When you read the New Testament you’d be surprised to read how many times men (and women) are called to be sober. And most time when the word sober is used, it means not only ‘not drunk’ of course, but mentally alert, sharp, thinking clearly with right judgment. Women are called to be sober as well. In many cases for both sexes, particularly church leaders, it’s meant as a call to be dignified. (Proverbs 31:25; 1 Timothy 2:2).
Three years ago, when I first posted about Beth Moore and the trouble I was having with her teaching, one of the things I took issue with is that she isn’t dignified when she teaches. I’d written,
She isn’t dignified. Yes, that’s what I said. Beth Moore is not dignified on her stage. She moves around a lot, quickly delivering scriptures and her interpretations in rapid-fire fashion. She will use tricks like having a wastebasket prop to “throw away” negative behaviors, she presses participants to wear bracelets that supposedly mean certain things (I read this from three blogs) and she will contort, kneel, dance, and generally cut up, sometimes while holding the bible. Laughter is frequent.
A bible lesson is not a comedy routine. I am all for laughter. Our pastor says some funny things sometimes and the congregation will of course laugh. I am among those who laugh loud and I’m sure even the choir can hear me from where I sit. But teaching the bible with respect requires some gravitas. It requires some dignity. It isn’t a prop or a party trick. I shun antics as the main behavior of the teaching session. Funny sometimes, yes. Zany bible teachers? No.
|Call me staid (Decorous? Sedate?) but I don’t think Paul hung “I AM” posters
around the necks of hapless volunteers in the synagogues
when he was reasoning with them
“Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.” (1 Timothy 3:11)
I took a lot of flak from people about that rebuke. Many people thought I was being too picky, or too staid, or too Northern. Most of those people who said I was wrong had overlooked the clear commands in the bible about behaving soberly in church and out. Even though I posted them, lol. But it’s pretty simple. We’re commanded again and again to be sober.
Many people these days don’t like it when we remind ourselves of a doctrinal standard. (2 Tim 4:3). They really hate it when we remind ourselves that there are behavioral standards, too. ‘Who are you to judge how someone should act?!’ Etc. But it’s not me, it’s God. They are His standards, both doctrinal and behavioral (moral).
As you read all the verses in the NT which mention sobriety, you begin to notice a pattern. Sobriety in behavior comes first because we are clear in our thinking. ‘Be sober-minded’ ‘Exercise sober judgment’. ‘Don’t be drunk, so you can think clearly.’ Like that. We are called to act this way because we hold Jesus up as the highest and most important Person in the universe, worthy to be worshiped. We are serious about this and we are dignified about it too. We want to think clearly, witness accurately, show self-control, love, and patience, and be serious about the King so we can make good decisions. We also do this because we do not want to be a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9, Romans 14:21).
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at the spectacle that Christian worship services have become. Are these men sober-minded? Exercising good judgment?
In the above picture, ‘Pastor’ Troy Gramling set himself ablaze to demonstrate something from his preaching series “Daredevil.” (Why any Christian would want to say he is anything like a devil is beyond me…Christ bought us away from the devil). When Paul wrote to Timothy about the behavioral qualifications of pastors, and thought he had covered it with ‘exercise good judgment ‘ and ‘be sober,’ I don’t think he would have thought he’d have needed to spell it out: “Do not set yourself on fire.”
In the photo below, ‘Pastor’ Ed Young decided to preach about sex. Young and his wife Lisa staged a 24-hour bed-in on the church’s roof to discuss truths about sex before a live Internet audience. When Paul wrote the following words to Timothy…
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
…I am sure he did not think to include prohibitions about silly stunts in the sun and sex talk in front of the world. ‘Fulfill your ministry by being immodest, a stumbling block to the young and intemperate, and say things in public that would embarrass your mother. G’wan. Jesus is ‘kay with it.”
‘Pastor’ Rod Parlsey is pastor of World Harvest Church, a large Pentecostal church in Columbus, Ohio. As Stand Up For the Truth describes the now deleted video, “Is it a bird? Is it Tom Cruise? No, it is a pastor! Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church is raising some eyebrows by releasing this now-viral video of himself zip lining through the air over his cheering congregation, and landing onto his pulpit. His band is playing the “Mission Impossible” theme music to kick off its “Mission Possible” sermon series leading into Easter.“
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7)
At the revelation of Jesus Christ, do you think the Head of our church will look favorably on the ziplining pastor making a mockery out of his House of Prayer? Well, how did He like it the first time? (Matthew 21:13)
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
In this next example, we’re told not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but ‘Pastor’ Steven Furtick thinks just as highly of himself as Jesus thinks of the Father.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3).
Furtick is building the church? I thought Jesus was doing that. Building it upon a vision Furtick had? I thought the church was being built on the fact that Jesus is savior. And uniting around Furtick’s vision? I thought we were supposed to unite around the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:3)
“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. … And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:16, 18)
Blasphemy. And remember, Furtick was the one who perverted the worship service by seeding planted people in the audience to manipulate congregants into coming forward for a baptism he called spontaneous, but was anything but. It was a total manipulation from start to finish, including the music, teaching the planted people how fast or slow to walk down the aisle and what to say to the baptizees coming forward. Spontaneous, my eye.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~Inigo Montoya
Strong’s numbered Greek words in the lexicon explain that in most cases in the above verses, ‘sober’ means for the believer to “think shrewdly”, reflecting what God defines is true moderation. In the other cases, it means don’t be drunk. ‘Be sober, unintoxicated’ refers to having presence of mind (clear judgment), enabling someone to be temperate (self-controlled)”.
Jesus is the head of the church. If we can’t picture Jesus doing something or saying something behind the pulpit, then His under-shepherd shouldn’t do it.
I’m not talking about never smiling, never having fun, or never relaxing. In fellowship or casual settings away from church, sure, have fun. Even then, don’t be so wild as to give cause to the unbelievers to slander us. (1 Tim 5:14). But in church or in bible teaching settings, such antics have no place. Why? Because of this verse:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
Obey. Fear. Trembling. It is all joined at verse 13- ‘for it is God…’ God is in us, working out His will and plan and we work out our salvation because we obey in fear and trembling. Why? Again, because He’s God.
We feel utter joy in knowing He is God and utter gratitude for our salvation. We do feel joy and love and we exhibit it, but it is all rooted in the fear and trembling because He is God, and there is no other. We aren’t flippant, casual, irreverent, zany, ‘devilish’, foolish, or outrageous. Our joy comes from the fear and trembling, the fear of sinning against the Lord, of not being active in our sanctification, and fear of loss of rewards
If you would like to listen to an excellent sermon on the Christian life centered around an exposition of the above Philippians verse, please do so. It is by Dr Steven Lawson, “Christian Living 101: Part 1” Here it is
Meanwhile, remember worship is not a party! Be sober, be mindful, be dignified. This will please Jesus.