The Pastor and the Glory War

These are necessary and challenging words for every pastor from Paul Tripp.  I needed this.  Here are two snippets from the article.

I am very concerned about acceptable Sunday morning mediocrity, and I am persuaded that it is not primary a schedule or laziness problem. I am convinced it is a theological problem. The standards you set for yourself and your ministry are directly related to your view of God. If you are feeding your soul every day on the grace and glory of God, if you are in worshipful awe of his wisdom and power, if you are spiritually stunned by his faithfulness and love, and if you are daily motivated by his presence and promises, then you want to do everything you can to capture and display that glory to the people God has placed in your care. It is your job as a pastor to pass this glory down to another generation, and it is impossible for you to do that if you are not being awe-stricken by God’s glory yourself . . .

. . . Pastor, has familiarity caused you to settle for a mediocrity that keeps you from putting God’s shining glory before the glory-blind week after week after week? To these beaten-down ones, you have been called as an ambassador of glory. You have been called to rescue those who are awe-discouraged and awe-confused. You are called to represent the One who is glory to people who by means of suffering and disappointment have become glory cynics.

Take a moment to read the entire article, “Ambassadors of Glory for a Beaten-Down Church,” at the Gospel Coalition.  It will be several minutes well-spent.

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Anti-Consumerism and Pro-Body of Christ

People should know what we’re against.  But people should also know what we are for.  This is true in any sphere.  It is certainly true in the body of Christ.  We are immersed in a consumerist culture.  This means that we have absorbed consumerism into our being, just like a sponge absorbs water.  Make no mistake, we are children of our consumeristic times.

As a pastor, I see just how much a consumer mindset has infiltrated believers when they are 1) looking for a church and 2) serving in a church.  When people are looking for a church, they “shop” around to see which church will serve them best  When these same people join a church it impacts their service because they remain committed to getting rather than giving–or giving nominally rather than sacrificially.  I liken church membership to a bank account.  A person typically makes deposits and withdrawals.  A balanced church member does both.  A church member who only withdraws (benefits from ministry) just drains resources–it’s an unsustainable pattern.  A church member who only deposits (participates in ministry) burns himself out.  As church members, we need to do both.  I appreciate the congregation of Bible Baptist Church (BBC), the church at which I serve.  There are a good number of people involved in the work of the ministry.  This post is not a backdoor critique of the congregation I shepherd.  On the contrary, it’s a joy to do the work of the ministry with many of the saints at BBC.  At the same time, every American Christian has marinated long enough in a consumer oriented culture that we cannot escape its influence.

This brings me back to where I began.  The Apostle Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ reveals that a consumer mentality (a focus on me and what I can get)  is the polar opposite of a ministry mindset (a focus on others and what I can give).  The two cannot peacefully coexist.  So believer, do you want to be counter-cultural?  According to the Apostle Paul, if we are going to be anti-consumerism as believers we must be pro-body of Christ.

I’ll close with a citation that prompted this post.  Paul Tripp communicated the importance of the body of Christ when he wrote,

Many of us would be relieved if God had placed our sanctification in the hands of trained and paid professionals, but that simply is not the biblical model.  God’s plan is that through the faithful ministry of every part, the whole body will grow to full maturity in Christ.  The leaders of his church have been gifted, positioned, and appointed to train and mobilize the people of God for this ‘every person, everyday’ ministry lifestyle.

The paradigm is simple: when God calls you to himself, he also calls you to be a servant, and instrument in his redeeming hands.  All of his children are called into ministry, and each of them needs the daily intervention this ministry provides.  If you followed the Lord for a thousand years, you would still need the ministry of the body of Christ as much as the day you first believed.  This need will remain until our sanctification is complete in Glory (Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, ix).

Gospel Redeemed Marriages

We are concluding a CE class on marriage at church this Sunday.  I commend Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage DVD sessions and book for the class.  The quote below captures the gospel-centeredness of his material which is why it is so immensely useful and eminently practical.

It is telling to observe that the first two things Adam and Eve did after disobeying God was to cover themselves and to hide.  For the very first time, they experienced shame and guilt.  They feared discovery and judgment, and although they worked to shift the blame to someone else, they were playing a fool’s game.  The blame-shifting did not quiet their hearts.  It did not bring them peace.  What they had done brought shame upon them and guilt in relation to God.  It is important to understand that the shame and guilt were not just psychological or emotional experiences; they were real, and they had to be dealt with.

Dealing with our guilt and shame is what the whole Bible is about.  It is about redemption, that is, the paying of a debt of guilt and shame that needed to be paid.  That payment was made on the cross.  Jesus took our shame, hanging in public, numbered with criminals.  He took our guilt by taking our sin on himself and paying the price for it—death.  He did this even though he had no reason for either shame or guilt, because he was a perfect man.  He did not do these things for himself; every action in the whole process was substitutionary.  It was done for us.  Why?  So guilt and shame would not hold us; so that in the courage of celebratory faith we would quit hiding, quit excusing, quit blaming, and quit rising to our own defense.  So that we could be unafraid of saying, ‘You are right, and I was wrong, and I need your forgiveness.’  So that we could say, ‘I know I blew it last night, but I’m committed to doing better.’  So that we could say to one another, ‘I need your help.  I don’t always see myself accurately.  If you see something wrong in me, I welcome you to help me see it as well.’  So that we could look at our marriages and not declare that they are perfect but celebrate the fact that, over the years, we have taken many important steps closer to what God has called us to be and has designed our marriages to become (Paul Tripp, What Did You Expect?? [Wheaton: Crossway, 2010], 78-9).