Pray For Those Who Are Teachers of the Word

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Yes, I am openly, boldly and unashamedly asking for your prayers.

Not that I am not aware of the immense responsibility that teachers bear but the weight and severity hit me this week as I prepared to preach a message entitled, “Keys of the Kingdom”. It dawned upon me afresh that teachers of the Word can actually make it or break it for believers.

Consider Jesus’ extremely strong words for the bible study leaders of His day. To these experts of the law, He said, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (Luke 11:42) What we teach matters.

In this case, these teachers prevented people (God’s people, no less) from entering into all God has for them. That said, this does not mean that we simply leave the door wide open for anyone. Keys do not only open doors, they shut them too! Today’s messages of love, grace and freedom are indeed welcoming, even if these are taught at the expense of holiness, righteousness and faithfulness. If we would carefully observe the whole counsel of God through His Word, we would see many instances where believers are warned of being shut out and not being able to inherit the kingdom of God. But no one likes to teach these things! For one, it’s not easy to declare such truths; and for another, you won’t be very popular.

As I delivered the message last night, I kept reminding myself, “Stay close to the Word. Preach from the text. Refer to the words of Jesus.” It’s not about my opinion at all. I want to teach from the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict hearts. One might argue that it is a matter of interpretation and it’d be hard to fault that challenge. However, that does not solve anything at all. The question is still, “Which teacher has the interpretation that is closest to the heart of the King and His Kingdom?” Did I teach accurately or inaccurately? Did I represent my King and Master adequately, or not? Once again, what we teach matters; especially when it concerns matters of eternal significance.

So, please pray for me, and for all who teach the Word of God. It is an awesome privilege that carries with it a tremendous responsibility. Thank you.

“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers,
knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” James 3:1

 

I didn’t just take my hands off the plough; I burnt it.

By now, it should be open knowledge that I have stepped down from being a pastor in a church. Although it has been exciting and I am looking forward to what’s ahead, this move has also caused me to ponder the words of Jesus in Luke 9:62; or more accurately, my impression of what He said. In stepping down, have I taken my hands off the plough? And if I have, am I thus considered unworthy of the kingdom?

To answer these questions, I need to consider if Jesus did really say what I think He said in the first place. Impressions of biblical passages are convenient but can be rather dangerous too. If I suppose that something was said but in fact was not, I will end up mis-interpreting and thereby mis-applying it for myself; or even worse, for someone else. The right thing to do as a student of the Word is to check the Scriptures to see what this verse actually says and if there is a truth I need to heed. That was precisely what I did and this is what I found:

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

To make His point of complete devotion and focus, Jesus used the Old Testament imagery of Elijah’s call of Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21). The context of Luke 9:57-62 was discipleship or following Jesus; not the relinquishing or change of a position in ministry. There was no reference to the taking off of hands at all. Instead, the caution was that one should not look back when a decision has been made to follow Jesus and to serve Him. There it is: plain and simple, without any need to jump through hermeneutical hoops.

So, the more accurate question to ask is, “Have I looked back?” Humbly, my answer would be an emphatic “NO!” Since the Lord called me on 8 July 2000 to follow Him , there has been no turning back. When Elijah issued the call, Elisha “took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment.” Elisha cooked the oxen over a BBQ pit made up of the yoke and plough. In our language today, Elisha gave up any notion of Plan B. Similarly, when I stepped out of the family business, which was subsequently closed and liquidated, I knew I made the decision to rely totally on my Lord and Master, Jesus, and to do His bidding.

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Nothing has changed. When I said that I would follow Jesus, I meant it. When He first called, Serene and I had only two children. When I finally stepped out, the number had grown to four. Today, we have seven children. We are still following and serving Him and not looking back at all. We have no plan B. In a sense, I did take my hands off the plough … of my own agenda. Not only did I take my hands off that plough, I burnt it.

Today, I plough for Jesus and His Kingdom, always remembering that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30). He determines which field I plough in and for how long. I am thankful for all I have experienced and learnt in the past ten years; and especially the lives I have been privileged to impact. Today, I am being moved to a different field to begin a new work. I will not and must not be distracted. I don’t look back but keep my eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Finisher of my faith.

So, does that make me fit or worthy for the Kingdom now? I don’t know. But that’s not for me to determine. The words of Luke 17:10 come to mind: “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” Indeed, my part is only to serve Him as faithfully as I can as enabled by His grace. Jesus has already given me His all. Can I give Him any less? How I shall stand before Him when we finally meet, only Jesus knows.

All said, I am thankful for this little episode because God uses every situation to teach me and to open my eyes to His truth that sets free. As it has been demonstrated – and I have been guilty of it too – we must be careful not to use the Word of God based on an impression. This is indeed a good reminder to always get back to His Word to ascertain if what is said, quoted or preached has been done so accurately and contextually. And when rightly handled, the Word of God must always have the last and final say in our lives and ministry as we seek to follow and serve Him wholeheartedly as His disciples and servants.

Amen?