’t walk the talk.
While these accusations may be unfair and a complete misunderstanding of the Christian faith, there’s enough truth in this characterization of Christians that we need to pay attention to the kernel of truth behind this accusation. We must live out what God has put in us.
Salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone! Yet, we must daily work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). We are to work out what God has worked into us by the Holy Spirit as we trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. Salvation must be demonstrated in living a God-honoring life. But what does this look like in reality?
Respecting (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Christian living must first be seen in loving and respecting our pastoral leaders. We are to “know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you” (v. 12). The head of the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:13-20).
Yet, God has delegated His authority in the Church through the authority of the Bible, the Word of God that is rightly handled by those men who are called to shepherd the flock of God. The pastor’s authority in the Church is a derived authority, derived from God’s Word. The authority is in the Word, not the person.
Pastors have a difficult time. They are fallen and frail men yet are called to speak to and lead God’s people through the faithful exposition and application of God’s Word.
We should “esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (I Thessalonians 5:13). God’s men can be esteemed by praying for them, loving them, forgiving them when they fall short, befriending him and his family, and paying them well enough so that they can better take care of God’s people without the bill collector chasing them down. Seeking peace with your Pastor is essential. Pastors are to be faithful, humble, true, bold and courageous (I Timothy 3:1-7).
Accountable (I Thessalonians 5:14-22). The Christian life must also be seen in holding each other accountable. We are to warn the “unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (I Thessalonians 5:14).
We are not supposed to respond to others in evil ways (v. 15). We are to live with joy (v. 16), pray always (v. 17), give thanks for all things (v. 18), avoid quenching the work of the Spirit (v. 19), accept the truth of God’s Word (v. 20), test all truth claims and retain those that are truth (v. 21), and avoid the appearance of evil (v. 22). And we do all of this together, accountable both to God and each other.
Sanctified (I Thessalonians 5:23-24). The Christian life must be seen as a life set apart by God, for God. He is able to preserve us “blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 23). Our faithful God will accomplish all of this. These exhortations are given within the body of Christ. We are to constantly encourage one another and to hold each other accountable so that we might better represent Christ to a world in need. B&R