Baxter on the Nature and Motive of Personal Oversight for Pastors

Puritan pastor Richard Baxter gives pastors five keys to personal oversight and eight keys as to why personal oversight should be given in his classic text The Reformed Pastor:

The Nature of Oversight

  1. Take heed to see that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls.
  2. Take heed to keep your graces active, and that you preach to yourself the sermons you study, before you preach them to others.
  3. Take heed so you don’t unsay with your life what you say with your mouth.
  4. Take heed so you don’t commit the sins you preach against.
  5. Take heed so you don’t lack biblical qualifications of an elder.

The Motives of Oversight

  1. Take heed to yourselves, for heaven is there to win or lose, and souls will be happy or miserable for eternity.
  2. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a depraved nature, and sinful inclinations just as others do.
  3. Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will supply more temptations than he does to others.
  4. Take heed to yourselves, because many eyes will fall upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls.
  5. Take heed to yourselves, because your sins are more severe than other men’s.
  6. Take heed to yourselves, because such a calling as ours require greater grace than other men’s.
  7. Take heed to yourselves, for the honor of your Lord and Master, and of his holy truth and ways, lies more on you than on other men.
  8. Take heed to yourselves, for the success of all your work depends on it.
– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), pp. 53-86.
Life Theology

A Hard Lesson on Sunday Morning at 6 am

In my personal time of worship before church this morning I read 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.”

What particularly stuck out to me was “love does not envy or boast.”  They are two opposite things. Normally people don’t envy and boast at the same time. It can happen. But it is not likely. People envy when they recognize with self-pity that someone is “better” than they are. People boast when they selfishly recognize that they are “better” than someone else.

I am no different. And this morning, God rebuked my sin and called me to realize, and repent of, these deep, dark transgressions. But it didn’t stop there. He called — and is calling — me to dig down to the root of why I am this way.

I often envy people for their gifts, abilities, or opportunities. I want to be “the man.” I want the glory. It’s embarrassing, yes, but it’s the truth. I often boast in my own accomplishments and skills so that people praise me.  Perhaps it’s not always verbally to others, but it frequently happens in my heart. It’s shameful, yes, but it’s the truth.

Both of these sins are rooted in craving the praise of man. I envy and boast because I want to be made much of. The only way to kill these sins is to look to gospel — where God’s love is manifested and provided in the person and work of Jesus without envy or boasting. Gospel love is unselfish and humble. It is sacrificial and servant-oriented. I will never love God and others as I ought if I let the praise of man rule my heart. God’s love — that love which gave up his only Son on the cross to remove his wrath and forgive my sin — must rule my heart.

O Lord, make me see how you love me, and cause that transform me so that I am empowered to love others that way.

Life Theology

Three Questions about God’s Wrath

For 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).

Three important questions need to be answered:

1. Who is it revealed against? Paul writes that God reveals his wrath against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  He is revealing his wrath against those who are not believers—those who do not believe the gospel.  In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, Paul says that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict [Christians], and to grant relief to you [Christians] who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”  In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 Paul writes, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  In our verse, of course, God is revealing his wrath against those who “suppress the truth.”  Those who belong to Satan, not God, who are perishing, not living, are those who are the recipients of God’s manifested wrath in the world.

2. How is it revealed? Paul does not give us much as for how God’s wrath is revealed.  But from the immediate context, we do have some clues.  The word revealed in Greek is in the present tense.  And I believe it is more than just a cognitive disclosure to the mind.  Just like the same word in verse 17, it has some historical reality to it, letting us know that something is physically being manifested in the world.  Verses 24-28 in chapter 1 tell us that God has given people to the lusts of their hearts to commit impurities (v. 24), to the dishonoring of their bodies (v. 24), to dishonorable passions (v. 26), and to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (v. 28).  All of these things show us two paradoxical, yet non-contradictory facts: 1) God is sovereign over man’s sin, yet 2) people are to blame, not God.  Though God, in his sovereign wisdom and insight, causes people to be given over to depravity, he is never to blame.  We are sinners by nature and by choice.

In Romans 1, God’s wrath is something that is real, not just cognitive, something historical and not just futuristic.  It is something that is being manifested in the daily life of unregenerate people.  We can say that God’s wrath is revealed as a constant, ongoing reality in and through a sinful, unhappy, wasted life that is lived for the pleasing of self and not God.

At this point it might be helpful to say something to those who would think that a God who is full of wrath is either an archaic, mystical God, or simply no God at all.  First of all, think of this question.  If you were holy, perfect, and righteous, had never committed sin, and were completely and utterly pure, would you get angry at things that were not perfect, holy, and pure?  I’m willing to bet you would.  So God, in his perfection and righteousness, gets angry at all that is not righteous.  Paul David Tripp has said, “You wouldn’t want to worship a God who didn’t get angry.”  Some people would not argue with God getting angry at rape, murder, theft, or other “awful” vices.  But when it comes to them personally, whether it is abortion, domestic violence, drunkenness, gluttony, impatience, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or any number of other sins, they would say, “It’s my life.  A God who gets angry at me is no God at all.”  But turn the table.  What if one of those awful things happened to you or someone you loved.  Wouldn’t you want God to get angry at that sin?

The other problem is so-called Christians who don’t believe the God of the Bible gets angry.  The problem above is one thing.  This is altogether another.  To say that the God of the Bible is not an angry God is simply nonsense.  From Genesis to Revelation we see God hating sin, punishing unrepentant people, and destroying those who will not turn to him.  Moo (p. 100) points out that “the OT regularly pictures God as responding to sin with wrath” (see Ex. 4:14; 15:7; 32:10-12; Num. 11:1; Jer. 21:3-7).  He also notes that Paul stresses “the working and effects of God’s wrath.  Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand” (see Rom. 3:5; 4:15; 9:22; Eph. 2:3).

3. When is it revealed? The tense and mood of the verb “revealed” tell us when God’s wrath will be manifested.  The verb shows us that God’s wrath is continually being revealed. It is a present tense verb in the indicative mood (the exact same as verse 17).  Moo said that it is difficult to give the same form of the same verb a present reference in one and a futuristic reference in another (p. 100).  Paul does teach a lot about future, cosmic events that will bring God’s wrath once and for all at the end of history (e.g. Rom. 2:5, 5:9; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10).  However, in this verse, it is an actual, present reality for people who are not believers.  They are feeling God’s wrath now in an unhappy, wasted life—even if they don’t see it that way.  And at the same time, as we know from other Pauline Scripture, they are also storing up wrath for themselves on Judgment Day (see the passages above).

These people upon whom God’s wrath is resting are experiencing this because they (literally) “hold in the truth in unrighteousness” (that is, to “suppress” [ESV]).  God’s “truth” is not something that simply needs to be acknowledged or memorized.  It is something that needs to be believed as true and obeyed.  When someone suppresses a truth they are not giving themselves over to it in order to be developed and shaped by it.  They are not living by that truth and thus make a mockery of God and all that he is and stands for.  Finally, what is causing this suppression?  Their very own unrighteousness.  They are blind and dead, in the darkness of sin, and have no excuse (see 1:20; 2 Cor. 4:4-6; Eph. 2:1-5; cf. John 3:19).  Their inability to make themselves believe the truth does not alleviate their guilt.  It only increases it.  It shows how totally depraved man is.


Some Striking Things in Scripture

This year I’m using a Bible reading plan to help me read it in a year, so I’m getting a lot of different doses of Scripture each day. Here are some things that have been particularly worthwhile for me this week:

  • God gave Adam stewardship over the earth. But he was not a faithful steward.  Jesus was made a steward over all creation, and was (and is) completely faithful in his dominion over it. Everything is under his reign and he has accomplished his Father’s will perfectly (Heb. 2:5-9; cf. Gen. 1-3).
  • Proverbs has a whole lot to say about making wise decisions with your tongue. Our words should bring life, not death, to everyone who hears. What a challenge.
  • The opening chapters of Isaiah are filled with so much bad news. Yet there is so much good news as well.  So much so that it is even more unavoidable (see 2:1-5; 4:2-6; 6:1-13; 7:10-15; 9:1-7).
  • It is impossible to read the words of Jesus in Luke and not be challenged to a radical lifestyle. The more I read, the greater sense I gain of my radical-less-ness.

And finally…

  • Jesus is coming back someday to make everything right. So there has got to be more than morning commutes and 8-5’s and attending church and football on Saturdays and long vacations.  I want to be ready.

Sermon 11: Connecting the Dots Between Justification and Sanctification

Connecting the Dots Between Justification and Sanctification
Series: Redemption
Pastor Tim Wiebe

Romans 6:1-23

  • The more we appreciate justification, the greater desire we will have to live a godly life.
  • Justification unites us to God.  Christ’s death has purchased this, and somehow we have mysteriously died with Christ.
  • We died with Christ.  If we have died with him, we have been purchased by him and now have the ability to live a new life.  Because we are justified by God, we can live a holy life.  We do not live a holy life in order to be justified by God.
  • Our loyalty has changed.  We no longer are slaves to sin, we are slaves to Christ.
    • Slavery in the first century was more like voluntarily being owned by someone else rather than forced labor.
    • People don’t think slavery exists any longer today.  But if we look at our credit card statements and how you spend your time, it will tell others what you are a slave to.  Ask yourself what commands your attention and affection and you will find your idols.
    • Romans 6:23 is the “Twitter version” of the gospel.
  • So many Christians become susceptible to “plateau Christianity.”  There might not be any big dives in your spiritual walk, but there aren’t any spikes either.  Are you loving the doctrine of justification?  Are you trusting the Lord for your sanctification?
  • Ask yourself: Is there a disconnect between my view of justification and how I pursue sanctification?
  • Sanctification is not about ramping up enough self-effort to do it on your own.  It’s about grace-motivated obedience.
  • This passage alludes greatly to baptism.  Are you dead to sin?  If so, are you baptized?  Ask yourself: If I’m already dead to sin, what is preventing me from identifying with Christ through baptism?