God’s under-shepherds (pastors) need a lot of things to be effective and helpful to God’s people in ministry. They must be born again, know the Bible inside and out, and have a sober realization that the souls sitting in their church’s pews are on a trajectory toward heaven or hell, among other qualities. However, as I sit down at my desk this evening, I believe two things warrant special attention. Firstly, God’s under-shepherds need a heart-shattering understanding of sin that enables them to go to war with it in their own lives and in the lives of Jesus’ sheep. Secondly, they require a radical trust in God’s sovereignty. Without an understanding of sovereignty, pastors may fear the outcome when dealing with sin in their lives and in the church.
God’s Under-Shepherds Need a Heart-Shattering and Sober Understanding of Sin
The reality is this: broken and sinful people (that is — all people) desperately need the Gospel. It is the difference between life and death. Either people are left dead in their sins, or they are, by God’s grace, made alive in Jesus Christ. Either their desires lead them to their destruction, or Jesus performs a heart transplant. Either people perish or they bear fruit. This means that under-shepherds called by God are not simply suggested to participate in His mission to crush sin in the lives of His people and reconcile all things to Himself; they are explicitly commanded to give their lives for that mission day in and day out. They are not permitted to feel indifferent about the very poison that infects and kills those God has entrusted to their care. They are not to coddle that which brought death to His Son. It’s as Charles Spurgeon once said, “If Christ has died for me, I cannot trifle [or turn a blind eye when God’s flock trifles] with the evil that killed my best friend” (All of Grace, 62)
Rather, God’s under-shepherds are to be ferociously heartbroken over this fallen world — laboring unapologetically to preach Jesus, make disciples, plant and pastor Gospel-saturated churches for the glory of God and the good of His people.
God’s Under-Shepherds Need a Radical Trust in the Sovereignty of God
Without a robust understanding of God’s sovereignty, radical trust in it is impossible. A weak understanding of God’s sovereignty will halt the work of rooting out sin, and God’s under-shepherds cannot confidently go where God has called them to go and do what He has called them to do. They cannot (and will not) face the sin that perverts and destroys their own lives, much less the lives of their people, with the steel (but tender) spine such action requires. If one does not deeply understand that God lovingly holds all things in His hands, God’s under-shepherds are attempting to survive high-risk missions without the proper gear. Without the sure confidence they need, they are expecting to bandage their wounded without medical supplies. And the last thing you want on the battlefield is a lack of gear.
It is the Triune God of the Bible who changes hearts and transforms lives, and ultimately promotes killing of sin, not our words nor our ministries. It is our mighty Redeemer who makes church growth possible, not books and articles by TGC, etc. It is the creator of the universe who gives us life, breath, and yes, even death. He is in complete control, and He is outrageously good. This realization is what drove a church planter friend of mine into one of the most dangerous cities in America to confidently exclaim during a conference message, “If you get hit with a bullet, trust that it’s God’s bullet!”…now that’s battlefield confidence!
God has a mission, and that mission is to make much of His Son Jesus! He is asking us to suit up and trust Him. He wants to use us, though we are broken and sinful, because He loves us graciously and loves to flex His grace and glory.
Be encouraged and comforted, shepherd, for He has promised to be with us every step of the way, and that changes everything!
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September 27, 2023
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