Why Are You a Pastor?

On occasion I get this question. But even more, people will simply say, “I would NEVER be a pastor.” Implicit in that statement, though, is the same question, “Why are you a pastor?” Here are a few of the answers to the question.

The reason I am a pastor is because God saved my wretched soul and called me to this work.

At the age of 12, God presented his gospel to me in the form of a tract I found on the side of the road. I became convinced by Scripture that I was a rebellious sinner who had no real future except eternal condemnation. Romans 3:23 rocked my world, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” How could I, and everyone else in the world, be in such a state of alienation towards God that his justice would demand we be punished in hell forever?

I couldn’t answer that question, really, but I knew it was true. I believed strongly (and still do) that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). And, of course, this scared me silly.

So I learned about God’s provision of a Savior: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Holy Spirit was helping my 12-year-old mind understand that the blood of Jesus was a sufficient payment to save me from my sins.

How amazing to know this truth: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). I longed to move out of that last category (“condemned already”) and into the first category (“whoever believe in him is not condemned”).

So I started trusting Jesus as my God, King, Savior, and Friend. I began walking with him, placing my entire eternal destiny fully into his hands. As a result, he has filled me with such amazing joy, helped me through life’s hardest trials, continually kept me close to his heart, and given me the blessing of Christian fellowship at various churches through the years. Most recently (for the past 7 years), Rock Mountain Lakes Baptist Church has been my refuge and home.

Living life in and with fellow believers through the local church has been a necessary part of my developing faith. Early on in my walk with Christ, I learned so much at church. I heard hundreds of sermons, Sunday School lessons, and other types of teaching that helped me grow in understanding. God’s Word just came alive through this process.

As time went on (when I was around 18), God laid it heavy on my heart to be an active part of the most marvelous organization on planet earth: his Church, which is his Bride. He showed me how beneficial such a place can be to those who want to walk with Jesus. I sensed him call me to contribute to the lives of other believers by learning to preach and teach his Word.

And really the rest is history. I trained for pastoral ministry at Bible college and seminary, and as quickly as possible, I began serving as a pastor. By God’s grace, I am beginning my 14th year as a pastor and have enjoyed over 20 years of vocational ministry (I also served in music ministry, youth ministry, and as a teacher at a Christian school). When I think about the fact that God has been this kind to me, all I know to do is praise him and thank him! He is good and holy and deserving of all praise and glory!

To summarize:

  • I am a pastor because I am a wretched, hell-bound sinner that Jesus saved by pure grace.
  • I am a pastor because the church was a major formative influence on my spiritual growth and development early on (and continues to be to this day).
  • I am a pastor because it is such a joy to see believers grow in their understanding of God’s Word and walk closer with Jesus as a result.
  • I am a pastor because I want to share with those who do not walk with the Savior all that they are missing.

Glorious Grace by Jonathan Edwards (Updated to Contemporary English)

Glorious Grace was one Jonathan Edwards’ earliest sermons, preached in 1722 when he was only 19 years old. At that time, he was completing his M.A. studies at Yale University and was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in New York City. The sermon gives us a glimpse into Edwards’ own intense spiritual experiences, which were at a highpoint at this stage of his life.

Essentially, the message is a powerful celebration of God’s grace and the corresponding joy it brings to the soul of a believer. He shows how each individual part of the gospel is made all the sweeter when considered in relation to the glories of God’s grace.

As is typical of Edwards’ preaching, the last part of the message is loaded with application. In particular, he urges his hearers to accept the wonderful gift of free grace from God without hesitation and to never attempt to earn God’s salvation through one’s own power or morality. Without God’s grace we are eternally hopeless.

If you are interested in having this sermon updated to contemporary English in book form, along with two more of Edwards’ powerful messages, see Many Mansions, Glorious Grace, and Christian Knowledge at Amazon.


The Glories of God’s Grace

And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:7)

Introduction

Of all God’s attributes, it is his mercy that we, the fallen and sinful race of Adam, need most. Thankfully, God is happy to pour his great mercy into our lives. He knows the depth of our need for it, so he demonstrates it to us more than any of his other attributes. And when he showers us with it, he does so in the most glorious ways! The wonders of divine grace are the greatest wonders of all.

God’s divine power and wisdom are also marvelous. With these he brought the entire world into existence. Likewise, his holy justice is simply awesome. With it he punishes sin in a most profound way.

Besides his power, wisdom, and justice, all of God’s other attributes are also utterly fantastic and amazing, and with them he has performed uncountable wonders. However, even though all of this is true, nothing can compare to the wonders of his grace.

“Grace, grace!” That is the sound we hear ringing in the gospel! “Grace, grace!” That is the shout that will ring in heaven forever!

The angels sang of this grace when they gathered at the birth of Christ, joyfully lifting up the words of God’s good will towards men. Perhaps, even as they sang, they were considering the profound theme of God’s grace in a way they never had before. Continue reading Glorious Grace by Jonathan Edwards (Updated to Contemporary English)

Three Ways Sin Deceives

All people have a plague called indwelling sin living within them (Romans 7:23). This great internal enemy of the soul is full of lies and deceit, and the Bible teaches us not to fall prey to its schemes:

Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Here are some common ways our indwelling sin will lie to us in an attempt to deceive us into committing actual sinful acts.

By distracting the mind

The mind is the watchman for the heart and will. When it fails, so will everything else. If the sin that dwells within can pull our thoughts away from Christ and the things of God, sinful actions will surely come. The mind was designed to be filled with the truth of God:

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

But sin would have it filled with the ways of the world.

It is the mind that preaches against lustful, greedy, or haughty thoughts. But sin tells it that these things are perfectly natural.

It is the mind that says, “Get behind me,” to the inner pull towards evil, to the outward temptations set on enticing us to fall, and to the devil himself. But sin is friendly to darkness and attempts to persuade the mind to embrace it as well.



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Three classic sermons from Jonathan Edwards
Updated to Contemporary English


The mind is the command center, so obviously a vicious enemy like indwelling sin will seek to take out the headquarters first.

All sin is illogical and insane. It is the job of the mind to tell the difference between things that are rational and things that are not. Let sin have its way within us, and our thoughts will be quickly distracted from the glory of God and his saving love. Instead of the things of God, sin will move our thoughts directly to the objects of our lust and greed.

By promising the heart

Sin lies when it tells the heart to enjoy the pleasures of this world. It deceives when it says, “If it feels right, do it.” The lies of sin to the heart never shut off. Daily and hourly, these deceitful darts are constantly bombarding every sinful heart with promises of tantalizing thrills and fantastic fun. Continue reading Three Ways Sin Deceives

Many Mansions, Glorious Grace, and Christian Knowledge

Jonathan Edwards’ sermons and writings are beloved by the church, yet very few Christians actually read him. Why?

Because he is difficult to read. He used long, tangled sentences that very few contemporary readers can abide.

This is why three of his classic sermons (Many Mansions, Glorious Grace, and Christian Knowledge) have been updated for today’s readers. This new volume is now available at amazon (print or Kindle).

Quotes from Many Mansions

“Here in this world, our public houses of worship often fill up very quickly. Sometimes we must endure overcrowding, people stuffed together. Our buildings can feel tight, small, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But it is never like this in our heavenly Father’s house. There is always extra space in his heavenly temple.”

“You would be utterly foolish to neglect seeking a place in heaven. Seeing that there are plenty of mansions there for us all, why would you turn away from this honor? Rather than seeking such a wonderful place, far too many people turn their minds to the worthless and fading pursuits of this world.”

“Your current earthly home might be convenient, roomy, and just perfect for you. But it is not a permanent mansion, but rather a temporary tent that must soon be taken down. It is merely a lodge in a garden of cucumbers. Your stay on this earth is really just for a night. Even your body is a mere house of clay that will soon decompose, pathetically rotting away. Your body will inhabit only one other place on this earth—your grave.”

“The circumstances of the dying enable them to see things as they actually are. They are better able than the healthy (like most of us) to judge what is most important, because they stand, as it were, between two worlds.”

Quotes from Glorious Grace

“At one time among heathen peoples, it was believed that the sacrifice of an only son was the greatest gift that could be offered to the gods. They would sometimes do this during periods of great distress. Even to this day, there are some people who continue to perform this type of sacrifice, and in some places in the world, it happens constantly. But something even stranger than that has been declared to us in the gospel—not that men have sacrificed their only sons to God, but that God gave his only Son to be slain as a sacrifice for men.”

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“Oh, what a vast difference between a poor, miserable sinner and a saint clothed in a bright, shining robe of glory. The sinner is full of his sin and condemned to the fires of hell, while the saint wears a crown of victory and triumph. God’s grace is so glorious that these two descriptions, as utterly different as they are, can be speaking about the same man. That is, he begins his life as a condemned sinner, but later God’s grace arrays him in robes of glory. He moves from an extremely precarious state of damnation, but then transforms into a state of eternal joy and bliss. No wonder we call God’s grace glorious!”

“Oh, we are miserable creatures! We think the gift God has offered in the gospel is not great enough for us, when in reality, we are the ones that deserve nothing good at all! Because of our sin, we deserve God’s mercy less than the least of all. We don’t deserve the smallest crumb of bread, the least drop of water, or the tiniest ray of light, much less the dying Son of God!”

Quotes from Christian Knowledge

“People, then, cannot say anything like this: ‘We are merely common people. Let us leave all the Bible study to the ministers and theologians. They are the specialists, so they can debate and argue about all these things that do not concern me.’ Nobody should say this! Obtaining divine knowledge is of infinite importance to every person!”

“If God calls some to be teachers, then he also calls others to be learners. Teachers and learners naturally correlate in this way. They must go together. Just as teachers have the duty of teaching, learners have the duty to learn. It doesn’t make sense for God to require hard work and preparation on the part of teachers, but not require the listeners to learn. The learners are called to labor in their learning just as teachers are called to labor in their teaching.”

“Regularly purchase excellent books, realizing that it is worth the little expense. Obtain as many as you can, and use them as often as you can.”

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Other Jonathan Edwards works updated to contemporary English


Four Ways Politics Can Be Spiritually Damaging

Lengthy political seasons plus 24-hour cable news coverage often equals a spiritual slide away from Christ. An election year, like the one before us, has a tendency to wear on the soul who daily follows every up and down of every candidate in tortuous detail.

To some, following the circus closely is the equivalent of being an informed and good citizen. However, while every Christian should participate in the political process (especially in a democracy), most believers would agree that the process leaves one spiritually dry and unsatisfied.

Here are four specific ways following politics too closely can cause distraction and severe damage to the spiritual life.

(1) Following politics too closely can breed sorrow, anger, and anxiety

Watching debate after debate, consuming endless news cycles, and reading all the opinionated editorials of pundits has a way of depressing the state of the soul. When someone realizes that his vision for the nation’s government will never come to fruition (regardless of which candidate he votes for), his heart often slides towards sadness. Republicans and democrats alike realize that the opposition is too numerous and too powerful to ever achieve their desired form of government, and this can be downright depressing.

After sadness, madness and fury usually follow. Politics is an angry business, and candidates play very dirty, slapping the hornets nest with every memorized talking point. Even Christians, who know that the anger of man is sinful (Proverbs 14:9 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly”) and who have the Holy Spirit guiding them internally (John 14:17), have a tendency to allow angry feelings and words to flow like lava from a volcano.

And when it comes to politics, sorrow and anger always bring their friend anxiety with them. People who absorb Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC (like addicted sunbathers) have a tendency to worry themselves into a frenzy: “What are we going to do if Hillary wins?!” or “If Trump wins I’m moving to Europe!!”

Sorrow, anger, and anxiety have a tendency to quickly kill spiritual vitality. Walking close to Jesus breeds joy, peace, and rest, not sorrow, anger, and anxiety. Though we have an obligation to know candidates, vote for the best, be informed about the issues, and otherwise do what we can to influence the system for good, nonetheless, if we soak in too much of the negativity, we will pay a price.

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

(2) Following politics too closely can breed cynicism

The fake-ness of TV politicians (like their TV-preacher counterparts) quickly leads to mistrust. Campaign strategies are (more or less) public information, and we are all very well aware that candidates and their teams determine exactly what they need to say to win certain percentages of votes from certain demographics. Candidates beg their supporters to send in cash so that negative commercials can be aired in order to crush opposing candidates. It all comes across as though we are being toyed with, as a cat might toy with a mouse.

The entertainment-styled political life of our nation breeds a strong sense of cynicism. The realization that so many voters are unprincipled and swayed so easily by clever commercials is disheartening to say the least. No wonder so many boil to the point where they finally throw their hands up and say, “Who cares.”

Deep down we know it is important. We know that the issues on the table impact many lives (I think of abortion, for example) and that we are obligated to be informed and involved. But after so much exposure to the circus, unhealthy cynicism begins to brew within the soul.

Cynicism is no good for the spiritual life. A person whose hope is fully in Christ has nothing (ultimately) to be cynical about. A firm belief in the sovereignty of God should melt away every vestige of cynical poison.

(3) Following politics too closely can breed laziness in Bible study and prayer

This one is easy. For every hour we spend analyzing the details of debates, statistics, opinions, and speeches, we loose an hour that we could have spent with the Lord.

I’m not saying Christians should pray and read Scripture every moment of every day. That would be irresponsible—a burying of the talents and a shirking of our duty to love our neighbor. But I am saying most Christians do not spend near enough time with God in his word and in prayer.

Following politics for some people becomes a pseudo-spiritual life. It feels like they are connecting to something transcendent, something hugely important, but in connecting so deeply to a candidate or politics in general, they loose their connection to the most transcendent and most hugely important of all, namely, God himself.

In addition, the Christian who follows politics too closely might find his prayers, when he does pray, focused exclusively on political issues. It is unhealthy for the majority of our prayers to be for a certain candidate to win or for a certain direction for the nation, while the minority of our prayers are for our spouse, children, church, and neighbors.

(4) Following politics too closely can breed dependence on lesser kings

This is what it all comes down to. When we spend so much time consuming politics, we forget that we already have a King. Like the Israelites who begged for a king (1 Samuel 8:5), we begin to depend on a human being — one of those candidates — to deliver us and bring about utopia. If our messianic candidate doesn’t win, our souls mourn. If our messianic candidate does win, but then fails to deliver when he enters office, our hearts mourn. Either way our hearts will mourn. What are our hearts mourning for? A Messiah that wins every time and never fails. His name is Jesus Christ.



Jonathan Edwards’ classic treatise
Updated for today’s readers
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