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OVERSEERS OF THE FLOCK

1 Peter 5:2 – Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.

The English word for “pastor” is only found in the Ephesians 4:11. In the Greek it is found many times. A number of different Greek words are used in the New Testament with slightly different meanings. Words such as shepherd, overseer, elder, and bishop. They all speak of pastoring the flock of God. Throughout history these words have been treated as separate ministries, but that is a wrong understanding and application. They all speak of the “care of God’s people.” In our devotional, I will use the word shepherd because the word is used in our verse for today.

The shepherd is a “local” gift. The shepherd has an allotment of God’s people for which he is responsible. The shepherd knows the people and their individual needs. The shepherd is to relate with other shepherds in the locality so that there is a healthy overall care for the body of Christ. Biblically speaking, shepherds are first recognized by the people for whom they are caring. An apostolic function is to recognize the shepherds and set them into their place before the people. This is clearly seen throughout Paul’s writings.

The shepherd is to exercise oversight. Two important understandings are needed. First, the exercise of oversight is not to be an obligation or feeling, “I have to do this.” It comes from knowing God’s call. It is an attitude of “volunteerism.” I do not “shepherd” for money, or guilt, or to be known or seen. The ministry gifts are to be utilized voluntarily. Secondly, an overseer must be motivated by love. Jesus voluntarily laid down His life for the sheep giving us an example to emulate. The overseer is not to be controlling or consider they have a position of privilege. The shepherd is first a servant of God and a servant to God’s people.

Shepherding must be according to the will of God. It is God who calls through the Holy Spirit working in a person’s life. I was called at age fourteen. I was planning a career in electronics, but as I walked across the Fellowship Hall of the church I attended, the Holy Spirit called me to serve the body of Christ. From that moment, I was ruined for anything else. I have done many things in my life, but I cannot escape being a shepherd. I feel no “compulsion,” only an honor to serve my Lord and His people.

As God’s people, it is important to understand the ministry gifts; this helps us pray for the shepherd/overseer. It is important for us to understand the grave responsibility that the shepherd carries. It is important so that we can work alongside the shepherd with their particular gifts. Finally, the Lord may call you to this ministry gift.

Father, I thank you for Your shepherds who represent Christ to the flock. I pray now for the shepherd that You have placed in my life. I pray that You would put a hedge of protection around him and his family. I pray that he would fulfill Your will through the calling that rests upon him.

THE GIFT OF THE EVANGELIST

2 Timothy 4:5 – Be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The third ministry gift Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:11 is that of the “evangelist.” Your fingers beautifully illustrate these five gifts which the Lord has placed in His church. The thumb speaks of the apostolic, as it touches all the other gifts. The prophetic is like the pointer finger, pointing the way. The evangelist, like the middle finger, reaches out the farthest. The ring finger illustrates the pastoral role and speaks of covenant relationship. The small finger speaks of the teacher. It is ideal for cleaning the wax out of your ears.

Paul addresses four areas of which he wants Timothy to be aware. He says be “sober in all things.” The message of the gospel is serious. The souls of people are at stake. You can have fun witnessing, but understand you are speaking of the eternal destiny of a soul.

Paul says, “Endure hardship.” Declaring the “gospel of the kingdom of God” will generate various kinds of hardships. Some examples are: financial, inconvenience, time and energy, persecution, mocking, rejection, and for some physical abuse, including death. Along with whatever hardships one might experience comes the joy of conversion. David declares, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).

Paul tells Timothy, who carries pastoral responsibility, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Timothy was not an evangelist, but was taught to think evangelistically. A man like Billy Graham is an Evangelist; his gift is obvious. We are all called to witness of the faith and win souls. Solomon wrote, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls” (Proverbs 11:30). Whatever your gift may be in the body of Christ, do the work of an evangelist.

Finally, Paul says to Timothy, “Fulfill your ministry.” One of the most fulfilling things in the life of a believer is to know your ministry of service. As I write these devotionals, I know, this task is a part of fulfilling my service to the body of Christ. No one person can do everything, but the Holy Spirit has assignments for each of us. Whatever assignments the Lord may have given to you, remember Paul’s encouragement to Timothy. You can always ask a person if they have any prayer requests. It is a great lead into sharing the love of God with another.

Father, I thank You for the Gift of the Evangelist. As Paul instructed Timothy, help me to do the work of an evangelist. Open my heart and my eyes to see people as You do. Show me the lost and the perishing who need to hear of Your great love revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

PROPHETIC VISION

Ephesians 2:18-22 – Through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

As we give our attention to the five ministry gifts it is important to keep focused on Jesus. Each of the ministry gifts is a manifestation of the ministry of Jesus and does not stand alone on its own merits. Paul reminds us, “through Him we have both access in one Spirit to the Father” (emphasis mine). The Godhead determined for Jesus to build His church upon the apostolic and prophetic ministries. It is through apostolic teaching and prophetic vision God’s will and purpose is communicated. John the apostle declares in the book of Revelation that he “fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Revelation 19:10).

As with the apostolic gift, the prophetic gift is still needed. Today, the prophetic does not bring new revelation or anything “extra biblical,” but helps to restore the Lord’s church to His original intent. Throughout history, men have distorted the truth of God and have built their own systems. The writers of the New Testament warned God’s people that this would happen. Consider what Peter said in his second letter, “False prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1-2). The true prophetic voice points to Jesus. The true prophetic voice is anointed of the Lord to envision God’s people in God’s purpose for current times.

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). As we draw near to the Lord through the Holy Spirit and the study of His Word, our expected result should be “prophetic vision” for our life and service to Him. When listening to the preached word and as you pray for God’s guidance in your life, expect to receive through the prophetic gift, what the Lord wants to reveal to you. Praise God for the apostolic and prophetic gift He has made available to His church.

When I listen to preaching and teaching, when I read articles and books, I am asking the Lord to reveal to me understanding for my life and what is being spoken and how it relates to culture and what the Lord is doing today. I am listening for His Spirit to give to me prophetic understanding about His church and the culture in which I live.

Father, thank you for the prophetic gift You have given to Your church. Thank You for prophets who hear Your voice and deliver to the church Your message for contemporary times. I ask for You to increase prophetic awareness in me that I might walk in a stronger relationship to “the testimony of Jesus.”

APOSTOLIC GROWTH

Ephesians 4:11 – He gave some as apostles.

In our next five devotionals, we will look at the Lord’s purpose in these five ministry gifts for the growth and development of the body of Christ. These ministry gifts and their function are important to the maturation of individual believers. The first of the five is the “apostolic gift.” The original apostles are known as “the apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). Christ is building His church upon the foundation that the apostles and prophets laid, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

These men were given to Christ in His earthly ministry by the Father. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word” (John 17:6). There will never be more apostles known as the “apostles of the Lamb,” since they were given to Jesus in His earthly ministry. It is important to understand that the “apostolic ministry” was meant to continue until the Lord returns. The apostolic ministry today reinforces what the apostles taught. They are used by the Holy Spirit to “equip the saints for the work of service and to build up the body of Christ: until we all attain the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-14).

It is important to know what the Lord is presently doing in the earth. We started to hear teachings about these five ministry gifts around 1948. Since that time, each of the five gifts has been restored to the church and is still developing toward greater maturity. It is through the apostolic ministry that a great unity is manifesting in the Lord’s church. It is unity around the message of the kingdom and not a particular church system. The church is unified throughout the world as we pray for the nations. There is increased city-wide unity as pastor’s work together for the greater cause of Christ. The Lord is at work unifying the generations. There is much emphasis on fathering throughout the Lord’s church today.

The church of Jesus is growing in numbers and in maturity. Individuals are growing in their commitment to the kingdom of God. The unity of the faith is happening. Increased knowledge of the Son of God is taking place. It is easy to be critical, but an honest examination of the church throughout the world reveals “apostolic times” are among us. Jesus is preparing His church for great things as He wraps up the ages and prepares to return for His bride.

Father, I present myself to You as a willing vessel. Help me attain to the unity of the faith. Increase my knowledge of the Son of God, causing me to mature into the measure of the stature of Christ. Grow me up to be used by the Holy Spirit for Your pleasure.

GROW UP IN ALL ASPECTS INTO HIM

Ephesians 4:15 – Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

Paul clearly articulates the will of God in this scripture. The larger context of Paul’s instruction begins with verse 11. There, Paul outlines five specific graces or gifts the Lord has given to His church for the purpose of producing growth in the saints of God. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifts given to accomplish the Lord’s purpose in the earth. In verse 12, Paul states their purpose, which is “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

As an individual waits on God through study of His word and prayer, they receive much in terms of understanding and ability. In God’s eternal purpose, He has established these ministries as a vital part of the “equipping” process. There is an anointing that is imparted through these gifts of God. “Equipping of the saints” has a core purpose of helping God’s people achieve maximum potential in God’s calling and service. Equipping includes many things such as structuring teachings, bringing correction, instilling vision, being an example to the saints, bringing understandings of God’s purposes, and impartation of God’s gifts, to name a few.

Our growth in Christ includes the “work of service.” Jesus told His disciples, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Service is the cornerstone of the Christian life. Service is a heart attitude. It is not a “works mentality,” but resides at the very core of the love of God. Jesus is our model for everything. He raises up leaders in His body that are to emulate Him. Unfortunately, some leaders take privilege to themselves and expect to be served. New Testament leaders understood they were to serve the body of Christ.

Service includes evangelism. Jesus said that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The saints of God are called to serve the lost by sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. As saints of God, we are called to live a lifestyle that represents God’s righteousness. The Holy Spirit supplies to each believer the power and grace necessary to serve the needs that come their way. The ministry gifts are intended to build up the body of Christ. As individuals, we should represent Jesus in the flesh. As a body of believers, the same is true. Christianity is not about a gathering that meets in a building, but a people who are equipped and given to the service of others. We are to portray the true nature of Christ in the earth.

Father, in Jesus’ name equip me through the help of Your ministry gifts for the work of service. Increase in me a burden for the lost and an ability to bring others to a saving knowledge of Your Son. Strengthen me in my relationship with other believers that we might be built up together in Christ.

GROWING IN CHRIST

Matthew 13:23 – The one sown on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Jesus taught many aspects of the kingdom of God through parables. Matthew 13:23 is an excerpt from the “parable of the sower.” In this verse, Jesus is describing the effect of God’s word on the person who is like good soil where seed has been sown. The soil represents a human soul. As we have seen previously, the soul is made up of our intellect, emotions, and will. Our soul is in a constant state of growth. No one can say they have arrived in terms of their total understanding of God’s word. Our relationship with the Godhead is constantly developing and growing. Only in eternity will we find full development.

We begin our journey with the Lord like a newborn baby. “Be like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). The key to development and growth in the kingdom of God is a constant hungering for the Word of God. This longing should never disappear! The Holy Spirit gives us the desire to read, to study, and to search out the depths of God’s truths. We should be moving from milk to the meaty food of Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews had to stop a theme he was developing in Hebrews 5, because he realized that his readers were not ready to go further. “Concerning Him, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).

The Christian life is a life of development and growth. God’s life in us is organic in nature. His life is measurable in our growth and development. That measurable growth can only come through longing for His word, regular times spent in fellowship with Him through prayer and supplication, and a relationship with other believers. All three of these areas are necessary in order to be healthy and growing. These three ingredients will affect growth in your mind, emotions, and will. Relationship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit will provoke much thinking and reshaping of our thought processes. This is also true as we interact with God’s people. It will produce growth which helps us to mature as sons and daughters of God.

Growing and developing can be very painful at times. As this is true physically, it is equally true spiritually. This is why Peter declares that “the apostles were strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).

Father, I thank You for the seed which has been sown into the good soil of my life. I am depending on the Holy Spirit to continue to help me in my development and growth. Increase my love for Your word, for prayer, and the fellowship of Your people.