The last time we looked at the manner in which a man must shepherd his flock. This time we look at some of the motivations which drive us to shepherd our local congregations.
1. ‘To be a bishop or a pastor is not to be set up as an idol for the people to bow to, or as idle “slow bellies,” to love to our fleshly delight and ease; but it is to be the guide of sinners to heaven.’ (p125)
Translation: We are not in our positions for the sake of power and control, which is an easy trap for men to fall into. Not many in the UK will fall into the idolatry trap but I saw something perilously close when I was in the states. Nor, are we to be ‘bums’, falling out of bed at all hours of the day and living undisciplined lives. We have a sacred duty to guide people to heaven and we will be judged for it harshly should we neglect our people.
Baxter goes on to say that we must remind ourselves of the task we have as God’s under shepherds, ‘Why, you have undertaken the conduct, under Christ, of a band of his soldiers against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. You must lead them on to the sharpest conflicts; you must acquaint them with the enemy’s stratagems and assaults; you must watch yourselves, and keep them watching.’ (p125)
Translation: We are in a state of continuous spiritual warfare and we must lead our people through serious conflicts and difficulties in their lives. We must prepare them for the onslaught of the enemy. We must guard our own hearts and we must constantly encourage them to be aware of their own temptations, lest they fall. There is no harder task than this. Baxter goes on to clarify: ‘Had you but one ignorant old man or woman to teach, what a hard task it would be, even though they should be willing to learn! But if they be as unwilling as they are ignorant, how much more difficult will it prove! But to have such a multitude of ignorant persons, as most of us have, what work will it find us!’ (p125)
Translation: It is proper graft out there! In our day when people are a bit more literate we could be forgiven for thinking it makes a pastor’s life easier. The problem is that people will read ‘The Shack’ but ignore any decent material you suggest to them. People may have had less access to literature back in Baxter’s day but I bet they knew their Bibles. In 2011 people read more, access the internet more and go to every conference going and are still more biblically illiterate and open to heresy than they have ever been. We have much work to do!
2. People will let us down. Consider these words: ‘And when you think your work doth happily succeed, and you have seen men confessing their sins, and promising reformation, and living as new creatures and zealous converts, alas! they may, after all this, prove unsound and false at heart, and such as were but superficially changed and took up new opinions and new company without a new heart.’ (p126)
Translation: The heart is deceitfully wicked. People will come into the church and they will say the right things, parrot the right phrases, sing the songs and look like they have been saved, but their hearts have not really been touched. It breaks your heart.
3. ‘Is it nothing to be brought up to learning, when others are brought up to the cart and plough? and to be furnished with so much delightful knowledge, when the world lieth in ignorance? Is it nothing to converse with learned men, and to talk of high and glorious things, when others must converse with almost nine but the most vulgar and illiterate? But especially, what an excellent privilege it is, to live in studying and preaching Christ?’ (p128)
Translation: What a life we have!! We must count out blessings that the Lord has given us this life as pastors of his sheep, no matter what the difficulties. We have access to so much truth when millions are perishing without it. Sit in your library and check your bookshelves the next time you feel like a little moan to yourself. We have the opportunity to talk and share the faith with other pastors and go to conventions and conferences and learn the things of God. And we do all this for a living! Give thanks for our blessed lives. Remember the following, writes Baxter: ‘Others are glad of the leisure of the Lord’s Day, and now and then of an hour besides, when they can lay hold upon it. But we may keep a continual Sabbath. We may do almost nothing else, but study and talk of God and glory, and engage in acts of prayer and praise, and drink in his sacred, saving truths.’ (p128)
Translation: Remember people are out grafting and we have this amazing privilege to be constantly soaking ourselves in the things of God. Don’t waste it!
4. It is God’s church we are overseeing. ‘Oh what a charge that is to be undertaken…have we the conduct of those saints that shall live forever with God in glory, and shall we neglect them? God forbid!‘ (p130)
Translation: James 3v1.
5. Don’t be a hater, particularly of those who get right up your nose. ‘What! Sirs, shall we despise the blood of Christ? Shall we think it was shed for them who are not worthy of our care?’ p(131)
Translation: Remember, however irritating we find them to be, if they are Christ’s then they were bought with a heavy price. Who do we think we are to withhold care and prayer for those whom Christ died just because they irk us?
May God help us in our task.