The only kind of pastor that you should follow is the pastor who points you to Christ, not to his clever stories, not to earthly politics, not to mere human morality. Ask yourself, where is the centrality of Christ in this man's ministry? Welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hi, I'm Bill Wright. As Don continues to teach God's people God's Word, he begins a message titled, The Pastor, His Pulpit, and His People. What does it mean for a man of God to lead the people of God? Don, I'd imagine you ask yourself that question every time you take to the pulpit, right? Well, Bill, I only deal with that question in two places. One, when I'm in the pulpit, and two, when I'm not in the pulpit.
In other words, it consumes my life. And I think about it like this. Jesus Christ must be at the center of my pastorate and preaching. For one, I belong to him, and only he can make me adequate for the task. But even more, I have to remember that the church belongs to Christ. He is the shepherd of the sheep, he is the sacrifice for their sins, and he is the source of their eternal life, not me. My job is to point them to Christ and his word and realize that it's not about me, it's about Christ.
And that's a place where I can find rest and knowing that Christ will use me to his glory. Well, friend, have your Bible at the ready, and let's join Don Green now in The Truth Pulpit. What's a pastor in the pulpit do? Three things that I want to call to your attention, three sub-points of this role, the pastor in the pulpit. First of all, first and primary, is that the pastor speaks about Christ. He speaks of Christ. John, as he teaches in this letter, is so full of Christ as he speaks, so full of the Lord Jesus, putting the person of Christ on display, putting the work of Christ on display, and in that he gives us a model for what a pastor should do when he is in the pulpit. And I want to just show you some passages to just give you a flavor of this. John opens talking about Christ.
Look at the first two verses of chapter 1. As he's speaking about Christ, the first words out of his mouth are about Christ. He says, what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands concerning the Word of life, and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. He opens up talking about his personal experience as an apostle with Christ. He walked with Christ for those three years. He saw Christ and his miracles with his own eyes.
He heard his teaching with his own ears. He held the flesh of Christ in his own hands. His whole apostolic ministry grew out of his own experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the way it is for a godly pastor. He steps into a pulpit only after he has been walking with Christ himself.
The godly pastor would walk with Christ if his pastoral role was taken away from him, because Christ is the primary affection of his heart bar none. John opens up speaking about Christ, and it goes on throughout the letter. I can only illustrate this for you with certain select passages. We can't go through all of them for the sake of time, but look at chapter 1 verse 7. Chapter 1 verse 7, he says, if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. He's hardly into the letter before he's talking about the atonement, talking about the forgiveness of sin that is available through faith in Christ and his shed blood.
Look at chapter 2 verse 1. He says, my little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin, and if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he himself is the propitiation for our sins. Speaking about Christ in his heavenly session at the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for those that he came to save. Chapter 4 verse 9, where he says, by this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Chapter 5 verses 11 and 12, he says, the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
He who has the Son has the life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. And so John, from beginning to end in this epistle, is speaking about Christ. He has Christ front and center in what he is saying. He opens up talking about Christ, he concludes by talking about Christ, and Christ fills everything in between, including the implications for the lives of believers of what the life and death of Christ meant.
Because God loved us, in Christ we love one another. It's all a Christocentric theme that occupies his teaching. That is what the godly pastor does as well. The godly pastor understands that his role is to put Christ forward, not himself. And he's delighted to put Christ forward, first and foremost, because Christ is the primary affection of his own heart.
That's all he wants to talk about when he has the opportunity to get up and speak. He wants to talk about Christ. And so John proclaimed the person and work of Christ. The good pastor speaks as Christ's ambassador. And you see the parallel in the words of the Apostle Paul as well, when in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, he said, We do not preach ourselves, but we preach Christ Jesus as Lord.
2 Corinthians 4-5. And that's just what Paul said in his own way, manner of testimony. John illustrates for us in the way that he wrote to the people that were looking to him for apostolic leadership in the midst of their struggles. And so the biblical pastor, the godly pastor, for those of you that aren't pastors or in church leadership here today, the only kind of pastor that you should follow is the pastor who points you to Christ, not to his clever stories, not to earthly politics, not to mere human morality. Ask yourself, where is the centrality of Christ in this man's ministry?
And you'll have a litmus test by which to evaluate whether a man is trustworthy to follow as one who speaks for God or not. Now secondly, the pastor in the pulpit speaks about Christ. Secondly, the pastor speaks with authority.
He speaks with authority. And you see that in the epistle of 1 John. John teaches with an authority that is befitting the Word of God, speaking as an apostle directly commissioned by Christ himself and sent into the world. John teaches with authority. He uses the word for commandment 14 times in these five brief chapters.
He uses the imperative mood another 10 times. And so as you read through the epistle of 1 John, you see a man speaking about Christ, and you see a man speaking with authority. Look at chapter 2 verse 7 to just see this illustrated. Chapter 2 verse 7, where he says, Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have heard from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
Commandment, commandment, what I am writing to you is the commandment of God, speaking with authority, saying that this commandment is true. Chapter 3 verse 23, you see this again, where John says, This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us. The call of the gospel is a commandment to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. All men everywhere are under a divine command to repent and believe in Christ.
The good pastor is more than happy to speak in that way. Not that he can be the boss, not that he can elevate his own authority, but that he might faithfully represent the authority of God as it is expressed in the gospel, and as it is expressed in the written Word of God. Chapter 5 verse 3, again from beginning to end, you see this.
Actually, we'll start at verse 2 here. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. The pastor recognizes that he's a man under authority, he speaks with authority, and yet he's not burdened down, he doesn't have a ton of bricks on his shoulders as a result of the commandments of God. He expresses the heart of the psalmist who says, I delight in your commandments. And the good pastor speaks with authority, and he teaches his congregation, he teaches his flock to be under the authority of the Word of God, and he teaches them that that's the most delightful place to live life that anyone could live in this earth.
Under the authority of God, under the authority of Christ, under the authority of the divine Word of God. And so the good pastor speaks in a manner that transcends the opinion of his audience. He isn't concerned to cater to the fleshly desires, the carnal desires of his audience. He isn't concerned to cater to their opinions about what they think about him. Not that he's a jerk or anything like that. But he speaks with authority, he realizes that his primary obligation is to the authority of God.
And so he conducts himself in the pulpit in a manner that reflects that and is worthy of that. He's not trying to be cool. He's not trying to be popular.
If popularity comes, well and good, but that's not the goal, that's not the aim, that's not the thing that motivates him. The Apostle Paul said in Titus chapter 2 verse 15, these things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority, let no one disregard you. And the man who stands up and speaks in tentative terms, the man who gets up and makes light of the opportunity to stand between heaven and hell, as it were, as he speaks to his audience, is a man who is training his audience to disregard the Word of God. If the pastor treats it lightly, if the pastor treats the Word of God lightly, if the pastor treats the pulpit lightly, then the people are going to treat it lightly as well. And there is going to be no end of shame at the judgment seat of Christ for men who did not uphold the authority of the Word of God in the way they conducted themselves in the pulpit. The pastor speaks with this authority not to advance himself, but to uphold God's Word.
And so he's not interested in the carnal desires of his audience. The godly pastor isn't worried about conducting surveys of his audience to see what they want. He knows that what God wants is what's expressed in his Word, and he wants to be a vehicle of that and trust God to use that as he sees fit in the lives of those who hear. The godly pastor answers to the authority of God, the authority of Scripture, and his teaching reflects that. So the pastor in the pulpit is speaking about Christ, he is speaking with authority.
Thirdly, I like this point, not that I didn't like the first two, but he speaks with balance. The godly pastor speaks with balance, and you'll see what I mean by this as we go through it. John teaches both the positive and the negative side of truth as he goes through this letter. He teaches the positive side that builds up, he teaches from the negative side he exposes error.
He does both of these equally well. Notice how he states both sides of the equation as he sets forth the tests of what a true Christian looks like. Those of you that have been in here and it's well known, it's often stated that John sets forth a moral test for the true Christian, shown true Christianity is expressed in obedience to the commandments of God. He sets forth a social test that true Christians love one another, they love God and love one another. And he sets forth a doctrinal test about the true belief in Christ, moral, social, and doctrinal test. Well, notice as he is teaching these things that he states it positively and he also states it negatively.
These are not exhaustive, but this is enough to give you the point. Look at 1 John chapter 2 verse 3, showing that the godly pastor speaks with balance. And here in the moral test, 1 John chapter 2 verses 3 and 4, he says, by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments.
He states it positively, states it in a positive way. Then he states the negative, the one who says I have come to know him and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. The social test of love, down in verse 9 of chapter 2. The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. The one who says he's in the light but hates his brother, darkness.
One who loves his brother abides in the light, positive and negative side of it. In the doctrinal test about the true confession of Christ, look at chapter 2 verse 23. He says, whoever denies the Son does not have the Father. If your Christology is wrong, you're not a Christian. The one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
Negative and positive, positive and negative. This is true, this is not true. And so sometimes you need to look for a man to see not only what he affirms but what he denies to get a true read on what he really stands for because a good pastor should establish truth and he should also expose error. But it's not just one or the other.
It's not simply being positive all the time. Sometimes error needs to be confronted and exposed and refuted. Titus 1.9 says that an elder must be able both to exhort in sound doctrine, set it forth in a positive, definitive sense, and refute those who contradict. The Son of God, the godly pastor, recognizes his responsibility to do both and manifests the ability to do both. Now, a little word of application here.
This is all one big illustration, but a word of application here just to kind of illustrate what I'm concerned about. Those of us that love the truth, that love scriptural truth or concerned about error, we need to be careful about so-called discernment ministries who point out error but are not known for their own systematic exposition of truth. Either a discernment ministry or a pastor who's only known for pounding on error. That kind of approach to ministry over time is doomed to become self-righteous, critical, imbalanced, and even petty over time as you continually look for the next person to criticize. Martin Lloyd-Jones understood this when he said this, and I quote, he said, A most thorny problem is that of the place of polemics in a sermon and in preaching. The polemic element is obviously important, polemic in the sense that you are attacking error. Now continuing the quote. And it has its very definite place, but I am simply warning now against the danger of too much polemic.
Continuing on, he says, Whenever there are two dogs fighting, a crowd always gathers. If you attack various things and appeal for money to help you to do so, you will always get people to support you. But it is negative, it is destructive, it does not build up a church. You cannot build up a church solely on polemics. The people of God need to know the truth in its pure form. And the pastor needs to be careful not to bring in errors that his people aren't acquainted with, simply to stir them up and concern them about things that they otherwise wouldn't be concerned about. It's important for us to be able to do that because so many people look to the teaching that comes from our pastor to be able to discern things. But the godly pastor is careful about how much polemic he addresses to his people, that he wouldn't turn them into brittle, critical people, known more for how much they hate error than how much they love God, and how much they love Christ, and how much they love one another. So the godly pastor is aware of his need for balance.
And the Apostle John shows you how to avoid that imbalance. He refutes the error that he was confronting at the time in a bigger context, a bigger context of declaring Christ, of declaring Christ with authority and declaring the truth. There is a context to his attack on error, and so he speaks with balance when he's in the pulpit.
But, having said all of that, and not having said anything too new to any of you in what I've just said, what I love about the Apostle John, who is often called the Apostle of Love, what I love about this letter that I think is not emphasized enough in some of the exposition that takes place, is that John shows us how a biblical leader handles his relationships as well. He shows us how the godly leader, the godly pastor, relates to his flock. And so the second point here is the pastor with his people. The pastor with his people, the true pastor, the godly pastor, the biblical pastor, is one who shepherds the flock in the context of personal relationships with his listeners. He loves his flock. He loves his sheep. Whoever heard of a true shepherd in biblical times that was indifferent to the needs of his sheep? Whoever heard of a pastor who was indifferent to the needs of the people that are in front of him, except that we see it all around us in the so-called evangelical church today?
No, no. The godly pastor loves his flock. The godly pastor loves the people that God has given him to shepherd.
And I want to show you this in three different ways here. First of all, the godly pastor expresses affection for his people. He expresses affection for his people. I'm not talking here about physical affection, I'm talking about the way the pastor uses his words to communicate sincere love for those that follow his leadership. Notice how the Apostle John addresses his readers as he goes through.
From beginning to end, this thread of affection is woven all of the way through what he says to them. Even beginning in chapter 1 verse 3, his concern is that they would join in the fellowship that he enjoys with the Father himself. Chapter 1 verse 3 says, What we've seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. I want you to share in this fellowship. I want you to participate in this life of Christ with me. John is concerned to see his people participate in that life of Christ, and that is the concern of the godly pastor as well. If he is walking with Christ, if he knows something of the sweet savor of being a Christian, the sweet savor of being assured of salvation, he knows something of the sweet savor of joy and sanctification and assurance of salvation, he can't help but want to share that with the people that are in front of him. It's what motivates him. He wants that for his people.
John shows that. Look at the terms with which he addresses his readers. Chapter 2 verse 1, My little children, I'm writing these things to you so that you may not sin. My little children, writing as an apostle probably around the age of 90 at this point, he's entitled to call everybody children at that point, but addressing them with a term of endearment, a term of affection.
He uses it. Chapter 2 verse 12, He says, I'm writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for his name's sake. Chapter 4 verse 4, You are from God, little children, and have overcome them. Chapter 5 verse 21, he ends on that note of affection.
My little children, guard yourselves from idols. It's not just that he calls them little children. He uses this term beloved as well. Chapter 2 verse 7, Beloved, I'm not writing a new commandment to you.
This is how he speaks to his people. Beloved, little children. Chapter 3 verse 2, Beloved, now we are children of God. Chapter 4 verse 1, Do not believe every spirit.
Beloved, beloved. Chapter 4 verse 7, Beloved. Chapter 4 verse 11, Beloved. All in the context is he's writing about the love that Christians should have for one another that flows from the love that Christ has bestowed upon us. He's not writing to them as theological students. He's writing to them as a man who loves them.
And that's why he addresses them like that. Little children, beloved, elsewhere he calls them brethren, showing that the energy of his heart goes toward them in love, in affection, in a fatherly concern for their well-being. John didn't see his audience as students in the pursuit of theology. Although theology was driving everything that he was saying, he didn't treat his audience as disinterested students and him as a disinterested teacher. He was practically married to them in the affections of his heart. He loved them. He protected them as a shepherd protects sheep.
He was concerned for their individual spiritual lives. That's what a godly pastor does. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, with part one of a message called The Pastor, His Pulpit, and His People here on The Truth Pulpit. You'll hear part two next time, and we invite you to join us then.
Meanwhile, we hope you'll visit us at thetruthpulpit.com, where you can hear today's program again at your convenience. You'll also find Don's Facebook link. So, Don, you're doing the social media thing. How does technology help you in your ministry? Well, when it comes to ministry, Bill, I'm pretty narrow in the way I use social media.
I look at it this way. The last thing the world needs is one more person using social media to give his opinion about every news headline or someone else that's passing along the latest cat video to his friends. Well, I use Facebook in a simple way. I just try to encourage Christians and help them think clearly about the gospel. I often say things on Facebook that I can't or won't say from the pulpit. And so, for me, it's simply another avenue beyond radio and the pulpit to try to edify those who somehow follow my ministry. Thanks, Don. And, friend, we invite you back next time as Don Green continues to teach God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
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