Being a Miserable Wretch, Trying To Be a Christian, and Wanting To Make Things Right
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, grasped, or arrived: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are ahead, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
I struggle sometimes sharing the truth of God's Word with others. Mainly because I am a sinner who has not fully arrived at perfection. I mean, Jesus did say: "Why point out the speck in your brother's eye: and behold a log is in your own eye?" It is hard to hold someone accountable when you have issues of your own! So how do we address this? Jesus said further in Matthew 7: "You hypocrite, pretender, phony person! First cast out the log out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother's eye." So, we need to deliberately do something ourselves before we deal with our brother or sister in Christ. I will admit that I haven't always done this. I have played the hypocrite more than I would like to admit. I mean, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV "A bishop (Pastor, shepherd, leader) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside (Must not be a hypocrite!), lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." Now I will say that if perfection were a standard to be a pastor, nobody would qualify. Therefore, I don't think Paul meant that, especially in light of what he wrote in Philippians 3:13-14. The man of God whether he be a pastor or not, must subject and humble himself to God if he is going to be any good for the kingdom. Jesus said in Mark 9:35 NKJV: And He (Jesus) sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." In light of the last two texts, I don't think they mean that the man of God should have always been a perfect person, but I think it does mean that he should have his flesh under the control of the Holy Spirit and be intentional everyday in his walk with God. He should be blameless (One that cannot be reprehended, not open to censure, irreproachable) in that if he does sin, he seeks reconciliation and restoration. He also keeps a short list of sin. It is easier to avoid a mess than try and clean it up after the mess is made! Also, he isn't suppose to be a spectacle, but rather a lowly servant. I think that is why we Americans are so ineffective at local ministry. We are always glory seeking and trying to be Billy Graham or John Piper especially when we are not! We also are always trying to hire an All-Star pastor who will do all of our work for us and aren't satisfied if he isn't Billy Graham or John Piper. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful and glad for those men and what they did, and what they do; Nevertheless, we don't need for everyone to be like them, nor is it realistic to expect such a thing. Rather, we need people on the ground doing ministry where they are, and also financially supporting our local ministers and also people like John Piper.
I can think of some ways where my hypocrisy has lead to some abandoning the faith. I have some friends right now who have abandoned the church and local ministry partly because of my foolishness. I think there are some other issues there too, but I know that I had a part in their distaste for fellowship with God's people here in my town and elsewhere. I will say that I have tried to make things right, but sometimes even though I have tried to move on, they can't. My prayer is that one day they will speak to me and we can reconcile and restore fellowship. So how does 1 Timothy 3 apply to me? If 1 Timothy 3 is suppose to be the standard for my pastor, elders, and deacons, why shouldn't I try and strive for such a standard? I mean, should we not strive to follow Jesus Christ who resides over our church? We call ourselves followers of Christ Jesus. Therefore, in reflection, I have a lot of fences to mend, and I need to find ways to restrain my body, speech, and thought life so that I can honor the Lord. But how can this be done? Jesus said with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). I am a miserable wretch. I am a sinner, and I need God's grace. If you are in a similar position, you are not alone. If you care that you have wronged others and realize that you need to change, that is a good sign that God is with you. There is forgiveness, grace, mercy, and peace to be had. God gave it to Paul, and I think that is why he could say that he was able to leave the past in the past.