Are we His sheep? Do we hear His Voice?

masters voice

“…to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:10

If so, do we respond and follow? God calls us to Himself and to love Him and one another with the love of God. God calls us out of our self-love pride that mutes our effectiveness and purpose and changes us so we are effective and purposeful for Him. So, we need to ask ourselves how is my love life? How is our love for our Lord and the response of love we are to have for one another? We are the sheep of the Lord, and He has given us endless love and care. He gives His sheep endless life and abounding fellowship with Him. He gives us His perfection and His protection, gathering us in to the fold of His wings, as a hen calls her chicks. Giving us the confidence and support for us to stay away from the dangers of the world, protecting us from Satan’s grasp while we engage the world for Christ. Christ perseveres in us, modeling to us how to persevere in our walk with Him and our call to one another.

Our shepherd desires for us to be true and faithful because He is that way with us. This is our call to be true and faithful in our love, in our care, in our walk, and in our talk.

So, are we hearing the voice of God?

Are we practicing the centrality and supremacy of Christ? Are we? If not, where is the call? What do we need to do to build His kingdom church? As Christ bore witness to the Father, so we are called to bear the care for one another and bring it back to Him. We cannot be as the so-called “expert of the law” and debate whom our neighbor is, thus excusing us from our responsibility. Nor, can we ignore the sheep in our care, ignoring our Lord’s call. Yet, so many churches do.

Consider this: how we see others, whether it is a spouse, child, friend, boss, or stranger, will be the measure of how we see our Lord and how seriously we take our faith. What if we were measured by how we see others? What if this is how Christ sees us? Not a very pleasant prospect, is it? Fortunately, grace covers us¾His amazing and loving grace for which we could not venture to do anything to earn it, be acceptable, or receive anything eternal except damnation.

We are to forsake our pride, arrogance, and selfish nature and receive our Lord with joy and eagerness so we can help build His church as He has called us to do!

Remember, the doctrine of Scripture and the call of our Lord will cut “against the grain” of our pride and will. We are fallen, but He will lift us up, as our Lord is our shepherd, guiding us His way and showing us the way of the shepherd, the way of love and care.

Too many Christians only see the church as a consumer entity, which becomes “what I can get out of it.”  But, are we reciprocating that care or are we just catering to our clique and ourselves? We cannot expect others do be the “doers” while we sit comfortably in a pew. We cannot even expect a return on our investment (money given to the church) for personal gain of some sort. The consumer church will become the demise of the church before Satan even has a chance at it. We can utterly eliminate ourselves and achieve total annihilation without any external help from below. God calls us out of the “consumer” mentality and into His reality. Ask yourself if you only see the church as what it can do for you or what you can get out of it.

We do need to be in a church that will take care of us. It is our attitude and determination that will set us apart to either be fully used by Christ, or sit in a pew for our selfish gain and receive our judgment later. I know I do not want that to be me; do you?

Be caught up with Christ!

Christ bears our stupidities. What are those for you and your church? 

How can you and your church do a better job at bringing out the best in your people, be a blessing, and not to seek self-gratification at the expense of others? 

The bottom line is this: God is in control of your church. His hand is intervening—in us, in time, in the situation—and in His timing. We will have the bad, and we will have our setbacks, trials, and our human frailties; but most important of all, we have the ultimate Good—we have Christ when we are in Christ! The application for us is what He seeks in us—the distinction of real, effectual faith that makes us able to lead and teach (if one is a Bible teacher). For a leader, it is discernment between good and false teaching, and/or good versus bad love, Fruit, and character, and/or a good versus a failing church.  

What do you think the honest reputation of your church and leadership in the pews and in your neighborhood is? 

One of the deficiencies and fickleness of character that we humans possess is the propensity of being shallow. We are like a charismatic speaker over being told the truth, a flashy dresser over something practical, and a celebrity over an intellectual or even a friend. We want a religion that does not convict or teach because we want to indulge ourselves with our desires and a pat on the back. We want our ears tickled and our problems solved; we want to feel good but we do not want to grow in faith or learn from adversity. We want comfort and not have to bother with the time and work that true spiritual formation takes. In the Gospels, Jesus walked away from the people who were flocking to Him to go after the pious, fraud leaders. 

The question we must ask, is how shallow am I? What about the people in my church? Where do I need conviction; in what areas do I need to grow? Then, we need to get up and follow Christ comforts us and assists us to do the same, to lead others out of their shallowness into the depths of His presence and Word. Jesus knows our thinking, motivations, will, and heart; this is something only God can know. Jesus has supernatural knowledge and will see through any pretentiousness and shallowness; He is not concerned with the fad and excitement, but rather how we are leading others in growing their faith. Jesus did not trust the people who were so eager because He knew they would be just as fleeting (1 Sam 16:7; Psalm 139; John 2:13-25; 4:29; Acts 1:24). 

What can be done to deepen one’s faith and life?  

What are the challenges indicated in this passage for us today? What is our true priority in how we do our church? Where is our focus, rational, and purpose? Is it all about God’s glory—or ours? Is it about what we want—or what He requires? What is the purpose of your church? 

Do not be caught up with the stimulation of trends, hype, and speculations; rather, be caught up with Christ. Do not ignore the veracity of God’s Word. His Word is explicit; He tells us what we need to know and that is that. It is a tragedy to chase what is meaningless and fleeting then miss His wonders and Truth! We have nothing to add to His Word and nothing about which to improve it; rather, it is we who need to be approved.

How does your church glorify God?

Why is it impossible to glorify God in the midst of envy and strife, or in anger and bitterness? 

We, as Christian leaders have a debt to pay out of our gratitude for what Christ has done. We must consider reaching others in our care as well as the lost as an opportunity to obey our call. The whole purpose of the Jewish nation was to model God’s redemptive plan to all of humanity. Now the baton has been passed to Christians—both as individuals and collectively as the Church (Gen. 12). 

Keep in mind this imperative from God’s Word. We are to be rooted in Christ and to display humility, as our Lord exemplified. This means mutual acceptance of others, even those whose culture and beliefs are different. Yet, it is amazing how we Christians exclude one another over trivial matters, causing many church splits and schisms. This is what causes a lot of our problems in the world; we have created a poor reputation in the world. We often are the butt of jokes that we have well earned. It is not always satan or worldliness; sometimes we can be our own worst enemies (Matt. 23; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:20)! 

How do we as Christians cause church splits and schisms when we exclude one another over trivial items? 

God accepted you. You, in turn, must accept others! He did not save us to be self-centered; He saved us to be His ambassadors wherever we are, whatever we are, and whenever we can! 

What have you or your church done in the past six months to promote or model peace and unity? 

Consider that a bad leader is like a wild animal that will tear at another animal’s weakness and frailty. Do we do the same with others, and still praise the Lord? Yes, Christ bears our weakness and our stupidities, and He has patience with us when we are totally undeserving. But; what about our responsibilities? What about our call to be better? We need to make sure that when we lead, we are pointing others to Christ. We are to seek and bring out the good in others, as our Lord did with us, and be a blessing to others. We are not to seek self-gratification at the expense of others. Did you know that it is as impossible to be a Christian hypocrite as it is impossible to be half pregnant? Either you are—or you are not. The Fruit will show our true colors. We indeed have hope and purpose, as hope is the effect of obedience and trust in our Lord (Heb. 6:18). If you have no hope, then you have no vision and purpose, and no trust in the One who loves you ( Gen. 12:1-3; 17:7; 26:2-4; 28:14; 46:3; Ex. 29:45-46; 2 Sam. 7:9; Isa. 40:10; Mal. 3:1; John 1:14; 4:22; Gal. 3:8-16; 26-29; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 7-10; 13:20; Rev. 7:9; 21:1-3).

Our debt to Christ

As you lead, consider your debt to Christ for what He has done for you. Be careful not to put down others whose faith is not strong or whom you may not like. Be willing and able to disciple others in the faith with real guidance, support, and in prayer. In so doing, you can live your life as an encourager to others. A more experienced and mature Christian is called to walk alongside new and less mature Christians to help them grow so they can glorify Christ. This is leadership prime! In addition, Christian leaders are to remove all aspects of pride and arrogance from their thinking and actions! The leader or pastor has the obligation, the imperative command, to disciple others with time, love, and patience, not merely to exercise one’s own version or vision to the exclusion of Christ and His precepts. Additionally, we are not to flaunt ourselves because of our position or maturity—or lack of it.  

Have you been able to remove all aspects of pride and arrogance from your thinking and actions? If not, what do you still need to work on? 

Leaders are to be dedicated to unity rather than to strife and envy!  

There are major enemies and threats that will take down the best leaders and destroy the most fruitful churches. First is pride, which was discussed previously; now, consider that our Lord suffered for the benefit of others, and to the exclusion of Himself. Since Christ was able to deny Himself, it is ludicrous to think that our pride is bigger than Him, so that we do not need to be humble; without humility we will have envy, which is one of the most destructive forces on earth, and will bring down leaders and ministries faster than imagination can allow! How do we combat this? Look to our Lord! His focus was pleasing God and helping others. What is yours? If your vision and attitude are not about pleasing God, but you are in it for yourself, you are not a leader called by God; rather, you are in the wrong position at best or perhaps a parasite at worst who is a clear and present danger to the Kingdom and must step down until you are right with God! In real church leadership, no pretenders or phonies or prideful people are allowed! Get out and get help (Psalm 69:9; 1 Pet. 5)! 

Christ must be our model and pattern in our service to others, and the reason for the importance of being humble. Yet, many Christian leaders act as though this were not true! 

Do you acknowledge God’s Word the way you do money? 

From our studying, to our mentoring, to our governing, to our hospitality, or to our public encounters, all must be done with one mind and mouth. We must work as a body, maintaining our individual personalities, but having unified vision and purpose to glorify God. If this is not so, the result will be chaos and strife, Satan’s favorite playground. So, we must look to the Scriptures, which were written for us—for our benefit, for our learning, and for our growth—all by divine inspiration. We cannot glorify God in the midst of envy, pride, and strife, or in the presence of anger and bitterness. We cannot be known for our negatives, for they will accomplish nothing. Our focus must be on the positive; our focus must be on Christ as LORD (1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:10-12)!

We have a Debt with Leadership

The Apostle Paul gave us some essential guidelines from Romans 15:1- 13 in the leading of our churches. With Paul’s great manifesto complete, he finished with a personal note on how to better lead a church. Paul may have been apprehensive on how this letter would be received; therefore, he used many personal pronouns to reassure them of his love for them. People tend to lead from their own will, but God wants us to lead from His. So, Paul opened his heart to them, and became very vulnerable and candid. He sought their prayers and support as he both instructed and exemplified what they were to do. And, in his final closing, he was still overflowing with the magnitude of the greatness of God’s grace! Emperor Nero may have martyred him, but his voice prevails today, nearly 2000 years later, by the power of the Holy Spirit.   

In verse seven of Romans fifteen, we are asked to accept others. How can you do this? What barriers do you need to get over in order to do so? 

One of the major points of our lives is the debt we owe to Christ; we should give back to Him and His work in us with gratitude as we lead His Church. Thus, any condescension to those under our care and guidance is an extreme assault both on the character of our Lord and on His instruction to us. A Christian, especially a leader, must never, ever be so filled with pride that he/she is arrogant and callous toward others! The mature believer and leader should be able to give up his/her selfish desires and inclinations for the good of others, so to be an example of Christ.  

What have been your thoughts about our discussions of pride and arrogance? Have you been challenged? Or, do you feel we are “barking up the wrong tree” in our emphases? If so, have you studied the passages and prayed?  

The Bible was composed for our benefit and instruction, filled with hope, purpose, and meaning to enable us to live the Christian life. It is our written guide while Christ is our Personal guide from whose example we model and lead. In demonstration, Paul prayed for love and concord among the believers for the worship of God, who is the chief reason we are a church, coming together for the glory of God. We are passionately urged to know who we are in Christ, so our faith can be real and demonstrated in our relating to and management with others. We all are called to glorify Christ in all that we do—leaders as well as other believers. Thus, if we are called to be a leader, it will be exhibited by our passion and support in modeling, speaking, or writing, because of the urgency of the Gospel and the need for the world to hear it. As God desires our prayers and respect, He also calls us to offer the same to one another.  

Does this give you hope and encouragement? What about motivation?

Our Light is Christ and we are called to display Him!

Do you just want to preach to people or do you want to display Christ so others want what you have? The Church is called to be living out the faith in our lives and in our Church! How can you do this better? Jesus is proclaimed in the New Testament as the Priest, Judge, King, and Ruler of the Church. This is not a theory; rather, it is the reality of how we must connect with Him before we contact others and help them connect to Him. 
 
We are a “Work of God” that means we are made by Him for Him, even though we may suffer just to show and experience the greater wonder of God’s mercy and power. Because, God’s goodness and sovereignty will prevail and our call is to glorify God by our best efforts of faith, as we are His display cabinet (John 1:9-23; Gal. 5:19-22; Col. 1:9-14).  
Why would having no hope cause you and your church to have no vision and purpose, or to have doubts about the One who loves? 
As you shepherd, you properly lead, making a connection for God’s people so they can have hope and endurance through the sharing of his sufferings and experiences and so they will know He is still with them in spirit and in understanding. John was not living the good life while his people were being persecuted; he was in the frontlines of it all. He was a leader who led by example by going first in line to the destination to which he was leading others. After he had set the tone, he told them of his incredible vision of Christ and His call to the leadership of the Seven Churches. Jesus spoke to him in vivid imagery, commanding him to write it all down so it could be shared and used to further the Kingdom.  

Why is it important that when we run our churches, we do so with God’s power and precepts leading us and not our personal ways or trends?  

The purpose of a Christian leader, pastor/minister, deacon, elder, shepherd, or whatever you call yourself is to get your church lined up to God and His Way and precepts!

In addition, you are to facilitate yourself, your team, and the people with the development of faith, spiritual maturity, character, and Fruit so everyone is ready for His use and glory. We have a call to remain faithful and keep our trust in Christ no matter what comes our way in sufferings or temptations. We are to focus on His Way, even in persecution and stress. This theme is prominent in Revelation (Rev. 2:2-3, 13, 19; 3:10; 6:11; 13:10; 14:12; 16:15; 18:4; 20:4; 22:7, 11, 14). 

What are your thoughts now on what should be the essential framework to build your church into a healthier church?   …are they from the Bible or your will?

What is the image of Christ to you? How is His image proclaimed and demonstrated in your church? How can you use this information so you can have a better, healthier concept of who God is? How will this translate into your daily life? Remember; your duty is to reverence Him (Job 37:5-6; Ezek. 1:24; 43:2; Dan. 10:6).

Are you and your church known for your negatives or positives?

 

If so, what will you accomplish, or what will be your focus? 

A true Christian leader who is called by God will always point others to Christ and His fold, not to themselves, because, it is God’s power that leads¾not the ways or trends of the world. We will have the desire to learn, develop, and implement the skills of good leadership and gladly take the risk in doing so. The essential framework and prime purposes in building a healthy church are to glorify Christ, to worship and enjoy Him, and not to please our comforts or ideas. We are to shine before Him by knowing Him, by holding His truth, and by growing in Him so we can make Him known in a dark world! 

Jesus gathers us together as a church to be with one another for mutual support and protection. How can you be more careful not to follow bad shepherds and those who would hurt you? 

The Church is the body of believers whose duty it is to shine the Light of our Lord as a witness for Him. His character is the Light we follow and proclaim. Christ is the Priest, Head, Lord, and Prime Shepherd of the Church. He is the object of and reason for our gathering and functioning. It is all about Him, not about us as leaders; we merely point to Him! This is how God’s Glory descended into the Tabernacle of old and today into our churches. Our purpose now is to point to His glory, as the Church is the light of the world. Christ is the pattern we follow and emulate and the future for our lives. Proclaiming the Church as a lamp stand is saying the Church is significant as the true place of reverence to God, and Christianity is the true practice of Judaism (Gen. 1:3; Ex. 25:31-40; 1 Kings 7:49; Zech. 4:2; Matt. 5:14-16; 18:20; 28:20; John 1:4-5; 8:12; 14:18; Acts 26:13; Eph. 1:10; 5:8-13; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 1:4-5; Rev. 1:9-20; 2:9; 3:9). 

What does it mean to you to shine before God? How does holding His truth help you shine and make Him known in a dark world? How is your light shining before others?  

Here are some more questions to seek in prayer: As a leader, how do you connect, inspire and equip? How would others characterize you as such? What do you need to learn and overcome to be better for our Lord’s glory? Keep in mind that we all need renovation and renewal; I know I do!