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The Deacon-Possessed Church-Part B

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
March 5, 2022 2:00 am

The Deacon-Possessed Church-Part B

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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March 5, 2022 2:00 am

Yes, this message's title is a play on the words demon-possessed. Deacons were among the church's earliest leaders and so were elders. Leadership is needed in every sphere of life from governing a nation, managing a business, growing a marriage, and superintending a church. Jesus called the church His church, so no single person or denomination can lay claim to it. But how is the church to operate as an organization? And how is it that some deacons and elders stop being helpful and humble and become downright hurtful?

This teaching is from the series Church? Who Needs It.




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Every leader must realize whose church it is. It's not his church. It's not your church. It's his church. Notice it's called the Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I didn't die for the church.

You didn't die for the church. So it's not yours and it's not mine. It's his. It's his church.

He spilled his blood and he owns it. And welcome to Connect with Skip Weekend Edition. And as we continue our series, Church Who Needs It?, we learn just how important structure is. You might recall back in 2012, many had scrutinized the executives of BP, the oil company whose drilling rig exploded that year and began one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. People wanted answers and accountability.

And you know what? People today want the same from the Church. We continue to explore leadership and structure in the Church in today's study with Skip Heitzig.

But before we get started, here's what we have for you this month in the Connect with Skip Resource Center. Only half of American adults who call themselves Christian identify God as the basis of truth. That's what a recent study by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found. And if that's the truth about truth among believers, it's more grim for unbelievers. What's your basis of truth?

Here's Skip Heitzig. So the word equals the scriptures equals doctrine equals truth. Truth. We are primarily people of the truth. Daniel Chapter 10 calls the scripture the scripture of truth because the scriptures tell us the truth about God, about us, about our condition, about our need. We want to send you to truth affirming resources by Pastor Skip to help you understand the nature of truth so you can pursue God's truth and apply it in your own life.

There's Skip's book, Bloodline. In his booklet, Why Truth Matters, both resources are our gift to you when you give thirty five dollars or more today to help reach more people with this Bible teaching ministry. Jesus said, everyone who is of the truth hears my voice. Call 800-922-1888 to give today and we'll send you Skip Heitzig's book, Bloodline, plus his booklet, Why Truth Matters, as our way of saying thanks for your support or visit slash offer. Open your Bibles or Bible apps to the Book of Acts Chapter 20.

And as you find your spot, we'll join Skip Heitzig for today's message, The Deacon Possessed Church. Did you know that Jesus said nothing at all about the organization of the church he would build? In fact, what he focused on is the character and the attitude of the leadership, not how the leadership would be structured. As an example, Matthew 20, Jesus said, the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and those who are great exercise authority over them, but it shall not be so among you. For whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.

The organizational information at best in the New Testament is very nebulous. And that's why there are different views on church government. Let me give you three main views.

There are four or five or even six others or six total, but I'll just give you the three main ones that are used today. Number one, congregational church government. That's where every congregation member votes. It's a democracy.

We vote on everything all the time. Second form of church government, presbyterian. That's where you have a group of elders making the decision. And finally, episcopalian or episcopal.

From the Greek word episkopos, the bishops. And you have a leader or a few leaders in an area that call the shots. Well, each one of those groups will draw from and find scriptural support for each of those three views. So, I simply appeal to the Nelson Bible dictionary that I read this week. One sentence only sums it up. Quote, no single pattern of government in the early church can be discovered by reading the New Testament.

Close quote. Because Jesus left no rules, and things seemed to change as they went. There's one other source I want to quote to you, and that is from Philip Schaff. And if you're a Bible student, that rings a bell. Schaff's Church History, all eight volumes, is the definitive source for most all Bible scholars. So, I pulled my eight volumes out and read volume one, not all of it, but part of it this week.

This is what he says. Christ laid down no minute arrangements, but only the simple and necessary element of an organization, wisely leaving the details to be shaped by the growing and changing wants of the church in different ages and in different countries. Now listen, it doesn't matter which form of church government a church holds to. If the focus of the people or the leadership is the same focus as that of Christ, having the heart of a servant, doesn't matter what the structure is.

All the structures can be good, and all of them can be bad. You can have good leaders, and you can have carnal leaders. Just like you can have good congregations, and you can have carnal congregations. As C.S.

Lewis used to say, no clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet. So, at first it was apostles and disciples, then it was apostles plus the seven plus the congregation, and eventually it will become elders and deacons in the pastoral epistles. But one of the most important things before we jump into chapter 20 is this church was spirit-led. It was not fleshly driven. It was not deacon-possessed.

It was spirit-led. It wasn't about Peter, or it wasn't about John, or it wasn't about the deacons. It was about the Lord's glory and the people of God. It was deity-obsessed, not deacon-possessed. Now let's go to Acts chapter 20 for the second point this morning, and that is that servants can be hurtful.

And whenever there are hurtful servants, they are no longer servants. Acts chapter 20 is a leadership summit. Paul's on his way to Jerusalem. He calls for the leaders of the church at Ephesus. Verse 17. From Miletus, he's sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. Interestingly, the word is presbyteras, the presbytery, the elders. And he talks to them, and I jump now down to verse 28.

He's summing it up. Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit made you what? Overseers. That's the Greek word episkopos, bishops. So he addresses the elders and calls them also bishops.

But something else I want you to notice. He says that you are to shepherd the church of God. See the word shepherd? That's poimenos. That's pastor. Pastor the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.

So this is what I want you to see. He's addressing these people, calling them by three different names, all referring to the same person. In other words, an elder is a bishop, is a pastor at this stage of church history. Paul, in talking to them, is looking to the future, when he's going to go, and bad things are going to happen to the church. He predicts two problems. Problem number one, false prophets will come from the outside. And number two, faithless leaders will come from the inside. Verse 29, I know this, that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

What's he talking about? He's talking about false prophets. People who bring bad doctrine, wrong teaching. It has always been the case throughout church history that whenever truth is proclaimed, the devil will counteract it with false teaching. It's the light bulb principle.

You turn on the light on the front porch, the bugs will come, and try to get inside the house. But that's only the first problem. Look at the next verse, verse 30.

It's even worse than the first problem. Faithless leaders from the inside will come. Paul says, also, from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Who's he speaking about? He's speaking about leaders gone bad, leaders with an agenda, ambitious leaders. One commentator, and I agree with him, said, ambition is the mother of all heresies.

Because ambitious leaders make it all about them, not God, not the people, them. This is the deacon-possessed church. Notice what Paul says they will do, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

It means to tear away, to drag away, to isolate. It's the person who says, I know that the church teaches you this, but I'm starting a Bible study and I'm going to tell you the truth, the balance of the truth. They want to draw away disciples after themselves. Now, did you notice something?

It's almost so obvious, but if we don't really pay attention to it, we might miss it. Both the false prophets and the faithless leaders don't show up until Paul leaves. After my departure, they'll come in and they'll rise up from among you. Now, why is that? Why would they wait?

Well, it's pretty simple. There'll be a leadership vacuum when Paul leaves, right? Wouldn't you say when Paul leaves, that's a huge vacuum? So, as long as Paul was there, he had a strong enough personality to keep any of these kind of characters at bay, but once he leaves, they will seize the opportunity and they will show up. Question, did it happen? Because Paul left. He predicted it would happen. Did it happen?

Boy, you bet it happened. Because when Paul left, he puts Timothy in charge of the church of Ephesus. And Paul writes how many letters to Timothy?

Two. And in 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, Paul brings up the fact that people have risen up among the leadership to draw away disciples after them with false stuff. Even so much that Paul names them in the Bible. Now, for those of you who say, well, you should never name names. Well, go tell that to Paul.

He does it three times. In 1 Timothy 1, verse 20, he says, Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. In 2 Timothy 1, verse 15, As you know, all the Christians who came here from the province of Asia have deserted me.

Even Phygelus and Hermogenes are gone. You know, when I read this, I think, man, don't cross Paul the apostle. Because if you do, he might write you up in the Bible.

So that generation after generation, no matter what era, no matter what language, will read your name in the text. Bummer. 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 17, Their message will spread like cancer. Interesting term.

Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort. See, he's not talking about a spirit-led group like Acts, chapter 6. This is a fleshly-driven group. This is a deacon-possessed group. And he aptly says their message will spread like cancer. These people to the body of Christ are what cancer is to a human body.

They proliferate cells, they take the energy and the focus off the other vital organs and off the body's health in general, and it's all about them, and they're not serving anyone but themselves. Now, I want to close this off. The most prominent example that I find of somebody doing this in all of the New Testament is a guy by the name of Diatrophes. Ever heard of Diatrophes? There's a whole book in the New Testament written just about him. It's called 3 John. John the apostle writes about Diatrophes, and he says in 3 John 9 and 10, I wrote to the church, but Diatrophes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. And he goes on to say he's making things up about us and saying this and that.

So here's the deal. John the apostle sends a letter. Diatrophes doesn't receive the letter. He rejects the letter because Diatrophes has rejected John's authority, because Diatrophes loved the spotlight. And Diatrophes hated for even John, the father and founder of that church, to be loved more than Diatrophes. He couldn't stand it. He loved to have the preeminence. Somebody once said, a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.

Diatrophes made a very small package, and John wrote him up in the Bible as an example. And this can happen with a pastor, a pastor who gets selfish and doesn't want to delegate and wants all the limelight and doesn't want to let anybody do any other thing in the church except him. This can happen to a board member who goes rogue. This can happen to an elder or a deacon or a home leader or a school of ministry student.

Anybody can do this. And church history, as I said, has been littered with it. What is the antidote for that? If servants should be helpful but servants can be hurtful, the antidote is humility. Servants must be humble. Look at verse 28, chapter 20, Acts, verse 28. Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.

There's a few elements here that tell us how to develop the kind of humility that will counteract this. Number one, every leader must realize whose church it is. It's not his church. It's not your church. It's his church. Notice it's called the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. I didn't die for the church.

You didn't die for the church. So it's not yours. And it's not mine. It's his. It's his church.

He spilled his blood and he owns it. Second, realize who made you a leader. How did you get to be a leader?

Ultimately. It says the Holy Spirit. Again, verse 28, which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. So you might be an overseer.

You might be an important leader in the church. You might have the gift of governments or administration or teaching, but you can't even take credit for that. Well, I'm such a gifted person.

So what? God gave you the gift. He gave you the gift.

And you can't boast about the gift if it came from God and not you. Number three is to realize what your calling is. And if you are a pastor or a shepherd or a bishop or whatever term you desire to go by, you have a two-fold calling. Calling number one, to pastor the sheep.

Calling number two, to protect the sheep. First is to pastor or to feed. That's the idea of poimenos in verse 8. That you will shepherd the church of God.

Feed them. This means there is absolutely no excuse for a lazy pastor to not study and prepare a great meal for the flock. You can't be too busy doing anything else for, it was laid in Acts chapter 6, we must give ourselves to prayer in the ministry of the word. But that's just the first part of a pastor's calling. It's not just to nourish and to feed the sheep but also to protect from predators. I remember one of the first times I read Psalm 23, there was a phrase that just jumped out to me.

You know, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. It's that little phrase, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Now I understand how a staff can be a comfort to a sheep because the staff is what the shepherd uses to guide the sheep. But then I studied what a rod was. You know what a rod was used for? It was a club. It hung on the belt of a shepherd, had nails at the end of it.

The club was used to beat up wolves. Now if you were a sheep and your shepherd just had a staff but no rod, you might be comforted sometimes but you'd be scared the rest of the time thinking, what if the wolves come, my shepherd won't protect me. But if your shepherd has a staff and a rod to beat the snot out of wolves who come and get you, that'd be very comforting if you're a sheep. Martin Luther said, if I preach correctly and shepherd the flock with sound doctrine, I neglect my duty if I do not warn the sheep against the wolves. For what kind of builder would I be if I were to pile up masonry and then stand by while another tears it down? Says Luther, a preacher must be both a soldier and a shepherd. He must nourish and teach but he must have teeth in his mouth and be able to bite and to fight.

And Paul was a good shepherd. I love you. I've shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God, he says in previous verses, but I also want to warn you. This is what's going to happen.

This is what's going to happen. There's a fourth step to humility that I want to show you from verse 28. Not just realize whose church it is, not just realize that God, the Holy Spirit, called you into it. Not just to realize what your calling is, but the fourth principle is to rally others to help you do the work. You'll notice that he's speaking to a group, plural.

Elders, plural, overseers, plural, yourselves, plural in verse 28. You see, leadership, and certainly leadership in a church, can never be a one-man band. You ever seen a one-man band, a real one-man band?

If you've traveled subways like in New York, you'll see them. They push their feet on a little cymbal that opens and closes and they've got a guitar in their hand, they've got a little harmonic up here and twirlies up on their head and they can flap their arms and make another instrument. It's very novel, but really uncool. It's like, whatever. I'll tell you what's better than a one-man band, an orchestra. Yeah, you've got an orchestra leader, but you've got all these instruments that play in harmony together and when it works right and they're tuned up right, wow.

That's beautiful. That's how it ought to be. There's not one person that can possibly discern the will of God for an entire church, especially if it's a large church. It takes plurality of leadership. I was reading this week about geese and their flying information and down where I live I get to see them do this a lot. A couple times a year going north and going south and they fly in that V formation. So I was reading a couple articles, one done by two engineers who were asking the question, why do geese fly in a V formation?

And so they duplicated the V formation in a wind tunnel and this is what they discovered. Each goose flapping its wings creates an uplift for the goose behind it. In fact, the whole flock gains a 71% greater flying range than if they journeyed alone.

The leader will fall back periodically to let another leader take the point and even in a flock of geese, says these authors, leadership is a shared responsibility. I love this flock. I love teaching and shepherding this flock.

But I also need help. And I love the hundred plus leaders that we're training for home fellowships and I love those who do ushering in children's ministries and security and women's ministry and men's ministry and on and on, all of that help, I love it. But if you're going to serve, you better love these sheep too. You better love these sheep because they're not your sheep. And if you have a little home Bible server or you're a leader, they're not yours, they are His and I love them. And if you're going to serve alongside, you better love them too because they don't belong to anybody but Him. And we must never become deacon possessed but deity obsessed.

It's about Him and His glory. You know, few things are quite as precious as a healthy, loving church. We can all play a role in making that a reality no matter what church you go to. Are you ready to do your part?

Well, that's all the time we have for today. But before I mention how you can get a copy of today's teaching, here's Pastor Skip with an invitation for you. Lenya and I are taking a group to Israel in 2022 and we want to invite you to join us. We'll visit places like Nazareth, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Garden Tomb. And that's just a fly-by look at the itinerary.

Find out more about the trip at slash C-A-B-Q. Well, thanks, Skip. And if you want a copy of today's broadcast, the Deacon Possessed Church is available on CD for just $4 plus shipping. So call 1-800-922-1888 or visit Next time we examine another role we should fulfill as part of the church, the role of evangelism, right here in Connect with Skip weekend edition, a presentation of Connection Communications. Make a connection. Make a connection at the foot of the crossing.

Cast all burdens on His word. Make a connection. A connection. A connection. Connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever-changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-27 09:01:42 / 2023-05-27 09:11:01 / 9

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