The Purpose for Pastor's Space
We will periodically post items here on current issues and events.
I was having a discussion with a friend recently and the phrase “they love the Lord” came up when describing a person with a watered down understanding of scripture. That was the response I received when it was pointed out that they should know better, that they need to read the Word and they would see the error. It was used to dismiss a lack of maturity for a person who wasn’t a new believer, just an infant in knowledge instead of years.
We hear that term applied to people all the time and it has become generic and lacks any real specifics. As I considered the phrase, I started thinking of other ways such a description of a person should or could have been be worded. The first one that came to mind was sober or, more specifically, sober-minded. We see those words used in Scripture but they may be very different from the generic phrase “they love the Lord” that is often applied to people.
Said another way, I have met plenty of people who do indeed love the Lord, but are far from sober-minded.
So what exactly does the bible mean when this word or phrase is used?
The two common Greek words (νήφω nēphō and σώφρων sōphrōn) we translate as sober or sober-minded.
Depending on usage, they can be an action (verb)
I Thessalonians 5:6
"Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober."
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you,
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly,
as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
Or something describing the action (adverb)
"Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,
we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age."
It can also be used as a description or attribute (Adjective) as we see in
I Timothy 3:2
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate,
sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach."
Okay, enough for the English lesson and on to "what does it mean to us?" Before that question is answered, I would like to point out that these Greek words in their various usages (22 times) are used by Paul to Titus or Timothy on 10 occasions out of the 22. So, in the entire New Testament, almost half are written from an elder pastor to younger pastors regarding qualifications of leaders and exhorting younger men in the faith to mature in their sobriety of mind. Interestingly enough, the Apostle Peter accounts for 5 of the remaining uses, and yes, he does so to call people to godly conduct.
When sōphrōn is used in the Gospels, it is recording the same incident and it is
a brilliant way of illustrating what sober-minded means.
"Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion,
sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid."
"Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons
had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid."
In these verses, the Gospels translate it as “right mind” and it describes the condition of mind of the Gaderan man who was formerly demon possessed. Now, after Jesus cast out the demons who once controlled him, this same man was found to be in his “right mind” which gives a great illustration as to what seems lacking in modern Christianity.
Consider his situation carefully. This man was controlled by the devil. He was hopeless and helpless and required intervention by the Great I Am who personally set him free. A raw display of power removed those who tormented this poor soul and gave him rightness of mind. What an earthshaking event to try to wrap our minds around and grasp.
Notice there was no lack of right mindedness afterward. He was locked in on evangelizing throughout the entire region.
He was changed in the most elementary ways imaginable and His former life was unrecognizable.
Can that be said of the modern believer?
The gospel records in Mark 5:18 how, once freed from his torment, he wanted to leave everything and be with Jesus.
But Jesus didn’t allow him to travel with He and the apostles. Why was that?
That was done because Jesus wanted him to be a witness and testimony and to not go back to his everyday life.
He would be more effective in that capacity, in an area where people knew who and what he was.
Mark 5 tells us he traveled throughout the Decapolis (10 great eastern Roman cities) and they marveled.
What a testimony to the power of Jesus to command the impossible!
As was said in the opening of this article, people may “love the Lord” but suffer greatly from “sobriety of mind.”
Look at some of the largest churches we know and look carefully at what is done there. Look at the modern church in light of the demon possessed man before and after conversion. Is there any real comparison?
Compare 21st century Christianity to the early church. Look at Paul’s instruction to the churches in his epistles.
I suppose Corinth was likely the most seeker sensitive church of the ones we know. There was a circus-like atmosphere there, from what we can tell from his writing, and he was not complimentary of them, to say the least.
In fact, he was heartbroken and, as was the case in 1 Corinthians 5:1, he addressed their
allowance of immorality as being something not even tolerated among the gentiles.
Permissiveness and not calling error where it's due will guarantee a lack of sober mindedness and a permissive church body. Look at youtube or other video outlets to see some of the biggest churches in America and ask how much sobriety is taught and promoted, as opposed to the carnal illiteracy being promoted in the name of God. Sure, they will tell you they love the Lord, but will they ever ask questions on what they are being taught and if it is biblical?
Do they even know or sense there might be a problem?
Enough with the micro, lets address the macro. We are being told to seek unity and common ground, even among people and faiths who believe a clearly different spiritual truth. The lack of sober-minded leaders and congregations alike make this an easy poison to sell to the masses. We are asked to look the other way on differences and only promote agreement.
I wonder if Paul was asked to find common ground with the gnostics or judaizers. We certainly know what his answer would be. I am sure agreement could have been had, if he were willing to look. But he refused and he warned instead.
It is now more important than ever to soberly examine every doctrine, teacher, leader and then thoroughly examine ourselves to see that we too are in our right minds. We do that by examining and knowing His Word. Not what a pastor says, but what God has said. It is not for the weak or timid, it is for the believer, filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
It is for the courageous and fearless. It takes a love for His Word and His truth. It may divide friend and family
(but that’s nothing new) as it did in the first century believers and from the ages since then.
If I read the scripture correctly, we cannot be one who “loves the Lord” without being also “sober of mind.”
We cannot see clearly who we love until all the fog of worldliness has been removed. If a church is not faithful to teach the whole Word of God, it is not worthy of calling itself a church. If a pastor is not faithful to teach the whole counsel
"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
he is not a pastor but a hireling.
"But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.
13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep."
Without His Word we cannot know Him accurately and fully. That truth is why He gave us His Word. Without His Word, we are not a fully instructed, informed and mature church, but a social club using slogans to entertain the masses.
Without a solid knowledge of His Word we may be saved but are permanently stuck in our infancy relying upon milk and not meat. Without His Word, we have no way to determine truth.
Because of His Word, we should demand more of our churches, our pastors, our leaders and ourselves.
"Faith comes by Hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."