Today's message is designed to help you recognize a pastor who is truly sent from God. If God warns us against false teachers, then how can we recognize a good pastor? You need only look out on the many divergent interpretations of Scripture verses in our culture to realize they can't all be true. But how can you recognize genuine teachers then from false ones?
You shall know them by their fruits. And on this edition of the Truth Pulpit, Don Green begins a series to help you in your discernment. In fact, you'll get concrete criteria with which to evaluate a true pastor after God's own heart. Hi there, I'm Bill Wright, and Don, you've got some simple but profound things to look for, and you derive them from where? Well, Bill, I get these from where every pastor begins and ends. That's in God's inerrant Word.
My friend, I'm excited to share these things with you as you learn these principles. You'll be surprised how clear they are in Scripture, how easy they are to remember, and how powerful they are to give you discernment. Every pastor is accountable to Christ and to His Word.
That includes me, for sure. Well, this study will shape your thinking about what church leadership should be. Open your Bible as we get started now.
Thanks, Don. And friend, let's begin this new series titled, To Follow or To Flee, as we join Don Green, teaching God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit. How can you recognize a good pastor? The importance of the answer to that question can't be overstated, because leadership is what shapes the direction of any organization. You have a good leader, the organization is going to follow in his wake.
If you have a bad leader, there's really no way to make up for that. How can you recognize a good pastor in a church? How can you recognize a man that you should follow in spiritual life? The answer to that question refreshes us on the purpose of the church, and it refreshes us on what our own individual aspirations should be in following Christ, because what God looks for in a pastor, what God works out in the life of a true godly pastor is really not that much different.
It's not different from what He wants in each of your lives as well. They're fundamental spiritual characteristics. And so I want to do what I can to supplement what John MacArthur has done so well for so many years, to put a fence around you, each one of you that are in here and know Christ, to protect you and to help you and to guard you from the myriad of people, the myriad of men, who would in one sense claim the name of Christ, but in other ways betray the very purpose of their calling. And you need to recognize the elements of a good pastor so you know who to follow and who to turn away from, even if you can't necessarily articulate everything that might be wrong in a certain person's ministry. But when our world has prominence, when the Christian evangelical church has given prominence to cussing pastors, to prosperity preachers who promise you healing or promise you financial prosperity, if you'll just give them a little bit of moolah, funny how that works, pastors who want to pursue social issues and political issues rather than the biblical priorities of a pastor, when we deal with pastors who want to put their premium on humor and gimmicks and setting beds up on their stage for crying out loud to talk about marriage issues and things like that, putting props up just designed to shock and titillate their audience. In a world where the Christian church has allowed men like that to rise to great prominence for the flock that God has put to me to preach to from time to time, I want to put a fence around you and help you understand why all of that stuff is wrong, why you can safely turn away no matter what kind of manipulation they might try to put on you, and to help you in such a way that you can avoid those men who never get around to leading you to a true and deeper knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and building you up in Him. That's why I'm preaching this message here today. I feel compelled to speak to these things. Now last year when I was finishing up my series on the Sermon on the Mount, as part of the closing series of that, I did a message titled How to Recognize False Teachers from Matthew 7, 15 to 20. And this is kind of the companion message on a positive side to that.
And to kind of have one on each side is what I'm happy to be able to put together here. But just to kind of set the stage and enter into our topic a little more deeply here, understand that the Bible commands all believers, including all of us, you and me, to be on guard against false teachers, that there would be a proliferation of men who would claim to speak for God but would only be wolves in sheep's clothing. They put on the dress, the garb, the outward appearance of a true man of God, but inwardly they have other motivations to abuse those who would follow them, to take advantage of them, to use them for power, for girls, for gold, and for glory. And the Bible warns us to be on guard because of the spiritual threat that such men like that represent. Matthew 7, 15 says, Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. The Apostle John in 1 John 4, 1 says, The Bible just pleads with you. If I could just put it in really colloquial language, don't be a sucker for everyone that comes along and claims to speak for God. 1 John 4, 1 says, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
And so the Bible warns us, tells us to take this matter seriously. What we're talking about is how can you have discernment to know who truly speaks for God and who is an imposter? Well, today's message is designed to help you recognize a pastor who is truly sent from God. If God warns us against false teachers, then how can we recognize a good pastor? And I want to say something here as well, is to say that some people, because of the proliferation of problem pastors and all of that, they just lump them all together and throw up their hands and say, I quit, they must all be bad, they must all be untrustworthy, and they just check out.
That's not the right response. I mean, the truth of the matter is, is that in the Bible, God has given you what you need to know to be able to find, to be able to look for, to be able to measure a man and see whether he is truly a man that God has sent as a pastor or not. If this is important to God, you'd expect him to give you very clear guidance on this issue in the Bible, and he has. Clear, unmistakable guidance in the Scriptures that would help you recognize a good pastor, one truly sent from God.
And here's the starting point, here's the starting point for all of it. Remember this fundamental fact, that the church of Jesus Christ, everyone who truly has received Christ, who has turned from sin and embraced him as their Lord, their Savior, their Master, and arresting and trusting in his righteousness and his shed blood alone as their righteousness before God, trusting in him alone to merit access to God, those people, that spiritual body belongs to Christ. They belong to him. The church is what Jesus Christ purchased with his own blood, Acts 20 verse 28 says. Christ bought the church with his own life and blood, with his resurrection. The church belongs to him. It's his church. It's not a pastor's church. You're not my flock.
You belong to Christ. And so, because the church belongs to Christ, we must choose pastors according to Christ's criteria, to the standards that Christ has established, what Jesus wants. That's pretty basic and fundamental, isn't it? Isn't that obvious?
If it belongs to Christ, then the people that would lead the church of Christ should conform to the pattern that Christ himself has set. Isn't that simple? It's simple.
This is easy. And so, there's an implication from that that you need to understand. The pastor's job, the pastor's responsibility, is not to be what the world wants him to be. What the unsaved religious editors in major newspapers say about what a church should or shouldn't be doing, what a pastor should or shouldn't say, is absolutely irrelevant.
It's absolutely irrelevant. They have no prerogative whatsoever to speak into the church and say what the church should be if they don't love Christ, because it's not their church. The church belongs to Christ. And so, what he says is the only thing that matters.
What his criteria are are the preeminent priorities. Stated in a different way, and with a twinkle in my eye, you might say, it's not the pastor's job to satisfy the grouchiest person in the congregation and make them happy, because the priority is vertical for the pastor. He is responding to the responsibilities that Christ has laid upon him and the fact that there are unsanctified people in a large congregation, none of them within the walls of this room, mind you. I said I was saying this with a twinkle in my eye, okay?
Don't be unhappy with me. The pastor's first priority is to say, what does Christ want? And to not be tossed to and fro by people who say, you need to take care of this, you need to do that. Those things may have their place in time, but he has to be clear on these fundamental priorities. The pastor must be what Christ wants him to be first and foremost. That is the most significant thing.
That's an easy point. And so where do we go from here? Well, as we consider what a good pastor looks like, how to recognize a pastor, I want to give you four characteristics to look for. Four characteristics of a good pastor. Stated differently, four traits of a biblical pastor. Four ways that you can recognize a pastor that Christ himself has truly established in the church. And it all comes straight from Scripture, all very simple and fundamental and, frankly, easy to recognize when you know what to look for. Four things, all of them alliterated to start with the letter C. First of all, a good pastor must, number one, he must be a man of Christ.
He must be a man of Christ. And to lead you into the Scriptures now, look to the Gospel of John, chapter 21. We spent some time there back in September on this passage where Jesus restored Simon Peter to ministry after Jesus's resurrection, after Simon's denials before the crucifixion. Jesus restored Simon Peter and commissioned him to ministry and here in this passage you see a pattern for what should be a true mark of every pastor. John 21, verses 15 through 17.
I'll just read the passage real quickly. So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, yes, Lord, you know that I love you. He said to him, tend my lambs. He said to him again a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? He said to him, yes, Lord, you know that I love you. He said to him, shepherd my sheep. And he said to him the third time. Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, do you love me? to him Lord you know all things you know that I love you Jesus said to him tend my sheep he commissions Peter to his apostolic ministry to care for the flock of Christ to care for Christ's own sheep and what I want you to see in this passage is so basic and so fundamental but the point of character that Jesus established clearly from Peter's lips as an expression of what was truly in Peter's heart was that he loved Christ he loved Christ preeminently he had no divided loyalties his premier love in his heart was for Jesus Christ himself and that is the dominant requirement to be a shepherd of Christ flock because follow me here when it's clear in your mind as it is from what we said earlier that the church the spiritual body belongs to Christ and that they are his people they are his flock when that is clear in your mind and that they belong to him then obviously the person who would be the one who would oversee the flock who would be responsible for leading them and protecting them and guarding them and teaching them must be someone who shares the priorities of Christ who loves Christ because if he's faithful to Christ then he's going to be faithful to Christ people that's the idea and so preeminently a pastor must love Christ first of all because if he loves Christ he'll love the people who belong to Christ and if he does not love Christ if Christ is not the first and preeminent love of his heart nothing else can make up for it nothing can make up for a man not loving Christ and if a man is a pastor and he doesn't love Christ he needs to resign immediately there is no room in the pastorate for a man who is not preeminently loving and following and loyal to Christ because the church belongs to Christ it's his and so you care for the church on behalf of the one whom you love preeminently that's the idea if a pastor loves Christ then he'll care for the sheep like Christ would want them to be cared for so he has to be a man of Christ how do you test that I'm gonna try to give you some practical application to help you discern these things how do you test that how do you know if a man loves Christ well let's just limit it to his public pulpit ministry here's what you do listen to a broad cross-section of his sermons over time with different messages and different topics do you don't you don't necessarily go up to a pastor and ask him directly do you love Christ because he's going to know that he has to answer yes to that question whether he really does or not that's a little too direct a good pastor will have a proven history of preaching Christ because listen what a man loves when he's given an opportunity to speak to a group of people what a man loves is going to come out of his mouth at that time if he loves Christ and he recognizes the preeminence of Christ then he is going to be internally compelled to speak about Christ when he has opportunity to speak to you if he gets up and puts on a song and dance routine tries to tell you funny jokes tells stories that makes him where he's always the hero of his own stories he's showing you what he really loves when he speaks that way because the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart and a man who has an opportunity to preach to people who is a good pastor is going to preach to them about Christ and teach them about Christ over time he will explain to you the person of Christ the work of Christ he's going to call you to salvation in Christ he's going to call you to obey Christ he's going to exalt Christ in what he says there should be no question about that because the preeminent love of his heart is Christ then that's what he wants to speak about if you have to kind of sift through the rubble of a bunch of other stuff to find two minutes of Christ in four sermons you don't have to figure everything out just say I'm going someplace else you don't have to figure it out you don't have to analyze whether the man's a Christian or not you just go by what he speaks from and evaluate him on that this isn't difficult the Apostle Paul said I love this verse we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your bond servants for Jesus sake 2nd Corinthians 4 5 we don't preach ourselves we preach Christ as Lord what's in a man's heart will come out when he's given a chance to speak and if he wants to talk about earthly social issues if he wants to talk just about setting up dialogue with people who don't even believe in Christ and that's what he talks about when he's given the pulpit talks about politics look I'm sorry but he's not a man of Christ no matter what else he might say about it he's not a man of Christ don't follow men like that beloved and if it's hard to find them then just look all the more you don't follow men who have earthly priorities and who put themselves at the center of their preaching if a man puts himself rather than Christ on display he's not a good pastor you can turn away from him without fearing the discipline or judgment of God say God I just you just and you approach it before the Lord and say you know Lord I just want someone who talks about Christ to me that's all I want I'm really a simple-minded believer here Lord give me a pastor who shows me Christ that reminds me of the very first time that I had to preach was at a rescue mission in downtown Chicago probably back in October of 1992 or thereabouts and when I stepped into the pulpit it was my first time in stepping into the pulpit and you know you're just preaching to people who are drunks and drug addicts and and all of that and you know people who really need Christ but somebody in the pulpit put a plate in the pulpit quoting John 12 21 simply saying sir we wish to see Jesus that's what we want that's why we're gathered here that's the idea he must be a man of Christ sir we wish to see Jesus not you and that never left my consciousness having seen that well the second characteristic of a good pastor is that he needs to be secondly he needs to be a man of the cannon he needs to be a man of the cannon c-a-n-o-n not c-a-n-n-o-n I have to clarify that on a day where we're honoring the veterans not the boom cannon but the 66 books of the Bible cannon that gives a different boom as the power of God is unleashed through the understanding of his word go back to John 21 if you even left there I did but go back to John 21 and in that passage that I read where Jesus establishes Peter's love for Christ and restores into ministry notice the commands that he gives him at the end of verse 15 he says tend my lambs verse 16 at the end shepherd my sheep verse 17 tend my sheep and Jesus is not talking about literal sheep he's not talking about feeding actual animals with wool on them he's talking about his spiritual body and so he's not talking about giving them physical food but he's talking about giving them spiritual food Peter give them the spiritual food of my word is what he's talking about there tend them protect them and feed them with my word so that they would be built up spiritually that's the idea a good pastor understands that his central responsibility is to feed you the Word of God because it is the word that sanctifies you it is the word that equips you turn back to 2nd Timothy if you would 2nd Timothy chapter 3 beginning in verse 16 a familiar passage but notice the focus here 2nd Timothy 3 16 says that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching for reproof for correction for training and righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate equipped for every good work now sometimes we stop there but just go right through to chapter 4 verse 1 there were no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts having talked about the preeminence of the word there and the power and the sufficiency of Scripture Paul commissions Timothy and says I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead and by his appearing in his kingdom preach the Word be ready in season and out of season reproof rebuke exhort with great patience and instruction he's saying Timothy when you go to pastor these people preach the word to them sometimes they're going to need rebuke they're going to be needed to be corrected from their wayward ways sometimes they're going to need encouragement they're going to need instruction in doctrine exhort them to follow Christ and all the while be patient as you do so do this with great patience as you minister the word to them Paul was laying forth the power of Scripture and the importance of communicating it so that the people would be built up earlier in the book of 2nd Timothy if you go back to chapter 2 verse 15 he lays this charge on Timothy he says be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed accurately handling the word of truth it's about the word it's about the truth it's about proclaiming the truth because if a pastor proclaims to you the truth gives you the understanding of the truth then you are going to be built up so that you are equipped to do the work that God has placed into your life what he's created you to do a pastor who teaches you the word is going to enable you to be more effective to the glory of Christ in the providential circumstances that the Lord has given to you that's the kind of man that you want now look it's not the flashiest thing to do you know there's a reason why people flock after those who promise them health and prosperity and those who are funny and all of that you walk out and yeah that was good you know what that stuff is meaningless when your kids start to stray away that stuff is meaningless when the doctor tells you it's cancer that stuff is meaningless when the trials of life hit and you're reaching out and you have nothing to lay hold of because all of the sugary cotton candy preaching just dissolves in your fingers and there's nothing to lay hold of this time of receiving instruction in God's Word beloved is not in vain when I say this time I don't mean just this hour but your ongoing commitment to receive the Word of God well today on the truth pulpit Don Green gave you the first of four C's that you need to recognize the characteristics of a good pastor Don will offer the last two next time as he continues his series titled to follow or to flee and Don is it fair to say that if you leave church every Sunday feeling warm and fuzzy you might not be getting the whole counsel of God my brother or sister in Christ a true ministry of God's Word does more than encourage you all the time sometimes scripture needs to convict you of sin and you need to receive that conviction with humility Christ paid a steep price for your sin when he spilled his blood on the cross God is holy and we need to turn from sin as Christians and a faithful ministry of God's Word will point that out to you over time you're to be holy as God is holy that's a true heart of worship thanks Don and friend if you missed any part of today's message you can listen again at your convenience when you visit us at the truth pulpit calm while there you can also find the link to Don Green's Facebook page again that's all at the truth pulpit calm now for Don Green I'm Bill Wright and we'll see you again next time as Don teaches God's people God's Word from the truth pulpit
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