In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he says, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” First, Paul tells Timothy to watch his life closely. Why? Because a pastor cannot quench the thirst of others with an empty cup.
Our faithfulness matters. Our holiness matters. According to Charles Spurgeon, the minister’s “piety must be vigorous.” If we fail to passionately pursue the Lord in our own lives, how much should we think to stir up others in their faith?
Living the Word
According to Helopoulous, “We cannot lead where we have not tread. We cannot give what we do not have. We cannot teach what we do not know.” What good is it to simply know the truth of God’s Word, yet never apply it to our lives? As the Apostle John stated, “Whoever says, ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in Him.” (1 John 2:4)
Those who proclaim the sufficiency and inerrancy of God’s Word in speech only, yet deny it by their lives, are to be both pitied and confronted as hypocrites. How can we claim to love Jesus and remain unchanged by His Word? How can we claim Jesus as Lord yet deny His Word?
Did Jesus not say, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) Jesus is not Lord of your life if you refuse to conform your life to His Word.
The Dangers of Disobedience
Richard Baxter, Puritan, theologian, and pastor who lived in the 1600s, asks, “Will you proclaim Christ's governing power, and yet condemn it, and rebel yourselves?” Will we call our people to live lives that we are unwilling to live? This is more than bad leadership; this is poor stewardship, hypocrisy, and sin. If we fail to maintain a certain fervency after the Lord our preaching will fail to produce fervency in the lives of our listeners.
Further, our prayers for our people may go unanswered. Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) Did you notice our Lord and Savior’s words? He essentially said that if we are disobedient to His Word, we should not expect to have our prayers answered. This is a somber reality for ministers. Why would anyone expect God to answer their prayers if they are not living in obedience to His Word?
As Spurgeon once said, “May we never be priests of God at the altar, and sons of Belial outside the tabernacle door.” It is a dangerous error for ministers to spend their time attempting to be faithful in their preaching of God’s Word, yet fail to apply that study to their lives. It is sad for a minister to have the largest library of theological works, attend the best conferences, receive the best theological training and yet remain unchanged.
Ministers are to be ambassadors of God. We communicate God’s Word to the people. That’s why we must ask ourselves, “Does my life reflect what I claim to represent?”
Josh Chambers is the lead pastor of Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, MA. He blogs regularly at https://thereformedlife.net. You can follow him on Instagram @jchambers5 and on Twitter @josh_chambers5.