Garry, who blogs over at “the Hippopotamus“, and I have undertaken a challenge to co-blog through Richard Baxter’s the Reformed Pastor. The Schedule of the primary blogger for each section can be found here. Both of us will comment as possible on each section as well. We want this to be an exercise that benefits us, for our ministries, and for our churches, corporately and for you the reader of our blogs. You can read Garry’s post on the first section of the Reformed Pastor here. Below you will find my comments:
Baxter starts this work on shepherding by addressing the shepherds themselves. First impressions were, “Why was Baxter so passionate about reminding pastors to ensure their own salvation before preaching to others?” Afterall, aren’t all pastors believers? This is what brought me pause as I read this first chapter. The very fact that Baxter, in the early 1600’s, thought it necessary to address the salvation of shepherds both sobered and frightened me to consider that there might be men, “pastors”, who are shepherding the flock of God who have not participated in the Gospel of Grace, found only in Jesus Christ. And so, as the Apostle challenges us in 2 Corinthians 13:5, let us examine ourselves, “to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
Though there is a promise of shining as the stars, to those who ‘turn many to righteousness’, that is but on supposition that they are first turned to it themselves. ~Baxter, Reformed Pastor, p.53
Moving from salvation to sanctification, Baxter then encourages pastors to see that this right doctrine (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is played out in every day life. Right doctrine should lead to right behavior; however, it does not ensure right behavior – thus the need to be exhorted to examine our behavior as well as our belief.
This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object, and the life of them all. ~Baxter, p.58
Baxter then exhorts the reader with five primary areas to examine:
- Preach to yourselves the sermons which you study, before you preach them to others.
- I have found that the sermons that have the most passion when I preach are those that impact me the most when I prepare.
- If I maintain the attitude of “how does this change me?”, I then can be better prepared to preach, “This is how the text can change you”.
- Do not let your example (my living) contradict my doctrine (my preaching)
- This is as simple, yet challenging, as saying, “Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks”.
- Pastors that fail to heed this will find great challenges in impressing the need for righteous living to their congregants.
- Be zealous for good works
- “Maintain your innocency and walk without offence.” – Even when you are free to participate in an activity, you very well may yield to a greater wisdom that allows you to remain above reproach before your congregation and God.
- “…abound in works of charity and benevolence”. – I have been particularly challenged this year in our church to increase my participation in benevolent giving. The amounts may be meager in the entire scheme of things, but I know that my participation in our own benevolence programs has been infinitely rewarding and I am growing as a result of being more sensitive to these areas of life.
- Do not live in the sins which you preach against in others, lest you be guilty of that which you daily condemn.
- A great reminder to all pastors! It is easy to speak the condemnation outwardly without ever turning it inwardly. I have been personally challenged in this area.
- Daily repentance is a necessity in my life.
- Do not be found wanting in the qualifications of being a shepherd
- How easy it is to be a pastor and fail to remind oneself frequently of the qualifications of being a shepherd
- If the Lord were to do an annual review of your ministry based on the qualifications of being a shepherd – how would that review go?
Questions for consideration:
- Are you, as a pastor / teacher, allowing the text to guide your own heart & life in the sanctification process – before you preach to your congregation?
- How are you involved in being zealous for good works? What are the tangibles of the Gospel in your life?
- If you were to have a “job review” today with the Lord, based on the qualifications of a shepherd in 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1, how would your “job performance” be ranked?
- As someone in our congregations, do you pray for your pastor, that he would live a life of integrity? Are you committed to challenge and encourage him in his own weaknesses? Please take an opportunity to discuss with your pastor how you can pray for him and encourage him in this way.