Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Are A Pope

At some point in Christian history the devil convinced believers to think of themselves as "church members" instead of as Holy Spirit filled representatives of God.  Eventually this led to a "priesthood" that did not include all believers.  Today even non-Roman Catholic Christians are confused about this.  There is still a sense that some Christians, those we call "Pastor" or "Reverend" are somehow closer to God than the rest.  It's a sad state of affairs.  It robs us of the power God desires us to have in our every day lives.

Twice in recent days I have read or heard someone talk about coming to church to be "filled" up.  Both of these men or women, both in leadership positions, are from the Lutheran tradition.  There IS a role for leaders in the church and there is a sense that we come to church to receive--but, according to the clearest instructions that we have been given about Christian worship and church order, that recorded in First Corinthians 14:26-32, the speaking and the "filling" isn't the "job" of just one designated leaderThere is a mutual filling, an "equal sharing" of grace.  We all ought to be practiced in sharing the inexhaustible treasures of God's grace.  Each of us equally.  Men, women, young old.  Every Believer.  All who follow Jesus Christ.

What then is the point of having leaders in the church?  In Christ there are no "first class Christians" and "second class Christians" who are dependent upon the "first class" ones.  Instead, consider these verses about Christians who are in leadership:
  • Hebrews 13:7  "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith."
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7 "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you..."
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."
  • Philippians 3:17 "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us."
  • 2 Corinthians 12:18 "...Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?"
  • Romans 4:12 "... who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham ... 
  • Peter 2:21 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps."
Christian leaders, "elders" in the faith, are to be learned from and imitated.  Yes, certain members of the body have a leadership function.  Leaders or "elders" (always plural, never singular) in each local body of believers need to make sure there is some sense of order in the Christian community.  So therefore, as a matter of good order and common sense, we ought to respect those who are designated as leaders in the sense that we always respect elders, but in no way are they to be seen as being any closer to God or holding "keys of the kingdom" any more than any other believer who has received the grace and mercy of God.  They can't give you anything that you cannot receive from Christ himself.

The Roman Catholic church's teaching that there is only true or "first" representative of Christ on earth is a misreading of Jesus words to Peter in Matthew 16:13-19.  Peter was just the impulsive loudmouth of the group of disciples.  He is correctly thought of as "every Christian," one that we can imitate in his confession of Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God."  And when we do, each one of us receives the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Those keys are not reserved for any one person!

The Roman Catholic church is wrong when they teach that there is one leader, one true "representative" or "vicar of Christ" on earth.  The fact is that God gives that status to EVERY Christian believer!  Each of us is a representative or ambassador of Christ (2 Cor 5:20)!

That's why I wrote "You Are A Pope."  There is no real difference between you and Jorge Bergoglio, who was elected today, and who is now, among Roman Catholics "Pope Francis."

If there are good things taught by this new pope or any other, if what he teaches is in agreement with the Word of God, then listen and learn.  And if he lives a life that is in accordance with the Word of God, imitate him.  But don't think you can't have as close a relationship with God as he might, or that your pastor or any other Christian leader does.  We are called to LEARN from them and IMITATE their faith, not just receive from them.  There is no one who we need to go to to be filled other than to God himself: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.  There is no "spiritual ceiling" for ordinary Christians.  In your home, in your work, in your church, you are a pope, a direct representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let's pray for one another so we represent Him well.

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