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The Pastor’s Charge

April 7th, 2017

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ… (1 Timothy 6:13-14 NIV)

Though here our text is specifically directed toward pastors, it is relevant for all Christians. Each Christian should know what God has called pastors to do and to be, and each Christian has a similar obligation to follow Christ their entire life.

To “charge” another person, in the sense that the word is used here, means to command them to do something. But the word, or the idea itself carries with it more than merely something that may be done in one act. It describes a moral obligation to God, one that involves not merely public actions, or an day-time job commitment, but a life long commitment. And as a commitment that demands a lifestyle that is given wholly to the cause. For the rest of Timothy’s life, and every hour of every day of Timothy’s life, this charge, this duty, this calling, the obligation fell upon him.

Each pastor should feel this obligation, and each of us, if he is honest, shutters under the thought of how often we have failed to keep this command. In this modern day and age, the pastor may be serving his church with a job description, with work hours, vacation time, and clearly enunciated expectations carefully spelled out. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, and some of this is very wise. Just as Christ took His apostles on short retreats for rest and rejuvenation, so a pastor needs to protect his mental health so that he can function effectively. I have found that I serve more effectively when I sleep well, take reasonable times for relaxation, and live a healthy lifestyle.

A life long calling: Yet none of this can remove the pastor’s obligation under God, nor should remove from the pastor’s mind this spiritual reality. Paul commanded Timothy to keep this command “without spot or blame” until Christ comes for His church or until he goes to meet Christ himself at death. The pastor also, or anyone who believes he has a calling from God – a missionary, an evangelist, a teacher in seminary, etc. – should feel the same. Whatever limitations our specific ministry assignment puts on our lives, whether work hours, vacation, retirement, or duties, these do not remove from us this obligation to fulfill our calling as a lifelong pursuit.

John Newton is not only an example of the amazing grace of God – a former slave ship captain, saved, called into the ministry, and later became a spokesman to end slavery. He is also an example of someone who served God, after his salvation and call into the ministry, with a lifetime of devotion. Serving into his eighties, even in failing health, and, for the last seventeen years, despite the death of his beloved wife, he was faithful as long as he lived. Once upon a suggestion that due to his age and failing health that he retire and stop preaching, he said: “I cannot stop. What? Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

A spiritual endeavor: The calling is not only a lifelong endeavor, it is also by its nature a spiritual one, one that may only be done best as the pastor is empowered by God. The apostle wrote, “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything,” and these words were not added as a random embellishment. They were given to remind Timothy and to remind each pastor since that time, that God gives new life to believers and empowers for service through this gift those who are called.

It is essential for the pastor and for the church to realize that the pastor serves under a divine command, and not merely on a contractual basis. Though there is a moral basis for honoring his contract with the church, if he has one, there should be in the contract the statement that the work is by its nature a spiritual work and is to be done by a called person. Immediately this reality brings into the dominant position Jesus Christ as Lord of His Church. Empowerment by Christ also by necessity demands surrender to His Lordship.

A pastor who is unable and unwilling to heed the voice of God will be of no use to the church. And a church that is also unable to unwilling to let the Lord lead the church by His Spirit is likewise severely limited in its usefulness to God. Both pastor and people should understand that everything about the mission and programs and decisions in the church should be done under the Lordship of Christ as He leads them by His Spirit.

A signal moment in salvation history was Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33:12-23, where he asked God for three things: the blessing of His presence, the knowledge of His ways, and the vision of His glory. All three of these requests are increased and heightened in the New Testament.

  • The presence of God is heightened to mean not only His presence around us but His presence within us. Jesus commanded His disciples to wait for the Spirit to come upon them, prophesying about Pentecost (Luke 24:49). And our experience with the Spirit today is that Christ lives in us, empowering us, filling us, and enabling us. We are to live and to serve in the fullness of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18-20).
  • The knowledge of His ways are also heightened by the presence of His Spirit, who transforms our hearts and enlightens our minds to understand the Scripture.
  • The vision of His glory is also heightened by our experience with His Spirit, as Jesus said in His prayer to the Father: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”  (John 17:24-26 NIV)

To live for God and to serve God is only possible as God Himself empowers us and enables us. We must learn to stand daily in God’s power and not in or own.

A calling with an example that went before: Paul also stressed that this calling, this life long witness and lifestyle, has an example of one who has gone before. Christ Jesus Himself went before us, and as He made the good confession of His Messiahship before Pontius Pilate, even though it cost Him His life, so we are also to be faithful. Since God gives life to all things, we do not even fear death. His example is to spur us on and encourage us.

Where we have failed to keep this charge let us repent and confess. If we have taken ourselves out of the hands of God, let us put ourselves back in His hands, under His Lordship. Let us regive ourselves to God, to follow His command either until Christ comes for His church, or until He calls us home by death.

1 Timothy , , ,

The Good Confession

April 6th, 2017

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12b NIV)

I am often in sheer awe of the doctrinal clarity of the Word of God. Deep and profound truths meet human experience – the eternal love of God, His omniscience, His plans and purposes, and His grace come to us human individuals who live such short and brief lives – yet we are able to experience God. And God’s word, in such verses as this one above, clearly explains the mechanical dynamics of this work of eternal God in our little lives, and even how we are to think and respond and act about such things.

Take hold of the eternal life: Paul came down to the point of daily choice with this verse. How is a Christian to live? How is a pastor to live? We are to take hold of the eternal life of God, we are to choose to grasp it emotionally, mentally, and spiritually with all that we have in us. The reality of the new life in Christ, “eternal” in both quality and longevity, is to be the delight and focus of the Christian. There is no difference here between the pastor and the lay person, that both are blessed beyond what we can ever imagine on earth by simply being included in the eternal family of God.

We value things on this earth that seem to last longer and hold up better than others, whether clothes or appliances or houses. But nothing here is eternal. Nothing material lasts forever. Only the spiritual life of God in Christ that is from eternity to eternity. Eternal life is not merely the continuation of life that we have here but it is a new life, the original life that God had ordained for us, and we enter into this life today. We are not to live by our recognition as pastors or church leaders – that is, that these roles and even spiritual gifts cannot be our main identities, for they are not the same as the eternal life of Christ. As Christ said to His disciples, “But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven” (Luke 10:20 NLT).

To which you were called: We did not think of becoming Christians or of gaining eternal life alone. Our salvation did not originate with us, or with our imaginations. It originated in the heart and mind of God and came to us as a calling from God. As Paul wrote of himself: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12 NIV).

When we think of eternal life we are not daydreaming and eschewing our responsibility. We are doing the very thing that we should be doing, thinking about the very purpose of our lives – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The purpose of your life and my life is summed up in this idea of taking hold of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

When you made your good confession: Paul wrote of a specific moment in Timothy’s life that they both knew of. Some have suspected it was his ordination into ministry. Others suppose it was another event associated with his salvation. Others that perhaps it was during a moment of persecution, where he confessed his faith in Christ. I believe the greater proof lies in it being his salvation, not his ordination, or necessarily his persecution.

But let us notice that this confession was associated with the timing of his receiving eternal life, not the means by which he received it. We are saved through faith in Christ and faith alone. Repentance is another aspect of faith, for the Christian calling is also called “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18), and give us insight that faith is more than mental assent. It involves heartfelt surrender of life to God through Christ.

Yet a confession is more than just an unnecessary adornment to faith. Those whom Christ called to follow Him He called publicly, and though salvation comes through faith, those who believe will confess before others. A certain number of people is not required, though with Timothy it was done “in the presence of many witnesses.”

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 NIV)

So this is how we are to live, how pastors and evangelists are to live, and how each Christian is to live: fulfilling the eternal plan of God for us by taking hold of eternal life each day, in thought, in actions, in relationships, and in our hearts.

1 Timothy