On an airline before every flight, the attendant demonstrates the oxygen mask procedure in case there is an emergency. Every time, they instruct passengers traveling with small children to place the masks over their own faces first before they help their children. If they do not, they might both could die from the sudden decompression and loss of oxygen.
Before sailing to Jerusalem, Paul instructed the elders from Ephesus to “continually be watching out for yourselves and for all the flock.” If they did not learn to control their private thoughts and commitments, they would be unable to take care of the believers in the church. The command to “be continually watching out for yourselves” means to “care for, be in a state of alert, or [be] concerned about”; it is directed to the ministry leaders, and he later adds “the entire flock.” How were the elders to do this?
One area was in teaching the word of God. Paul warns, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16). If they were going to be “good ministers of Jesus Christ,” they would have to be “nourished [personally] in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (4:6). Before they could be effective in ministering to others, they had to know and practice the commands and principles of Scripture. Another area was the battle with personal pride: “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt 6:1).
The pastor and leaders of the church are to model a mutual accountability, and they must be prepared to ask and be asked the hard questions without fear. What is God teaching them in the word today? What sin are they battling? What are they praying for today? With no accountability, it is difficult to grow in our walk with Christ, and it is easy to grow cold, superficial, and defensive.
“Lord, Your church together is struggling against sin and opposition. We must watch out for each other. Give us Your love for Your church today.”