“What am I supposed to be doing?”
It’s a question I frequently ponder as a minister of the Gospel. If you’re not a pastor, maybe you have asked yourself, “What is a minister called to be and do?”
The answers one could give are manifold. What priorities should shape how a pastor spends his time? A pastor could be doing lots of things, but what must he do?
I’ve come to realize that I don’t do “process” well. I’m an “event” kind of gal. I like to plan, execute and then check it off my list. Done. I have always seen this as just the reality of being a bit of a “Type A” or a “go get ’em” personality. I didn’t see it as necessarily a weakness, and I certainly didn’t see how it could negatively effect my parenting…but now I know that it can, and in all transparency, it does.
If someone were to ask you to define legalism, how would you define it? Perhaps you
would define it as adding to God’s law or making people do things that God has not commanded.
The way I would put it is, “Saying thus says the Lord where he has not spoken.” It wasn’t too
long ago, however, that I came across an interesting definition of legalism - one that I had never
considered. In his book The Whole Christ (which I believe every pastor would greatly benefit
from) Sinclair Ferguson utilizes a definition of legalism from the nineteenth century Dutch
reformer Geerhardus Vos: “Legalism is a peculiar kind of submission to God’s law, something
that no longer feels the personal divine touch in the rule it submits to.” 1 This is a cumbersome
way of defining it, but what it refers to is separating God’s law from God’s person. The law is no
longer seen as coming from a loving Heavenly Father who has our best interests at heart, but a
mere set of rules for us to do “just because.” The way I like to sum up this definition is this way:
It’s knowing God’s law apart from knowing his love.
There are some more ways we mishandle Scripture. Sometimes looking at the negative helps to make the positive more clear. These are generalizations as we are not taking time to look in depth at each of these categories.
Elevating one portion of Scripture above another mishandles Scripture. One example of this is those that teach repentance is not a necessary response to the gospel along with faith. They take the gospel according to John and say that since John wrote so that we may believe (20:31) and John does not use the Greek word for repentance, therefore repentance is not a necessary response to our sin. They elevate the gospel of John above the rest of Scripture. Other passages do speak about repentance and just because one particular word is missing does not mean the idea is not present. They do not handle well the Word of God.
“Surely I spoke about things I don’t understand, things too wonderful for me to know…therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them.” Job 42:3b, 6
In the final chapters of the book of Job, he openly spoke about his innocence, and because of that, he couldn’t make sense of what God was doing in his life. His confusion gave way to a level of accusation against God for what his life had become. In chapters 38-41, God responds to Job by proclaiming in detail His sovereignty and absolute control and care of everything He has made…from hailstones and lightening to deer and donkeys. When God gets done talking, Job is completely humbled. Part of his response is the verses above.
In my last post I argued that Christ’s kingly office is perhaps his most misunderstood office among reforming Calvinists. In my experience, Calvinistic Baptists distinguish Christ’s priestly office as exercised solely for us, from his kingly office which is all about our response. Their message is summarized like this: because Christ is king, he needs to be obeyed - and if you are not obeying him, then you are not saved! This seems to be a reaction to the Arminian and antinomian circles out of which many Baptists come, where it is posited that all that matters is that you have made a decision for Christ and how one lives is optional. Disturbed by this kind of teaching, Calvinistic Baptists are zealous to point out that because Christ is king he must be obeyed or you’re not his!
We live in a time of unparalleled resources and yet we seem to know less. Here are some places that may be helpful for you.
"I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." Amos 5:21-24
The inscription on the small oak log read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” As a young boy, I often read these hand-painted words on a decoration in my parents’ bathroom. The meaning eluded me for many long years, but the Lord had etched the words on my mind. Anyone in Christ is a new creation. How are these words from 2 Corinthians 5:17 to be encouraging to a Christian--a new creature? What is this new creation? And what does this have to do with Jesus Christ?