{New Post} Four Liberating Truths For Those We Pastor

This past Sunday I made the statement that the underlying reason for our sinful behavior, thoughts, affections and words stems from unbelief. For sure this unbelief manifests itself in a lot of ways but I humbly believe it is an overflow of not believing the truth and promises of God’s Word and instead believing the false promises of sin.  Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in Everyday Church say, “behind every sin is a lie about God” (75).  In addition, in discussing Romans 1 they share…

We exchange the truth about God for a lie. And because we do not believe in God as we should, something else comes to matter more to us than God. Sin is always the result of misplaced affections. Sin makes promises. When we believe those promises, we think sin offers more than God. This lie warps our affections. Our love, our delight, our fear, and our hope become misplaced (75).

Furthermore, Chester and Timmis propose that a disbelief in any one (or all) of the following four statements is what leads a person to sin:

  • God is great, so we do not have to be in control.
  • God is glorious, so we not have to fear others.
  • God is good, so we do not have to look elsewhere.
  • God is gracious, so we do not have to prove ourselves. 

Thankfully, they do not leave the reader wondering what this actually looks like – they give several implications that stem from a faithless or faithful response to the four statements:

Truth 1: God is great, so we do not have to be in control.

  • Effects of a faithless response: We will be over-controlling, the arbiter of truth. We will want immediately to correct every error for fear people might go astray or that we might lose control, so we do not give people time to grow. When we speak truth to people’s lives, we will be intense and overbearing because we want to solve the problem. We do not give them space to change or disagree (79). 
  • Effects of a faithful response: Our pastoral care will be relaxed and patient. We will give people space to change and time to grow. When we talk with people, we ill not feel the need to sort everything out in one go. We will give them a chance to talk and space to disagree…we will give away power and responsibility because we do not think everything depends on us (80).

Truth 2: God is glorious, so we do not have to fear others.

  • Effects of a faithless response: If not trusting the greatness of God leads to over-pastoring, then not fearing our glorious God will lead to under-pastoring. If we fear people more than we fear God, then we might be reluctant to speak the truth. We will not confront people because we are worried they might dislike us or reject us. We might avoid difficult decisions to prevent upsetting people. Or we might second guess what people are thinking, because we are trying to anticipate what will please them (80).
  • Effects of a faithful response: If we believe God is glorious and that he is to be feared, then we will not be controlled by other people. Only then, in fact, are we truly free to serve them in love. When we are controlled by the opinions of others, we do for them so we can win their good opinion. Our actions are self-serving. Our aim is a good reputation. Only when the glory of God sets us free from the fear of man can we serve others in love. Then we are free to speak the truth people need to hear, not what they want to hear, and we ourselves can be vulnerable before others, rejoicing in God’s vindication or justification (81).

Truth 3: God is good, so we do not have to look elsewhere.

  • Effects of faithless response. If we do not believe that God is good and the one who truly satisfies, then we might be reluctant to serve, do the minimum, or serve begrudgingly or with a sense of compulsion. We may view ministry as a burden. People might find us unapproachable because the pick up signals that we do not want to be bothered…We will not do the hard work of pastoral care; we will not do the hard work of hanging out with people who are not naturally attracted to or challenging people’s misbehavior (81).
  • Effects of a faithful response. If, however, we find joy in God, then we will serve with passion and enthusiasm. We will be characterized by generosity, simplicity, and energy. Our lives will be winsome and welcoming (81).

Truth 4: God is gracious, so we do not have to prove ourselves.

  • Effects of a faithless response. We might find our identity in ministry rather than in Christ and so overlook or make others guilty through our high expectations. Or we might envy others whose ministry is more successful or take pride in our success. We ourselves will take criticism badly, being defensive or defeated, because our identity is tied up in our achievements and not in Christ’s achievements on our behalf. There is danger that our lives can become so busy and stressed because we are trying to prove ourselves that we do not model good news to people (81). 
  • Effects of a faithful response. If we rest on the grace of God and find our identity in Christ, then our lives and ministry will be characterized by peace and rest, joy and freedom, confidence and humility, compassion and kindness. We will not rejoice when others fail. Our concern will be to bless rather than to impress. We will not need the affirmation of other people, and we will be free from the need to defend ourselves. There will be a transparency and vulnerability about our lives because we do not feel the need to hide our sin (82).
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