How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words

(These are notes taken during the session, not a manuscript.)

I was asked to speak on “Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words.” The big idea is that some go too far, and some don’t go far enough. We’re going to spend some time reading Scripture, including Scriptures that some may not be comfortable with.

1. Christians are to feed the sheep.

We deal with different people differently, and we have to discern who goes into what category. When we’re dealing with Christians, the effort should be to love, encourage, grow them. I love my people with all my heart, and I’ve given them my life. I’ve told them I’m preaching my own funeral. That’s how I intend to go out. I love and adore my people.

We see this in the ministry of Jesus. He speaks to the woman at the well in a loving way. Jesus speaks like this to Zaccheus. Romans 14 shows us this as well. Paul says “It doesn’t matter what you eat or don’t eat. Love your brother.”

Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This is speaking of sheep. We’re not supposed to be kind to wolves or false teachers. We’re not to be kind to those speaking false doctrine. Some Christians, when you begin to critique others, quote Eph. 4:32. We are supposed to be kind, but to one another. We are not to be kind to wolves.

2. Rebuke the swine.

These are people who are habitually unrepentant in their sin. Their not acting like sheep, though they claim to be. Paul tells Timothy to rebuke with all authority.

Isaiah 3:16-24 – “The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.”

We read that and say, “That’s fine,” unless you are that woman, unless that’s your daughter or wife. All of a sudden, you are offended because the God of the universe has opinions about accessories. Here God rebukes women for their sin.

Whole books of the Bible are devoted to rebuke in a satirical way. The whole book of Amos is a satirical rebuke.

Amos 4:1 – “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’”

You laugh because you don’t think he’s talking about you. I’ve never seen a culture where a woman likes being called a cow.

These women live in very nice homes up on the mountains. They are very rich. God shows up to these women and says, “The clothes you are wearing were made in a sweatshop and your nanny is an illegal immigrant. I know your gal pals are part of the local Rotary Club. I’ve decided to call you the cows of Bashan.” It’s funny, and you can laugh, even though it’s a nervous laughter. Some would say, “I would never say that.” God said that.

Amos 6:4-6 – “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”

Woe to you who roll around in Escalades and wear lots of bling and lay around on couches hoping you can get onto MTV Cribs. This is God’s way of rebuking the sheep who are acting like swine. Their consciences are so broken that apart from a storng rebuke, they will not be changed.

Again, we don’t think God is talking about us. How many of us are in debt with buying things to impress people. The Bible is okay when it’s talking about them. But it’s painfully read when it’s talking about us.

Ezekiel 16:26-28 – “You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied.”

I was listening to Christian radio recently, and it said “We are safe for the whole family.” The DJ read the verse of the day, and I knew it wouldn’t be this one.

Ezek 23:18-21 “When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

Some translations translate “semen.” God is rebuking his people for idolatry, sin, and sexual perversion.

Today we use euphemisms like “Having an affair.” I can’t handle it. A pastor having sex with someone not his wife is not an affair. It’s adultery. We use good words for good things and bad words for bad things, and we confuse people when we use good words for bad things.

More money is spent on pornography than on foreign aid. A porn film is made in this country every forty minutes. When you’re in the middle of a war you sometimes have to bring out the big guns.

Proverbs rebukes the sluggard. He’s talking about you 20 year old bloggers who live with your mom and sleep in Star Wars sheets.

Prov. 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’”

Prov. 19:24 – “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.”

Proverbs also rebukes women, calling them dripping faucets. It’s better to live on the corner of a roof than on a house with a quarrelsome woman.

Rebuke the swine. You don’t rebuke the sheep. If a guy comes in and says, “I was reading my Bible and didn’t understand it,” you don’t rebuke him.

3. Shoot the wolves.

These are false teachers. Martin Luther says, “With the wolves you cannot be too severe. With the weak sheep you cannot be too gentle.” People only see me on the stage losing my mind but not praying with rape victims afterwards.

My point is that many of us have become worldly, thinking that you only say certain words. Wordliness is not having courage or speaking truthfully. We worship a guy who got murdered. The cross is an offense, and if we don’t speak of it in an offensive way at times, we may be false teachers.

Each of us to varying degrees is a hypocrite. We worship what we do or do not do instead of what Jesus did for us. The Pharisees were the devoted Biblicists. You love it when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, but you don’t think you are on their team. When you read this, put yourself, your church, your denomination in this passage.

Matthew 23:13 – “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”

You are so worried talking about what you should be against that you don’t win people to Jesus.

Matthew 23:16-21 – “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it.”

These are people that have memorized the entire Pentateuch. Didn’t Jesus tell us not to call people fools? He did. We should call fools fools. That takes discernment.

“You can’t call me blind. I went to seminary!”

Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

You tithe out of your spice rack. You’re that legalistic.

Matthew 23:25-26 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

You look nice, you put your makeup on, ladies, you comb your hair, gentleman. You look wonderful to everyone but God who sees the heart.

Matthew 23:27-28 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

“He’s amazing! He’s memorized verses! He’s read books and paid attention to the footnotes!”

Matthew 23:29-33 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

There is a propensity for those who are Pharisees to read the Bible and think things would have been different if you were there. You would have done worse, and so would I.

These are church-going folks, they teach Sunday school, they have memorized books of the Bible, they have given their lives to teaching Scriptures, they have masters degrees in theology, and he says “How can you possibly escape being sent to hell?”

Matthew 23:34-35 – “Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.”

Jesus shoots the wolves. Some of you get very frustrated because you want to be treated like sheep, but the problem is you are acting like wolves. We are supposed to love the sheep and shoot the wolves because we love the sheep.

Consider the following examples from the New Testament:

Philippians 3:2 – “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.”

Colossians 2:8 – “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Colossians 2:18 – “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind.”

1 Timothy 1:3-7 – “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

1 Timothy 1:19 – “…holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith”

1 Timothy 4:1-2 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”

1 Timothy 4:7 – “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5 – “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

2 Timothy 2:14-18 – “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.”

2 Timothy 2:23 – “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”

Titus 1:10-14 – “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.”

2 Peter 2:1-3 – “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

2 Peter 3:16 – “as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

1 John 2:18 – “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”
We feed the sheep, we rebuke the swine, we shoot the wolves. Paul does it. Look at Galatians 5.

You cannot allow Victorian nicety to define what is love and then judge the God of the Bible by Victorian niceness.

Galatians 5:11-12 – “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!”

The Judaizers are saying “Jesus plus circumcision.” Jesus plus anything for justification ruins everything. This is a very serious issue. The gun needs to be loaded and wolves need to be shot when they are hurting the sheep.

I once had a guy who wanted to talk about paedocommunion. I told him you have more important things to do than argue about paedocommunion. He said “I’m willing to fight over this issue.” I said, “I’m not.” Some people won’t fight for anything. Some fight for everything. Paul here is fighting for the sake of the gospel and the welfare and his church.

The cross is offensive by itself. We will offend people by preaching it. What we believe is so offensive that half the pastors don’t want to talk about it. Seminaries are saying “Don’t say that; you might get hurt.” The guy who first preached it got murdered. I don’t expect anything better.

Every seminary graduate should get a Bible and a cup, and that will set them for their future.

These people in Galatians 5 are saying a little circumcision makes you closer to God. Paul is saying, “Go varsity.” Some of you wouldn’t say that to your people. You don’t say that to sheep. You say that to wolves.

Paul goes on to say, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13-14).

Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is destroy someone before they go to hell and are ultimately destroyed suffering forever.

People love to prooftext verses, and they don’t read the context. The guy who said “love one another” prefaced it by saying “cut your thing off.”

Paul even names people sometimes who are false teachers. He is saying,”Don’t read their books, go to their conferences, etc.”

1 Timothy 1:19-20 – “…holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

2 Timothy 2:17 – “and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus.”

2 Timothy 4:14 – “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”

You shoot the wolves, and occasionally you have to name them.

We’ll talk about Martin Luther, the man who, outside of Scripture, elevated this into an art form. Some of you would judge Luther and say he was too hotheaded. Well, we got the Reformation out of it.

Luther said that he has “not been hesitant to bite my adversaries….What good does salt do if it does not bite? What good does the sword do if it will not cut?”

We are told that our speech is to be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). You know what salt is? Salty.

The Papists would never quote verses. Luther called on them to quote Scripture, calling them “coarse asses.”

Luther often debated Erasmus of Rotterdam. “Erasmus of Rotterdam is the vilest miscreant that ever disgraced the earth. Shame upon thee, accursed wretch! Whenever I pray, I pray for a curse upon Erasmus.” Some of you will say, “I think he has anger issues. I don’t think he’s stable. If we gave him meds and concert tickets to John Tesh, I think he’d do better.”

Here’s what he says of his anger: “I have no better remedy than anger. If I want to write, pray, preach well, I must be angry. My entire blood supply refreshes me….My mind is made keen and all temptations depart.”

Feed the sheep, rebuke the swine, shoot the wolves.

4. Bark at the dogs.

These are religious people. Barking at them is mocking them, making fun of them.

The Bible uses humor often in a prophetic way to show the hypocrisy and vanity of people who are religious, who seek to appropriate their own righteousness apart from what Jesus has done. It either leads to despair or pride. Those who despair tend to leave the church. Those who are proud tend to be elevated to the leadership.

Some of you will say, “Should we use satire?” The Bible does. Psalm 1 doesn’t say, “Don’t be a mocker.” It says, “Don’t mock God.” Throughout the rest of the Psalms, God mocks people.

Religion is ridiculous. Jesus is wonderful. The two are totally different.

Most pastors call sinners to repentance and not religious people. The sinners think you are calling them to religion, and the religious think they are better than everyone else. God commands all men everywhere to repent, including religious people. You are not a faithful teacher if you don’t call religious people to repent. By satire, the Bible shows that people take themselves way too seriously and God way too lightly. This is love for those who are confused about the gospel.

Exodus 32:24 – “So I [Aaron] said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."

He’s talking about religious righteousness, imputing my own righteousness to myself. “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Those are bloody tampons. It’s supposed to be disgusting. Standing before God saying “Here’s my righteousness” and it’s other than the person and work of Jesus, it’s a bloody tampon. Do you know that our religion is that disgusting to God?

1 Kings 18:26-27 – “And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

There’s a cage fight up on the mountain. Elijah’s determined. Coming as well are the prophets of Baal, and they want their god to show up and make his magnificence known, and he doesn’t show up at all. Elijah mocked them.

Isaiah 44:15-17 – “Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’”

Isaiah mocks a guy who makes his own god out of a piece of wood. It takes amazing skill to know which end of the log is for worship and which is for burning wood. That’s hilarious. This is like a lumberjack out in the woods saying “Alright, boys. I know you’re new. This end of the log is for worship. And this end of the log is for firewood.”

Some people say that Jesus wasn’t funny. Jesus was funny. Elton Trueblood wrote “The Humor of Christ” saying that once we realize Christ was not always engaged in pious talk, we are on the road to understanding.

There are some things Jesus said that, unless you understand his humor, you won’t understand.

Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 19:24 ). I love to hear commentators deal with this verse, because they don’t get the humor.

How about the plank and the sawdust story ( Matthew 7:1-5 )?

Jesus mocked religious people. He mocked the way they prayed. He mocked the way they tithed and fasted.

The disciples came to him in Matthew 15:12 and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” You can picture Jesus saying, “Really? It bothered them? I had no idea that would happen.”

Matthew 11:6 : “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

The only way not to be offended by Jesus is to repent. Religious people preach repentance but don’t practice it. Martin Luther began the 95 theses with “All of a Chrsitian’s life is one of repentance.” If you want to be a heretic, just stop repenting. If you want to miss the grace of God, be offended by Jesus instead of laughing with him at your silly self.

Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

The Philippians passage is where the dynamite is buried. Philippians 3. Paul has talked about his qualifications. He talks about his religion this way: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” ( Philippians 3:7-8 ).

The debate is over what Paul means by “rubbish” or “dung”. How far do you go in barking at the dogs, in making fun of religious people?

Daniel Wallace has a PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary. He has taught Greek at the graduate level since 1979. He has a Greek grammar and is the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible. If you’re a blogger, he’s smarter than you. I know he’s smarter than me.

Here’s what he says: “In Hellenistic Greek, it [the word for “rubbish”] seems to stand somewhere between “crap” and “s**t”. I quoted a PhD who said a naughty word.

Some of you say, “That’s not right.” It is, because religion is like a steaming pile that a dog leaves on the lawn. Mormonism is that. Oprah is that. Vague, general spirituality, anything that dishonors the God of the Bible. Paul says you can be very devoted to the wrong cause. You can be zealous in worshiping a false god. Sometimes we need to speak strongly so people understand what we are saying.

Should we say this word all the time? No. It’s not a word we should use on sheep. Paul used the word once in the New Testament. On occasion, strong language can awaken people.

Feed the sheep, rebuke the swine, feed the wolves, bark at the dogs.

5. Pray for the shepherds.

Pastors have a very difficult job, because we have to decide who is a sheep, a swine, a wolf, and a dog. We don’t know peoples’ heart, and sometimes we get it wrong. It can become so paralyzing that we treat everyone like a sheep and wolves take over the church.

Before you pray for the shepherds, consider their context. Some of the prophetic passages in the Old Testament are to guard people from Baal worship. Paul is contending against Judaizers, Luther is contending against Papists. Judge them by their context, not by your context.

Maybe your church doesn’t have the situation they did, but if it does, pray for a Paul who can come in and do battle, who can come in and kill the wolves. God determines the times and places in which we live. He puts certain people in certain times and places to do certain things.

What are the shepherds dealing with? That may explain their tactics. This is one of the most personally painful aspects of my ministry. People wearing Christian clothes and driving Christian cars wonder why I’m so intense. It’s because I’m dealing with unbelievers.

Do I feed the sheep? Yes. I want lots of people to become sheep. In my context, where I preach at the Ballard campus, if you take a right, there is a huge statue of Vladimir Lenin. It’s in front of a Taco Del Mar. You eat a burrito and sit under Lenin.

The biggest even of the year is a parade where they worship the sun.

We got picketed last Saturday. Four protesters showed up because we had a parenting conference. The speaker said that spanking is an appropriate form of discipline.

The big issue I’m dealing with now is the Hump Fest coming up next month. It’s the amateur porn festival. Everyone gets together in a theater and votes on which porn is the best. To make it in the festival, you need to have something in the film that shows that the film was made for this festival. This year, that’s me. People are trying to have sex around our church and in the bathrooms. I know that Christians are going to freak out. That’s my world. I preach with bodyguards in front of the stage because I’ve had people get up and try to kill me.

I have sinned a lot and said things I totally regret. I got saved at 19. My dad was a union drywaller. Isaiah said, “Woe to me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” I’m the son of a union drywaller. I have crossed the line, gone too far and been deeply convicted over the sin in my past. What I have said will live with me forever, and this message is particularly painful for me. But I don’t want to be that cowardly guy who gets up every Sunday and feeds the sheep, the wolves, the dogs, everybody.

Pray for the shepherds. Pray for them more than you criticize, e-mail, gossip, or blog about them. Pray that they would have a discerning mind to know who is a sheep.

Pray that they would have a thick skin. Pray that they would have a humorous outlook. That they would laugh at themselves, that they would have a tender heart toward Jesus and the sheep. That they wouldn’t be hammered, that they would keep a tender heart, that they would have a humble disposition, that when criticisms are true, they would repent. That they would look at a criticism for a kernel of truth to be sanctified by.

Pray that shepherds would have encouraging families, that their wife would endure all the criticism, backbiting, people who would use her to get influence, that she would remain close to Jesus and be a place of refreshment for her husband, that her job is to keep her husband from despair, by not always agreeing with him but agreeing that she will always be for him.

Pray for his children as people take shots at his family. That his children would not go astray because critics love that.

Pray that one of the elders in the church is a good sniper. That he could spot people who are trying to take down the pastor. If the pastor tries to do it, it’s a lose-lose situation. Some of you elders here need to get in the middle.

That the shepherds would have evangelistic devotion, that they would not just feed the sheep, but that they would love the lost. That they would not waste their time checking their ratings and overlook Paul’s admonition to do the work of an evangelist. That they wouldn’t be so buried in firefights that they can’t see more people become sheep.

Pray for the shepherds, that they would learn selective hearing, that they would listen to their elders, that they would invite into their lives good counsel. Not everything that is said is worth a hearing. Shepherds can become so hard-hearted that their ears are closed and they spend time justifying themselves when they shouldn’t. They need to know who to listen to, who to heed, and who to not to.

There is a short list of people that I will listen to: the elders, my wife, John Piper, C.J Mahaney, Gary Breshears. I’ll listen to them because they have love and hope for me. They will criticize me, but it’s so that I can be more like Jesus, and not so that they can glory in their victory.

Some of you who are critics and snipers will see someone who is not where they should be. A good shepherd comes to help them, and you shoot the shepherd who is trying to help them. Paul said there are not many people who are good shepherds like that.

Pray for the young shepherds, that older shepherds would not shoot them like wolves and wouldn’t criticize them like dogs, but would encourage them like dads.

© Desiring God

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