The Priesthood of the Believer

I was reading in the book EVERYDAY Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester this past week and I was learning about the idea of the “Priesthood of the Believer” and how this is applied within the Church.

When you think of a “Priest” what comes to mind? The Catholic Church? Mass? The Eucharist? The Confession Booth? I grew up going to Catholic Mass until I was about 13 or 14 years old.  My interaction with the Priests was seen through the lens of my father.  There was a Priest (whom I will not name) who struggled with alcoholism.  I know this because my dad worked as a Social Worker and rented office space from the Catholic Church in the basement and he would often go upstairs after work to socialize with the priests and this one Priest in particular would always be drinking and sometimes be drunk by 6:00pm.  My dad tried to work with him and help him overcome his drinking problem, but the priest refused and my father felt he could not sit under the priest’s authority and teaching.  So he left the Catholic Church.

It was around this time my dad was introduced to a new philosophy that he learned in a Lutheran Church called “The Priesthood of the Believer” – the idea being that every Christian can have direct access to God through Jesus Christ and therefore one does not need to go through a human priest to have communion with or forgiveness from God.

This is a great philosophy and is actually found in Scripture (1 Peter 2:4-10), but at the same time when this philosophy is not fully understood it can lead to problems.

Problems: Some people think that “The Priesthood of the Believer” means that “I, as a Christian ‘Priest’, do not need the church. “ They think, “Because I can go directly to God at any place at any time, therefore I don’t need to go to a church building on Sundays and I don’t need to be a part of a church community.”  The problem with this philosophy is it is just that, a philosophy based on a misinterpretation and misapplication of 1 Peter 2:4-10.  Let me explain…

Explanation: You see, Peter is saying in 1 Peter 2:4-5 that we, Christians (people who have trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior), are being built together by God on top of the foundation stone / the “Cornerstone”, which is Jesus Christ.  In other words God is building together a community of priests who are “living stones” (v. 4) that are being built into one body with Christ as the Head.  Peter does not say we are individual stones scattered in a field that need to remain there.

No, Peter is saying we are being “built up as a spiritual house” (v. 5).  In other words, church is not about going into a building on Sundays, taking communion from a Priest, and then walking out and going about your business until the next time you sin and feel the need to go back to church or mass for the Eucharist to absolve your sins.  That kind of theology is based in the Old Covenant, it is works based, it is dependent upon human priests and ritual.

The New Covenant is about Jesus being our perpetual High Priest who constantly is interceding on our behalf and who is for eternity our sacrifice through faith in Jesus (Hebrews 9), therefore as priests we, Christians, can come to God through Jesus Christ the High Priest and Sacrifice anytime and anyplace…AND…as we are coming to Him as living stones being built together as a spiritual household of priests (1 Peter 2:4-5) we are being built together as a community under the authority and blessing of God with a new and higher calling, a missionary calling to worship together, shepherd one another, and work together to as a missional community to tell the story of God, the great and might deeds of our Savior and Lord, and to see great things happen as we tell the story (1 Peter 2:9-10).

So how do we do this?

First, believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10).  If you don’t believe in Jesus, you will not have direct access to God the Father and therefore will not be a priest.

Second, believe God is Sovereign and so “I” don’t have to be in control.  If you struggle to believe God is Sovereign, you will be overbearing, inflexible, and impatient with people and therefore be a poor priest.

Third, fear the Lord and not people.  It says in Proverbs 1:7 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and understanding, but if you fear people more than God you will not do what God wants you to do, you will avoid confrontation when it is necessary, you will crave approval, and you will behave differently around different people as you are always trying to please them and therefore you will be a poor priest.

Fourth, find contentment in God.  If your contentment is not in God, then you will not feel like doing ministry and you will always be pursuing joy or pleasure in other things; you will complain a lot and feel that the Christian life is a burden or a duty and you will be inconsistent as a priest, a Christian, a father, or a mother, a husband, or a wife, etc.

Fifth, believe that God is gracious and forgiving and so you don’t always have to prove yourself.  If you don’t believe God is gracious you will take criticism and failure badly, you will find it hard to relax, you will be proud and envy others, and you will strive to make people around you feel guilty and therefore be a poor priest.

How does all this relate to “The Priesthood of the Believer”?

“Most poor pastoral care comes down to either over-pastoring or under-pastoring.  Over-pastoring is a tendency to dominate or manipulate or to be overbearing and too intense when we speak.  Under-pastoring is a failure to challenge when we should or an avoidance of difficult people and conversations.” – EVERYDAY Church, Chester & Timmis, pp. 82-83.

  • A failure to believe that God is Sovereign leads to over-pastoring.
  • A failure to believe that God is whom we should fear leads under-pastoring.
  • A failure to believe we find contentment in god leads to under-pastoring.
  • A failure to believe God is gracious leads to over-pastoring.  (EVERYDAY Church, p. 83.

May we learn to become better priests starting with those we are around EVERYDAY (children, wife, husband, boss, co-workers, etc.)

GODSPEED

Shepherding Each Other

In the next few weeks during our church services and during Home Community time we will be learning how to shepherd each other. 

What the heck does this mean and why do we need shepherding? Throughout Scripture the metaphor of a Shepherd is used of God and leadership guiding the church.

[Ezekiel 34:4]“Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. [5] They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. [6] My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” (This passage is a warning against false shepherds in Israel and an admonishment for them to shepherd rightly or the people would be scattered).

 

[Matthew 9:35“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. [36] Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…” (This passage is a call to all those who have a desire to get involved in ministry).

 

If you have a desire to get involved in ministry, then we need your help.  We are developing a system to try to mentor leaders who can help in the shepherding process. 

Concerning God’s structure of leadership in the Church Jesus is seen in Scripture as the Chief Shepherd of the Church with the elders of each local church being commission to do pastoral / shepherding work as under-shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4).  An under-shepherd’s job is to be the representative of the Chief Shepherd imitating His ways.  Thus, this is the reason we have elders overseeing Home Community groups so that they can look after a more manageable amount of people and really try to attend to their needs.  This is the reason we have co-leaders, to learn from the elder in each group and help shepherd, oversee, and pastor those in their care.

But this is not where shepherding ends.  Each Christian is called to be a priest, to shepherd one another in community.  This idea is found in 1 Peter starting in 1:22-2:10.  Next week we will focus on the “Priesthood of the Believer” – this week we will look at the basics of what we are to do and not do in shepherding one another:

  1. We (Christians) are to love each other deeply (1 Peter 1:22-25).  This means having brotherly / sisterly affection for one another (v. 22 – Philadelphia) and that we are to sacrifice and serve one another (v. 23 – Agape).
  2. We (Christians) are to put off (strip off and get rid of) community dividing behavior, words, and attitudes (1 Peter 2:1).
  3. We (Christians) are to pursue, crave, long for, desire the pure word of God (1 Peter 2:2-3).

At the Father / Son retreat last weekend we learned about dealing without our emotional injuries.  Men struggle in this area and therefore pass on to our children emotional injuries because men have not dealt with their junk.  We learned we need to own our stuff, find a spiritual friend, process through it rightly, and take baby-steps forward.  Roger Petersohn has a blog about how to do this – http://rogerpetersohn.wordpress.com/page/2/

We each can and should be shepherding one another.  We do this by living out of love for everyone in the church.  We do this by pointing each other to scripture.  We do this by not partaking in community dividing attitudes and behavior.  We do this by praying for one another.  We do this by encouraging one another.  We do this by serving one another.  We do this by pursuing the word of God.

Your shepherds (elders / pastors / directors) here at Grace Church Seattle love you and are here for you if you need to process through anything.

GODSPEED

Spiritual Warfare

There is a spiritual battle for the souls of people taking place all around us every day.

How do I know this? Because of what I have seen take place in churches over the last 16 years of my life.  Let me paint for you a hypothetical picture of what typically goes on in a church and how people in the church respond wrongly or rightly and therefore what results.

Wrong Responses: a church can have good doctrine on paper and even good preaching on Sunday, but this doesn’t mean the people in the pew or the pastor in the pulpit really believes the Scriptures.  You can tell what people really believe based on what they do.  So when people in a church have problems and the people don’t follow Matthew 5:23-26 or Matthew 18:15, then what those people are showing is either: (A) they don’t know these Scriptures; or (B) they have not taken the time to understand and follow these Scriptures; or (C) they are ignoring these Scriptures because of a fear of people’s response.

We as Christians are not given the option to not reconcile.  Take a look at Matthew 6:14-15 –

“[14] For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  [15] But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Jesus backs up his words again in Matthew 18 –

“[21] Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’  [22] Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Then Jesus went on to tell a parable about a servant who owed a large debt and was forgiven by the king, but then when the servant saw a fellow servant who owed him a small debt, he made him pay up or be thrown in jail.  When the king heard this he said to the first servant, “You owed me a lot, I forgave you, why did you not forgive your fellow servant.  Be thrown in Jail until you pay the last cent you owe me.”  Then Jesus said these words:

“[35] This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

The Principle: Churches get in trouble when people do not confront and forgive one another.

You might say, “I don’t like that word ‘confront.’” Okay, let’s use different words – we need to point out when someone has wronged us (Matthew 18:15) and then forgive them when they confess (Matthew 18:22).

We also need to go confess when we know we have wronged someone else and this needs to happen before you worship God (Matthew 5:23-24).  When it says in Matthew 5:24 – “leave your gift there in front of the alter.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”  What this means is don’t worship God if you know you have sinned against someone.  This is a principle reiterated by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:17-32 related to communion.  In other words if you have a broken relationship with someone (regardless if you caused it or not), don’t take communion until the problem is resolved.  And if you need help resolving it take one or two other objective and spiritual people with you (Matthew 18:16 & Galatians 6:1).

About the speed in which reconciliation should happen, it should all happen as soon as possible.  Ephesians 4:24-27 says if you let the sun go down on your anger and do not speak truth to one another then the devil gains a foothold.  This is the spiritual warfare I was talking about at the beginning of this blog.

People who do church wrongly don’t deal with “stuff” – call it “sin” or call it “issues” – whatever you want to call it doesn’t really matter, what matters is that we are in right relationships according to God’s standards.  And God has given us a method of making relationships right.  The Scriptures above are God’s steps to making it right.  And when people don’t follow the above and let the devil gain a foothold, then people start smack-talking behind each other’s backs and the result is the devil’s foothold gets more firm.  When the Pastors and Elders know about this and then ignore this kind of stuff, the foothold gets more firm and it becomes harder for a Pastor or the Elders to do things rightly, which increases the devil’s stronghold over individuals in a church and sometimes increases the devil’s stronghold over the church itself.

Dear fellow Christ-followers – will you commit to follow the Scriptures and do relationships rightly? Will you commit to humble yourself, confess your sins to one another, and show forgiveness and grace to one another?

Right Responses: The right thing for each of us to do is when you sin, go confess to the person you hurt and ask for forgiveness.  And if someone comes to you in this way, shower grace and forgiveness upon them and show them love and encouragement because I bet you it was dang hard for them to ask your forgiveness.

When you are sinned against, please go right away and say, “This is what happened.  It hurt me.” 

If someone comes to you and says, “You hurt me.”  Then say to them, “I am sorry, will you forgive me?”  I bet you it was really hard for them to come to you.  I know pride starts to creep in and we don’t like saying, “I was wrong, will you forgive me?”  But when we do confess and ask for forgiveness a burden is lifted.

And when you say to someone, “You hurt me.”  And they respond, “I am sorry, will you forgive me?”  Shower grace and forgiveness on them because I bet it was hard for them to humble themselves and admit they were wrong.

The more we do it rightly, the more we will be a church family that loves one another and the more people will say, “There is something going on at that church that is different.  God reigns in that church!!! I want to be a part of that!”

And the more we do it rightly the more the devil cowers and shakes and shivers and freaks out because he is about to be ousted and cast to hell by a community that will not put up with it anymore because they are standing united praying to God in Jesus’ name for deliverance from evil.

That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of!!!

Will you commit with me to do the above?

GODSPEED

I write the above with a concern for The Church (all Christians) not just any one individual church.